Silence the inner critic. This is a killer voice for an author. We all have that inner critic that tries to silence us when we know what we want to say. That’s dumb, that’s stupid, you’re a phony. Be mindful of the inner critic. Tell it to “back-off!” Some days I feel really empowered and other days, not so much. My confidence improves when I believe in myself. A good word to think about is to “authorize” yourself. You are the authority. No one else knows what you want to say but you and you have something important to say.
As part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cindy Rasicot. Cindy Rasicot has a B.A. in Women Studies and an M.A. in Clinical Psychology. Her life has been a spiritual journey that took on new dimensions when she, her husband, and their son moved to Bangkok Thailand for three years. There, she met her spiritual teacher, Venerable Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, the first fully ordained Thai Theravada nun⎯an encounter that opened her heart and changed her forever. This deepening relationship led to writing her memoir, Finding Venerable Mother: A Daughters Spiritual Quest to Thailand, which chronicles her adventures along the spiritual path.
Thank you so much for joining us Cindy! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?
I always dreamed of being a writer. I kept a secret diary when I was six, and wrote my first short story when I was eight, The Little Flame that Grew. As an adult, I was never passionate about my jobs working as a manager in non-profits, but all that changed when we moved to Bangkok. I didn’t have to work since my husband was supporting us. I finally asked myself, what do I really want to do? It was as if a light went on⎯a writer. It wasn’t about being famous; it was just a desire to put pen to paper and see what emerged. For me it took a major life change to spur me in a new direction. I feel lucky to have had that opportunity.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
A very exciting thing happened to me recently. Two years ago, my spiritual teacher asked me to write her biography. The BBC just named her one of a 100 most influential women in the world for 2019. You can watch my live interview with Dhammananda on my website, cindyrasicot.com. Recently, an acquisitions editor from a major publishing house contacted Dhammananda and expressed interest in a book about her life. Dhammananda referred the editor to me and we’re talking. Isn’t that amazing? That’s synchronicity at work. This biography isn’t about me, it’s about my teacher. It’s a work of the heart. When you devote yourself to a higher spiritual calling, anything is possible.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming an author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?
I definitely struggle with my inner critic. That voice that tries to silence us when we know what we want to say. That’s dumb, that’s stupid, you’re a phony. I have to talk to my inner critic. I tell her to “shut-up.” That critical voice is powerful in us, especially as women, because we have been silenced for so long. We have to speak up and pay attention to what it is we want to say. We need encouragement from others. That’s why I think as a beginning author it’s important to join a writing a group, because other people often hear the good in us when we can’t hear it ourselves.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
There are too many funny mistakes, but my biggest one was when I was twenty in the early 1970’s and met Anaïs Nin. She expressed interest in publishing my senior thesis, which compared the writing of Anaïs Nin and Virginia Woolf. I wrote some inane comment about how Anaïs diary writing didn’t compare to the fiction of Virginia Woolf. I received a letter back from Anais saying if I tried to publish my thesis, she would sue me. I was haunted by that comment for years! It was really naive of me at the time, but years later I laughed about my “almost” fifteen minutes of fame.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
My current memoir Finding Venerable Mother: A Daughter’s Spiritual Quest to Thailand is the most exciting project I am working on right now. It will be published in May 2020 by She Writes Press.
Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
The most interesting story I shared in the book is about my ordination experience with Dhammananda. When I went to have my head shaved, I was petrified. But then an amazing thing happened, I started sobbing when I bowed before my teacher. Tears streamed down my face. A dam burst. Dhammananda gently took my hands. I buried my head in her hands and kissed them. In that moment my heart cracked open and I felt immense gratitude for her. After that, my fear turned to joy. When I went to look at my reflection in the mirror, I liked what I saw. The only part that surprised me was having no eyebrows. I wasn’t expecting them to shave those off too!
What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?
I had a fraught relationship with my mother. I call it benign neglect. She was emotionally absent and was unable to meet my needs. I felt abandoned and alone as a young child, and as a teenager we fought constantly. Bitter fights — a lot of screaming and yelling. It wasn’t until I met Dhammananda that I was able to heal the rift with my mother. I want women to know that the potential is there for any woman to heal the wounds that bind her, but she must be willing, have courage, and be lucky enough to find a wise teacher who is capable of loving and accepting her just as she is. When we go forward with a truly open heart, faith, forgiveness and love are possible.
Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need to Know to Become a Great Author”? Please share a story or example for each.
As a writer on a spiritual path I believe there are 5 essential truths to follow in becoming an author. These are:
- Listen to your own voice.
Don’t let other writers and teachers crowd out the essential message you have to share. As individuals we each have a unique voice and we need to honor that in order to write our truth. My first writing teacher didn’t like my writing. I wrote about the difficulty I had as a child with my mother. She stifled my voice and wanted me to only write about happy experiences. That wasn’t a good experience. Eventually, I found a better coach and teacher. That was such a relief! Know that it’s always okay to feel good about what you’ve written. If you don’t feel supported, move on to find someone who can validate what you have to say.
2. Engage in all creative endeavors.
Engage all the senses in order to write. There are many avenues to accessing our inner creativity. Painting, dancing, writing, and cooking, allow us to express ourselves fully. I love to cook, especially bread making. Kneading dough is a great exercise; it pulls me out of my head and into my body. Dance is another wonderful way to feel empowered. Put on some music you love and go for it. Our writing improves the more we celebrate our mind/body connection.
3. Join a writing group.
Writing is an isolating experience. We need other people to encourage us, respond, and provide feedback so that we can keep moving in a positive direction. I love my writing group. We call ourselves the “Willfuls.” If it hadn’t been for my group, I doubt I would have ever completed my memoir.
4. Silence the inner critic.
This is a killer voice for an author. We all have that inner critic that tries to silence us when we know what we want to say. That’s dumb, that’s stupid, you’re a phony. Be mindful of the inner critic. Tell it to “back-off!” Somedays I feel really empowered and other days, not so much. My confidence improves when I believe in myself. A good word to think about is to “authorize” yourself. You are the authority. No one else knows what you want to say but you and you have something important to say.
5. Write from the heart.
When we go forward with an open heart, we invite the reader into a sacred space where they are safe to explore their feelings. When I am really connected to my heart, the words seem to flow from a place deep inside me. I know when I am experiencing this, because there is a universal wisdom in what I want to say. To access this place, I have to be really peaceful and centered; my mind can’t be going in a million directions. Meditation is a great way to open ,and let the heart speak.
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?
My greatest strength is my perseverance. I get up every day and follow the same routine. I meditate for twenty minutes, have my coffee and sit in my writing chair for a minimum of two hours. In the beginning, I wrote for thirty minutes every morning, but eventually, my writing time increased. There is no magic formula. When we look at the blank page, all we can do is begin. Don’t worry about what you are writing, just put the words on the page. We can go back and refine what we’ve written latter.
Choose your best time to write. For me, that happens to be early morning, but for others, it might be during evening hours. The important thing is to commit to writing every day. Make that your intention and stick with it no matter what!
Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?
I love reading memoir and biography. I just finished reading Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I get inspired by powerful women!
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My movement would be very simple. Begin with ourselves. If we can learn to be kinder, gentler, more compassionate with ourselves, we will lead happier and more fulfilling lives. When we are joyful that joy spreads to others, and the world becomes a better place. The Dalai Lama said, “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” Wouldn’t that be something if the world were a kinder place?
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Go to my website, www.cindyrasicot.com and scroll down to the bottom of the homepage to access my Facebook and Instagram accounts.
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!