Making Space for New Voices – Guest Post with Leesa Renee Hall

May 16, 2018

I feature a woman of color’s work once a month. I hope you will support their work and learn from them. Please click the links and explore!

I love Leesa’s work, and the story of her discovery of her writing process and the incredible questions she offers to unpack colonization. Thanks Leesa for being here.


What and whom supports you to be brave and true to yourself?

During my year of writing, I explored my heritage. I pulled together my family tree, and marvelled at the names of my ancestors. I was able to trace my lineage back to the 17th century and stopped only because I couldn’t find any additional records.

The slave trade brought my European and West African ancestors to the island of Jamaica. My European ancestors owned plantations that my West African ancestors were forced to work on with no compensation for their labour. This paradox of having the blood of the oppressor and the oppressed running through my veins has been both bewildering and fascinating.

The only way to reconcile this paradox was to write expressively. My West African ancestors teach me how to write bravely, even when others don’t like my words. My European ancestors teach me me something as well. I’m still struggling to understand what that is, so I continue to write. What I do know is that honouring all my ancestors and being able to name each one is an act of liberation.

Via your Patreon page www.leesareneehall.com/patron you teach expressive writing prompts to help people “burn through toxic core beliefs.” What lead you to teach expressive writing?

In my year of writing, I asked myself questions to help me unpack my internal programming. About 10-months in, I wrote a blog post containing some expressive writing prompts to help unpack whiteness (not white skin; there’s a profound difference).

The blog post was shared 10,000 times in just three weeks, the most any of my blog posts have been shared (the average is 250 times). I was suddenly thrust into the limelight as a thought leader on anti-racist education, and it was both everything I wanted and nothing I wanted.

Not only did I have to remind people that I’m a writer, not an anti-racist educator, but I also started getting requests for more writing prompts to unpack whiteness. That’s when I launched my exclusive community on Patreon. Once a week, I release a new writing prompt to help spiritual leaders question their internal programming around skin colour, identity, and inclusion.

I’ve seen some of my clients repair broken relationships with family members, improve communications with their spouse or life partner, and become more courageous in sharing their lived experience on social media. Not only are my patrons unpacking whiteness, they’re also repairing relationships. I had no clue that I’d become a relationship fixer!

You also say on your Patreon page, “When I tasted my soul’s words, I realized I was starving.” Can you tell us about being starved and how you found your soul’s words? What was that process like?

When I started my year of writing on January 3, 2017, my goal was to write my first novel. As I developed the characters, I started seeing elements of me in each one. Yet, some of the characters left me confused. I couldn’t understand who they were and as I look back, I understand it’s because I didn’t fully understand me.

After writing a chapter a day for 59-days straight, I wrote about my angst around a professional setback on Day 60. I did that again on Day 61 and again every morning after that. My soul was offering something to me that I had never sampled before and as I ate each word, I realized what I was missing.

I had ignored my soul’s voice for so long in my attempt to be what others wanted me to be. My soul was crying out to be heard, and it wasn’t until I started developing the character of Leesa that I realized what I was missing all this time.

You also write a post entitled Dear Descendants of the Colonizers – what made you start that and what do you hope those messages do in the world?

I saw the movie, Black Panther, and there’s a scene where Princess Shuri, after being startled by the white CIA agent, says:

“Don’t scare me like that colonizer.”

The scene was funny and I laughed, but in 2018, most white people will say they did not colonize anything. That’s when “Descendants of the Colonizers” popped into my brain. From a historical perspective, that phrasing is more correct.

In the letters which I share through my Facebook page, I challenge a commonly held myth that white people may have about skin colour, or spirituality. In one letter, I started off by saying, “Not  seeing skin colour is harmful.” In another letter, I started the letter with, “Borrowing someone’s spiritual traditions is theft.” I’ve published seven so far and each has been shared thousands of times.

It was then that one of my patrons asked if I could publish a book containing the letters. Another patron suggested I launch a podcast. My goal is to do both in the Fall of 2018 so I can help the descendants of the colonizers liberate themselves from the guilt and mess their ancestors left for them to clean up. If we remember the past, we are far less prone to repeat it.

You have a morning and evening routine that you credit with helping you produce a lot of words. Can you share a little bit about those routines?

In my year of writing, I wrote half a million words before 5am over 365 consecutive days. It wasn’t easy, but sticking to a predictable bedtime routine helped.

To wake at 4:30am, I need, at least, seven hours of sleep per night. That means I have to be asleep by 9:30pm. Here’s what my afternoon/evening schedule looked like:

  • By 2:00pm, I consume my last caffeinated drink
  • By 6:30pm, I consume my last meal of the day (nothing spicy)
  • By 7:30pm, I pack my gym bag and grab a shower
  • By 8:30pm, I’m in bed, and I do a brain dump of any ideas rolling in my head
  • By 9:00pm, I put away my notebook, turn on my sleep app alarm and sleep podcast, then turn out the lights
  • Sometime around 9:30pm, I’m asleep

My morning routine is equally as structured. I wake at 4:30am, take care of my biology needs, make a cup of coffee (or tea, depends on my mood), then sit at my desk no later than 4:50am to write. I write, at minimum, 750-words. This word count is equivalent to three pages of handwritten notes, otherwise known as morning pages, as suggested by writing mentor, Julia Cameron in her book entitled The Artist’s Way. After I write, I go to the gym to work out.

It can take me as little as 20-minutes to as much as 40-minutes to write. Sometimes I write the minimum, 750-words; sometimes I write more. No matter what, I always write. Even if it’s just to start off by saying, “I don’t know what to write.”

I’ve found that I no longer experience writer’s block now that I’ve developed a daily habit of writing. The words just seem to flow effortlessly. I have so much to write and so much to unpack and so much to share.

I love writing in the early morning. I get out my angst, anger, and pain. I write each morning without editing or censoring myself. It’s 750 angry, raw, unfiltered words. And once I unload, I’m able to turn my attention to writing essays, blog posts, and articles that I then share with the world.

Raw writing is a communion between God, my soul, and me. My personal trinity. What we share during that morning, sacred writing time is between the three of us.

Links:

Become a patron and get new writing prompts to help question your internal programming www.leesareneehall.com/patron

Expressive Writing Prompts to Release White Fragility & Spiritual Bypassing www.leesareneehall.com/writingprompts

The 11 Lessons I Learning Writing Half a Million Words Over 365 Consecutive Days www.leesareneehall.com/writinglessons

Leesa Renee Hall is an author, facilitator, social historian, and creative word artist. After writing half a million words over 365 consecutive days, Leesa helps spiritual leaders use the art of self-inquiry to question their internal programming so they create truly inclusive communities, companies, and corporations. Leesa is on the Advisory Committee for Awarepreneurs, and her tips have been featured in American Express OPEN, Globe & Mail, and Inc. Magazine, along with television, radio, and podcast appearances.

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