How to Write a Book if You are Right Brained

Saturday, February 2, 2013

How to Write a Book if You are Right Brained

Right Brained to me suggests being kinda "wooey".  Wooey is an affectionate description for being spiritual, eclectic, sensitive, artsy, metaphysical, and “Ashevilley”. Wooey is organic flow, star-kissed dew, and inspirational gush. Wooey is right-brained, feminine, intuitive, and receptive. I am a wooey woman. I am also an author that almost never was because “wooey” and “book writing” are opposite actions. Scratch that, wooey and FINISHING a book are opposite actions.

I have always known I had a book inside of me, waiting patiently for me to acquire the necessary maturity to be born. What was not in me, however, was one ounce of left-brain structure or organization—that I had to develop (aka: beat into myself). It was not enough for me to take the tantric ride of my own creative “gush rush”. Creative inspiration has a purpose beyond the luscious “potential new life” sensation that feels so good. It also charges us with a sacred opportunity of bringing forth that life to do its happy little thing in the world. The gush, however, only takes us so far, and often deposits us in a perpetual state of half-completed projects. That’s fine for scrapbooking, artwork, and knitting, but creative writing—a book project—is a mess left in your head if you don’t bring it to completion.

I knew I needed to find a cistern for my gush, to capture it, structure it, and allow it to be translated into English. I knew I could not take the chaos of my creativity, share it in draft form, and expect anyone to be able to understand me. It had to be hammered into a linear reality, or else it would merely be the ramblings of a potentially lunatic mind. (Not that there is anything wrong with that.) I had to learn to value and utilize my left-brain functions in a right-brain way. I know there are so many wooey folks out there with a book inside of them too, struggling with structure, the antithesis to creativity. I want to share the strategies I developed to complete my book, which is sitting its pretty self on Amazon.com. If I can do it, you can do it, but it does take determination, courage, and being a little crazy is also helpful. 

I tried to write while still in the “gathering” stage, but that was as pointless as trying to ride two different trains at the same time. Ideas never came in any kind of order to make sense right away, but rather would drop into my head in degrees of emotional importance and intensity. I needed the organization to emerge from the pieces themselves once there were enough to order. The first strategy was to document the individual pieces, catch the drops, without trying to force them to make sense prematurely. I used a spiral bound set of index cards that had a perforated edge. The spiral kept them together, but the perforation allowed me to remove the cards when I was ready. I spent months letting the individual pieces drop, gush, and flow—one concept to one card. Bliss. I carried this index card “notebook” in my purse, because the spontaneous bits and pieces would come in any time they dang well pleased, not necessarily when I was looking for them. I didn’t try to analyze the data yet; the cards were just a collection of pure, random thoughts and ideas. This part was easy. The only left-brain thing I had to do was to remember to write the ideas down on the cards.

One day, I was finally prompted to play with the cards. I ripped them from the spiral notebooks and began to sort through them. I arranged the cards into piles of ideas that seemed related to one another. A dim sense of main supporting themes began to emerge the more I played, sorted, and rearranged my piles. The piles grew as the conspicuously missing pieces easily dropped into my mind. It was almost hypnotic, because if I allowed myself to look loosely and without force, a pattern absolutely began to reveal itself. I spent weeks in this stage, somewhere between chaos and order, allowing the book to tell me what main ideas it wanted to express. I had never thought that applying an intuitive flow to organization would be so effective, but it really was. This part was much more fun than I expected. I was accessing left-brain functions, but in a “practical” wooey way. I began to warm to the idea of structure.

The next part was about sequencing the piles into a logical, linear flow. I needed the activities in the book to have a start, middle, and end. I had to ask myself what made the most intuitive sense to introduce first, second, third, and so on. This was harder for me because the activities felt similarly “important”, which is how I usually sort my “to do” list in life. That strategy just didn’t work with the book because everything felt important. I found myself trying to say too much at once in a loud heap of urgency. I had to step back and find a way to unravel the knot so I could lay out the activities in a balanced progression. The steps needed to flow into one another, to make sense in a linear time line. This part never felt natural to me. If you are like me, it will never feel natural to you either. Wooey people don’t process information in “sequence”, which is a line. We process information “holographically”, which is a sphere. You have to unravel the sphere into a line in order to write a book, there is no getting around it. My strategy was to settle on the best order I could and simply keep going. You have to get tough with yourself here. Give yourself permission to feel uncomfortable, decide on a sequence anyway, and move forward. The book will tell you if you need to shuffle things around later. Once this part is done, even though I promise you it will never feel right (because it’s left!), you will have a rough map to begin writing the details of your book. It will be okay. I promise.

The next strategy I used was a Focus Group of about a dozen people to try out the activities in the book as written text. It wasn’t intended as a support group for me to get the writing done, but it ended up that way because once I set the schedule with them, I showed up for it. The group gave me the gift of accountability to have a certain amount of work accomplished each week. It wasn’t their primary purpose, but it ended up being critical support for developing good permanent work habits. I highly recommend joining a writer’s support group that meets regularly, or find an on-line group where you swap and comment on each others work. Create a solid, but “doable” writing schedule with clear goals. I sent the Focus Group new activities each Monday. They did the activities as independent homework and turned in descriptions of their experiences when they were finished. This system worked great and helped me produce the equivalent of one activity section each week. I started to see the heart of the book take form over the 15 weeks that I worked with the Focus Group on the activities. Things started to fall into place and the momentum of “maybe I really can do this” soared in me like the Little Engine that Could, which is good, because even though I had some sense of “gush closure” after writing the activities, the book was far from being complete.

I began a new phase of index cards to help me figure out the structure of the rest of the book. I started to “catch the drops” about what information I needed to explain in order for the activities in the book to make sense. Drop, drop, drop—pile, pile, pile—sort, sort, sort—grumble, sequence, sequence, grumble, sequence. I took the map that was left (pun intended) and began to write the actual text of the book. I had to belt myself into my computer chair and fight through the fatigue. Thankfully, the four months with the Focus Group helped me to develop productive writing habits. I did not permit myself to sit and spin in wooey spirals of unstructured la-la time during the workweek. I dropped off my daughter, gave myself until 8:30am to get my unstructured computer time out of the way, and then I parked myself in the manuscript word document. While I was writing, everything else was off. I wrote on good days, bad days, and blah days, even if it meant that I spun my wheels for a while. I discovered one thing that might be the most important tip I can give you; momentum matters. Staying in the motion of writing was sometimes enough to start a new flow of text that I didn’t expect would come that day. Remember to stay in motion and the text will come.

It was mentally exhausting. I coped by taking the weekends off and not touching the computer until Monday morning. During the week, when I “hit a wall” after a few hours of productive writing, I honored that and got away from the computer for a little while. The periods of short rest were good, but I always forced myself to go back to the computer to finish up for the day. I tried not to take more than a 45-minute break at any one time because momentum matters enough to say twice. I had to vigilantly balance the need to let my brain cool off with my inclination to grind to an “all stop” if I am still for too long. Thankfully, little bits of encouragement would show up when I was scraping bottom. I always got the much-needed gusts of second wind right before my head was about to hit the keyboard. I found that if I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and refused to quit, the universal support would make itself known and I would feel that surge of energy bring my dog-tired noodle back into commission for yet another round of writing.

The home stretch is always the hardest. After writing the full draft of the book, it was time to edit. My use of language is okay, but I knew the editing would be the biggest left-brain challenge of all. There is almost nothing right-brained about editing. I gave myself a couple weeks to rest and change “hats” by reading, The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White. I decided to be creative with this part too, so I requested for Strunk and White to be added to my spiritual guide team through the editing process (both are dead). Yes, I know, that’s a little strange (to you non-wooey people), but it was my way of attuning myself to the unemotional, logical inner voice necessary to rip my poetic blather down to a concise bundle. And you know what? It worked. As I weeded through the words, I saw grammar, structure, punctuation, spelling, and the places where I went off into an irrelevant, but warm and fuzzy tangent. I cut, slashed, and simplified without sentiment, attachment, and sometimes, without mercy. I could not have done that without a ceremonial change of perspective from right to left. Dead editors, or not, find a creative way to shift from thinking like an intuitive, wooey person to thinking like an unemotional editor. Strunk and White get 5-stars in the helpful dead editor department, if such a thing exists. One of them has a wicked sense of dry humor too, helpful on dreary left-brain days.

Deciding when the manuscript was finished being edited was more difficult than you might think. I fiddled, refined, reworded, double guessed myself, over thought, under thought, fiddle, fiddle, and fiddle. My husband, who is logic personified, had to intervene because I must have looked like Gollum hunched over the pages, whispering, “My Precious”. I wanted it to be perfect, but there is no such thing. You can, quite literally, edit through any manuscript forever and find something that you might want to keep tweaking, rewording, or cutting. This never felt natural to me either, the idea of being finished. You will want to keep going, and going, and going. Give yourself an editing deadline or you will drive yourself wonky. Don’t be sloppy about it, of course, you still need to hand in as clean of a manuscript as possible, but feel when you should stop. Sometimes more fiddling is just more fiddling. If it doesn’t make the book better, stop. Publishers use their own editors as well, so even when it leaves your hands, it has more filters through which to pass. If you don’t have a publisher yet, go to your favorite left-brain friends and beg them to proof your work before you attempt to send it out. 

Writing my book was like participating in a triathlon because each part was grueling, long, and had new skills to master in order to finish that particular segment. It took sheer, stubborn grit for me to ride through to the finish line. I mean, seriously. Brain dead, burnt out—but taking the next step anyway—kind of grit. I couldn’t conceive that it would ever truly be finished, but one incredible morning it actually was super-duper-absolutely-final-book-draft.doc done. I began writing in September of 2006. The book was ready on Amazon.com at the end of March 2009. I wish I could say that the story ends with my book being on the NY Times Best Sellers list, but writing the book was just the beginning. (What?!) Once a book is written and on the market, you actually have to communicate about its existence. There goes a brand spanking new set of skills to learn and “not fun” things to figure out, but I am going forth far better equipped than I used to be. I have made friends with my left-brain, my logical and orderly “inner dude”. He’s not so bad after all. Going “left” has made me more of myself, if that is possible. It wasn’t the foreign land that I had feared it would be, even though some of it was rocky. It’s also not the stuffy, business-suit wearing ‘Gent’ that I thought it would be. My left-brain is more like a deliciously flamboyant, impeccably dressed gay man who knows how to tidy me up and send me off into the world feeling fabulous. He is the cistern to my fount and the yang to my yin, which is a fancy way of saying; I can get more stuff done now. Bliss.


About my Book: Awake in Angelscape: The Scenic Route to the Sacred Self

This is the "official" description of my book on Amazon:

The greatest journey you will ever take begins with a leap of faith...

Awake in Angelscape is a guided meditation book that uses a journey through an imaginary landscape to initiate a progression of 30 self-healing and wholeness activities. The book activities seek to provide the Reader with deeply moving experiences and inner tools that respect the way the brain responds to internally generated imagery. The work in the book uses a synergy of the Reader's imagination, clear intentions, and personal spiritual faith to weave a potent interactive journey to the Sacred Self. The book's activities provide protocols to address the major processes of self-healing and wholeness work. These processes are: 1) flushing the system of accumulated energetic and emotional congestion, 2) fortifying the system to be resilient against harmful or negative influence, 3) rectifying negative perceptions and patterns, 4) restoring a sense of wholeness and harmony within the system 5) empowering the Self to identify, cultivate, and express the most sacred and evolved aspects of itself as an individual and as a member of larger systems, 6) embracing and having compassion for "being human", so that forward progress is viewed as a cumulative journey instead of a destination.

The real skinny of it is this:

The book I wrote is my “mitzvah” to the world, which is Jewish for, “a kind deed performed as a religious duty”. I wrote it because I was supposed to. Who is supposed to read it? Heck if I know. Hopefully, I didn't spend 2 years of my life writing a book that only 6 people needed to read, but I admit that it's entirely possible. I'm better for having given birth to it and now it's out there doing its own thing. Once and awhile, I get a postcard. I'm good with that and already on to other projects.

Awake in Angelscape is an activity book that details energy work protocols that were developed and refined over more than a decade of near hermitage up on my mountain outside of Asheville, North Carolina. Like many authors, I wrote the book that I personally needed earlier in my life. The work was developed the honest way; by slogging through the foreign terrain of rapid spiritual expansion, while desperately and persistently insisting that the process not turn me into an ungrounded mystic who was unable to actually live in this world and ~get to work~. I utterly submerged in higher dimensions with very little foothold in this one for quite a long time. There was wisdom there to drag back, hammer into some kind of linear format, and share. So that is what I did. 

Many people find the book very complex, and I guess that is true, but it is as simple as I could have made it. It is just as thorough and deep as it should to be to fill a need for people who are ready to do significant and substantive inner-work that uses a strong spiritual base. It is not easy reading. It is an ass load of work. I did not write it with my typically humorous slant and often irreverent nod to behavioral language. I wish I could have without diluting the potency of the work itself. I'm not saying this is channeled work, because it's not, but I guarantee you that I am not capable of what it took to write that book without a very hefty dose of Divine Intervention and support. Sometimes I open it and read a random page and think, “Day-um. That was definitely not all me.”

Maybe some day I'll write a fluffy and entertaining book, but this one ain’t it. If you are, however, ready to do some serious soul level work, the book may be a good tool for you to move on to a higher level. It is a process book. It doesn't just give you the work, it shows you how the work is done. By the time you finish the book, you will have solid skill sets to go off in your own direction of service, which was always the point. You don't start first with global service, even though I know you want to. You start first by taking care of yourself and making sure you have the necessary skill set and integrity to do the larger work. First within, then without. There is no short-cut. Well, you can try, but it will get beaten out of you soon enough. Good luck with that. 

Anyway, if you want to read more about the book, you can click on the book cover or click here.  If any of you have read it already or have an opinion one way or another, I would appreciate a “like”, or shout out on Amazon, since it is clear that the only way that people will learn about this book is through word-of-mouth. It is a niche book for spiritual seekers who know they have work to do, but who are at a loss for finding a practical way to do that work. You can always just plug in with your personal guidance and ask, “Would this book be helpful to me?” If you get a bunch of goosebumps or some kind of energy rush, perhaps you should consider taking the plunge.

Christopher and I have a brand new website and blog. :)  I'm going to leave archived blog articles up in here, but all new articles will be published under the new site.

Our new website is here:
http://www.etemetaphysical.com

Our new blog, which we have integrated together, is here:
http://blog.etemetaphysical.com/

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