communikates

writing prompt (+ meditation): The story you’re trying to hide

September 30, 2019

Welcome to the communikates community! I’m so happy you’re here and grateful I get to share what I’ve learned throughout my own writing career with you. My intention is to offer up the writing tips and resources from my weekly writing groups here.

While leading my first writing group, I guided writers in a meditation called “Taking in the Good.” Inspired by Rick Hanson’s work, the meditation invites you to recall a positive experience from the past and allow that feeling to expand throughout your body. If done repeatedly, this meditation can replace our mind’s negative biases, settle the brain’s alarm system, and strengthen healthy neural circuits.

When first introduced to this practice, it was difficult for me to let positive feelings from my past really sink in (hello, negative bias). Even though I knew they happened, I could feel walls up around my heart, wondering what the sense in dwelling on them was. (Keyword: sense; my logical mind, the part that deals with survival, was trying to protect me from something I didn’t need protection from.) 

Luckily, I remembered a gratitude practice that has really helped me steep in positive feelings. Rather than simply listing off what I’m grateful for, I’d write it in an email to a close, trusted friend. I offer this practice to writers for a couple of reasons: 

  • Writing to one person helps you narrow down your audience. It might sound counterintuitive, but the more specific you are about who your audience is the more likely you are to connect with even more people. Think of it like trying to please everyone – it’s impossible. However, if you own your truth and who your audience is, you will be more likely to connect with them. One way to do this is to write your story as though you’re writing to one specific person.
  • Explaining why I was grateful for something forced me to show not tell my experience. Because my friend wasn’t there, I had to set the scene and offer some context as to why I was so grateful for what I put on my list. Country Songwriter (Did I lose anyone? I promise it’s relevant to all creative writing) Brent Baxter explains, “Sometimes, as writers, we have the tendency to leave too much information in our heads and off the page. Maybe we know the story so well, maybe because we’ve actually lived it. Either way, our [words] can sometimes just talk about the story without actually giving us the story… Build the habit of showing us the cause of the emotions, not just telling us about the emotions.”

Last week, on the other hand, was another story. I was triggered by a copywriting client’s feedback and had a lot of shame come up for me. Perhaps, she hinted my work was sub-par, or perhaps I was filling in the blanks of what she didn’t say, replaying a story from my past of not being “good enough.” Either way, I couldn’t shake the feeling – or the literal shaking in my body. Rather than pushing that uncomfortable feeling away, I chose to lean into it. Minutes before our session started, I sat with the somatic experience of this belief, how feeling not good enough was manifesting in my physical body. 

The prompt I chose (or perhaps my shame chose for me) was from Laura Davis, a Santa Cruz–based author: What is the story you most want to hide? 

What I normally want to hide is this shame. According to Shame Researcher Brené Brown, shame is defined as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.” Through meditation and journaling, I guided the group to continue exploring emotions and the somatic experiences associated with them. Only this time, I invited writers to sit with “negative” emotions, such as shame, and what’s really behind them.

The most audacious story waits behind the one trying to hide. That is the place where you’ll find the most emotion, the most passion, and the most resistance.

Lisa Dale NortonShimmering Images, A Handy Little Guide to Writing Memoir

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