Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Writer's Inner Journey: A two-part series

By: Deb McLeod

As we near the end of the year it’s time to take stock, to look back and see where we met our goals and what we want our future writing world to look like.

I am in the midst of doing this work for both my novels and for my online coaching. As I am looking at what other programs offer and promise, I have been struck with how many deal with only one side of an author’s life and completely leave the other side out of the equation.

Let me explain:
Wayne Dyer said: "Before you act, do the mental work first—positive self-talk, inspirational readings, visualization, meditation, prayer. Begin acting as if what you would like to become is already your reality. This is a wonderful way to set into motion the forces that will collaborate with you to make your dreams come true."
To say I want to write is to begin a journey of self-awareness that, if you let it, will bring you the pride of accomplishment, the joy of creation, and will add your voice to the sum of all there is.

Outside of my family, I have found no other thing in my world that brings me more joy than my writing practice.

A close second has been my years of working with writers. Bearing witness to the discovery of their own voice and best process. Guiding and walking alongside as each one brings themselves to the writer’s choice point, a plot point in the through line of their writing life.

Just like a damn good story.

The writing life is two-sided.

Think of the double thread of a fiction plot. The Outer Plot is the "what happens" when a character has a goal. When she wants something, she moves through the story making decisions that affect the journey she experiences.

Then there’s the Inner Plot, or the why of her decisions. The "why of her" creates what happens. Why does this character make this decision over that? Who is she? What are her flaws? What are her habits? What will she have to confront and perhaps change before she can reach her goal? Win or lose, how is her life transformed by her taking the journey?

It is in the inner plot where the real story lives.

So it is true of the writer’s journey.

We live in a time where it's possible now more than ever to write and publish a book. Creative writing has been deconstructed enough so that learning the elements of story is a matter of studying craft. Good storytelling can be taught. Instinct can be awakened, directed, honed. Writers aren’t born these days, they’re created. And I say hallelujah!

Nowadays, publishing can be a matter of slapping your novel onto Amazon. Marketing is some ever-changing formula of social media. A writing career is forged by producing more and more content, faster and faster, smarter and smarter. And getting to know your audience.

The best news is there are no gatekeepers to your work going public. The worst news is there are no gatekeepers to your work going public.

You have to become your own gatekeeper. Which means you have to become the best reader of your own work. The best monitor of your writing practice. Because all successful writing careers start with the fact of a good book.

In the backwash of this new wave of publishing, courses, webinars, and an infinite number of blogs have surfaced that promise fast fiction. Solutions in four steps, five steps, a weekend.

There are ways to produce fast fiction. I use them myself. I teach them to my clients. I designed the 90-day Romance Novel program to fit just such a goal. Those ways produce the outer plot to the writer’s journey.

But what no one seems to talk about is the inner plot to the writer’s journey. It is there that the writers I have worked with are challenged. It is the inner plot that makes the writer. The inner plot that makes the practice a life-long one. In the story of the writer’s journey, it’s the transformation into a writer that creates success.

When the writer has put in the time, when she has acted as if, she will likely come to a dark moment in her writer’s journey. When she finally knows what it really takes, she will decide whether this is the life for her. Or not.

I contend that if you’re reading this, the possibility for you to reach that choice point in your own through line, the possibility of you choosing to become a successful author, exists.

All you have to do is take the journey. The outer journey to master the craft. And the inner journey to awaken your love of writing.

“Not being able to write is a learned disability.” Says Pat Schneider of Amherst Writers and Artists.

Once upon a time I took a screenwriting class at the University of Denver. A visiting Hollywood screenwriter, whose name I no longer remember, conducted an intensive weekend writing workshop. He asked the seventy-five or so writers in the room: "Who likes to write?" My hand went up. He pointed at me. Called me on it. Said: “I don’t believe you. No one likes to write.” What could I do but shrug and say, “I do.” He made a face and returned to the lecture that had been a bit spoiled by what he considered was my lie.

I love to write. I get up before my alarm on most days - anywhere between 3 and 5 am - depending upon how excited I am by it, by the possibilities of the day's writing. I open my Scrivener file, put in my earplug (only one as I am deaf in my left ear), tune out the world, and enter into the creative discoveries of the day for the next five hours. 

You know the feeling you get when you read and get lost in a really great book? I remember getting lost in novels in middle school. There was a pureness to reading back then - high adventure and possibility as hero conquered the stuff of life. That's how my writing feels to me. And it becomes easier and easier to slip into the fictional world the better I get at my process. I took the time to learn what works for me. And now I’m working it. And I have never been happier.

Think of marathon runners who love to run. Are there days when they must groan before they lace up their shoes? What about the days when it’s raining? Is it hard? Is it demanding? Of course. But they wouldn’t run if they didn’t love it. And they run every day. 

To go one more step with the running analogy, you know how they say when runners get through the burn, they reach a place where they feel like they could run forever? That’s what it’s like to love to write. To anticipate the writing and get up before the alarm.

If not being able to write is a learned disability, then is loving to write a learned ability? I believe it is.

I would wager that somewhere along your through line you were validated for your ability to write. A teacher. A parent. A contest. A paper you wrote. An essay that won a prize. Something or someone said to you that you have a way with words.

Some early writers keep writing from that moment and ease into a writing career somewhere in their 20s. But that’s probably not you. Or you wouldn’t be reading this. Perhaps, like me, you tucked it away inside. A bit of pride. A bit of difference from the rest of the world while you moved on to the rest of your life.

But then something else happened to make you bring that out from where you tucked it inside in a velvet pouch you kept close to your heart and forgot about.

Now when you reach inside you realize that nugget of truth about you has turned into something like a diamond, with the promise, and the glitter, and the shine.

I can write, you say.

Yes, you can.

And if you master not only the outer journey of the writer, but the inner journey too, you will have found true creative happiness in the creating. And the ability to make a career out of it. 

Tune in next time when I talk about the Zen of Writing and the writer’s inner journey. I'll provide as best a roadmap as I can to:
  • Master the art of transformation
  • Find focus 
  • Structure a writing life
  • Defeat the virus of fear

About the Author: Deb McLeod, MFA, practices novel research immersion. For her novel, The Train to Pescara, Deb journeyed to Sardinia to study ancient goddess worship and spent time in the Abruzzi village her great-grandparents left in 1905. Her metaphysical knowledge for the Angel Thriller, The Julia Set, culminates from four years of studying and teaching meditation, clairvoyance and chakra healing. For over fifteen years, Deb McLeod has been a creative writing coach helping other writers to embrace their passion and get their words on the page. For more, 


  1. Thanks, Deb. I always learn something from you. Happy Holidays to you and yours!

    1. Thank you! What a wonderful thing to say. And Happy Holidays to you as well.


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