Who Are You Trying to Please?
Is it you? If not, then who? Trying to please the authority figures from the past—and we all have had them!—can obscure the call of the inner longing that guides us to please ourselves truly.
When you can make your way into genuinely pleasing yourself in your writing, you’ll know you have written in a way that’s true. And that is pleasing!
In Article 3, we’ll explore the often default-setting of trying to please someone else in writing a book (or anything else), and then bring it round to how you might actually please yourself. For that’s when you know that you’ve written in a way that’s true.
Book Development (as I do it with my clients and myself) is a process. Indeed, the term “book development” comes from the pre-digital age of photography. To me, it means:
- To write a book (or any complete work) from beginning to end. However, you can begin in the middle, as well.
- To allow what wants to be written to arise, encouraging it to develop as a light-touched negative develops in a dark room.
- To bring your real dreams of writing out of the closet of despair, self-criticism, and doubt, and let them lead you through the landscape of your heart’s desire.
- To bring these writings into the world to a widening circle of readers who, through reading your work, become intimate with themselves, and feel like loved ones and friends.
Much as I love inspiration and seek to be inspiring as a Book Developer, writing a book is almost always not an instantaneous outpouring of inspiration (though some parts are, and that’s a joy). More often, it’s a feeling-around-in-the-dark, a deepening reflection on who the writer is relative to this book (whatever-it-is), what really wants to be said, and what stands in the way of saying it, finding it.
As the writer Beverly Donofrio put it, “My first take on situations, my memories, the stories I want to tell is fairly superficial. Only through writing do I go deep, and each draft brings me deeper still.”
Only through writing do I go deep, and each draft brings me deeper still.” ~ Beverly Donofio
There Is So Much to Let Go of in Order to Write from Your True Nature
In my “book-midwifing” work with clients, sometimes it takes time even to get to the first draft. There is so much that’s in the way to let go of so that the author can attune to and write from her/his true nature, where every word feels resonant and freshly discovered.
I have found that when we both listen to the person who wants to write—listen attentively, lovingly, without agenda but with a tapestry of resources at our fingertips—something true and beautiful starts to emerge, listened into form. I love this work. It feels holy to me.
And yet it is harder to do for myself, I confess. When I am the writer, I am privy to all the usual mind-noise—
- “It isn’t this, it’s that,” and
- “Who would find that interesting?” and
- “Hasn’t this all been done before?” and
- “Who do you think you are?”
—that my clients go through and I see through. Seeing through my own obscurations, however, is more challenging.
Because—like everyone else inside their own ego-fortresses of limitation—I believe the dithering, negative things that my mind (or superego) tells me, for a time.
The only way to gather the initiative to stay with the writing is to find someplace in it that so speaks to me that what is alive in me bursts forth and eclipses that self-protective but deadening inner voice that says, “Don’t!”
The Presence That’s Seeking to Be Known
This is where pleasing oneself comes in. This is the place where, if I’m halfway mindful, I can ask myself, “What interests you in this telling, right now?” And perhaps a momentary impression will come to me that wraps me in its fragrance, and in that moment I feel there is a presence seeking to be known.
If I will respond to it with an open heart, and let the planning out of details take a back seat for now, then it’s like a magic carpet has flown low enough that I can step onto it, and it takes me somewhere I want to be. Even if it drops me back off enamored but baffled about the “What next?” (and I do have to address the “What next?”), at least I have had the experience of engaging with something that offered itself to me having something to do with this book. Later, I may need to plot things and plan things; put things in order; act as if I know where I am going with this and what I am doing.
But for now, to have the experience of pleasing myself roots me in a confidence that something of real value is possible.
Is Your Natural Way of Writing “Top Down” or “Bottom Up”?
In my book, Starting Your Book: A Guide to Navigating the Blank Page by Attending to What’s Inside You (and if you haven’t yet been sent an excerpt from this book, see below), in one chapter I make a distinction between writing from the “top down” and the “bottom up.” I don’t make a value judgment as to which is better, simply say there are these two ways, and perhaps you naturally tend towards one more than the other. And also, perhaps you might enjoy trying out (as Carl Jung might say) the undeveloped aspect.
Myself, I love writing from the bottom-up. I love receiving an inspiration and going with it, stretching out an impression into a vignette. I am naturally good at doing close-up things (interestingly, I am nearsighted), and it takes more of a conscious effort for me to back up and get the “big picture.”
I also know people for whom it’s the exact opposite: they go about writing from the to-down. They are wonderful at getting the large plan, putting it all together prior to writing; and then the actual detailing of that big picture as writing is what comes less easily to them.
So we all have our ways, our natural paths and our challenges. I think it makes sense to start with where you are, rather than trying to force yourself into some idea of “what a real writer is.” You can always expand, revise, and so on from there.
But what both ways have in common is that they inherently offer us an opportunity to please ourselves.
And we may not even think in these terms, on our own.
That (Not-Always-Conscious) Feeling That You’re Obliged to Write to Please Someone Else
Usually, when we write, we are trying to please some amorphous reader (no face, no features, no voice—just an abstraction). Or, if you take the strictly marketing view, we are trying to please (and told that we should try to please) a demographic (a reader aged, say, 40-55, female, employed, married or not, etc. etc.).
This seems especially the case when it’s a book that we want to write. A book sounds so official and so daunting. Over time, we have accrued so many thoughts and projections about what writing a book means that we may not feel like we could just be ourselves in doing that, even if there are things about writing a book to be learned. And if the very nature of writing a book seems to preclude being ourselves and to require us to please amorphous (or specific) others, then how could we possible get close enough to ourselves to please ourselves?
It’s unfortunate, I think, that we are so pushed to please someone we don’t know, because it aids and abets the bypassing of our inner compass. And it also creates a too-fertile soil for pleasing someone other than ourselves, whom (most often, unconsciously) we carry around from the past.
In my own experience, for example, when I am staring, frozen-eyed, at the paragraph I have just managed to eke out and judging it—who is the judge I think is presiding?
- Is it my junior-high-school teacher who was sure that her standards were the only ones worth following?
- Is it my father, a professional writer himself?
- My college teachers?
- Magazine editors I have worked with?
- A whole menagerie of people who have in common (in my doubting mind) only that they wouldn’t like what I came up with?
I have had more than a few clients who ended up writing wonderful books but began, with me, in terror because of their experiences with their PhD dissertations—having to explain and defend a position whose writing-form is already dictated by a certain standard, and—having invested years, money, and effort in the dissertation—being at risk of being turned down. Things like that can definitely dampen your enthusiasm for writing, and your trust in yourself that listening to what pleases you could be enough to get things rolling and keep them rolling.
Bringing Forth Your Inner Voice
And yet—what if there really is a voice inside that’s longing to be heard and brought forth from within? A voice that can only come through you, and whose music is essential for the wholeness of the collective good? In that case, pleasing yourself becomes not an indulgence but a holy service—to yourself, to your readers, and to that which holds us all in Being.
Pleasing yourself in your writing becomes not an indulgence but a holy service—to yourself, to your readers, and to that which holds us all in Being.”
In the next installment, Article 4, I will share an experience of learning to please oneself in a situation that seemingly has nothing to do with writing. Because often, we can learn from one situation (especially a hands-on situation) how better to address another. Then, in Article 5, I will relate the fruits and learnings of this experience into writing.
If you have a book inside you, it may be time to give it room to reveal itself and show you how to please yourself deeply by writing it. If you would like to explore the possibility of having my sustained and nurturing help with your project and process, I invite you to contact me to set up a complimentary half-hour phone conversation about your book. To schedule this session, email me at email@example.com, or phone me at (510) 465-3935.
- When you think about writing a book (or creating anything else), what comes up for you?
- Is there someone from your past you are—consciously or unconsciously—trying to please? Who?
- Is what they want the same thing you want? Is there truly an alignment? Or are there discrepancies? And if so, what have you had to ignore or squash in yourself in order to please these others (or refrain from displeasing them)?
- If you truly felt free to know and please yourself in your creative life, what might that set into motion?
1. I invite you to send your responses to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will respond personally. Then (a) you won’t be alone with it any more, and (b) you will be honoring the creative depth within you. Which will make its way to the surface in the right way and time for you.
2. To get an idea of what it’s been like for some of my clients to go through this process in order to write the books of their hearts (because whatever fears and doubts you have about writing a book, they did too), go to the Client Experiences page on this website. See what resonates with you, even if you have never yet really considered writing a book (and especially if you have).
3. If you’d like some immediate help in getting going—My book, Starting Your Book: A Guide to Navigating the Blank Page by Attending to What’s Inside You, helps you make yourself the focus when you write, so that you are true to yourself and your writing flows out of that. It is available on this website, both in print and as a PDF.
4. Not yet on my email list? You will receive a generous excerpt from Starting Your Book by joining my email list (the sign-up form is right here, at the top of this page). Or if you’re already on my list but somehow never received the excerpt, email me at email@example.com and I’ll send it right away.
5. Share “Please Yourself” with your friends. As always, do you know someone who might get value from reading these articles? If so, please share them with these people.
Copyright 2017 by Naomi Rose. All rights reserved.
CLICK HERE TO READ ARTICLE 4 ON “PLEASE YOURSELF.”