Janet Conner did not set out to be a spiritual writer or teacher. Earning a BS from Marquette University in Speech Pathology, an MA in Education of the Deaf from Northwestern University, her initial career was in special education. In 1982, she created the first video journalist recruitment program at CNN. After she and her husband moved to Florida, she ran a division of an international search firm.
In 1997, in the midst of a lucrative consulting career, her marriage imploded and her life disintegrated overnight. Janet poured her soul onto her journal every morning, demanding help and discovered when she asked hard questions, the Voice responded with rich, profound guidance.
Janet realized that her deep soul writing practice was something more than journaling so she set out to investigate why. The result is Writing Down Your Soul: How to Activate and Listen to the Extraordinary Voice Within, Conari Press.
Read Susan Ideus's review of Writing Down Your Soul for StoryCircleBookReviews.org.
Posted on 09/20/2009
As a journal writer and teacher for 15 years, the processes in Writing Down Your Soul were exactly what I needed to enhance my journal writing, delve deeper and move forward in my life at this point in time. What was the initial inspiration for Writing Down Your Soul?
In the nineties, my professional life kept getting better and better but my marriage kept getting worse and worse. Finally, after 21 years together, I told my husband I wanted a divorce on Nov 1, 1996. All the pain welled up inside of him exploded. And suddenly I was wearing an emergency police call necklace. One morning as I was sitting in my living room sobbing, my puppy dragged my untouched copy of The Artist's Way to me. What can I say, the universe will use any means necessary to get your attention! I started writing that very moment. I wrote "Dear God," at the top of a page and poured my heart out. I felt better so I did it again the next day and every day after until my heart was healed, I'd forgiven my ex-husband, and I'd rebuilt my life into something far richer and sweeter than the one I lost.
You talk about the Voice. How do you experience the Voice and how is that different from the creative mind?
The Voice is a paradox, a mystery. It is indefinable, unknowable, and yet your perfect guide and truest friend. To help readers answer that question for themselves, I wrote a chapter called "Who or what is listening?" I walk readers through a fun review of a few hundred names humanity has attached to the divine over the centuries. Then, I leap into what science has to say about that unlimited field of knowing. The chapter ends with Rumi's sweet poem about asking Spirit for a personal and private name and a writing prompt to help you do just that. Everyone in a Writing Down Your Soul workshop gets a name, and invariably it's quite a surprise.
From then on, you address the Voice by that special name whenever you write. Quickly, you will discover that you are having an intimate conversation. People experience the Voice many different ways. The handwriting may change, the language may change, the tone of the words almost always changes into something deeply loving, gentle, and wise. Some people feel a shift in their hand or body when the Voice takes over. When I am deeply deeply connected, my pen moves quickly across the page without me pushing it. Many people have had the same experience. It's as if the pen is doing the writing.
Can I separate my experience of the Voice from "creative mind"? During my scientific research into what happens when you write this way, I learned that deep soul writers are in the theta brain wave state. Well, that's also where you have to be to access new information, real creativity, breakthrough solutions. I view the Voice as my source for ALL wisdom, all creativity, all grace. Writing down your soul is simply an easy way for everyone to access that limitless source.
Is writing down your soul similar to channel writing or automatic writing? If so, how?
I don't think so. I've seen demonstrations of automatic writing and it's tough to decipher. You have to guess what's there or what it means. Writing down your soul is a daily conversation in plain English (or whatever language you choose to write in). You ask; you receive. And if you don't understand, you ask for clarification. Once you become comfortable with deep soul writing, you have no doubt that you are connected and that you are receiving clear guidance and direction. My guess is that automatic writing is an attempt to break into that theta brain wave state but it isn't as effective or clear as writing down your soul because it isn't a fully developed system and habit.
Are the practices in Writing Down Your Soul designed for people interested in developing better ways to receive answers to life's important questions, toward writers interested in honing their craft, or both?
My intent is to share this incredibly simple, reliable wisdom habit to anyone who wants guidance and direction. And right now that seems to be everyone! People who pick up the book or come to a workshop do not have to have journaled before or have any kind of writing experience. This practice is not actually about writing, and it certainly isn't about writing correctly or well. In fact, trying to write "well" just gets in the way.
Having said that, professional writers do love this practice because it gets you so quickly out of conscious mind and into the theta brain wave state where all art and artists dwell. When I got the contract for Writing Down Your Soul, I started every morning writing by hand and received all the direction I needed for the book.
I invite anyone interested in knowing more about writing in the theta brain wave state (whether professionally or personally) to subscribe to the newsletter because you'll receive a free e-book on writing in theta.
You're very specific about trying this process for thirty days in a very ritualized way. Why is it important to be ritualistic about Writing Down Your Soul? Can journaling encourage connection to the Voice as well?
Thirty days is important because the science clearly shows it takes thirty days to build new neural pathways and it's those new pathways—new thoughts, beliefs, emotions, words, and actions—that produce the new and improved life you want. So if you want to see change in your life, you need to build new neural pathways.
I recommend creating a personal writing ritual that includes building a special writing space and saying a blessing that sets your intention to connect with the Voice because the more you surround yourself with a system that supports and sustains your new habit, the more likely you are to experience the full benefits of the practice. People who come to this or any practice sporadically don't receive the full benefits. Consider changing your eating habits, for example. If you only eat healthy food once in a while, your body can't really improve. The same applies to deep soul writing. If you only pick up a pen occasionally, you're missing the opportunity to build a relationship with the Voice that you can count on for wisdom and guidance.
Writing down your soul is not journaling. It's much much deeper than that. There are many differences between writing down your soul and journaling. At the back of the book, there's a chart of 18 significant differences. I recorded a video that explains what writing down your soul is and how it differs from journaling.
Do you have a few tips for writers experiencing difficulty in starting or completing a project (novel, memoir, screenplay, etc.)?
I'd start with learning how to write down your soul so you can slip into theta on a regular basis. Writing in the theta brain wave state is effortless. And amazing. When I read what I wrote in theta, I always wonder, "Who wrote this; it's so good!"
I know writing in theta works because I had to complete my book in less than 3 months—which I have since been told is technically impossible. But I used the theta brain wave state day and night and finished it easily. And my editor said I'd done something that had never been done before: "a self-help book that's a page-turner!" (Trust me, I don't take credit for that!)
After 25 years in a successful career in administrative office management and business development, Jeanne Baker Guy became an educator, writer and workshop facilitator. For the last 15 years, her irreverent sense of humor coupled with her encouraging and experiential style have guided people through a process of self-exploration, enhancing and changing their lives through the daily practice of journal writing. Information on Jeanne Guy Workshops can be found here. A graduate of Indiana University and Leadership Austin, and current Story Circle Network board member, she is writing a creative non-fiction based on the 1977 kidnapping of her two oldest children.