Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Heartful Art of Re-Vision II: A Radical Approach to Editing

What follows is Part II of my three-part series on my radically heartful approach to polishing your work and your words.

This stark departure from traditional editing techniques is more effective than the old way because it respects both the inherent wisdom of your manuscript and your innate knowingness of what works and what doesn’t. It’s neither a left-brain method nor is it a right-brain one. It’s whole-brain and whole-body approach that will revolutionize your view of editing and revision.

As I noted in The Heartful Art of Revision I, we're accustomed to seeing the editing process as a harsh, left-brain, punishing activity. What I propose instead is a new paradigm, one that respects your work in all its drafts and that also respects you as its creator.

One way to start on that path, apart from crafting a vision statement for your work is to let these seven principles guide you as you shape, hone and polish your words.

1. Be detached but loving.
Let your work sit quietly for a time before you launch into revision. That time could be a day, a week, a month or six months. And it could be longer or shorter from one piece of work to the next. The key is to give both you and your work the space and distance that allow you to approach it heartfully, objectively and discerningly. Respect your initial draft. Respect all your drafts. Don’t be a slave to them. Allow your work to grow, change and mature.

2. Read aloud.
Whenever practical, read aloud. We are always more attuned to language, rhythm and flow when we read aloud. We often read more thoroughly when we read aloud. You will want to read your work silently as well, of course. But particularly at the beginning and each time you make major changes, your voice will tell you where you have strayed off course.

3. Be respectful, gentle and firm.
Treat each draft as you would your child — with love and without judgment. Revision is not about taking a broadax to your creation. It’s about treating each draft as a necessary stage in its growth toward maturity. Just as you gently, sometimes firmly, guide your children toward the fulfillment of their unique destinies, guide your work with that same spirit of respect — for yourself as creator as well as for your creation, which has its own vision and imperative.

4. Accept that language is not perfect
Do your best to bring your heart and vision to the page. Do your best to write the words and paint the images that most accurately reflect your dream and intention. As you revise, never hesitate to seek out more forceful and evocative ways to translate your vision onto the page. But remember that translation is an art and that language can rarely more than approximate emotion and experience. Think of the most wondrous scene you have ever witnessed and imagine trying to recreate that in words. You can come close. Yet whatever your mastery of the language, you will not recreate every nuance of your vision, emotion and experience. And that’s okay.

5. Respect your intuition. 
As you become more adept as a writer, more in tune with your work and its vision, and more in touch with your Muse, you will gain an intuitive knowingness of what works and what doesn’t, without always being able to articulate why. That inner compass will direct you to the appropriate improvement or solution — again, often without explanation. Trust your intuition. It’s the voice of your Muse, the voice of your vision. And it won’t lead you astray.

6. Do your best. 
Do your best to commit your vision to paper. Do your best to polish, enrich and enliven your work so that it aligns with that vision. Do your best on each piece of writing and, when it’s time, let it go so that you can create a new work and do your best on that one as well.

7. Be the writer you are. Each piece of writing will teach you, and from each piece of writing you will mature in your art and your craft. Strive for excellence not perfection. Be the writer you are.

(c) 2008 Mark David Gerson

The Voice of the Muse book and CD are available at and Amazon (bookCD). E-versions of the book are available through Kindle, Nook, iBooks and Kobo. A downloadable version of the CD is available on CD Baby.

Art credits: Quill/parchment by Angela Farley, from The MoonQuest: A True Fantasy. Perfection image from "My World, My Home, My Life."

The Heartful Art of Revision: A Three-Part Series

A two-part series on how to give and receive healthy feedback

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Monday, August 29, 2011

The Heartful Art of Re-Vision I: Finding the "Vision" in Revision

We're accustomed to seeing the editing process as a harsh, left-brain activity too often filled with violent and abusive language: It's about forcing the work to our will, gagging, restraining or reigning in our characters, hacking away at our work or banging our manuscript into shape. Yet when we treat our drafts with such disrespect, we're also disrespecting ourselves as its creator.

What follows is Part I of a three-part series on a more heartful approach to polishing your work and your words.

See the editing process as one of re-vision, of revisiting your original vision for your work and putting all your heart, art and skill into aligning what's on paper with that vision.

As you move through your piece -- whatever it is, whatever its length -- see yourself as a jeweler, delicately etching your rough stone into the gem that reflects the vision your heart has conceived and received, then lovingly polishing it until you achieve the look and texture you desire.

Your vision is the light force of your work, the life force of your work. It's the spirit that is its essence, the breath that keeps it alive. Your vision is your dream for your work, the expression of your intention. It's what guides it, drives it and propels it -- from conception to completion.

The more deeply you stay connected to that vision -- however broadly or specifically you have drawn it -- the more completely the finished piece will remain true to that life force, that dream, that intention. And the truer you will be to the work that has called upon you to commit it to paper and breathe life into it.

Creating a vision statement is one way to maintain and strengthen that connection. In the vision-statement examples that follow, the first is the one I created for The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write before it was finished. The others were written by coaching clients and workshop/coaching-group participants, the first and third were for works-in-progress and the second was for the overarching spirit of the writer's work.

• The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write is about freedom: freedom to grow, freedom to create, freedom to write. Through a dynamic blend of motivational essays, inspiring meditations and practical exercises, it nourishes, nurtures and reassures its readers, inspiring them to open their hearts, expand their minds and experience, with ease, a full, creative life.

• Through the eyes of Lily Addams, A House of Gold will explore the arrival and lives of the Chinese immigrants here in Sacramento and the Foothills during the Gold Rush, as well as the possibilities for women during this transitional time in the Golden State. At a deeper level, at the very “heart” of the book, will be a story about the heart and becoming and staying whole-hearted through triumphs and trials, as well as through the daily joys and hurts that make up our lives. It is a book about heart, for heart, and by heart.

• Writing is choosing to dance with the The Goddess of Creativity, choosing to be in service to the Universe, choosing to surrender with Joy and Love to the Voice and Story that allows itself to be expressed through my Being and my experience.

• Remembering Your Divinity, A Co-Creator’s Guide to Manifesting by Heart is about creating -– by heart. Through a blending of science and mysticism, Remembering Your Divinity reminds you of who you are, why you are here, what it means to be a conscious co-creator, what creative energy is, how it flows, and how to use it, why the heart is the key to manifesting, and provides tools to stay in the flow of your creation so that you live as the God/Goddess that you are!

What's your vision for your work-in-progress or for your work as a writer? Don't think about it. Feel it. And when you start feeling it, start writing it down. It doesn't have to make sense. Just let it be what it is.

• For more information on how to articulate a vision statement for your work, see "Awakening Your Vision" in The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write. You'll also find a two-part meditation ("Vision Quest") in The Voice of the Muse Companion: Guided Meditations for Writers, designed to guide you through the process. 

The Voice of the Muse book and CD are available at and Amazon (book, CD). E-versions of the book are available through Kindle, Nook, iBooks and Kobo. A downloadable version of the CD is available on CD Baby.
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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Stuck in My Throat

"Na'an came to me in a dream this night. It was early. I had not been in bed long and the night was newly dark. 'It is time,' she said, 'time to fix The MoonQuest on parchment.'"
 ~ The MoonQuest: A True Fantas

yI've had a raw throat and stuffy head for nearly a week now. Through much of that time, I've done little other than sleep, guzzle gallons of water and honey-infused tea, and clear my throat.

"Oh," you might murmur with sympathy, "a summer cold."

I don't look at it that way. Whenever something physical goes out of whack for me (mercifully, not often), I spend at least as much time tuning in to what in my emotional life precipitated it as I do to self-care. My philosophy is that if I look after the underlying cause, the symptoms will largely take care of themselves.

When the throat-clearing kicked in, I knew that it was about my voice. Not my speaking voice (even as I grew hoarse and teetered on the edge of laryngitis). My writer's voice.

And when my throat got worse on Thursday, after Anvil Springs producer Kathleen Messmer and I spent the afternoon compiling ideas for directors and a principal cast for The MoonQuest movie, I knew it had something to do with the film project.

I was even clearer that evening, after we added a particularly illustrious director to the top of our list.

This isn't the first time we've assembled an A-list slate of actors and directors for the The MoonQuest movie. But something about this director pushed all my worthiness buttons. I spent the evening feeling intimidated by the prospect of not only working with someone of that caliber, but of having someone that, well, literate, read my screenplay.

This director has acted in and/or directed nearly three dozen films, and has won close to half of the four dozen awards he's been nominated for. As well, two of his Oscar nominations were for a film that, indirectly, helped propel The MoonQuest book to completion. He's also had an award-studded history on the stage.

I spent the next day letting myself feel my fear and discomfort, grudgingly grateful for the opportunity to work through yet another personal growth issue, one that had little to do with a potential director and everything to do with me.

During the many years when The MoonQuest book was nothing but a stack of manuscript pages languishing in a file box, I kept telling myself that regardless of whether it was ever published, the life lessons I'd learned while writing it had been valuable beyond measure.

It's true. Writing The MoonQuest the way I did -- moment-by-moment, word-by-word, with no idea where my Muse was taking me with the story -- prepared me for a life of ever-deepening surrender to my story, to the life story that has revealed itself to me in each moment through that infinite mind I wrote about here a while back.

It's also true that I had to tell myself that, or I would have been hard-pressed to feel good about all the time I'd invested in a project that, for too long, seemed to be going nowhere.

Similarly, I kept telling myself through the day Friday that, in the long run, my current journey was not about whether a particular director would sign on, or whether there would even ultimately be a MoonQuest movie. It was about what I'm learning and about all the ways I'm growing along the way.

This morning, still hoarse and laryngitic, my head still feeling as though it was jammed with mucus-soaked cotton balls, I wondered why I wasn't feeling any better. After all, I had identified the root cause of my physical discomfort and had committed myself to doing whatever it would take to move through and past my feelings of fear and unworthiness.

And then, while I was out walking, I had flash of Na'an's words to a reluctant Toshar in the prologue to The MoonQuest book: "It is your story to tell," she insists. "It is for you to fix it in ink, to set the truth down for all to read."

"So many seasons of storytelling and still I hesitate," Toshar replies. "Of all the stories to stick in my throat, how ironic that it should be The MoonQuest, a tale of the freeing of story itself."

When, in 1994, I began writing The MoonQuest, this "tale of the freeing of story," I was freeing my story. I was dissolving not only Toshar's reluctance, but mine. I was breaking through not only generations of repressed creativity in Toshar's heartland, but decades of creative block within myself.

As I've written here before, I don't like the expression "coming full circle" because it suggests that we're returning to a place we've already been, having learned nothing and grown not at all. My preferred image is that of a spiral, where we return to a place along the same axis, but at a higher level of consciousness and understanding.

As I wrote in The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write, "Each cycle’s completion returns you not to where you began but to a higher level of awareness, mastery, openness and trust." I wrote that about the creative process, but isn't life the ultimate creative process?

Now, I realized on my morning walk, The MoonQuest is once again "stuck in my throat." Not in the same place it was stuck 17 years ago, when the Toshar in me tried to avoid telling his story. It can't be. I've moved through many turns of the spiral since then, turns that got the story written, the book out and the screenplay completed and on the cusp of production.

What's sticking in my throat now -- what's causing my hoarseness and loss of voice -- is the prospect of taking The MoonQuest to a new level: letting it be read by Oscar-nominated professionals and exposing it (and me) to audiences far greater than the book could ever reach.

Like Toshar, I'm scared. Like the Mark David who was creatively shut down for so many years, I'm afraid of being judged...and found wanting. Like so many creative artists through the millennia, I'm terrified that I'll finally be revealed as a fraud.

And so my story sticks in my throat, as parts of me try to protect other parts from the perceived danger of moving forward.

Years ago, in the early days of my conscious spiritual and creative awakening, before I know there was a MoonQuest inside me, I had a dream.

In the dream, I’m walking out of a multistory parking structure when the uniformed attendant steps out of his booth and stops me. He won’t let me leave. I shout. He shouts. I shove. He shoves.

I woke from the dream drenched in perspiration, more angry than frightened. Later that day, as I had done in the past, I took the dream-confrontation into meditation.

"Why won’t you let me leave," I ask the guard, politely this time.

"I’m afraid that if I do, I’ll be out of a job," he answers simply.

"I still need you," I offer reassuringly. "But I need you to act more as a filter than as a gate. I need you to protect me more discerningly."

"I don’t know how," he counters.

"Are you open to learning how?"

He pauses for a moment, his face screwed up in concentration.

"Yes." He nods. "I am." He stands aside to let me pass from the dank dark of this structure -- this place of parking, of storage, of non-motion -- but not before we’ve shaken hands and hugged.

Today's fear, today's self-judgment, today's stuckness in my throat -- they all come from the present-day equivalent of that dreamworld parking attendant, trying to protect the only way he knows how.

Today, once again, I ask him to be more discerning, to widen the weave on the screen of his filter, to not only let me move forward but to come along for the ride in his once-again redefined job. And as I do so, I feel the rawness in my throat abate somewhat and sense some of the stuckness of the past week begin to unstick.

The MoonQuest is once again on the move...and so am I.

"I see it all now, in the leap of light against dark. The shadows will tell me the story and I will write what I see. I will write until my fingers and beard are black with ink. I will write until the story is told.  Only then will I be free to continue my journey. ..."
 ~ The MoonQuest: A True Fantasy


• Read the full prologue and first chapter of The MoonQuest

• Read another excerpt from The MoonQuest  book

• Read more about The MoonQuest book and film project

Order your copy of The MoonQuest book in hard copy or ebook format

• "Like" The MoonQuest book and movie on Facebook

• Tune in to Insight for the Soul Radio, August 22 at 7pm PT, when Mark David talks to host Charmaine Lee about his MoonQuest journeys. Use the same link to download/listen to an archived version of the broadcast.

Photo: Nightmare parking structure by Mark David Gerson.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

In The Moment...In Your Writing and Your Life

Too often we sit in judgment of ourselves and our work.

"This is not good enough," we think. "This will never be good enough." Or, "This story has been told better before by someone else." Or, "This book has been written before."

Know this now and for all time: It is good enough. In this moment, this word is good enough...and so is this one.

This moment is always as good as it gets -- in this moment. So make the best of it. 

In this moment, give yourself permission to write the worst junk in the world, the same permission I give myself in this moment when I fear what I write for you isn’t good enough. It is, in this moment. I must believe this, as must you, or we can never move into the next moment and then the next, when those moments, too, form the present moment.

It is good enough. If you do your best to write freely and easily from your heart, it is always better than good enough. It is perfect.

Whatever you write is perfect. Whatever you experience is perfect. Whatever you feel is perfect. In this moment. Which is the only moment that matters, for it is the only moment that exists.

• What can you do in this moment to bring you back to the present moment? 
• What can you stop worrying about, wondering about or trying to figure out? 
• What can you stop judging? 
• Can you apply those questions as much to your life as you do to your much to your writing as you do to your life?

Close your eyes for a moment. Focus on your breath. Be present. With your words. With your writing. In your life.

• adapted from  The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write (c) 2008 Mark David Gerson

• You'll find additional tips and inspiration on my website, where you can read my "Rules for Writing," sign up for my mailing list and read/hear more free excerpts from The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write.

Photo: "In Search of Lost Time" by Alexander Boden

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Friday, August 5, 2011

You Can Write (Yes, You Can!)

Close your eyes and remember. Remember the stories you invented...
Remember wonder and imagination... Remember make-believe...

You can write.

If you can read these words, you can write.

You're saying "I'm not creative" or "I can't make up stories" or "I don't know how."

Well, you are, you can and you do. And you can do it without struggle.

Whoever you are, whatever your background, whatever your education, you can write -- in ways that bring meaning to your life, in ways that touch others.

The ability exists in all of us. We were born with it, with a unique voice, a unique way of seeing and describing the world, a unique palette of textures, images and hues with which to express what we feel, what we see, who we are.

As children we concocted imaginary places and playmates, soared with seagulls, raced with tigers. Close your eyes and remember. Remember the stories you invented. Remember wonder and imagination. Remember make-believe.

Watch your children, or your neighbor's children. Listen to the timeless stories they weave. We all crafted similar riches as children but, somehow, life got in the way. We grew more self-conscious. We were told not to make up stories. We feared being different. We were taught to write a certain way. We grew older, busier, more cautious. Slowly and without our being aware of it, the door to our creativity edged shut.

Now we wonder whether the key is lost for all time. It's not. That key remains within your grasp, always. It's your birthright. It's your story, your voice. And it has value.

There are many ways to unlock that door...

• Start by letting the child you were back into your life -- not to displace the adult you've become, but to enrich it.
• Start asking how and why again.
• Slow down.
• Run your hand over a tree trunk.
• Inhale the perfume of an autumn evening.
• Get up early and watch the sun rise.
• Study people. See how they walk. Hear how they talk. Make up stories about them.
• Pretend you're on vacation and start a journal, recording your impressions of people and places as though seeing them for the first time.

Try writing for 15 minutes without stopping, without thinking, without editing. You'll be amazed at how much you can write in such a short time. You'll be amazed at how good it is.

Don't censor yourself. Give yourself permission to write nonsense. Give yourself permission to begin without knowing where you're going. Writing is a voyage of discovery. Be open to the journey.

Look for books and groups that support your creativity, that let you tap into the writer you are. Find a quiet place and quiet time where you can write regularly. Find a quiet place within yourself.


The stories are there.

Photo #1 + #2 by Mark David Gerson: Story, AK + Pyramid Lake, NV.

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