“I am not my hair, I am not this skin, I am the soul that lives within.” India Arie, ‘I Am Not My Hair’
2008 – November; it’s eight days into NaNoWriMo, a 30-day writing challenge that I’d previously attempted a couple years before but never completed. That year, I’d signed up at the last minute. I’m not even sure why. More than likely, it was a way to forget about the crappy relationship I was in at the time. Whatever the reason, there I was, twenty-two days left to write 50K words and I had yet to put words to paper.
I don’t remember exactly where I was, but I do remember hearing a voice in my head – a man’s voice in particular. He said, “What the f*** did you do to your hair?” A female voice responded almost immediately, as if she were talking to me directly, “I really hate that man.”
In a matter of minutes, an entire scene blossomed in my mind’s eye. A woman, a bit younger than myself, but clearly she and I were related, was sitting in a chair at her dying father’s bedside. This was my lead character, Charise Sayles. She “noticed” me looking at her and began to chat with me. She told me her story which I wrote out over the course of the next 22 days. I met the 50K word goal with minutes to spare on November 30, 2008. I earned my first ever NaNoWriMo winner’s badge. Hello Diva was born.
A full length novel wasn’t the only thing that came forth that fateful November.
Of course, finishing a 50K word draft in under 30 days was quite a feat. Up to that point, I didn’t know I could do it. I knew I could write a good story, but before that, I’d dabbled – a few words here, a few words there; typically it took me years to have enough material to be considered a ‘draft’. But that time around I’d done it in freakin’ 22 days. What was this alchemy? Could I repeat it?
As it turned out, I could; I’ll talk abut that in tomorrow’s post. First, let me back track just a second and tell you about the second thing that came from my November 2008 NaNo experience. I believe this to be an important part of the story.
So, the second thing that came from writing Hello Diva was I discovered my Divinity. She’s that quiet still voice of faith. I’d heard Her before, but with the hard headed-ness of youth, I’d brushed Her off. This time though, it wasn’t going to be that easy. While I was editing the draft, I came across a scene that while I was writing it, hadn’t stood out. But now, as I was re-reading with a critical eye, the scene spoke to my soul. For whatever reasons, perhaps the small bit of maturity I’d gained over the years, or the fact that I’d been emotionally laid open, when I read that scene, I recognized Her hand in what I’d written.
I thought back to all of my writing and remembered having similar experiences. There was always some hidden bit of wisdom, truth, encouragement, or lesson I needed to learn buried in the words I’d for the most part, written unconsciously.
Spoiler Alert – The Scene My Divinity Wrote
My Divinity (as she appeared in the words of my story) reminded me that it wasn’t about how I looked, or what was going on in the world around me, I had the power to do some good in the world. It was time to stop feeling sorry for myself, get off my ass and get to it. Grieving is a natural part of loss, but I didn’t have to let it shut me down for good.
I wanted to share that because so many of the people I coach through their first drafts have to overcome some deep seated limiting beliefs / fears about their ability to write or that no one will want to read what they write. Then, depending on what they’re wanting to write about, there’s an emotional price to pay as they uncover experiences that at best were difficult, at worst, were (are) very traumatic.
I’m so passionate about writing because of my experience. I know, first hand, how the Divine can be found in the words the writer places on the page. The experience won’t be the same for everyone sure, but it has been for my clients. Each one who has gone on to finish their first draft comes out with a clearer sense of purpose, one they discovered while writing their book.
That’s also why I started coaching new writers well before I developed the Simply Self-Published course. But I’ll save that for tomorrow’s summary post.