I first met Julia McCutchen, author of Conscious Writing through mutual friend Linda Joy. Julia invited me to share my knowledge of how to write a book proposal with members of her organization: the International Association of Conscious & Creative Writers–an organization that is free to join and offers exciting interviews on writing and publishing on a monthly basis. Julia’s book on Conscious Writing is newly released and an inspiring read. Here, I interview Julia on many of the concepts in the book and her advice to writers.
Lisa: In a nutshell, what is Conscious Writing?
Julia: Conscious Writing is a holistic and practical approach to creative awakening that leads you to discover your true self and express your true voice, on the page and in the world.
It’s the core teaching for anyone who has a message to share or a story to tell and feels inspired to make a positive difference in the world.
It can be applied to any and all types of writing and is a way of blending soul and craft.
Lisa: You have writers start with the question,
Julia: The ‘conscious’ in Conscious Writing refers to full awareness of the true nature of reality and yourself as an expression of that. “Who am I before the writing begins?” is a key question because it’s the starting point for a process of self-enquiry that leads you in to the deep space of authentic truth that exists within us all. Here you connect with your true self and the source of your true voice. So this question leads you towards becoming conscious.
Conscious Writing teaches you to create, write and live your life from the level of your true self – the eternal part of you that lies beyond the fears and anxieties of your everyday self. This question reveals what lies beyond the voice of your inner critic, which is a product of your everyday self, and sets you free to make the shift from everyday self to true self writing.
It also reminds you to pay attention to the state of consciousness you’re in when you do your writing and to prioritize connecting with your inner truth before taking any outer action. Ultimately it guides you to have direct personal experience of aligning yourself with your soul to live truthfully, write deeply and know that it’s all a sacred prayer.
Lisa: Conscious Writing deals with 7 core principles. Can you elaborate on the third principle of authenticity? It’s a term that many people use nowadays.
Julia: The 7 core principles develop the self-enquiry that the question, “Who am I before the writing begins?” initiates. These principles support you on the journey of self-realization to become, and remain, conscious – as a writer and in life.
True authenticity is about being real at every level and accepting yourself fully for who you are at every shade of every color of the individual spectrum of your being. Studies show that authenticity boosts your vitality and your sense of well-being which feeds directly in to your ability to express yourself consciously and creatively.
Conscious Writing has a direct relationship with authenticity because of its emphasis on expressing yourself from the deep space of authentic truth within and connecting with that every time you sit down to write.
Daring to be totally authentic as a writer involves lining up your inner true self with your outer everyday self so there is a clear channel for the deepest levels of insight and inspiration to pour through you onto the page. This is how to discover what you’re truly here to write and share with the world.
Lisa: How do you suggest that writers discover their voice? Can their voice vary for different projects and still be authentic?
Julia: Writing with your true voice sets you apart from a plethora of pastiche artists and enables your authentic contribution to be seen, heard and perhaps most importantly felt by those who resonate with your approach.
In order to discover your true voice, it’s important to understand what you’re aiming for as people’s definitions vary. Many interpretations focus on the use of a writer’s language and style. Others include the equivalent of the presence an actor has on stage.
Conscious Writing includes all of these components plus the magic ingredient of your essential core truth; so the inspiration of who you are is combined with your expertise as a writer and expressed through both content and style. This approach gives your writing a timeless quality, and over time, you develop a voice that becomes recognizable as your own, just like the name you’re known by.
To discover your true voice, begin by creating space to look within and connect with your true self. Set aside five minutes to sit quietly, close your eyes and deepen your breathing. Then focus on the space between your thoughts. At first there may only be a fraction of a second before the next thought arises. With practice the spaces will lengthen and you’ll be able to send your awareness through the space into the deeper levels of truth that lie beyond your everyday thought stream. Write from there.
The essence of your authentic voice remains unchanged although the forms it takes do indeed vary over time and with different projects. This is because your ability to use the most accurate words (forms) to convey the living reality beyond your words (essence) develops and becomes increasingly refined with practice and experience.
Lisa: From your work at traditional publishing houses, would you say the majority of the books you saw seemed to come from this place of consciousness or would you say that was often or sometimes missing? Any observations about this?
Julia: Unfortunately the majority of books are not written from a fully conscious and present state of being that is aligned with truth in the way that Conscious Writing encourages you to aim for. Most people are completely caught up in the stories of their everyday lives and therefore write exclusively from the everyday mind and emotions. Of course this is absolutely fine for many purposes but it’s not Conscious Writing.
So why is it worth ‘going the extra mile’?
The more you engage with the principles, practices and the process of Conscious Writing, the more you experience the cumulative benefits; your ideas are enriched, your words are enlivened, and your life is enhanced.
If you have aspirations of authorship, the direct relationship that Conscious Writing has with authenticity means that you naturally stand out from the crowd.
Your readers also benefit from the deep insights you share, the quality of the stories you tell, and the overall impact and vibrancy of your work which remains alive in people’s hearts and minds. This is how to make your greatest contribution as a writer.
Lisa: How do you recommend applying conscious writing to the editing process?
Julia: First of all you need to remember the value of space in the creative process. Take a break before doing any major editing work to freshen your perspective and return to the page with the clarity of vision that Thoreau describes as seeing with” the unworn sides” of your eyes.
The principles and practice of Conscious Writing naturally contribute to developing your intuition and your ability to feel the energy beyond the words you are writing. These are the essential components to add to your intellectual understanding and practical experience of the editing process which is all about effective communication.
Use the actual Conscious Writing Process to prepare before you start. This is a series of conscious actions that are designed to enable you to shift from everyday mode into the deeply present and aligned state of being you need for any kind of original creative work.
Print out your work and review it a number of different times with a specific intention in mind each time you read it through. Focus on whether you’re on track with the content, review the language and style, and most importantly of all with Conscious Writing, develop your capacity to sense and feel intuitively what is or isn’t working on the page.
Ultimately it’s like composing a symphony using the instruments and melodies you’ve introduced in your first draft. See each component of writing as a section of the orchestra to raise to a crescendo or fade out to silence in a multi-layered musical extravaganza. Work towards discovering the harmonies you need for your words to ring true in your reader’s ears.
Lisa: What a powerful metaphor! I love the story of Zoe, who discovered that her creative block came from fearing the emptiness of “not knowing” and how Conscious Writing helped her
Julia: Embracing “not knowing” is a key component of the creative process. Unless you’re able to go beyond what you already know, you’ll never discover any genuinely new insights and ideas. As French author Andre Gide puts it, “One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore.”
Conscious Writing teaches you to recognize that the uncomfortable feelings you have related to “not knowing” come from your everyday self which has been conditioned to think you should know. So the more you shift into conscious connection with your true self, the more comfortable you’ll be with “not knowing.”
Specifically, you learn to “live the questions” as Rainer Maria Rilke advised in his Letters to a Young Poet which involves remaining open to all possibilities and allowing your intuition to guide your steps as you follow the golden threads of your ideas. This allows a deeper level of “Knowing” to arise as an alternative to grasping for immediate answers with your mind.
Explore this by setting an intention and then engaging with any kind of reflective practice like gazing at passing clouds or the reflections in the surface of water, or do some conscious movement like yoga or walking mindfully. Open yourself to receive what you need to know, and trust that you will.
Lisa: Great advice. I find that anything in nature helps. Your three creative keys of trust, commitment and surrender resonated with me. Did you find yourself struggling with any of these three at any point in writing Conscious Writing? If so, which ones and which techniques or tools helped you most?
Julia: The experiences I’ve had on my journey of self-realization have opened up a deep sense of trust, commitment and surrender that are now an integral part of all areas of my life. In fact, I share a number of specific instances in the Personal Reflections section at the end of my book where I was taken to the edge and beyond; then broke through to a new level each time.
So the foundations for trust, commitment and surrender were in place. However, there were certainly moments when these were all challenged, especially once I had signed the contract with Hay House and needed to meet a tight deadline for submitting my manuscript!
Yet deep down I knew all along that fear and anxiety of any kind are a product of my everyday self and the first priority is always to be conscious, awake, present and connected with my true self.
My commitment to that and to keep showing up along with my use of the Conscious Writing Process as a bridge between the worlds of inner possibilities and outer actualities saw me through. I’ve learnt that leaning in to the current of life and totally trusting the unfolding dream is the way forwards, just as the mountain stream always finds its way to the ocean.
Lisa: In Conscious Writing you describe four phases of the Creative Cycle, a different model from the stages of creativity that are often taught. Do you think many Westerners skip over the first phase, that of stillness? If so, what is the hazard of skipping this step?
Julia: Absolutely! We’re not taught in the West to value stillness, silence and space. In fact the opposite is true as we’re conditioned to prioritize doing over being and to fill our lives with “busyness” and an endless stream of activity.
This is not conducive to reaching the deepest levels of creative inspiration and insight. In fact it leads you away from the true source of creativity which lies in stillness. Think of the natural world as an example. Many perennial seeds don’t germinate unless they’ve had the harsh conditions of winter which is a time of stillness in the cycle of life.
If you skip this step, your creative writing is more likely to derive from the surface levels of your everyday mind and emotions rather than the depth of your true self.
Stilling the chatter of your everyday mind naturally shifts you into deep creative mode. If you want to access your richest and most original insights and ideas and hear the whispers of your soul, learn to value stillness, silence and space.
Lisa: What do you most want writers to take away from Conscious Writing?
Julia: First, let go of the limitations of your everyday self which include your inner critic as it is replete with conditioned patterns of thought and behavior that often hold you back from realizing your full potential.
Secondly, use the principles, practice and the Conscious Writing Process to write from the level of your true self in order to discover what you’re truly here to write and the most authentic ways of expressing that, on the page and in the world.
Thirdly, understand that Conscious Writing is inherently transformative. In addition to the benefits for your writing and authorship, the journey in to your true self enables you to release who you think you should be and become more of who you truly are. As a result, your true calling is revealed and your whole life is transformed to become an authentic and joyful expression of your inner passion and purpose.
Lisa: Any last bit of advice you’d like to share with our readers?
Julia: The only way to experience the benefits for yourself is to cross the threshold from intellectual understanding to take awakened action by applying what you learn.
Stand firmly in your truth and respect your right to write by consciously choosing your priorities and claiming the space in your schedule as sacred.
Take small steps each and every day until you reach the last full stop of your final mile.
Ultimately recognize that who you become in the process is just as important as what you write. From the perspective of Conscious Writing, this is the quintessence of who you are as you share your gifts consciously and creatively, and make the contribution that only you can make.
Julia McCutchen is an intuitive mentor, the founder and creative director of the International Association of Conscious & Creative Writers (IACCW), and the author of Conscious Writing: Discover Your True Voice Through Mindfulness and More. A former publisher of spiritual and personal development books, a life changing accident triggered a series of major quantum leaps in her spiritual awakening. Today Julia’s passion is to guide people to discover and express their true voice, on the page and in the world. Watch her FREE video series.
Buy your copy of Conscious Writing: Discover Your True Voice Through Mindfulness and More by Julia McCutchen here.
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Thank you so much for sharing this interview. It is life-affirming!
Hi Suzanne, I’m delighted to hear that you enjoyed the interview. I encourage you to follow through and apply what you’ve learned in order to experience the benefits of this conscious and creative approach for yourself. Enjoy! Julia