What Was I Thinking? – Publishing a Book Series

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I often write
when I’m grieving, upset, or have a strong emotion. It’s a way for me to
process the emotions and get them out. This wouldn’t be a problem for me except
for the fact I then publish such feelings in a very public forum. Whenever I
get close to releasing a new book, I can be found, head buried in my hands,
wailing aloud, “What was I thinking?”
I’ll even go back to my editors and ask if we should take a poem out as it’s
just too personal but they inevitably respond, “You can’t take that out. It’s so powerful!” This is partly why I have
editors – to keep me away from the trash can. I also know the most vulnerable
poems, the ones where I don’t hold anything back, are usually the ones people
tell me mean the most to them. And so I publish and let my heart’s lament live
out there for all to see.

This is not an
easy place to be on a continual basis – it brings new meaning to the phrase
“wearing your heart on your sleeve” but, in general, I don’t think we’re open
enough with each other about our inner thoughts and feelings. Aside from the seeming
intimacy of the internet, when in life do we really express those deepest
places within us face-to-face? It’s good to have a handful of people in our
lives we know we can go to for a good talk but what about when we write? It can
be hard to express such things on paper and have no control over who reads
them.
“How do you
share such personal thoughts so publicly?” is a question I’ve been asked and
that I still struggle with. Now that I have an idea of what this book will be,
I’m right there asking once again, “What was I thinking?” I then have to remind myself of a couple things. Perhaps
what I tell myself will help you the next time you go to write such words.
  • You
    are not what you write.

    Writers can be artists and as artists, we equate ourselves closely with
    what we create. However, what we create is not us. My words do not define me any more than what I wear. Whenever
    I write or sell a book, I remember that I am not what I put down on paper.
    My soul is always my own. Once a creation is produced or a book published,
    it takes on a life of its own and it’s out of my hands. If you want to get
    to know me, I would love to meet up with you and talk over coffee. But
    don’t think because you’ve read one of my books or friended me on Facebook
    that you know who I am. That takes time and friendship.
  • Don’t
    be ashamed of those thoughts and feelings you’ve expressed.
    The thoughts and feelings you’ve
    expressed are beautiful and genuine. So much of yourself has gone into your
    writing that it is valuable no matter what you’ve said. Do no harm, but be
    honest and vulnerable. If we as writers aren’t willing to be open with
    such thoughts and to then share them, who is going to be?
  • What
    you write will help other people.

    Everyone has these deeper thoughts and feelings but many times we need
    someone else to express them first before we’re willing to hear our own. Our
    words travel far more widely and to more unexpected places than we could
    possibly go ourselves. You have no idea who you’re reaching and in what
    ways all because you were willing to be open with yourself. Anything
    written in love never goes to waste but is planted and grown in the lives
    of those who turn the pages. This always happens. You may not always see
    it.
  • When
    people read your words, they don’t see the full story behind them, they
    see their own.

    Much of my poetry and writing in general lies at the intersection of my
    life and deeper truth. However, what I’ve discovered over the years is
    when people read my words, they don’t see my story, they see their own. I
    may have written my heart out about a relationship or an experience but
    they read it and see their own relationships, their own experiences. You
    can, metaphorically speaking, stand center-stage under the spotlights and
    tell of those things you would never otherwise say aloud but what they
    hear is their own life. I would
    bet, even when I’m writing about my relationship with a specific person,
    that person can read it and not even recognize themselves. (I never use
    names.) It works that well. This
    is why I balk at how poetry is taught in schools. We don’t really know
    what the author was thinking but we teach that kind of analysis to
    students. Just yesterday, someone read a poem going into Finding Love’s Way and told me what
    I had done within it. I didn’t say anything but in my mind, I was
    thinking, “Wow! I did all that? I didn’t even mean to!” But he read
    himself into the words. People do it every time. Write whatever you want.
Sometimes it’s
our strongest emotions, the darker ones we don’t easily express that can be
filled with the most light. Sometimes it’s in the depths where we find the
treasure and remember, as you write, this treasure is not just for you. We are
all so connected, it is a gift for us all. So please, write. Write honestly and
openly, share your thoughts and feelings. I want to learn from them. I want to
be able to say, “Me too!” and “I never saw it that way.” I want to be
challenged, to hear what I haven’t had the courage to say myself and maybe what I’ve written will do the same for you. Keep writing.

For more on
clearing the clutter within before taking pen to paper read, “Clearing
the Clutter: Journaling for Writers.”

(This is the 14th post in my “Publishing a Book Series.” To see the others, click here.)

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