8 Things I’ve Learned from Writing for elephant journal.

Three years ago, almost to the day, I submitted my first article to elephant journal.

The month before I had been in India on a pilgrimage. One day, I was walking down the streets of a remote village having a conversation with a fellow pilgrim about how much I loved to write. She encouraged me to submit my writings to ej, so when I returned, I did just that.

I knew I’d found my writing home, immediately. Elephant was a place where I felt safe to expose myself, disrobe my demons and write without restraint. I had no plan. I still don’t. I just keep writing.

I’ve recognized something about the things in my life which have become the pillars of my daily existence—they appeared when I was ready, without searching—they arrived. Every article I publish seems to stir up a breeze carrying with it opportunities, connections and life lessons.

There is no doubt, I am learning as I go. I have no formal training as a writer and there are times, many times, it shows. I have poor grammar and punctuation, and most of the time, I struggle to compose my words in a graceful flow, but I stick with it, and I put in the hours, and the eyestrain, and the heart ache to create something.

“You don’t know till you know.” That’s how the past three years have been. I didn’t know what I was signing up for. My writing career is reminiscent of parenthood.

When I had my daughters, I had no clue what I was doing, but I kept at it, day in and day out. I’m stuck as a mom, but I want to be stuck, because my babies are a piece of me, in need of my attention, love and care. Being their mom is a job, a privilege I’d never give up or run away from because when they were born, it was like someone went in, surgically removed my heart and transplanted it into theses tiny, warm, innocent, soft little beings and I’m bound for life—through the tantrums and the poopy blow outs; I’m committed. That’s exactly how I feel about writing, and now, writing to the world.

Although I always feel like a beginner, I’ve learned some things I’d like to share, especially with those of you who are thinking of writing out loud, too.

1. Not all people are kind hearted.

I used to believe all people were good, at the core, underneath it all. Writing has taught me, this is not true. Some people are not well intentioned; they are nasty.

I learned very quickly, that writing publicly is like running into the center of a shooting range while hundreds of thousands of guns are looking for a target. The writer is always the target and some people will take any and every opportunity to hurt another, and blast their anger and aggression on the first person in their line of sight.

It’s taken a long time not take it personally. Now, I rarely read the comments. I shouldn’t admit that, but I don’t. Although I don’t subject my sensitive heart to the nastiness, I do see a positive: by writing, I create a platform, a foundation for others to share their opinions and release their thoughts and feelings, even if they are disrespectful and cruel.

The comment section is a place to be heard.

If you plan to write out loud, be prepared—the ocean never stays calm when there’s wind. You are the wind. Wind churns the dirt and the flower petals. High negativity and high positivity are not mutually exclusive; they never travel alone. If you choose to write out loud, be ready to experience the storms and the sunshine together, all at once.

2. I’m no guru.

There’s something called transference. Transference is the action of unconsciously transferring one’s feelings, unrealistic expectations and sentiments onto another person without reciprocity.

I write simply, conversationally. I’m honest. I’m open. I say things that most people never disclose to the closest person they know. Some of my readers are attracted to my transparency and feel as though they know me, like I’m their best friend, long lost soul mate or enlightened guru.

Some of my readers assume I know more than they do. I don’t. Not even close. We are our own experts. We are all in the same life raft, trying to figure out how to get to shore. Over the past three years, I’ve received hundreds of messages, emails and phone calls from people around the world, who want my advice and/or want to share their life stories with me.

I’m honored, but it scares me, too. I’m not equipped to answer all of the questions. I write my personal experiences and what I’ve learned, but it absolutely does not make me an expert or a guru. I’ve always believed we are our own gurus.

The feelings and thoughts that churn from reading my words belong to you. They are your creation, not mine.

As the writer, my job is to unlock the window, but you, the reader is the one who opens it. I used to think others knew more than I did, but now I know, they don’t. No one knows more than anyone else. We know different things. The way we can help each other is by sharing what we do know, add to the collective wisdom of the world, to help save and repair it.

3. There’s a price to pay.

I spend most of my time alone. By choice? Partly. I love being alone. I’m a self-proclaimed reclusive, however, there’s another reason—I write about my life, my experiences and the people in it. My close friends and family are supportive and understanding of what I do, but many people don’t want to be around me for fear I will expose or exploit them. Dating? Forget about it.

Most men who know what I do, stay as far away from me as possible. I used to feel rejected, now I see it in a positive light. If someone I am romantically involved with brings up the “issue” of my public writing and their discomfort with what I do, I say goodbye. I’m willing to bear that consequence of aloneness and the absence of a life partner because my writing is like my children. It is a part of me, a part of the deal—a non-negotiable.

I’ve always believed the most effective writers, the most beloved writers are the ones who write about what they know through and through. I don’t know anything better than I know myself and my life—this is my expertise. I don’t enjoy writing about politics or fashion. I love writing about what I do, how I feel, who I know and because of this, I’m willing to sacrifice an abundant social and romantic life for it.

4. Honesty is the new black/the new cool.

Honesty is in. It’s the hot item this season. Everyone wants it and everyone wants to be it. I was never the cool girl, ever. I’m still not, but I’ve got a cool, fashionable spirit because I’m honest.

I will tell you what I really think, what I really feel, and I will not hold back. The heart, the spirit in all of us is attracted to honesty like a magnet. There’s no denying it and when it’s close, we are swept into its field, and there’s no way to get away from it.

We are starved for it, we crave it, so when we feel it, hear it or see it, we are consumed—it consumes us, we consume it.

That’s why blogging is so popular. The people who write blogs became sick and tired of not being honest, and the people who read blogs are hungry for the truth, like gravity to the Earth, they are interconnected.

I think there’s only one reason a writer is a bad writer, if they are dishonest. That’s it.

An honest writer is a brilliant writer, poor grammar and all. If you are going to write, be honest, damn it.

5. Once you knock down the wall, there’s no rebuilding it.

Just like giving birth, there’s no going back. When I published my first piece, I knocked down the walls and boundaries I had built. Those are gone for good. I can’t hide. I’m here to stay, naked.

That’s what happens once you speak, you can’t take it back and you don’t own it anymore either. It belongs to the universe—it’s now a free agent, up for debate, interpretation, re-interpretation, re-publishing, recycling and renovation.

My work doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to the world, and that’s ok because I’m doing something that will allow me to live on forever.

That’s hopefully what we will all do in our lifetimes—create something no one can ever take away, a souvenir of our existence, our eternal voice, spoken billions of ways.

6. I met my soul mate through elephant journal.

“A writer is someone who writes.” My ex-boyfriend said that to me. He is absolutely right. You have to write to be a writer. Writers are born through relentless pursuit and unfettered ambition.

I write and I write and I write.

I’ve submitted some of my pieces to other magazines and journals and publishers, and I’m rejected, and rejected, and rejected, but for some reason it doesn’t phase me. I keep going, and going, and going because I don’t have a choice. When what you do becomes a part of you, you can’t get rid of it, or deny it, you have no choice but to pay attention to it. So I do, and I will keep getting rejected for the rest of my life because if I’m being rejected, it means I’m at least doing something.

I’ve noticed the more I write, the better I get. I’ve read some of my old pieces recently, and of course I cringe. I’m sure I’ll do the same to this piece, three years from now, but the only way to learn something is to do it and devote to what it is you’re doing.

I’m a writer because I write. I’m a slave to it, until the day I die. It’s the only way to be. It’s my way of life, my culture, my religion. The page is where I pray, where I talk with God.

Three years ago, I had no idea I was going to meet my life partner. You see, writing is the love of my life, without a doubt, without question—writing is my soul’s mate.

7. Writing is my superpower.

“You got me through my divorce.” This was the title of the email that came through my inbox, the other day. My article on how to have a peaceful divorce, helped a woman and her husband amicably separate for the sake of their young daughter.

My words stayed with her through the past year as she made the excruciating transition. Me. Me? Yes, my article helped another human being(s).

Somewhere along the way, when I wasn’t trying to make a difference, just puttering along with my fingers glued to my keyboard and my eyes hanging on every last word, I started to serve the world, to help repair it. Not by being a guru, or a know it all, but just by being myself.

I thought I had to feed the poor and hungry to make a real difference, which I am doing. I think we are all hungry. We have been trying to fill our souls with empty calories of materialism and superficial pleasantries.

Three years ago, I’d had enough of the emptiness and I couldn’t hold back any longer. I had to be honest and that honesty is feeding the hungry, those of us starved for love, for understanding, for acknowledgment, for validation.

I unconsciously began feeding myself, and feeding others when I began sharing my personal life with the world. This is my contribution.

Writing publicly has solidified my reason for being. I’m here to help in my own way. My service to the world is to help others feel supported and help them understand, they are not alone. My job is to tell my story so others feel a little less guilty or ashamed for their own stories.

When a person feels supported, they feel like anything is possible, and when a person feels like possibilities are limitless, they tap into their superpower and begin to help others around them, in turn, saving the world.

My daughter’s teacher wears a shirt that say, “My superpower is teaching, what’s yours?”

My superpower is two fold, listening and writing. We all have a superpower, a power unique to us that helps contribute to the greater good of our world. I help by listening to the world around me, to the problems, to the suffering, to the heartache, to the joy and then I record it—I write it out.

I’m the fly on the wall who buzzes from person to person and what I’ve discovered is that we are all the same. Our homes may look a bit different, but what we say, how we feel and what we think are the same.

My work as a writer is to illuminate this by writing my story, by opening my heart maybe yours will open too. When our hearts open, we begin to live, not just survive.

Over the past three years, I’ve written my way back to life by claiming who I am and what I’m here to do. My hope for all of you is that you claim your superpower too. The world needs you. I need you.

And that’s brings me to the last thing I’ve learned…

8. We are here to help each other.

Without each other, we are nothing. I help you just as much as you help me. So, thank you to each and every one of you for reading my work over the past three years. Maybe, just maybe this piece will encourage at least one of you to start writing too, or doing whatever it is that you love to do.

Do it boldly, unapologetically and with everything you’ve got for the rest of your days.

And last but not least, thank you to Waylon Lewis for creating a loving home for all of us to congregate, and share, and most of all, for maintaining a community where we are free to be ourselves.


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