In the past 10 days, I have met many dozens of writers and poets. This happened through the Southern California Writers Conference, where I presented a few workshops, and at Sunset Poets, a North San Diego County group where I read poems from my collection, The River-Fed Stone and Shades of Green, and the literary anthology for which I am now managing editor, The Hummingbird Review. This followed a fantastic featured reading by Chris Vannoy, who runs the Drunk Poets group (it’s a name, not an occupation!!!) in the San Diego community of Ocean Beach.
During this time, I have been fortunate to see fine work in several different genres, and to pick up a number of new editing clients. Much of this work comes from as-yet unpublished authors, who are learning the same battles of polishing their writing, finding agents and/or publishing that all published writers once faced – and sometimes still do.
Within this battle come questions of confidence, ability, word choice, self-editing capability, structure and the myriad decisions we make when bringing our work to the highest level of perfection we can achieve before sending it off.
Which leads to the subject of today’s blog: TRUST. I cannot tell you how many writers have trouble trusting their process and what flows through them when they write. They will put down a great sentence or paragraph, and then allow their “inner censor” to take over, that nasty little creature that says “that’s wrong” or “I’m not good enough.” Before they know it, a beautiful image or deeply-felt summoning of spirit or experience – the very reason to write, according to the Ancient Chinese concept of “wen,” or writing – is diminished into something no deeper than a business letter.
As an editor, I bow my head in sadness every time I encounter this. As a writer, I will not allow this overly rational, censorious gremlin into my creative wheelhouse.
It all comes down to our ability to not only trust the words we write, and the order we write them, but to trust the spirit, soul, heart and deep mind from which they came. This goes for great business writing as well as the most poignant memoir. A universal truth that every working artist, musician and writer knows deep down: Our ability to work in the Creative Dream is directly proportional to our ability to trust. That includes self, skills, level of preparedness, and the purpose of our work.
Trust is the most important word in the practice of writing, or any form of creativity. Trust what happens after pen is put to paper, or fingertips to keyboard. Let your consciousness, subconscious, and superconscious minds merge like a pyramid and bring all your relevant life experience, intuition and inspiration into the process. Write what happens. Take the journey and trust it. As my friend, Jefferson Airplane and Starship lead singer, poet and artist Marty Balin once told me, “If something hits you in the gut, don’t question it. Just follow it.”
Trust what you write. Work hard to shut down the inner censor. Learn to distinguish between follow-up questions that enhance and sharpen your writing, and questions that try to strip away the essence of your work. Then make decisions that reflect the complete trust you have in yourself, your subject, and your command of the subject.
If we can trust what we write, then our readers will find us. It’s real “Law of Attraction” stuff. Readers love to read what they can trust, and it is very easy to distinguish between a printed voice that lacks self-trust, and a voice resonating with deep authenticity. That’s where we want to be, no matter what we’re writing.