Falling Awake

What wakes you to yourself?

"Falling Awake" is the title of my memoir (if I ever finish it).

“Falling Awake” is the title of my memoir (if I ever finish it).

Each week I try to spend some reflective time in gratitude. I bring to mind all that I am thankful for, and it fills my heart with healing and acceptance for all the things in my life that are not going as well. But this week, a few unexpected questions popped up. I found myself feeling grateful and wondering just how I ended up so… well… lucky. I have the best friends and family a person could ever hope for. But how, exactly, did that happen?

For many years, starting as far back as the middle grades, all I wanted was to be left alone to write my stories and songs. I didn’t want to be around people until I had finished… until I believed my creations ready to be heard, seen, felt.

I have always been driven to create. For every song I wrote, another came on its heels, and always, always, more ideas waited in the wings. Stories pour out of me onto the page. And for every story I write, there are 20 more screaming for my attention.

I have always known my purpose on earth. I came here to create.

It took me years to learn that I also came here to love, to awaken, to evolve, and to experience all that real life has to offer; good, bad, happy, sad, fortune and misfortune.

For the longest time, I felt I didn’t belong here… on this planet. I felt out of place in the human world, perhaps, in part, because of my dyslexia… that and my over-abundant imagination, which got me in trouble periodically throughout grade school. So as a child, I somehow decided it would be a good idea not to need anyone. After all, I had my stories to keep me engaged, and my characters to keep me in good company. I poured love into my stories and received an immeasurable love in return.

Being a writer has brought me great joy, nearly all my life.

And for years, I couldn’t understand why the humans around me loved and accepted me so completely. I paid them little or no attention, at least not while I was possessed by a plot… submerged in a story, exploring other realms and alternate universes… falling in love with the beings that populate my curious worlds.

I wondered how it was that I possessed any friends at all, let alone the amazing, caring, intelligent, loving, loyal, fun, interesting, laugh-til-our-sides-hurt, cry-til-our-hearts-heal type of friends. And my family is the same way for me. So how did I get so lucky? It seems no matter how I ignore them, they still love me and are always willing to listen to my songs or read my books when I emerge from my creative hibernations.

Some figured out they can, by reading or listening, learn all about what has occupied my mind “as of late.” But then, when I do finally return, it takes me a while to figure out how to interact with real humans again and I usually end up jabbering. On and on I go about the worlds I have visited, as if I’ve been to Italy and met the Pope in Rome, or taken tea with the Queen at Buckingham Palace. As far as I am concerned, I have dined with royalty, solved the mysteries of the universe, flown on the backs of dragons. My experiences, my memories, even my emotions, all say I have been away… far, far away on a very long and wondrous journey, to distant lands, enchanted with magical creatures. I’ve marched with comrades and battled monsters, found true treasures and inner riches, shared love and laughter, tragedy and tears, faced invincible foes, unbeatable odds, and lived to tell the tale. I have danced with heroes and become one myself by association.

I’ve always believed in the power of dreams. The world is a magical place for me, not just in words but in everyday life, because when you believe, magic happens.

I am one of the luckiest people I know, not because I have had it easy, quite the contrary—I have had more than my share of trials and hardships—but because the pain of those experiences has not robbed me of my wonder, my intuitive senses, my faith, my capacity to love, or my ability to forgive.

Where many of this world occupy their minds with worry or stress, fear or anger, problems and pitfalls, and all manner of human drama, I spend most of my brain cells on the creation of worlds, creatures, minds and hearts, and all the extraordinarily strange things that emerge from the depths of my creative soul. And I often occupy my non-writing hours studying human nature and relationship to better understand not only my characters but my friends and family as well.

But there’s no denying it. My thoughts are more occupied with the stuff of fantasy than reality. And although that can get me in a heap of trouble sometimes, when I forget to take care of the practical things, like paying bills or filing taxes, it also means I am usually in a pleasant mood, noticing the beauty in all that surrounds me. It means I have not lost my child-like wonder of this magnificent world. It means I smile… a lot. It means I ponder the big questions—what are our spirits made of? What’s “out there” beyond our grasp? Is time an illusion?—instead of the small questions, like what’s for dinner, or where to buy a new pair of shoes.

It means I would make a terrible wife, and yet I have a man who loves me and treats me like gold. It means that I am loving and loyal to my friends, even when I am ignoring them, and they are loving and loyal in return, even when they’ve been ignored.

It means I am absent-minded, and often clumsy and awkward in the “real world,” yet those around me not only forgive my foibles and idiosyncrasies, but also help me find my keys, pick me up when I fall, and remind me when it’s their birthday without making me feel bad that I forgot.

The other day, while searching book 3 of The LightBridge Legacy manuscript for a quote, I found this; You are what you focus on. What occupies your mind will soon occupy your life. If that is hatred, you will find a representation of hate in everything you feel, see, touch. If that is love, you will see the presence of love all around you.

And it’s true… for I see heroes everywhere I look. Is it wrong to see past a person’s facade to the hero inside? Some think so. I have been accused of seeing only what I want to see, of not facing reality—the hard truth that people are cruel and self-centered. I’ve been blamed for always seeing the good and believing the best in people, even when it’s not there. And yes, that means I can be seen as naïvé at times, a target for the unbelievers and wrongdoers of the world, but, in truth, I would rather think the best of people and be taken advantage of every once in a while, then view the world with cynicism and skepticism and become jaded. I believe negativity is a form of mental pollution. It requires constant, vigilant recycling.

What if positivity is actually a superpower?

To look upon the world and its people with kind eyes is not a failing or a fallacy or a weakness. It took me years to learn that. It doesn’t mean I don’t see all that is “wrong” with the world, it only means that I have chosen not to regard adversity as bad or unnecessary. I’ve made a conscious choice not to judge harshly the actions of others because I truly believe we are all doing the best we can with the circumstances we’ve been given (or have chosen).

I believe that our souls choose for us those experiences that will help us evolve, but it is up to us to see the lessons and take the next step toward awareness. Those who do harm in this world have not yet awakened to their purpose. They are sleepwalkers who have not yet opened their eyes to what is good. There will always be sleepwalkers and sleep-wakers.

I have done my share of sleepwalking, but something always wakes me to myself. Often it is a book. Sometimes written by others, spiritual mentors I call them, and sometimes, it is my own stories that wake me. Putting pen to paper has such organic, ancient ties that it brings me back to myself again and again, and allows me access to my own wisdom. We all have that place in ourselves that knows the answers, that place that is connected to spirit, and it is up to us, each individually, to reach inside and listen. The more we do, the less we sleepwalk.

Love is the teacher here, no matter the lesson.

And love is the lesson, no matter the teacher. To awaken is to see that “every choice we make is either an expression of love or a call for love.” To awaken is to see anger, hate, malice (in yourself and others) and to feel only compassion, for these are all fear-based calls for love.

Those who express fear in hurtful ways are sleepwalking inside their own nightmares and have not yet found a way to wake themselves. If you return their hatred with hate, you do not contribute to their awakening, you reinforce their nightmare. If you reciprocate with love, you create the tiniest crack where light can shine through. You never know when someone might just see that light and walk toward it.

To be awake is to always make the choice for love.

Merry Christmas!

Elayne G. James

PS: I am compelled to explain that when I say ‘”love” I am not talking about reaching out to sleepwalkers in all their rage, taking their hands, and telling them you love them. That will, at best, be ineffectual, and at worst, enrage them more. No, the love I refer to is what I call “beaming.” It takes only a moment. It is completely silent and exhibits no visual indicators. I just picture my heart opening up and beaming light, love, and acceptance directly to them. Often, they will not know what hit them, only that their anger is diffused a bit and they don’t quite feel like yelling anymore. It is an amazing thing to witness. But even if my “beaming” elicits no response at all, the good has been done, and I feel differently inside. Of course, I don’t always remember to do this when I am swept up in a moment of swirling emotion, but when I do have the presence of mind to take a step back and choose love over fear, miracles usually follow.
Elayne G. James is the author of the 
adventure/fantasy coming-of-age series,
The LightBridge Legacy, and a warmhearted 
holiday novel, The Saint of Carrington.


 

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ELAYNE G. JAMES Q&A FROM GOODREADS

EGJ’s Answers to GoodReads Questions (updated winter 2016):

How do you deal with writer’s block?

First: I listen to Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones on CD. Natalie did a tenth-anniversary version of Writing Down the Bones as an audio book, where she reads the book (the first book she ever wrote) and then comments on her own writing from the perspective of someone who has had ten more years of experience. She speaks directly to the writer in all of us, to our fears and faults, our insecurities and doubts, our soaring creative spirit and our earthbound reality issues. She is eloquent and inspiring. This book is healing for me in many ways. It never fails to bring me back to myself and back to my writing.

Second: I take a time out from the book I’m working on / having trouble with, go to iTunes and create a soundtrack for my book as if it were a movie. I focus in on orchestral pieces that embody or support the “feel” of the story arc and add a more modern tune at the beginning and end (like a credit roll song).

This helps to clear my mind–concentrating on something that is not writing but still creative– and then when I return to the book I have a fresh perspective AND a soundtrack to play while I’m writing that is wonderfully inspiring. It works every time! Try it! You’ll be amazed! Envisioning your book as a movie helps in other ways too. Thinking in the visual mode makes for great, concise descriptive passages and snappy/lively dialogue. And, of course, it is a lot of fun!

Third: I hit the road. If the first two don’t do the trick, I plan a road trip. Getting out of town, taking myself out of my daily life has never failed to get me unstuck. New surroundings and new experiences inspire me to write new thoughts. I take my laptop, but almost always end up just writing in my journal. There is something about putting pen to paper that creates that flow I’ve been missing. It’s very organic. I come home refreshed and ready to work. And now, with AirBnB.com it is easier than ever to get a place for a few days without breaking the bank. And who knows, you just might be inspired by the people you’re staying with, in addition to the beauty that surrounds you. I highly recommend it!

What’s the best thing about being a writer?

The best things about being a fiction writer are:

FUN: Building whole worlds using nothing but a vivid imagination.

LOVE: You get to fall in love over and over again with each new character.

FREEDOM: Which to me means waking up in the morning and asking yourself, “What do I want to do with my time today?” and having the answer be, “I want to work on my book.” And then being able to do so!

PERSONAL GROWTH: Always learning new things, expanding your world and opening up to new and different points of view when researching for a story, is a wonderful, never-ending source of education and intrigue.

COURAGE: Having a book out in the world challenges you to push past your comfort zone and can even teach you that you are braver than you think.

TOUCHING PEOPLES LIVES: Having readers write you to say how much they love living in the worlds you have birthed, or to let you know even that your words helped them get through a difficult time in their lives, makes it all so worth it.

INSPIRATION: Being a writer means opening up to inspiration and letting things come through. Once that portal is open, it can inspire you in many other ways. It can ignite your soul.

GRATITUDE: I love my life and I am so grateful to be able to create freely (and to live in a country that allows full creative freedom).

What’s your advice for aspiring writers?

Aside from the usual (hone your craft etc.), my top 4 best pieces of advice (for fiction writing) are as follows:

  1. Don’t intrude upon your characters. Let them tell you what they want to say and do. Don’t force your opinions on them. Let them have their own unique point of view.
  1. Know the difference between Active and Passive Voice. Active voice draws the reader into a story, passive voice makes the reader feel like an observer. In passive voice, the subject does not do the action, the action is done to the subject. In active voice, the subject is engaged in the action. Tip: Look for the over use of the word “was” or “were.” They are red flags for passive voice.
  1. Everyone tells aspiring writers to “write what you know,” but I would change that to “write what you want to know” and do the research! When I start a novel, I spend half my time researching and half my time writing. Writing what I already know is a “safe zone” that gets boring fast.
  2. “Show Don’t Tell” sounds like good advice but as a young writer, when I was just starting out, I didn’t really understand exactly HOW to accomplish this, let alone master it. Until I heard Natalie Goldberg’s explanation of Show Don’t Tell, I didn’t truly GET IT. So for those of you who are writers and still struggle with this, here is Natalie’s very clear and easy to understand explanation:

“There’s an old adage in writing ‘Don’t tell but show.’ What does this actually mean? It means don’t tell us about anger, or any of those big words like honesty, truth, hate, love, sorrow, life, justice, etc. Show us what made you angry. We will read it and feel angry. Don’t tell readers what to feel. Show the situation, and that feeling will awaken in them. Writing is not psychology. We do not talk about feelings, instead the writer feels and threw her words, awakens those feelings in the reader. The writer takes the readers hand and guides him through the valley of sorrow and joy without ever having to mention those words.

What are you currently working on?

In addition to the final edits for The LightBridge Legacy Book II: Riddle of the Gate World, (which should be released early 2017), and my Christmas book, The Saint of Carrington, which will be released this month (Nov. 2016), I am writing a new series called THE DRAGONBOND BOOKS, about an orphaned boy who is raised in a 200 year old library in Franklin Massachusettes, and on his 9th birthday, inherits a dragon egg along with a book written in an ancient language that depicts the proud lineage of his ancestors, a people they called the Dragonbond Tribe. I am having a blast writing it. It’s basically a “boy and his dog” story but the dog is a dragon and they get into all manner of mischief together.

How do you get inspired to write?

Dreams are a huge thing for me. I write while I’m sleeping. A great many of my stories have come from dreams. And when I am steeped in the writing process, I often fall asleep working on the story and dream entire scenes that go into the book the following morning.

Also, doing research for a story or a character is a powerful way to get inspired. I do tons of research before and during the writing process. I really enjoy it because the story becomes real to me and my fictional characters come to life with real-world details.

If possible, I go and roll play my characters out in the world. I once wrote a story where the main character was handicapped, so I rented a wheelchair and spent the entire day in it. I went to the mall and learned not only how difficult it is to get around (how many places you just can’t go), but also how incredibly different people treated me. What an amazing lesson that was! And when I was ready to write that character into my story (in his POV), I had a firsthand experience to draw from that added depth to the character’s inner life/emotions.

Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?

The LightBridge Legacy came from a reoccurring dream I had as a child where I was in possession of a magical device that could take me anywhere (or when) I wanted to go in the blink of an eye.

The Saint if Carrington came from a conversation I had while working in the theatre. We were talking about Santa Claus and I said,” my parents never told me that Santa Claus didn’t exist so I still believe.” I was in my mid-twenties at the time so everyone laughed, but I wasn’t actually joking. When I got home, I jotted down the idea in short story form, about a town that has lost its faith and a boy who has lost his father, and how they learn to believe in Christmas (and Santa Claus) again.

The Dragonbond idea came from a long-standing desire. I always wanted to write a dragon story. Then one day I wrote the line: My name is Secret.” and that is how it started. A boy named Secret and a Dragon named Zeek. After that, I was hooked. It doesn’t take much. I am a nerd through and through.

Elayne G. James is the author of the adventure/
fantasy coming-of-age series, The LightBridge 
Legacy, a new holiday novel titled The Saint of 
Carringtion, and the upcoming Dragonbond Books.
For more info visit: http://www.ElayneJames.com