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Writing as a Sacred PathReview - Writing as a Sacred Path
A Practical Guide to Writing With Passion and Purpose
by Jill Jepson
Celestial Arts, 2008
Review by A. P. Bober
Mar 24th 2009 (Volume 13, Issue 13)

Jepson proposes writing as a calling a person attains along four possible routes by each of which she helps the growing writer with reflective tools or exercises.  Each calling represents a distinct mythologic type which in reality express degrees of combination with the others since no pure personality types exist in life.  A separate part focuses on each path–mystic, monk, shaman, and warrior. 

Structurally the book consists of material introductory to the chapters and exercises and the actual exercises themselves.  Therefore, it is convenient both to review, and perhaps to read, all the introductory material first and then find a sensible way to deal with the dozens of exercises.  Indeed, Jepson suggests (9) choosing the latter according to taste, repeating certain ones, or even altering them to fit your path.  Since each exercise consists of elements, you can tear each out of its context, join it with related ones, and organize them all according to your creative intuition since for her the point is to operate on that level.

Rather than ensnaring herself in the difficulties of the term "mystic" Jepson sensibly reduces the idea to the current, practical notion of "flow" (34), something that everyone must have experienced, even in writing juvenilia.  She says (75) that writers share with monks a yearning for authenticity, a passion for meaning, and art-for-art's-sake self-denial and discipline.  The writer as shaman (124) combines psychologist, priest, and seer as a specialist of the soul.  Finally, the essence of the writer as warrior (178) is to have an effect on the world neither recklessly nor maliciously but responsibly.  Although this part, with its emphasis on the opponent, failed to appeal to me, it includes issues like the inner editor as demon, discipline, writing with integrity, strategies, as well as recapitulating other themes.

The chapter entitled "Crazy Wisdom" offers appealing paradox.  Exercises therein like "Oxymora" and "Synaesthesia" can help create creative mixes.  Just the other day I saw a double rainbow and told a passing student who was walking away from it to "Stop and smell the rainbow."  You may wish to write your own Jabberwocky (56) poem, write with your non-dominant hand, or handicap a body part, say, one eye (59), just to shake things up.  As well, you may wish (28) to offer your stories as healing modalities as primitives do.

Examples from exercises:  "Nourishing Stories" (19) suggests the obvious but important process of writing biographies for your characters including the little activities of their life and (197) your opponent's biography; Jepson might have named her "Practicing Acceptance" (46) "Embrace your Blockage" rather than trying to beat it into submission; save your editorially rejected "darlings" (70) for one of them may kick off another writing; alternately eliminate all adverbs or adjectives (71); "turn aside" (82), smell the roses, to tap intuitive, creative awareness; "magic beans" (98) stalk unexpected sources behind discord; keep a journal (110) and periodically review it (114), including, of course, keeping a record of your reactions (180); visualize others as mythological archetypes (114) such as sage or nemesis; find a real safe haven nearby (134), reminiscent of est's inner room (interior terrain; 159); find a portal (144) as visualization trip over some threshold; choose a regularly appearing animal to observe (157) to learn from its wisdom, like what Castañeda's don Juan called hunting.  Observing new-born cats grow I once learned the nutritive origin of alternate paw-compression, how mother instructs by play-fighting, and how she imparts hygiene.

Much material in the book sounds like Fritz Perls's focus on what each element of a fantasy or dream has to say, a very productive process, as in (41) "allowing the stones to speak."

Although she has conducted workshops (7) using her tools rather than simply manufacturing them, it is unclear to what extent she actually used them with others to generate writing.  Such use would have allowed her to include examples of actual realizations attendees had.  Perhaps she intends a follow-up work which presents and comments on such responses.

She wrote the book in a straightforward manner so as to communicate maximally and directly, although use of undefined para-theological terms—"Universe," for example—may stand in the way of concrete understanding as when by reification she makes abstractions (11) do such things as offer gifts.  The nub of her thesis is that (6) "when you see your writing as more that a hobby, profession, or craft—as a profound expression of your self—you have no choice but to write with utter conviction and authenticity.  The deepest sources of creativity within you will open."

© 2009 Anthony P. Bober

A.P. Bober has studied a psychology spanning Skinner and a humanistic-clinical view based on existential phenomenology and had been a PhD candidate in a substantive yet philosophic European-based sociology including the "critical" view. His teaching augmented courses in group theory/"small-group developmental dynamics" (lab) while introducing "sociology of knowledge" and "issues in biological anthropology," with publications in the first two fields. Currently he is writing a book on mystical experience as metaphorically tied to neuroendocrinology.


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