Who Are You to Write? (On Stroke Correction and Conviction)
These are excerpts from my diary in 2001, four years before my first novel The Dreamcloth was published.
Some years ago, I decided it was time to learn how to swim properly. I mean, I’d had swimming lessons as a kid, but stopped as soon as there was no danger I’d drown if someone threw me into a swimming pool. So I signed up through a community college and over the course of a summer, had some lessons with a lovely swimming coach who taught me ‘stroke correction.’ He showed me how to position my elbows, keep my fingers slightly apart and helpfully suggested I try breathing whenever I feel like it and not every third stroke. After a few lessons with him, the water became a much friendlier place. But one day, he told me that he can only take his students so far.
‘What do you mean?’ I asked (I had paid for a full ten lessons and wanted to be taken all the way).
‘It’s one thing to show a person the correct posture and movement, but I cannot teach the most important thing, which is how your body feels in the water,’ he said. ‘That’s something each person has to find out for herself. It’s a very personal relationship – no-one can teach you how to feel at home in the water.’
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WINGS: Words Inspire, Nourish and Grow the Spirit
Likewise, when people come on my writing retreats, I can teach them the craft of writing fascinating characters, and how to use setting to expand the theme, and how to think about emotional pace and point of view. But I cannot teach them to claim the magic – the magic of ‘I can.’ It doesn’t matter how many writing courses you take, how many workshops or retreats you attend – no-one can give this to you. It’s yours to own. I cannot show anyone how to believe that what they have to say matters. That, I’m afraid is an inside job.
As writers, we learn to trust the process. And in the process we learn to trust ourselves. When those two places of trust finally meet, a writer is born and the universe opens to meet her.
Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?