Story Water Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-982-37110-7.
Reviewed by Lisa Shirah-Hiers
Posted on 01/24/2010
Nonfiction: Creative Life
Not your ordinary how-to manual, Peggy Tabor Millin's Women, Writing and Soul-Making: Creativity and the Sacred Feminine is a unique and inspiring blend of the poetic, spiritual and practical in which the author seeks a balance between "feminine being and masculine doing." Intentionally written in what she perceives is a more feminine form, each chapter spirals back to what has gone before, delving deeper and deeper into each concept. As she explains, "The feminine writes in circles, makes leaps, tells the truth with dream, imagery, and metaphor, and relies on inner knowing. The masculine approach makes outlines, develops linearly from premise to conclusion, and relies on outside authority." Struggling for a structure which honors both, Tabor Millin achieves a synthesis of the intuitive and the cognitive which is the foundation of any creative endeavor.
Unlike many purely intuitive books, Women, Writing and Soul-Making also provides important guidelines that organize and inspire our task of writing more, writing deeper and finding our own voice. She begins with "The Three Steps" of focusing on the sensations of the body to keep ourselves centered, the often recommended free-writing to random prompts, and developing a practice that includes regular writing in a supportive circle of women. She describes an inner being she calls "the observer" who helps us notice without judgment and silences the inner critic who gets in the way of our free expression. She then outlines three obstacles: believing there should be no obstacles, listening to the "I cant's" instead of the "I wills," and searching for an outside authority instead of relying on our own inner guides.
Her "Four Wisdoms" give us access to this inner guidance. "The wisdom of not knowing" tells us we must face our dark and unknown shadow in order to find the truth which will transform our writing and our lives. "The wisdom of the ecology of body and earth" leads us "out of our heads and into our bodies" so we can discover our own voice. "The wisdom of fierce compassion" encourages us to look at the ugly and painful without flinching and to use our anger as motivation for action. "The wisdom of diversity" allows us to tolerate other opinions and helps us make peace with the fact that our writing may not resonate with everyone.
"The Four Paradoxes" teach us to accept that writing is both "pleasure and pain," that we must accept both "praise and criticism," that we desire and simultaneous fear both "fame and disgrace," and that we must reconcile ourselves to both "gain and loss" since we will have to give up an old world view to bring something new into being. "No way exists to make this gain other than to accept that discomfort, anxiety, and insecurity are necessary" she writes. "We consent to uneasiness as motivation for the creative journey—which is no less than our spiritual journey toward self-realization."
As a writer, musician and composer I found Women, Writing and Soul-Making an excellent guide for any creative endeavor. In this wise and wonderful book there is much, much more to inspire not only writers but anyone seeking to heal her artistic self, to explore her inner feminine and find a path to her own voice, her own truth. An absolute must, it deserves an honored place on a nearby shelf beside the likes of Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron.
Peggy Tabor Millin received a BA in English from University of California, Berkley and an MA in psychoneurology and communication disorders from Northwestern University. She has worked for many different organizations including the Institute of Neurological Sciences, Pacific Medical Center, the University of Arizona and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Now based in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Peggy Tabor Millin guides women in the writing process through classes, workshops and retreats. For more information visit her website.
Check out our interview with the author of Women, Writing, and Soul-Making: Creativity and the Sacred Feminine.
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