In August of 2020, Jill Daniels of Happy Women Dinners asked me to moderate an online book club with Sue Monk Kidd exploring her novel The Book of Longings. I calmly said yes while jumping around my studio like my puppy Willa.
Because like millions of readers, I love Sue Monk Kidd. The book of hers that I’ve read and reread is When The Heart Waits. I remember getting a copy from my publisher in 1992. (Those were heady days, you’d go into your editor’s office and there would be all these books and you could just TAKE them. An armload of books. Be still my reader’s heart.)
Fast forward two years when Sue and I talked on Create Out Loud and I can say it was one of the most transformative conversations I’ve ever had.
I ask my listeners what their takeaways are at the end of each podcast episode and I thought I’d share mine from talking with Sue…
Follow your thread
I asked Sue if she knew how she had consistently spoken to women about what mattered most to them and she said, “…when you truly write from the source, from that deep interior place in yourself, and you truly authentically follow your thread, if you go deep enough, sometimes you hit a wealth of universal content and material.” To follow your thread speaks to me because I love that poem by William Stafford “The Way It Is” that includes these lines,
“There’s a thread you follow. It goes among things that change. But it doesn’t change. People wonder about what you are pursuing. You have to explain about the thread.”
I call the thread “signature themes” in Why Bother? And while I feel I know mine very well, it’s easy to lose sight of them, to discount them in pursuit of bright and shiny. Sue reminded me that’s folly.
The dignity and creative confidence that comes from self-trust + desire
A number of times Sue told stories about how she reoriented herself away from self-doubt like when she was stuck writing The Mermaid Chair after the huge success of The Secret Life of Bees. I could hear the self-trust and desire to choose what she wanted as she spoke, and I was moved by the dignity in her choice. It was a profound reminder to me that the choice to choose my work, my voice, my ideas, is always within my control.
“At least once in your life take your own breath away.”
This was perhaps my favorite line from our talk. Take your own breath away with what you conceive and desire to create or to experience — adventures and relationships and anything counts. Now I’m listening with quiet faith for when my next creative idea flits into my mind and heart and steals my breath and gives me goosebumps. What a great intention.
I want to add this doesn’t mean my idea needs to be big or even public, but it needs to utterly excite me.
“Writing is an act of courage that serves your soul”
Two things struck me from this one: to recognize that the fear I feel when I write is simply part of the job description is so liberating. It’s also a wonderful way to counter the Itty-Bitty-Shitty-Committee as in “Yep I’m feeling uncomfortable putting words on the page, so what? It means nothing so you dear Committee need not make up a complicated story about why I should quit. Save your energy.”
Second is that little phrase, “serves your soul.” I’m not exactly sure what a soul is or what serves mine, but I do know what leaves me drained and dead feeling. I’m working every day to do less of that and more of the courageous creating out loud that brings me alive. And it feels great, if sometimes terrifying.
I hope you loved the conversation with Sue–many of you have reached out to say you had to listen twice!– and if you haven’t had a chance to listen yet, you can listen right here.
And if you have listened, could you please leave me an Apple Podcast review? It makes such a difference to get people to listen and also to get the podcast boosted by Apple. My producer made you a little video about how to leave one–it’s easy! Thank you so much!