Whenever I am unsure about where to go next with my writing, I remember to always look for the signs or even ask the Magic 8 Ball.
I keep a Magic 8 Ball on my writing desk, so I remember not to take my writing too seriously. And I use it to look for signs about where to take my writing next. Signs come in the form of whispers or nudges and by way of happy accidents (serendipity) and coincidences (synchronicity).
When I am having fun with my writing, I am productive and the writing flows. The moment I get too serious my writing feels stuck. Like I’m trying too hard.
I have been writing for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I wrote a neighborhood newsletter and wrote stories in my diary. I’ve had the same daily writing practice for close to two decades. I write three pages of long hand as soon as I wake up. I have dozens of journals in a drawer in my desk. My morning writing is easy and fluid. Sometimes the beginning of a poem or an outline to my next chapter sneaks in and onto the page. But mostly it’s things that are bothering me or things that are going well. Even things I want to accomplish that day.
When I am writing a particular piece or working on a book, I may struggle with where or how to begin. I might pencil in time on my calendar to get started. I know from experience that when I treat a writing project like homework my writing suffers. Free writing in contrast feels, well, free. I’ll have those feelings of serendipity where everything comes together easily. When I treat my writing like work it suffers. The paradox is that writing is work, we just can’t treat it that way.
Recently the prompt for my Monday morning writing group was to write about a time we had doubts about a particular decision but went ahead with it anyway. When I read the prompt, a story immediately came to mind, but I wasn’t sure I was ready to share it. It was something very personal and I felt shy to put this experience on paper and share it with the group. So, I picked up the Ball to ask, “Should I write that story?” The Magic Eight Ball immediately replied, “Without a doubt!” I laughed at the coincidence and started writing. When I shared my story with the writing group, they loved it. One writing friend said it was my best stuff.
I loved the synchronicity that consulting the 8 Ball produced. It felt like a wink from the universe. Synchronicity is that coincidental occurrence of events that have an impact on us. I believe when we follow these moments in our writing something good happens. To me, the universe is that place where creativity begins and is available to us if we are willing to remain open to its presence. The Magic 8 Ball is an example of a playful way to ask for a sign. It’s kind of like placing our focus on our intuition. Our sixth sense is that gut level feeling, that knows what to do next.
When I was writing my book Tending the Marsh about a year of daily walking following my divorce, a heron always appeared on the path right when I needed a little extra push to keep writing. The heron felt like a sign that I was heading in the right direction. Eventually the heron appeared in several poems and on the cover of that book. Because I was open to the signs, the little hints and nudges the universe offered, I was able to complete that book.
Recently I couldn’t decide if I wanted to stop at a particular restaurant. Not a big decision but none of my friends were around, so if I wanted to go, I’d have to go alone. I was feeling unsure about it and the restaurant was busy. I checked in with my intuition and asked for guidance. I got a good feeling about it and went in. As soon as I sat down at the bar, a man and another couple invited me into their conversation as if we were old friends. He said someone just gave him a book and that since he wasn’t much of a reader, he wanted to pass it on to me. It was the novel The Comedy Writer by Peter Farrelly. I thanked him and told him I would read it.
Later, when I read the book, I felt the universe’s wink because in that novel there were two references to places that I was in the middle of writing an essay about but was struggling to get it done. That fun coincidence was the nudge I needed to finish that essay. If I hadn’t been open to my intuition or the whisper from the universe, I would have remained stuck.