Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Anita Lock is talking with Diana Raab, author of Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life
FQ: How did you develop your seven-step plan?
RAAB: I developed my seven-step plan as a result of my forty-year writing career and my experience teaching workshops. For years, my students had asked me to write this book, as they wanted a companion guide to their writing. Basically, they wanted the structure that a book such as this one provides.
FQ: In the section on “preparing to write,” one of the topics listed is “rituals for writing.” Explain.
RAAB: I believe that to master any task—whether it’s professional, personal, or a hobby—we need to have some rituals. Ask any writers who have given readings or workshops and they will tell you that there’s always someone who asks them what their process is and/or what their writing rituals are. As such, I thought I’d create a chapter on that subject. The chapter includes guidelines that have worked in my own writing practice, and in that of my colleagues. Establishing rituals is a very personal endeavor, so it’s best to come up with your own. The rituals I included in this chapter are: creating a sacred space, grounding yourself, and expressing gratitude.
FQ: You devote a whole chapter to transpersonal psychology. What aspect of this form of psychology meant the most to you on your personal journey?
RAAB: The reason why there’s an entire chapter devoted to transpersonal psychology is because that is the area where I did my PhD research when studying the healing and transformative powers of memoir writing. Transpersonal psychology is the newest and fifth branch of psychology and includes the psychoanalytic, Jungian, behavioristic, and humanistic approaches. There is a great deal about this branch of psychology that resonates with me, including a focus on positive experiences, fostering and developing self-awareness, and the way it draws from both Eastern and Western paradigms.
FQ: What would you say is the most powerful aspect of journaling one’s story?
RAAB: That’s a tough question because I believe there are many advantages to journaling, and it depends on the individual. In Writing for Bliss, I list numerous reasons to journal. From my experience in working with others, I would say that these are the most important reasons: to increase self-awareness; to create a container for sentiments, hopes, and dreams; and to capture special moments or experiences.
FQ: You speak of muses, people who inspire others. Name some of those you earmark as muses and why.
RAAB: Muses are people or places that inspire our creativity. Muses can change from time to time depending upon our state of mind or what project we’re working on. For years, writer and diarist Anaďs Nin has been my muse because her writing and sensibilities really resonate with me. When I was stuck and my words weren’t flowing, I would turn to her work for inspiration.
FQ: In the section on “examining your life,” one of the topics listed is “mortality is a great teacher.” Explain.
RAAB: There is no life without death. When you’ve come face-to-face with your own mortality, as I did when dealing with cancer, you’re forced to identify your priorities and why you are here. Mortality also inspires you to tap into your authentic self, and most important, being faced with our mortality or the mortality of a loved one makes the meaning of life become very clear. It reminds us not to sweat the small stuff. In addition to my own cancer experience, in the past few years I’ve been at the deathbeds of two loved ones, and mortality issues obviously became magnified.
FQ: In your own personal journey, could you single out one part of the seven-step plan that became a poignant turning point in your life?
RAAB: I think that each step was important at various stages in my life. In terms of a turning point, I would say that Step Three: Speaking Your Truth was particularly meaningful. When I stopped nursing due to a difficult pregnancy, I turned to writing because I could do it in bed. I became a medical journalist and reported on innovations in the field. It was a very detached way of writing. Years later, I decided to begin personal writing by penning essays, memoir, and poetry. For me, that was a poignant turning point because my writing was not about sharing new medical innovations from which I was detached, but rather, my emotions and feelings became the focus of my writing. That is, my writing mission was to dig down into my own emotional truth. In order for my writing to be compelling, I had to expose my inner thoughts and sentiments. This also meant being much more vulnerable than when I was a journalist.
FQ: One of the first writing formats you encourage your readers to delve into is journaling. What would you say to a reader who wants to go there but is reticent, possibly fearful that a family member might discover his/her secret thoughts?
RAAB: This is a common question. It’s normal to be concerned about others being exposed to our innermost thoughts. In general, more seasoned writers are less fearful. I have to often remind emerging writers to “have no fear.” If you write while editing thoughts because you’re afraid someone will see them, chances are you won’t be writing from your heart or from the voice of your soul.
For protection, there are creative ways to hide your writing from others. When I was teaching high-risk teenagers, I suggested that instead of choosing a nicely designed journal to write in, they use a composition notebook so that it would look like a boring schoolbook rather than a diary or journal. Although I’m not a huge advocate of computer journaling, some people find that it works for them because they can put a password on their files. Unless your loved ones are suspicious of your activities, chances are they won’t be searching for or opening your journal, and if you’re deceased and they find your journal, so be it. You’re gone, and they may have discovered a true treasure.
FQ: Another writing format you encourage is poetry. What is so powerful about this form of expression?
RAAB: Poetry is the voice of the soul. Poets help us see a slice of the world in a way that we might not have observed it before. Poetry also helps offer insight into both the human psyche and human behavior, and it is a place where the imagination can roam free. Writing and reading poetry can be a springboard to growth, healing, and transformation. Writing poetry is also a mindful practice, because to create it, you need to be in the present moment. It also allows you to tap into your authentic voice, which can lead to self-actualization.
FQ: What is one thing you hope your audience will take away after going through your book?
RAAB: That’s a tough one, as I’ve shared many lessons and pieces of wisdom in the book, which I’ve compiled from more than five decades of writing. My overarching message to my readers is to give them permission to tell their stories as a way to attain self-discovery. Another crucial message is the importance of finding one’s life passion as a path to happiness by asking the question: Why am I here, and what is the meaning of my life?
Being in touch with your heart center is also at the core of any well-being practice. When writing, it’s essential to be in touch with your heart because it is usually a truth holder. Speaking from the heart helps it open up and expand. This expansion can lead to a greater sense of freedom and bliss.
To learn more about Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.