The First Messages

The First Messages

What the Guides Actually Said


When we left off, twenty-five year old me had just prayed for a way out of my suffering (the blocked, miserable writer sort) and I had received a surprising answer in the form of words forming insistently in my head.

Those words seemed to have a message for me, and they wanted to be written down.

I filled notebook page after notebook page with mysterious declarative phrases.

Listen and let go.

Eradicate fear.

Do not ask for what you want. Accept what you receive. It is better, it is what’s meant for you. There is a larger plan.

I was excited but also confused, and a little freaked out.

What did it mean? Listen to what? Let go of what?

I had wanted the answer to my prayer—if I got one at all—to be practical. I wanted to hear how to have the life I pictured, the one where I had a published short story collection and a glowing review in The New York Times.

(Of course they did and do not hold my youthful stubbornness against me. They are nothing if not patient and understanding. That’s one of the great things about having friends in Spirit, in general. They are so very forgiving of our all-too-human traits.)

And in truth, despite my petulance, deep down I could feel something important happening. I felt a tingle in my spine when I read the words back. I knew they held truth. Even if I didn’t quite get it, or didn’t quite like it.

Words that Changed My Life


Over a period of months, as I let the wisdom sink in, I found myself gradually loosening my hold on the short stories I wanted to write and the rigid timeline that went with them. I started writing poems, and songs, and, yes, journal entries, some of them exploring the grief that still bubbled up in me.

I got out of my head. I dropped my agenda. I stopped trying to control the future.

It all got so much easier. A sense of ease started to take root in my life. A sense of quiet magic, of being led.

Over the next few years, as I kept listening to wisdom of the Guides—which is how I came to call that source of the words forming in my head—everything continued to change for the better. I quit my teaching job and moved to a cabin in the woods. I adopted a rescue dog. I wrote and wrote like crazy, all different kinds of things, with no real need to know where any of it was going.

The old impatience and desperation cropped up from time to time, but now I had language with which to respond.

Listen and let go. Eradicate fear.

I started dating a guy I knew who kept showing up in my nighttime dreams, even though my brain insisted I wasn’t ready for a relationship and also that he wasn’t my type. Accept what you receive. There is a larger plan. We’ve been married for over 20 years.

I started a graduate program in poetry, which my heart called out for even though my brain protested that fiction was “cooler.” I started publishing my work.

And I eventually followed the urge to teach creative writing using the principles the Guides had given me. I watched my students tap into their own deep creativity, find their authentic voices with ease, and embrace who they really were as writers, just as I had learned to do. It felt amazing. I didn’t care anymore about that imaginary book of short stories or a New York Times review. I was doing the work I felt meant to do.

Not Ready to Go Public

I still wasn’t ready to talk to anyone about the guided writing I was doing or the source of wisdom I was tapping into. I didn’t quite understand it myself. I kept it on the down-low, seeing it mainly as a private way to solve my own problems and free my writing. Like having my own personal creativity coach.

It would take many more years and bumps in the road for me to truly understand the power of guided writing, to broaden its scope, and to have the courage to share it with others.

That would require a whole new level of listening and letting go.

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