When I woke from the dream, the morning was dimly peering through the slats in the shutters. It was so real — like the first scene in a movie. I wanted more — not to be left wondering what happened when the newly introduced father and daughter followed the woman through the door. So between wakefulness and dream, I stayed on and became part of the play. What happened next was extraordinary.
Like a camera on a dolly I followed through the door and became a voyeur on the next scene. While I thought it would be fun to kind of co-create this intriguing story, the characters had quite a different opinion of my intervention. And so the many facets of the story took shape. I looked at the daughter and like a magician’s bouquet of paper flowers popping open with a top of his wand, this young woman’s life sprung forward in full colour — friends, dreams, personality — right down to the curve in her leg. When I turned my gaze at the tall man with the hair flopped over his brow in a Hugh Grant-esque manner the same thing happened. Wow.
I sprang out of bed — no I mean literally — out to the kitchen and fired up my little Mac Air before these dream forms vanished and a captivating story with them. I wrote all morning and the next and the next. Excited about each scene, new character. Every character brought along their own entourage so the cast kept growing along with the intrigue. I did get involved with the story but not the way one would expect if your style is to map out a story line from beginning to conclusion and build the novel brick by wilful brick.
For days I would just sit down at my computer each morning and wait to see who showed up. The story unfolded and dipped into my memories to offer up times and places or faces that became blended into the fiction. This character reminded me of a friend of a friend here on the island. That character looked like no one I knew but I recognised her smile as if she were my own daughter.
I was so astonished by the story that I sent dailies to a few trusted friends and each begged for more. I named it Paris Changes Everything inspired by a life changing trip which seeded the crux of the story. Each reader wanted to know what happened next and so did I! But then a rather sad, yet I know common, thing occurred and that was the little voice in my head; the bucket of cold water that douses the creative flame. It chastised me for spending my time having fun when I should be doing more important business — serious writing. Getting things done. Following up on the marketing plan of my non-fiction book, Exhilarated Life. And so that was that; the novel put on the shelf of my imagination until I had time for fun again.
When asked by my few supporters, I would say that the muses had deserted me. That wasn’t quite true. But the few times I sat down to write all I got was smoke. No images. No voices. Nobody was home. It was if the characters had abandoned me as surely as I had abandoned them. I tried a more conventional and disciplined approach; I imposed elements of a ‘proper’ novel and tried to will their story onto the page. But they weren’t having it. This story would not be told by any other than they themselves. However, months later in the midst of a five month Focusing Workshop an astonishing thing happened.
Simply put, Focusing is a strategy to access the ‘felt sense’ within the body. It unlocks the language that the body holds in its very cells — the infinite imprint of your entire life experience. When asked, your body has an incredible amount to offer up. There are breakthroughs of clearing blocks, releasing trauma and opening inspiration — all in a most subtle and sublime way. As it happened, one Saturday night in the middle of a weekend workshop, I had a most unexpected experience.
I went to bed, tired, after a long day of learning with others to access the “felt sense” and the techniques of focusing. There were eight of us along with two instructors. The day had been enlightening and invigorating. I was looking forward to continuing the following day and wanted to be fresh and well rested. I settled down to sleep, adjusted my pillow, did a relaxation exercise and then proceeded to lay there while the projector in my mind fired up and for the next seven hours the whole novel played itself out in fast forward.
By 6:00 am I was exhausted but exhilarated. I didn’t dare close my eyes then for fear of losing all that was offered up to me is such grand and colourful design. Again I sprang out of bed — I kid you not, I did it again — and quickly made notes on the trajectory of the story and its ultimate outcome — who knew? I could not have made this stuff up. The genie in the bottle of my imagination was freed! The characters wanted this story out and clearly were not taking a chance on my inner censor shelving it again.
Is the novel finished? No — not by a long shot. But every day I sit down, I pull up a page that has a hasty outline and like a kid with a new pack of colouring pencils — you know the one with all the weird and wonderful shades — I colour in the story. I jump to the internet to find out about sailing around Corsica; the ingredients of chilled avocado soup, then look up the coats of arms of ancient French aristocrats. How do you get a car to the island of Poros in Greece and what is the name of the international airport in Boston? One thing is for sure I’m having a blast!
We are born to create. The creative process is what it is for each of us. We all have our own ways to access imagination and inspiration. The ‘right’ way to create is the one that feels playful and joyful as you let your story — or painting — or invention — or dance — or idea — come to life through you. The work should only come when the creating is complete and the edits (however many it takes) allow you to polish your offering until it shines out and invites others to look into the world of infinite possibility.
To your rich imagination!
Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on August 21, 2016.
Check out my article right here on Thrive Global about Focusing, “Secrets Your Body May Not be Sharing”
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Originally published at medium.com