junie@junieswadron.com | 250.813.0183

29 Jan

8 Reasons Why Some People Would Rather Do Anything But Write

frustrated-boy

Let me ask you something. It might sound strange coming from me, but do you hate writing? Does the mere thought of it make you cringe? Do you ever wonder how it is that so many people seem to actually enjoy the process? They talk about their journals as if they’re the Holy Grail! Do you ask yourself, what do they actually get from it and if it’s so great, why is it so distasteful to you? If so, you’re not alone! Here are 8 reasons why some people would rather do anything but write:

Reason #1: Shame

One of the most common reasons is because they were shamed in school. Their essays or short stories got marked up with red pens—they weren’t in the right order, their grammar was poor, and so on. They learned that in order to write, they had to do it perfectly. Imagine toddlers saying their first words and being criticized for not pronouncing them correctly! Yes it’s ludicrous, but that’s what happens to children when they write their imaginative stories for the first time and they get ripped to shreds. Mark Twain said, “If we taught our children to speak the way we teach them to write, everyone would stutter.” Many adults are still plagued with shame from their youth for not doing it right.

Writing Exercise

If you have had an experience like that, throw out the rules and write about it. Write an angry blaming letter to the teacher or whoever it was that put you down. Get it out of your system. You are not what that person said about you. Feel compassion for your younger self and let her/him have their day in court! Let go of perfection and go for the jugular! Don’t be surprised at what might get released in this one piece. Note: this letter is not to be sent!

Reason #2: Afraid of thoughts and feelings

Everyone judges themselves and others. Often the judgment comes from those described above who shamed us in the first place, and we end up thinking we can never do anything write. Oops, I meant “right.” See? Judging ourselves is the biggest crippler in our lives. “How can I think that? It’s not nice of me.”

While writing, if we’re afraid of our angry, less-than-loving thoughts, we’ll want to cover them over with flowery words, make it sound pretty and poetic. We may succeed. It may sound poetic. But it won’t be authentic and we won’t reach the deeper parts of us that want a voice. That part may be angry, frustrated and rebellious or somewhere between bored and apathetic because of our betrayal of her/him. Whatever s/he is, there’s deeper energy inside awaiting expression. Follow it compassionately. This is what the page is for.

Writing Prompt

Right now I am feeling….

Reason #3: Afraid someone will discover what they wrote and read it

This can be a legitimate fear when you’re writing a journal or anything else you’ve written. You want to protect its sacredness. Our writings are our babies. Protecting them is protecting your most innocent, creative voice. Besides, if you think someone may be reading what you’ve written, it will inhibit what you write. In your journals you can write on the front page, “Please do not read this. Put it down. It is personal.” Or, if you prefer, write, “Read at your own risk!”

Don’t leave your writing on your coffee table. If you do, you might as well surrender to the fact that it’s probably going to happen. And if it does, can you really blame that person? After all, you’ve opened up the temptation. Of course you can share it with whomever you like. But here’s the key: Be discerning. You don’t want to share it with someone whose approval you’re looking for. Share your fledgling pieces with people whom you trust and who support you.

Writing Tip

Do not leave your journal on the coffee table!

Reason #4: Can’t spell, don’t know proper grammar and punctuation

An amazing number of people won’t write because they’re not good spellers and feel embarrassed and feel the same way about punctuation, grammar and style. Stream of conscious thought doesn’t care if you can’t spell, you don’t use grammatically correct speech or punctuation. Or use any punctuation at all. Me bee in countree hole bunch long time. I bet you understood that. Do I really care if it’s not written well or it’s got a bunch of spelling mistakes? No, I don’t. And I don’t want you to either. Not during the creative process. Find an editor later. Creativity demands that you do not try to stop it with rules. Kids paint outside the lines. We get to write outside the margins if you know what I mean.

Writing Exercise

Deliberately write a few sentences with bad grammar, spell things wrong even when you can spell them right and at the end of it, have a good laugh. It’s not that serious, right? Remember that during the creative process. Laugh when you can’t spell something instead of judging it. Your judge will throw away the pen and you’ll inevitably go find a donut to munch on.

Reason #5: Afraid if they put it in writing, they’re bound by it

There’s always been an aura around the written word. It’s like a law or contract that can’t be changed. “Gee, I wrote it this way so how can I say it that way now?” Well, you can. That’s poetic license. It’s also being human. We change our thoughts, our minds, our perceptions as we learn and grow. You can write something and stand by it today and change it tomorrow if it no longer resonates with your truth.

The irony is, as soon as we write the truth of where we are in the moment, the energy shifts and allows for another truth to seep in. We’re not frozen in our fury, for example. Most often once we’ve spilled it all onto the pages, we hit a deeper emotion—hurt, for example. We discover that under the rage lies a hurt inner child who hasn’t had his or her needs met. With this awareness we can then do some nurturing—we can write ourselves a love letter. Sometimes this process takes several days. You may just need to stay with the anger for a while. Write it out and let it rest on the page. Read it out loud so you can feel the full impact of your feelings. Then go do something physical. Go for a walk. Turn on some up-beat music, dance. Exercise. Breathe. Get the endorphins flowing. And feel proud that you have released what you’ve been wanting to say for weeks!

Writing Tip

Allow your writing to teach you things. Learn as you write. Grow as you learn. Let it be a progression, not a fact. There is an endless well of wisdom that can come to us from invisible places that the pen just seems to know how to locate. Nothing’s written in stone. And if it is, eventually someone will pick up the stone and skip it in the water and something new will get invented in its place. It’s called creativity, imagination, and freedom!

Reason # 6: Don’t know what to say—afraid of the blank page

Sometimes not knowing where to begin can seem like an insurmountable task. Just begin to write where you are. Describe where you are, your environment, the colours, the sounds, the people, or lack of them, and let this be a beginning. Or give your editor a voice: if it’s saying “I don’t have anything to say…” write that. Write it again and again. Eventually it will change. Stay with it and stay focussed on your intention. At the same time keep your hand moving across the page.

Writing Prompt

The last time I had nothing to say, I…

Reason #7: Afraid of what you might learn about yourself

Writing takes you into the deeper recesses of your mind, turning over the soil of the unconscious and bringing light to what’s been buried for a long time. If there are things you don’t want to face, don’t want to deal with, you will avoid writing about them because the truth usually surfaces and makes you look at it. Don’t be afraid. Be curious instead. When you stay with it and write to the other side, you will gain clarity, answers, healing and release.

Writing Exercise

What I want you to know about me is… (you are writing this to yourself… it’s about you getting to know yourself) ☺

Reason #8: Competition

You’re afraid to do anything because you’re always comparing yourself to others. You’ll never get the novel, play, article, song published. “So and so graduated at the same time as me and they’re already way ahead and even famous. It’s stupid to even bother.” Comparing ourselves is very damaging because it stops us from moving forward. We ask ourselves the wrong questions, and so we get the wrong answers. We say, “How come she can do it?” or say, “No wonder he’s successful; he has a rich father”, instead of asking ourselves, “What are my goals and what can I do today towards them?”

Writing Exercise & Tip

Take one writing project that you have on the go—or want to have—and get to it! There are no tricks. Just roll up your sleeves and write. Once you have started, you will know the sheer joy of moving forward and it will motivate you to come back tomorrow and the next day and the next day after that. And when you get stuck, write your truth about it in your journal. It will free you and you’ll be able to continue.

If you haven’t been writing and the above reasons don’t apply to you, or you have other reasons why you are stuck, please tell us your reasons below. If I can help you find a solution, and it’s likely that I will, you’ll be writing again in no time!

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08 Mar

HOW DO YOU SAY GOODBYE TO PARADISE?

HOW DO YOU SAY GOODBYE TO PARADISE?

bowenBowen Island is one of my most cherished places in the world.
The following was written for a Toastmaster’s Meeting when I was leaving Bowen Island – a place I lived temporarily and will love forever.
Toastmaster’s Ice Breaker for March 13, 2002
Thank you Master Toastmaster, Good evening fellow Toastmasters and guests:

How do you say good bye to paradise?
As some of you learned, last week, I will soon be on a journey to Seoul, Korea to join my partner where we will teach English and travel to – at this point, unknown destinations. This isn’t all that new for me as I love adventure and love to travel – it’s just that I didn’t think I’d be doing it this way at this stage of my life for what could be an indefinite period of time.
So this fits into tonight’s theme of new beginnings –and what I wish to tell you about me. However, before we can enter into new beginnings, don’t we need to be complete with what is happening now? And that’s the hard part. Letting go of B.C. – Vancouver, and most recently, Bowen Island and what that has been for me.

It has been almost four years since I packed up my cats and my computer and headed west from Toronto. I was drawn to the west coast most of my life, from my first visit here in 1971 when I hitch-hiked with a friend across the country as a young hippie to visit my first boyfriend, Bo, who had since travelled India, became a bohemian Monk and landed on Texada Island.

Travelling across the prairies and into the Rockies for the first time, in the summer months when the sun cast its light and shadows onto the fields and mountains like a Chagall painting will always remain a highlight of my life. But nothing prepared me for the raw exquisite wilderness of Texada Island, where there were no roads and it took us over 3 hours in a jeep traversing the 20 or so kilometers of dense terrain, and what seemed like deep jungle, with deer running wild and then to finally meet up with my friend nestled upon a beach between two mountains hosting the most magnificent waterfall and breathtaking view of the Gulf Islands and Pacific Ocean. I thought I had landed in paradise. And in fact I had. Only my 20 year old spirit could not fully appreciate the subtleties of meditation and a raw food diet that was being offered to me – so I quickly fled paradise to seek out more adventurous turf and I found myself writing lyrics for a rock band in Vancouver at Oil Can Harry’s.

That summer was the one I would draw back from memory for years and years when I wanted to call up a time of unbridled creativity, synchronicity, and acceptance into community. That was the way I chose to remember it when I brought it up against a background of trying to fit into a traditional system that didn’t seem to have much use for poets and artists of which I wanted to believe I was one.
So for the entire decade of the 70’s I travelled to different cities and countries, appreciating the newness of each experience. And then in the 80’s, driven by traditional values, I set down roots, back in the town of my birth, and remained there for twenty years when the dream came back in full swing…and I couldn’t ignore it any longer.

I remember the day that I decided to move to Vancouver for good. Whilst visiting a friend on one of my numerous visits to the west coast, I found myself standing alone at dawn on Ambleside Beach in West Van and asked the question, “Well, Junie, are you just going to keep dreaming about moving here or are you actually going to do it?” I felt a resounding “YES” flood through my body and I knew in that moment there was no going back. And almost to the day one year later, –I set sail on the 401 in my old 1983 Beamer and parked it in the West End… next to Lost Lagoon and Stanley Park and I have felt home there ever since… up to and including when I discovered Bowen Island in a way that mattered.

I was drawn to this island just two months after arriving in Vancovuer and hearing about the labyrinth on Xenia. And in the pouring rain in November of 1998, my friend Alexi and I walked it and I remembered saying a prayer in my heart to one day know the people who created this beautiful refuge and place of protection. Last summer my prayer was answered. I brought a friend visiting from England to Bowen. We walked the lake and then wandered Xenia, looking for the lodge. Instead our wanderings brought us unwittingly to Angelyn , founder of Xenia, sitting outside her house relaxing and enjoying the sunshine and the quietude. There was an immediate heart connection that has remained ever since.

And just prior to that meeting, my dear friends from T.O, Paul and Carolyn came to Vancouver and the first place my partner Lee and I took them was to Bowen Island for a day trip. They surpassed us and now live on the island permanently and grace us here tonight and always, with their presence.

These trips to Bowen were feeling more and more special and I wanted to find a way to make it more permanent. So I will share with you the most significant and profound experience that truly anchored me here – which also happened last summer.

On July 25th, I performed in a play that I co-wrote called Madness, Masks and Miracles https://junieswadron.com/mental-health/madness-masks-and-miracles/ which was written to help dispel myths and stigmas about mental illness. It’s about the madness I think most of us go through at some time in our lives, the masks we wear to cover it over lest we be ostracized for it and the miracles that let us take off our masks and be real.

The morning of the play, a friend called me and told me the unfortunate news of the death of a Bowenite, Judith Mallet. Some of you may have known her. I never did, but was asked, just days prior to this, if I would visit with her because of the work I do as a psychotherapist, but more than that – because of my own bouts with clinical depression. It never happened. I never got to visit with her.

Angelyn who was in the audience of the play that night, asked if I would speak at Judith’s memorial. I told her that wouldn’t know what to say. Angelyn’s response was perfect. “You don’t need to know right now.”

It resonated with a truth inside of me and so I went. And in mysterious ways that one cannot explain, it was Judith’s death that brought me to Bowen Island that morning and led me to where I have spent the most gracious days since arriving in British Columbia. I saw the bulletin board on the ferry that I had never noticed before, which held the ad for the cottage where I currently live. Her transition from this life and this island signified a beginning of a new life for me.

And now it is my time to say goodbye as it is only a winter rental and a place I have used as a refuge after my 12 hour weekend shifts at a long term care residence for people in the Downtown Eastside. I often arrive on Mondays and feel the stress literally burn off of me as I crossed over the planks of the ferry that put me on this side.

Last September, when I signed the lease, Spring seemed like light years away. And now it is only days…and if I could stop the clock, somehow I would. Yesterday I sent an email to Lee in Seoul. It said,

“Good morning sweetheart…
I awoke here this morning on my beautiful island…for one of the last times. I am feeling the letting go in me and it is painful today. I want to fully embrace the gifts that this island has given me and know how to leave with grace. Change is so quickly upon me now. I must remember that there is goodness waiting beyond here too.. and yet, this island has provided me the healthiest place I could imagine to heal, to rejoice, to dream, to grieve, to create, to hear myself think, to sing and dance out loud and to breathe myself Home again….’

I guess I have come full circle…just as the hippies of the 60’s & 70’s in our idealistic and heart-centred spirit of brotherhood, peace and love welcomed me to this fair land, each of you have done the same 30 years later.

And so it is not only the trees and the earth and the deer and the ocean and the mountains and unprecedented beauty of this island for which I give thanks. And for the ritual weekly walks with Carolyn on the sacred paths of Cape Roger Curtis or the hike to the top of Mt. Gardner with both Paul and Carolyn last week where each of us felt lifted between heaven and earth… It is also the so many, acts of kindness I have received since arriving here.

Last month after the snow fall, Alan de la Plante showed up, upon a moments notice, shovel in hand to dig my guests car out of the snow bank…and when offered genuine thanks, his only comment was, “Hey, no worries – just pay it forward…” These shall be among the memories I shall savor and revere for all my life and only hope that I too can pay it forward.

My experience has been the same at Toastmasters. I have felt welcomed from my very first day even with my sporadic visits. I can now boast to know the true meaning of the word that was chosen by last week’s grammarian… Community. I know what it’s like to be embraced by a place and the people in it.

How DOES one say goodbye to paradise?

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21 Nov

Creativity Transforms Mental Illness into Mental Health

Victoria Premiere Screening of Madness, Masks and Miracles
followed by a discussion

Sunday, December 11, 2011 6:45 p.m.
Truth Centre, 1201 Fort Street, Victoria, BC

Join June Swadron, Victoria writer, actor, playwright, psychotherapist and author of Re-Write Your Life, in an evening of exploring the link between creative expression and wellness for people living with a mental illness. Continue Reading

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11 Sep

Writing Through the Darkness – Reflections on 9/11

Do you remember where you were?

In my last newsletter, the tip I offered was to buy yourself a special journal.

Today, being the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I’m going to share some personal entries that I wrote in my journal on September 11th, 2001.

I had set that day aside to write an article for Vancouver’s Common Ground magazine. The theme for October was WRITING and the deadline was approaching fast.

I believe what you will read below will demonstrate the reliable and undeniable value of putting pen to paper when your heart is flooded with emotion.

“If you did not write every day, the poisons would accumulate and you would begin to die, or act crazy or both – you must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” –Ray Bradbury

Journal Entry…

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

I woke up with good intentions today to write an article about how writing can be used as a profound therapeutic tool—how it can help us move from pain to catharsis. It’s something I know well. I’ve been using writing to help me work things out since I was given my first diary at age 8. Over four decades ago, journaling wasn’t in vogue like it is today, so I learned of its value through usage. Also, I have been eyewitness to the many transformations borne out of this medium through facilitating creative/cathartic writing groups for over 10 years. I also frequently use it as a relevant tool with my psychotherapy clients. It’s a subject I know well and feel confident to write about. Not today.

Instead I have spent this day like thousands of others—in shock. I woke early this morning—day eleven on my newly acquired piece of paradise—in a cottage set in the spacious woods of Bowen Island and overlooking the gulf islands, mountains and ocean.

In these several days I have watched eagles flying gracefully over my home, herons resting on my dock; earlier today, a hummingbird came to visit my hanging geranium and a bluebird began singing to me from the fir tree next to my bedroom window.

And from this peace and paradise, still I woke with a heavy heart. I wasn’t sure of its origin but knew I needed to connect with someone—someone very close to me. I called my friend Dale who instantly and sensitively revealed to me what was going. I let the tears flow as she described the gruesome details. The very next thing I did was e-mail my partner, who just a week ago, flew to Korea, to take a contract there. I needed to tell him of my horror and how grateful I am that he has landed safely and is not on a plane en route. I spent the rest of the day in silent prayer, grief, fury and questioning God. Why? But I haven’t heard any answers. And so I didn’t come to the computer to write that article, which has a close deadline, and I’m not writing it now—at least not the way I thought I would. Instead I do what I do when I need to release. I write what is there in front of me—I simply tell the truth…

I was on my dock a little while ago. I took a candle and the meditation prayer that was e-mailed to me earlier in the day by the people who put on the Prophet’s Conference. They asked that we join them in a unified prayer—to pray for those who passed on, for their families and friends and for us all upon earth; to pray for those who orchestrated this event, so that they are filled with peace instead of fear and anger and to pray for the politicians—that they act from divine wisdom and not revenge. This is a time to move away from blame and seek to understand cause. Caesar, my black cat and the most affectionate and wise creature I have ever known, followed me down to the dock to bring his energy into the fold. Together we meditated for world peace.

I don’t think I wanted to blame. I wanted to help—to make a contribution to the lives of those who are suffering. Here I am in this incredible God given sanctuary while at the very same time, thousands of people have just died, perhaps are still dying—being buried under rubble—and thousands of families and friends of these people are in grief and disbelief.

I remembered years ago during the Gulf War how isolated I felt—how alone while watching television from my living room and watching bombs flying through the air ready to land on who knows what target. A decade earlier I had spent the year in Israel, arriving there during the Yom Kippur War. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to do something now, today. I called people to hold a vigil at my house at sundown. They will arrive shortly. Perhaps our unified prayers will help. They will help me, I know.

Tuesday, September 18, 2001

A week has passed since I originally came to my computer to write about writing. I have been unable to until now. I have been involved with my world—walking around numb, anxious, strong, vulnerable, and above all, once again grateful to feel – to be alive. I have been e-mailing back and forth to many friends. I have been the recipient of dozens of e-mails sent by spiritual leaders. Each message holds the same Divine Truth—we must elevate our energy to our highest self at this time—and not be seduced into fear.

And these writings and my own journal have once again, served as my best friend. My partner and I are 15 hours apart and thousands of miles away and we can’t speak in real time very often. My journal is there right now, when I need it—a constant and reliable companion. It plays witness to my tears, remorse, anguish, uncertainly, and to my gratitude. It has seen it all. It judges nothing. How does it work? It works because I tell the truth. It works because I release what needs expression.

Sometimes I think it’s too simple. But then I realize that’s exactly why it’s so powerful. Writing from where we are right now puts us in the state of being authentic, which frees the energy to move. It is liberating to express ourselves. It is a letting go process that allows us to breathe ourselves back home.

As we spill onto the pages what is pertinent in the moment, neither embellishing, nor denying, simply stating it the way it is, we free ourselves from confusion and false voices. We may be flooded with emotion as we impart our truth onto the page—sadness, grief, rage, excitement, love, joy. Allow it all to unfold, to gently come forth. Don’t force it—it’s there. You needn’t strive—it’s there. Just allow the words to come. Don’t judge. Don’t go into your head and say this sounds too awful, this doesn’t make sense, what if someone sees it; just write. Edit later if you must. But for now, just be kind to yourself and do not stop the flow. Do it that way and you’ll be astounded by the results. It’s the energy of now that carries the might. Even when you’re writing about something that happened twenty years ago—it’s your relationship to it at this very moment that matters. And your writing will show you what matters even when you yourself are not sure because the truth will always emerge as you ask your ego to step out of the way.

I believe each of us needs a private place where we can express ourselves without censorship, without judgment, without someone telling us it’s wrong, impolite, unforgiving or anything else. Each of us needs somewhere to state our truth at any given moment and know it’s completely safe to do so. And to express the written word without fear of doing it wrong—a place to put all the old grammar books away.

Still the most common element I have seen over the years in my writing classes is the lack of confidence people have in themselves. Their fear of doing it wrong and saying it wrong surfaces again and again. They qualify their writing.—“Well, I was tired, so I don’t really think it’s very good.” “I was confused and…” or “I had a terrible day today and…” Then they are encouraged to read it anyway, and are often astounded by what they wrote. So if you find yourself criticizing yourself, don’t get discouraged. It’s normal. Just keep your pen moving across the page. Eventually you won’t care if it’s good or bad, right or wrong, you will just write. You will stop being attached to the outcome. You simply write. And that’s when it becomes a meditation. That’s when it becomes a way of life. That’s when it becomes as natural as getting up and brushing your teeth. And when writing is that for you, you will notice a shift in your life. You will notice that things are working out better. You will observe that the voice on the page becomes your voice in the world. Even if you change your mind about what you say a few days later and a new truth emerges, that’s okay. In fact, that’s what happens when we write from our authenticity. The truth sets us free. We move the energy around instead of staying stuck in it. We find a healthier, newer way to relate to the situation. Clarity emerges. Life energy emerges. Strength, confidence and self-love emerge and as you continue to write, you will begin to achieve things that you never thought possible. Your journals can and will be the starting-off point to poems, plays, song lyrics whatever. But mostly you will have your voice. And that… is worth every word.”

And ten years later, my journal is still my best friend. I never know what will emerge on the page. But what I do know is when I allow myself to go naked, my soul feels reborn.

Please do not miss the opportunity of joining me and like-minded others on Saturday September 17th, for a fabulous one-day writing retreat! BY DONATION.

More info at
Write Yourself Home

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29 Aug

Time for New Beginnings

Once again it’s almost fall and time for brand new beginnings.

I remember when I was a young teen in Toronto, the summer holidays seemed long and the hot, humid days felt almost interminable. My friends and I hung out in the park under the shade of the chestnut trees listening to our transistor radios. Later we’d check out the latest LPs or 45s—am I’m dating myself or what!—at Tommy Common’s Record Store and then we were off to Puppy Palace on Bathurst Street for cherry cokes and root beer. Oh how innocent we were!

Eventually summer came to an end and the day after Labour Day was the first day of school.

My most exciting memory of returning to school was when I had graduated from Public School to Junior High School. Instead of one classroom and one teacher all day long, we changed classes every 40 minutes and had different teachers for every subject. We were even given our very own lockers. Now that was cool!

I did very well that year. The best subject for me was English composition. I loved writing creative stories and I was lucky enough to have a teacher, Miss Gola, who encouraged me. She was one of the first teachers ever who complimented me on my writing and made me feel as though I could write. She gave me the confidence to keep exploring this medium which set me on a writing path that I could never have known back then.

Many people have not been so lucky. They had teachers who criticized their creative efforts, destroying their belief that they could ever write. Did you know that Mark Twain said, “If we taught our children to speak the way we teach them to write, everyone would stutter”. How painfully true that is. I hope today teachers help inspire and nurture the creative process in their students.

For 20 years now I have had the privilege of being a “Miss Gola” to countless people. Some were disheartened early in life and had let their creative dreams die in those darkened classrooms. I live in gratitude for having the privilege of watching people’s lives transform while they re-discover their voice on the page and their voice on the page soon becomes their voice in the world.

May this fall and all your new beginnings be blessed with the innocence, wonder and joyous spirit of a young child. Dare to explore wherever your heart leads you.

All blessings,
Junie

 

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junie@junieswadron.com | 250.813.0183