- michelle m. davis
Written From the Soul
“I write from my soul. This is the reason that critics don't hurt me,
because it is me. If it was not me, if I was pretending to be someone else,
then this could unbalance my world, but I know who I am.”
— Paulo Coelho
What a gift … to be able to know who you are and write from your soul. Now adays, it’s challenging to express as your true self because we’re constantly receiving messages about who we should be, what we should believe, and how we should act. Sometimes I worry my blogs or books will be misinterpreted, politically incorrect, or insensitive to others. Fearful of being judged, I often hold back, play it safe, and stay within the lines.
But I’m trying to write as my true self, unafraid of critics. Besides, when did it become wrong to say what’s in your heart or on your mind? I suspect all authors struggles with this dilemma at some point in their career, wondering whether to compose from their soul or merely write what they assume others want to read.
Perhaps writing for an audience’s approval is just another form of people pleasing. Nevertheless, trying to create a story “acceptable” to others rarely works for me—characters lose their grit, the plot’s predictable, or my words sound contrived. That’s why I’m committed to as my true self. Still, this is challenging. Often, it’s easier to play it safe.
I remember facing this dilemma while working on Learning to Bend. Several of my beta readers didn’t connect with Jenna, the book’s main character. They found her unlikeable for breaking her engagement to Ben, who seemed like “such a nice guy.” But I wanted readers to view her as a young woman who finally honors herself and what she wants. Nevertheless, I listened to their advice and revised the plot to have Jenna discover Ben was gay, a secret he’d been denying from her as well as himself.
The new scenes were filled with drama, remorse, shame, and confusion. I knew this version would grab readers’ attention as well as their hearts—the perfect solution to my dilemma. However, this rewrite didn’t feel right. Suddenly finding out your fiancé’s gay is a sensitive subject; one I never experienced nor could possibly understand. That’s when I realized I’d changed the storyline to manipulate readers’ response to Jenna. Recognizing this was out of alignment for me as an author, I quickly deleted this section and created another reason for Jenna to leave Ben, one I could genuinely write about. More important was the realization of what had happened—I almost sacrificed my voice because I wanted to create a storyline others would support.
I recently felt this same confusion while working on the first draft of The Retreat, the next book in The Awakening Series (which I hope to release in March of 2023.) The four women who you may “have met” in The Invitation travel to Costa Rica to attend “Elevar,” a spiritual retreat. Throughout the week, they encounter different healers and healing methods. I suspect some may find these experiences far-fetched, out there, or unbelievable. But the truth is I resonate with these practices and believe they can be beneficial—and I totally respect others may not have this same view. But I’m willing to take a chance, put “myself out there,” and see what happens when I share this story. Perhaps some will be turned off by the book. Yet if I am hoping to write as my authentic self, I must release the fear of not having my readers’ approval.
My goal has never been to become a best-selling author. While it would be amazing if that occurred, it’s not the reason I write. Instead, I hope to help lift others by sharing thoughts that might cause one to consider another perspective. But for me to do this, I must pause, quiet my mind, and set an intention for my true voice to emerge. Sometimes the world stills, allowing me to go within. It’s in these rare moments of surrender that words come through me instead of me struggling to find the perfect phrases. My work becomes effortless, there is a flow, and I no longer second-guess myself. I know the shift’s occurred when I later reread what’s on the page and have no recollection of ever writing those words.
I suppose this applies to most of what we do in life. If we hope to present as our true selves, we must ignore the surrounding messages of who and what others think we should be and instead trust we know what we are meant to do. By going within, we can witness our spirit, the essence of our soul. And this is where our magic lives.