Ask the Expert explores the mind, the body and the process of writing with Laura Probert.
Some writers swear by a specific routine that they follow each time they prepare to write in order to “get into the mood” or a mind space that allows them to be productive. Do you think that all writers must establish some sort of practice (ritualized routine) and what is actually going on in the mind/body during that time?
A couple years ago a business coach gave me the best homework a writer could get; to write 750 words a day. Did I need someone to tell me to follow this specific routine? No. I needed to write every day to develop some traction and momentum. That homework did just that. I’ve never really needed a writing routine, but ever since then I’ve felt a flow that helps me remember that. It was just a matter of creating a habit from the passion I already had and getting over thinking I needed something important to write about to sit and write.
I think the problem with establishing specific routines for writing is most of us move through an ebb and flow with our creativity but we think the dry spells are bad. The periods where we’re writing every day, seemingly prolific and unstoppable are really cool. The problem lies in when we’ve labeled ourselves “stuck.” I don’t see the stuck times as bad anymore. I see them as necessary. I may journal during those periods, just to do the “Feng Shui” I talked about, but I don’t give myself any strict routine because my creativity is a gentle and sacred thing; and she needs rest sometimes.
The rules of a routine, for me, are what stops me up. One of my mentors said “No rules, just write” and that’s the way it flows for me. Writing can be the way I breathe. So I already know I need to breathe every day; I don’t need to force it with how long, or how much or how often.
One thing to remember when you’re not feeling it is your mind-body may be wanting some other kind of self care those days. Tuning in and feeling the body is the way I listen to those requests, connect to that source, and give myself what I need. I already know the writing will happen, so I don’t need to worry about it. It’s way more fun living that way.
You’ve had a lot of experience as a physical therapist supporting people seeking healing. We find it very interesting that you integrate writing courses into the services that you offer to your clients. What is the relationship between writing and healing?
Writing has been a path to healing for me since I was about fifteen. What I didn’t realize then, when I’d sit late at night and write out my secrets, desires, pain, doubt, fear and shame, was moving the energy from inside to out and giving it an awareness and voice on the page was the process creating the healing. The pages of my journal became the safe healing space I desperately needed to be myself; the self who was sorting out her worth and place in the world and healing some deep childhood wounds.
After becoming a physical therapist and spending several years working with people and their healing process I quickly realized healing wasn’t just physical; that people needed a way to integrate body mind and soul and tap into the power of their own inner healer so they could fully experience the magic within them. I began shifting my continuing education focus to courses that offered a way to look at the whole body, mind and soul as a form of diagnosis and healing. I started labeling myself as a holistic physical therapist when my work with clients also included an exploration of where their feelings and emotions effected their body and I contemplated how to address it all.
Throughout my career I’d always talked about writing a book about healing. I knew I wanted to share my thoughts about it with the world. So when the idea of my memoir, Living, Healing and Taekwondo popped itself into my consciousness I was ready. I had already avidly journaled a six year journey of my career, my healing process and the accomplishment of training alongside my son for our black belts. My book was already written in my mind by the time I decided I was ready to write a book. That was the year I started shifting the way I helped people and started asking them to try journaling combined with the skills of body awareness to assist their healing process. I created workshops, programs, and inspirational journals guiding people through the art of connecting with their body and then using powerful writing prompts (I call them the “Big Questions”) with free writing to move their energy in the form of thoughts and belief, insight and reflection onto the page.
Those people started having Aha’s about themselves, their journey, their pain, their fear and started to shift the way they thought and felt about their lives. At that point I was hooked and became very passionate about what I’d known for years; writing can heal.
I’ve gone on to create the Warrior Journals, a series of blank journals with mindful poetry and inspirational artwork. Warrior Love, A Journal to Inspire Your Fiercely Alive Whole Self was born after healing an old belief in me about my worth. The poems haven’t stopped arriving since.
Where is your favorite place to write, and why?
I love to write just about anywhere but put me on the porch of my log cabin in the middle of the trees and my writing, mostly poems, seems to revel in a kind of joy we usually wish for every day. When full poems started coming in the middle of a hike through the woods I learned quickly to bring my phone (for the notes function). Several times I caught myself reciting the words moving through me over and over while I raced back to the house to catch them on paper before they moved on through the ether to someone else. I’d laugh and run and recite as fast I could and sigh a big relief when I’d arrive at the little jar on the counter where my pens were.
I’ll write anywhere, but when I’m connected to nature, in a space under the moon and stars or breathing the green of the trees, it seems the force is strong there and the words become these amazing little spirits, full of life and joy and love and they soar from me rapidly, happy to be freed from some deep place inside to stretch their wings and show off.
You’ve written about the maxim “The way to happiness isn’t about telling the truth. It’s about telling your truth” in the context of human relationships. How might this philosophy apply to an aspiring author?
Authentic writing happens when you’re sharing your truth. Alignment with your true self, a place where the feeling of joy and enthusiasm is default, is where and how your writing becomes an expression of your truth. It’s important to remember truth is unique to each individual. That was a moment of enlightenment for me; understanding nobody’s right and truth is relative.
That understanding began to effect my thoughts: you matter, your opinion matters, your voice matters, my beliefs: I’m worthy because I was born, and my actions: I started writing and sharing my stories. The healing happens when you share your stories and realize it’s not only you that’s healing but it’s your reader who’ll have a little healing by feeling themselves in your words; knowing they aren’t alone, and shifting their perspective. This perspective shift (a gift of new awareness) is the transformation we’re all looking for.
Where does personal power come from? And, how does it figure into the life of a professional writer?
Personal power comes from living (in thought, belief and action) aligned with that true self I mentioned. Personal power’s a feeling of worth, confidence and freedom. It’s being able to feel happy no matter what anyone else says or does. Personal power comes from awareness. Awareness is everything when it comes to your truth, your power and your life.
A professional writer who writes from a place of personal power does something important for the reader; they write with an energy the reader feels when they read the words. Everyone writes from an energetic place whether they know it or not. It’s a matter of being aware of that energy and those feelings when you’re in the middle of the writing. How often to you ground yourself in your body before you sit down to write? How often do you check in with your feelings and emotions before you tell your story?
Mr. John F. Barnes, the founder of the Myofascial Release technique and one of my brave healer mentors who said “Without awareness there is no choice,” teaches us the important lesson of awareness as it relates to personal power. If we’re not awake and aware inside of the stuff of our lives; if we’re not showing up for that stuff, then we don’t have a choice and our reactions will be the way we do life, rather than our mindful responses.
Why’s this important in writing? Because I can feel your words. I know when you’re being authentic and when you’re full of shit. I can feel your lie. I can feel the way you’re hiding something. I can feel your pain and your joy. In my opinion, it’s best to write like you live and speak; authentically, from this place of awareness. Writing this way will change the experience for the reader. It’s an energetic exchange.
Most of what I teach as it relates to writing as a path to healing is centered around this one important idea; writing from a place of awareness and truth is sharing your authentic self with the world, and it’s through this fully expressed voice where the little miracle healing moments happen. We have to start to get comfortable with using our vulnerability as our strength, writing about the things that scare us, and sharing our stories (the truest, realist versions of them) with the world.
What one thing that would tell/has told you you’ve “made it” as an author?
Writing has always been the way I step into my personal power; a safe space to be myself and be fully expressed since I was a teenager. Whether it’s in a private journal, or out loud to the world in a blog post, writing helps me be the bravest version of myself; the wild, passionate warrior goddess aching to live fiercely alive and share that light of enthusiasm.
I write to Feng Shui my soul; to clear a space big and wide so the source I connect with has an easy free flowing path from my soul through my fingers to the page. When I’m aligned with this source, and connected to my true self, there’s no resistance. My personal power steps onto the playground and my words are the friends she swings with.
Some days writing’s the way I exhale; a necessary but unconscious action keeping me awake and alive. Writing isn’t just how I remember to stand tall inside my power, it’s how I create a discipline with the thoughts, beliefs and actions necessary to live an exceptional life with that power being the way I show up on a daily basis.
The way I knew I’d made it as an author would be the morning I opened up my laptop and read a message from someone who’d read my blog. “Thank you for being brave and sharing your story. It helped me,” were the magic words. Now, no matter how many likes, comments or shares I get, on anything I write, it doesn’t really matter because I know there’re people reading who really needed to hear my story, who don’t feel alone anymore, and who’ll be brave in healing their own lives because of me.
The notes from my readers are the way I know why I was born; to share this powerful work of writing as a path to healing. What a gift to be able to wake up every day and know I’m living my purpose.
Laura Probert, MPT is a holistic physical therapist, published author, poet, and third degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. She’s passionate about integrating mind, body and soul as a path to healing and it’s her mission to show you how. You can find her writing featured in places like The Huffington Post, MindBodyGreen, Best Self Magazine, The Wellness Universe, PersonalGrowth.com, Tiny Buddha and The Elephant Journal. Find her books and programs at www.BraveHealer.com and www.facebook.com/kickasswarriorgoddess