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Writing into Your Truth

Looking Up

Looking Up

You’ve probably heard this phrase said another way: write what you know. To be honest with you, I didn’t think anyone would be interested in fiction based on what I know. It stumped me, but only until I learned about a writer’s truth.

In 2011 I went on a retreat held at the Franciscan Spirituality Center in La Crosse, WI along the upper Mississippi River. Sleeping in basic rooms often occupied by nuns or clergy, I committed to a journey called, “Awakening the Soul of the Writer.” At that time my fledgling novel manuscript consisted of a few scenes and I knew that I needed a break from my busy career to just focus on writing.

What I learned that week in retreat was that not only are my characters on a hero’s journey in their story, but as the writer, I’m also taking that same journey into transformation. We think we change the writing, but truly writing changes us. And how it changes us depends upon how deep we are willing to write into our truths.

On retreat, we took a riverboat tour on the Mississippi. We were instructed to observe and write. Watching a tiny spider in her web, I realized that her carefully crafted silk was knitted to paint and steel.  When I shared my observation with my fellow writers, I had a huge epiphany. It wasn’t so much that truth resided in facts or that my writing was purely brain activity, it was how I perceived the world that gave me my own truth.

Think about your creativity a moment.

That creativity sparks when we engage with the simplest things around us, like a spider. Our truth is what it means to us, what we have to say about it. Suddenly, I realized that I could speak truth simply by paying attention to life all around me. That realization breathed new life into my writing; I felt connected. I had found my voice.

Driving home, the world looked different to me. Suddenly, my camera was fun again. It had become a point of frustration because I felt critical of my lack of technical skill with a camera. But the truth is, I don’t see with the aperture and other settings; I see with my writer’s eye for stories. I felt free to take pictures as a writer; I no longer had to be a photographer. Some of my best photos came from that trip home.

Use your own truth, your observations, experiences and natural settings to enrich the worlds and characters that you write about. Weave a web of words that can only come from you and connect with readers through simple truths as you connect silk to steel. Go into your writing willing to discover who you are, and accepting the writer that will emerge.

Next Monday, I’ll focus on crafting a writer’s statement as a way to empower your writing commitment.

© Image by Charli Mills from After the Retreat



  1. Your words give me pause… I’ve never thought about writing in just this way. Thanks for this insight. ~Elf

  2. Ruthi says:

    I am really looking forward to all that will share on this writing journey. Thanks for being willing to share your knowledge and truth.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Somewhere it has been said, we learn by teaching and I find that to be true! I’m here to learn, too and I have so many bright lights of inspiration around me from writers like you.

  3. susanzutautas says:

    I will be following all your Monday posts and look forward to reading them.

  4. sylvestermouse says:

    What a fabulous retreat opportunity! I do appreciate you sharing your insight. Even though it only took me a few minutes to read and I didn’t have the benefit of the full retreat, simply reading your account made me think and consider how much our everyday lives and things we might just so often walk right past, can easily be the very thing that could make a huge difference and be a great inspiration.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Back to dreaming about retreats on Elmira Pond for writers, I’d love to create space for writers to come together, socialize, learn and retreat into quiet spaces for writing, walking the pond, digging in the dirt, sitting on a rock in the Pack River. Little observations teach us to reflect; reflection shows up in our writing.

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