Dear readers: I am in the final stages of writing a new book, which tells a story of spiritual transformation. This is a chapter from it, a teaching that came while writing my novel, The Baby Pact. Enjoy!
Awaken in Soul
I sit at my computer editing my novel The Baby Pact. My protagonist swims with her boyfriend in a river in Mexico, where she connives to betray him. I fine-tune a few verbs, making them more active, and bring in more sensory details to put my reader in that place and time with this desperate character. As I work my heart beats fast and I my palms sweat. I call on the Beloved to help me stay in a loving state.
I’ve been writing this novel for ten years. Three years ago, when I had a decent draft, I hired a writing coach who taught me a great deal, far beyond what I had learned in a Master’s program in fiction decades ago. “It should be like a silent movie,” my coach Sarah Lovett said, “in which the characters’ actions show the story.” I began to see how my characters tended to yearn for their desires more than go after them.
When I contemplated this, I saw how it was also true in my spiritual life. The Beloved wanted me to see that the quest is not about ruminating over or thinking about a centered state. Instead, in every moment I am to step in to create that loving state. From this, I began engaging my mantra more, which takes me out of my head and puts me in the now. I also began using my imagination in order to create the higher states I most desire: patience, generosity and love.
Sarah Lovett also suggested that I reconsider the number of viewpoints in the book. At the time, the story had four viewpoints from which it was told. Sarah nudged me to drop two of them because, she said, those two characters’ stories weren’t transformative, while the other two were.
At first I thought “No way.” I’m not going to throw away some two hundred pages that I’ve carefully rendered. But as I contemplated this with my Beloved I came to see that Sarah was right. Over the next year I cut out those pages and moved the necessary story points into the remaining chapters. After implementing these two huge suggestions, The Baby Pact was a much stronger book.
Shortly after this I asked an editor friend Lois Gilbert to read my novel before I started sending it out to agents. Once she had read it, we sat out on her back porch and watched hummingbirds sip sugar water from a red feeder, their flapping wings seeming ephemeral. She told me she liked the book, especially the chapters with my main character, Jamie. Those chapters, Lois said, were true and heartfelt, but the ones told from the point of view of the other main character, Elena, were weaker. “They didn’t hold my interest,” she said.
She suggested that I drop the Elena point of view and tell the story from Jamie’s viewpoint in the first person. I nodded my head, while saying to myself “No way.”
In that moment, my heart sank to my knees and even the beauty of the hummingbirds was lost. I had hoped that Lois would love the book, would give it her blessing. This was too much to even consider. I had already cut half the book, and now I was to cut another half? I had spent years researching Elena’s passion for flamenco dance and her career as a learning specialist. I thanked Lois and went home.
After contemplating this with the Beloved for a few days, I decided to simply try out what Lois suggested. So I rewrote the first chapter in first person, using the “I” instead of “she.” Surprisingly, the chapter sang with truth and vitality. The writing came alive. So I set about dropping the Elena chapters and putting the rest of the book into Jamie’s first-person point of view. When Lois read the novel again, she absolutely loved it.
Now as I fine-tune the novel, I see that this experience of dropping the lesser viewpoints parallels my inner journey. My spiritual teacher instructs that we have five bodies: the physical, causal, emotional, mental and soul. Each of them wants to run the show, and one’s concept of oneself determines which gains precedence. If I believe that I am just a physical being and that my needs for wealth, house and car are most important, then that body is ruling my life.
As I come to know that I am truly soul, its priorities win. Balance, patience, contentment, detachment, humility and love then rule. Dropping the other viewpoints in my novel represents my movement toward soul mastery, toward truly claiming that “I am soul.” The other viewpoints are still there but they no longer rule. Instead the “I am” holds sway.
In the stunning Divine system the Beloved teaches us through every experience. Every atom in our body reflects our inner state. That atomic state reflects into each molecule in our being, into each cell, into our organs, even into the things that surround us, and larger yet, the entire Universe. The whole system is designed just to awaken us to a broader, freer and more expansively loving view of ourselves.
I dance in the beauty of this transformation.
P.S. Click here to learn more about The Baby Pact.
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So inspiring. By the way, I loved “The Baby Pact”!
Thank you, Tricia. That means a lot coming from you. 🙂
I relate to this as a person and a writer.
I’m glad you relate to it, Katherine, and I’m so happy to be in touch with you again. Writing must be one of the best ways to slay the ego, besides romantic relationships. 🙂
Wow Lesley, simply wow.
Thank you, Colleen, and I so appreciate you sharing this on Facebook. Yay!
Thank you Lesley, this is quite simply beautiful. I really like the analogy about how in a powerful story the character’s actions should ‘show’ the story which leads to their transformation and the need to make more active the spiritual viewpoint we wish to cultivate in order for powerful spiritual transformation to occur. It’s so true isn’t it and something I’m really trying to work with at the moment. I know I give the other characters (viewpoints from physical, causal, emotional and mental bodies) in my story way too much air time and simply yearning for a more spiritual viewpoint isn’t enough, it has to be actively practiced. It’s also a powerful reminder for me that, as chelas, our lives are perfectly orchestrated to serve as an opportunity for us to grow into our true Being, but we have to be active in our practice in order to see this and allow the transformation to take place. It is indeed a beautiful dance, even though at times I feel very clumsy in it. Thank you for your beautiful channelling. I so enjoyed The Baby Pact and very much look forward to your next book.
Beautifully said, Chloe. Lovely observations.
What a rich response to this post, Chloe. In reading what you so eloquently wrote I am again reminded of the importance of stepping into our lives. The mind wants to pretend spirituality, but we are to make it real, to real-ize it in every moment, which is simple to do by calling on the Beloved. Such a beautiful dance!
So interesting! Most of us have no idea of the long journey a book takes before it is finally a book. Your humility in considering so many viewpoints and acting upon their recommendations is inspiring. I remember when I read The Baby Pact being surprised that it was written in first person, since very few books are written this way, and even fewer can pull it off in an interesting way.But first person keeps the reader in the moment, and if a book is fast-paced, as this one is, choosing that format was brilliance, and since you were already comfortable with that form because of your travel writing, the book came together in a beautiful, moving and reflective way.
I really appreciated this background story. It is fascinating to me. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you, Rudy, for being so encouraging. When I took the book to these two coaches, I really thought they would praise it up and down and say “send it out!” It was a tough ego-slaying when that wasn’t the case. Each time I let go more of the book until by the time I published it I was fairly released. It is amazing how the Beloved loosens our grip on our attachments bit by bit. Painful at the time but perfect in the end, as you well know! 🙂
Thank you Lesley for such a wonderful analogy. So much to contemplate.