Pleasing Yourself in a Tangible, Hands-on Way (thereby sowing the seeds for your book-writing-to-come)
Before you try to fully please yourself in your writing,
see if you can bring this beautiful capacity into your ordinary life.
Take a walk . . . use your hands . . . buy something with the intention to please yourself deeply—and be there for it.
Later, you can bring this way of contacting yourself into your experience of writing a book.
I’ve been talking about pleasing yourself in your writing in several contexts: what that means, according to architect Christopher Alexander; how we often write from a state of wanting to please externally rather than internally; the longing that’s an essential part of writing deeply self-pleasing writing; and what gets in the way of pleasing yourself (the inner critic, the efforts to please others).
In this installment, I want to offer you a way to actually experience what it’s like to please yourself—not in writing just yet, but in some concrete way that will embody for you the experience of being wholly pleased. Once you have that direct connection with pleasing yourself and are conscious of it, you will be able to translate/transfer it into other realms of your experience, such as writing a book.
I’m going to suggest a few things that you might try out, so you can tell if you are genuinely being pleased. Any of them will do; or perhaps my suggestions will spark something else to try out that pleases you more. The point is to listen to yourself and see what comes to the forefront in response.
THINGS TO EXPLORE
One: Take a walk and Notice What You Really Like
Walk out your front door, turn left or right or go straight, and have the intention to notice what pleases you, and what about it pleases you.
- You might, for example, see a tree with a thick, gnarled trunk whose branches open up broadly and reach for the sky. You might be pleased by the texture of the tree, or the colors of the bark and the leaves, or by the posture of its prayerfulness. (Visual pleasure)
- You might be pleased by its strength, its rootedness, how—with no fuss— it makes a home for birds and squirrels. (Pleasure of its qualities)
- You might listen to the birds singing, and let your ears lead you to a place of deeper attention and innocent enjoyment (Aural pleasure)
- You might be pleased by its sheer proximity to you, and realize that you are now in connection with the tree—that simply by reflecting on it in this way, encountering it in this way, you are no longer simply observing it; you are in relation to it. And that this realization changes what you bring to the tree as much as the tree brings to you. You might note what this pleasure feels like. (Pleasure of relationship)
Two: Connect in a Similar Way with Ordinary Things
You can do this same kind of thing in your ordinary life, by being present in a similar way as above to:
- An object in your home that you like. What about it pleases you? How does it feel to be pleased?
- A conversation with a friend (being aware of what you are pleased by in your friend; what in s is pleased; and what your being pleased then brings to the relationship in the moment).
- Buying food at the supermarket—focusing on what foods and ingredients please you as you make your choices, and noticing what this focus does to your experience. Does it make you happier about what you might do with that food at home?
Three: Use Your Hands
Do something that involves your hands, and take the time to do it in a way that pleases you. The hands can be an extension of the heart; doing things with your hands involves a different, less verbal, intelligence and approach. You can find out things about what makes you happy that you couldn’t think into existence.
- Do a craft where the use of your hands provides a certain skill and steadiness and rhythm. Making a quilt in fabrics and colors that please you. Try sewing, woodworking, making your own journal, etc.
- Pick up a pen and paper, and do a drawing. Just make shapes and lines that please you, whether you draw from life or imagination. Be totally with the experience and adjust things so that you are pleased. Become aware of what that is like for you.
- Cook a meal, not so much for its production as for the pleasure of doing it. Be present to what your hands get to do—use a knife to chop and slice; use a spoon to stir and scoop; touch the ingredients and put them together in some pleasing way. Notice your body’s responses—your heartbeat, your glance, your breathing. What does “pleased” feel like for you?
Four: Buy Something That Pleases You, in a Way That Pleases You
Buy yourself something for the purpose of seeing what really pleases you. You may need to buy that something anyway—or perhaps it will be a purchase of sheer pleasure. Set your radar on pleasing yourself, and see what happens. You will learn a lot about your taste and what it is that actually pleases you.
Here’s a story from my own experience.
I decided to go to a thrift shop I enjoyed, and let myself buy anything I wanted (within reason) on the stipulation that it really pleased me. I would not buy things just because they were on sale, or because my mother had liked that style or color on me years before, and so on. I would only buy what spoke to me in that moment; only what really pleased me. It could be a treasure hunt within as well as without, I told myself.
As I moved from aisle to aisle in the store, I was aware that I had never felt so relaxed and happy here, now that I had my whole-hearted, un-conflicted permission to give myself what I really wanted. I noticed that I was ambling, rather than rushing—a curious, enthusiastic looking-around. It felt friendly to just see what called to me and why, rather than to feel compelled to be exhaustive (and exhaust myself) going through everything to make sure I had missed nothing.
Can I convey to you the difference from my usual? I was no longer outside the candy-store looking in; I was inside all the way. But I had been in this store before; I had spent money here, before. The difference was that now, my intention was to see what pleased me—not to fill a void, not to get a good deal (well, not only that), not to get more clothes and then ignore them. It’s a whole new world when you bring yourself consciously into a situation and look at what calls you to it, and what in you responds.
I shopped in an almost stately way. Among the many racks of shirts, skirts, blouses, dresses, sweaters, pants, sleepwear, and shoes, I moved as if I had all the time in the world, all the resources I’d ever need. I put into my shopping cart a pair of indigo corduroy pants; a designer blue-green-gold woven jacket; a designer crimson-and-black brocade jacket; a cobalt-blue cardigan sweater; three nightgowns and two pairs of pajamas; a black lacey sleeveless top; a gold-lame-ish top (to introduce some sparkle into my self-image); a pair of tailored aqua linen pants in just my size; and more. The cart was piled so high, its contents draped down over the sides. “How much will all this cost?” I thought to wonder. But I was dealing with items ranging from $10 to just 99 cents, and the world was my oyster.
The fitting room would be the proof of the pudding. What was the value of clothes that looked good on the rack but not on me? I brought my choices into the small, mirrored cubicle and tried each one on. I wanted to say “Yes” to all of them, but since pleasing myself was the point, I was vibrant and diligent about saying “No.” Into the “No” pile it went if it didn’t fit; if it fit but it didn’t look good on me, if it fit and it looked good on me but I didn’t love it. Goodbye, aqua linen pants et al.
In the end, I emerged from the store with my arms around shopping bags containing 12 well-loved items (out of the original 20), and feeling very, very, very pleased.
Why so pleased? First, I actively liked every item I had chosen. Second, I had chosen them, based on criteria that came from within me. Third, my intention to please myself let me pay attention to myself, while shopping, in a whole new way. This time, I wasn’t making the items more important than my experience of myself. It was the very act of being really present to myself that let me have such a pleasing experience. (And my inner critic, perhaps not coincidentally, did not come along for the ride.)
I know our culture is overly concerned with acquiring external fulfillments; but with pleasing myself as the context, this shopping expedition went far beyond acquisition. I learned that when I gave myself permission to see what really pleased me, and why, I enjoyed—and trusted—myself more.
Transferring Your Self-Pleasing “Skills” to Writing
The intent to search both outside and inside for what was truly pleasing brought forth an abundance of treasures (not only things, but also qualities and awarenesses) with which to be pleased. And soon enough, this learning would, most wonderfully, influence my experience of writing a book.
Couldn’t it do a similar thing for you…?
But that’s next week’s offering—my 5th and final article on “Please Yourself in Your Writing.” See you then!
Take one or more of my suggestions, above (take a walk / bring this perspective to an ordinary activity / do something with your hands / find your own activity) to concretize your exploration of pleasing yourself. Slow it down, so you can really be present to what happens.
What do you notice about yourself re: your capacity to be pleased? What pleases you? What in you pleases you?
You might even jot this down in writing for your own inner clarity…and pleasure!
Share these articles with others: If you know someone who might get value from reading these articles I have shared with you, please pass them along to your friends, colleagues, and loved ones.
Refer someone you know to me: And if you know someone who’s considering writing a book, or is in the midst of struggling through writing one—I would be most grateful if you would let them know about me and my book-development services.
Thank you for reading these articles so far. I hope they have been helpful. May your writing and your life please you deeply.
Copyright 2017 by Naomi Rose. All rights reserved.
CLICK HERE TO READ ARTICLE 5 OF “PLEASE YOURSELF.”