By Monica A. Ross, LPC
It’s been over a year since I’ve had any significant time away from work. The Hemera Foundation awarded me a fellowship last year for a mindfulness retreat. Because I went through a physical move and then have been through the business of getting my own practice up and running there hasn’t been the time nor have I had the money to take much of a break.
It’s time now for a break though, I think. I was very excited when I found out that Hemera would honor my award again this year. So, I’ll be taking a short trip in the next couple of months to the New England area to study Vajrayana approaches to mindfulness.
I'll get to see Boston and New York, both places I've never been. I’m very much looking forward to the trip. I’m also looking forward to bringing back the techniques that I learn to my practice.
As far as the book writing project goes, I’m working with someone local. Her name is Mindy Reed, she is a published author herself and offers advice and guidance on manuscript preparation and book production. We have a meeting today. I finally have an outline. Just the process of coming up with an outline was a lot of fun.
I look forward to my meetings with Mindy. They help keep me on track.
It’s weird waking up one day and announcing that I'm a writer. I guess for me that was about a year ago. Before, people would compliment my writing and then follow with, "Do you write?" They were meaning I guess if writing was my declared craft, my thing. There was always a sense of guilt for me in answering—I was a writer, who didn’t write.
I felt more comfortable responding "I like to read." I still like to read.
But instead of the reader who does the occasional journal writing and/or paper writing, or composes the occasional short story or poem, now I’m working on a book. There is a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson that I like: “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”
It’s so true. There is something to naming your intent. It sets the wheels in motion and opens up opportunities.
I would never have met Mindy had I not had breakfast one morning at Snooze on South Lamar in Austin, TX. Sitting across from me at the counter, also eating breakfast alone at 6:30am in the morning, was another woman. She was talking to the waiter about how she had just seen a film at the Austin Film Society. I chimed into the conversation.
As it turns out that stranger across the counter was someone who was a published author, speaker, consultant, activist, and of course another social worker like myself. We talked about her work. I told her about my practice and my blog. She referred me to Mindy at the Authors' Assistant.
That’s what I call synchronicity. It’s happened so many times in my life—synchronicity--too many times to tally up. But it definitely does leave me with the sense of a benevolent universe that conspires, in a good way.
There is so much history tied up I think for artists in what they deem their passion. For me, it’s my early disinterest in reading and later voracious interest. It’s every English class I ever took. It’s certain English classes in particular—the one AP English class where I read every book on the reading list before the school year began and then read all the books again during the school year as we covered each.
My history has to do with the disappointments as well--the first freshman composition paper I wrote and the poor grade I got on it--the subsequent outrage and later dropping of the course. I didn't need to take the class anyway having placed out of freshman English Lit.
It was that. Then it was all the many papers that followed throughout the rest of my undergraduate years, my master's degree years, now my doctoral years—all of the better grades and encouragement.
My history has something to do with all of the books and authors that have kept me company in the several moves I have made some of them cross-country. It’s those private moments and conversations I feel like I’ve had with people I’ve never even met in person who have expressed themselves through their writing.
My history has something to do with the passages and quotes shared with friends, colleagues, clients—in parks and on road trips, at dinner, in sessions. There was a local duo I used to listen to live in San Diego named Berkley Hart. They did the coffeehouse acoustic music circuit. During their performances, they would frequently stop and take time to tune their instruments and add “We tune because we care.”
That’s how I feel about writing, about words, about language. There is definitely care and concern involved. Over time I’ve been able to better control my internal editor. Still at times, I look at the words as they fall on the page and have the second thought, "Could I have worded that differently?"
Likely, yes. And am I making grammatical and editorial mistakes? Likely, yes, too. I don’t care as much lately about editing as I do the practice of writing, the act of it. Or maybe what's more--the editing will come later, further on down the line, because I do care.
I’ve spent so much of my life paying respect to authors who have come before. Sometimes you feel so much respect you start to think, "That's something I could never do myself." But it's not true, you absolutely can.