A New Way of Writing, A Different Way of Relating

(Bringing the Inner Relationship Focusing process to the writing practice*)


Don’t charge towards the center in a single, breathless blur. Instead, take a single step forward

or an angled step sideways. You choose. Then sit with what you find. Maybe you sense an emotion or a sensation. Perhaps, a bit of both: freezy nervousness, lumbering exhaustion, sparkling flares of delight. Yes, even images may come. Nothing is random. Or, maybe you notice a kind of numbness, an edgeless fog, or a traveling to nowhere kind of mood. Well, that’s something. We start where we are.


And sometimes, when taking our next step, we may hear a voice full of clamoring judgement and scissoring shame. “What good is this?” “And, you think you could write?” Understandably, we feel forced to defend ourselves. We will not be blunted and permit our words to be doubted, or even worse, erased. But what if this part isn’t a villain who’s out to get us and cut us down, but instead a fierce friend who’s trying to pace us and protect us. Maybe, it’s scared of how quickly we’re moving and what we’ll find or feel if we keep racing forward in this direction. Notice what happens when you turn towards it and ask, “Might you be worried?” So often there’s the feel of a body-based yes. A sigh. A shift. We might even sense what it’s worried about...what it’s not wanting us to experience or go through. And then, we listen without agreeing or disagreeing. We’re not trying to calm it, change it, fix it or shush it. We’re listening to just how it is and what it wants to say. And, as it shares, we might begin to understand why it’s feeling the way it is....and behaving the way it does. No wonder. We might even sense just how much it cares for us and what it’s most wanting us to experience.


Then, when it feels heard and you feel ready, pick up your pen and begin again. Allow the candlelit glow of your presence to welcome whatever is in your experience right now, in this very moment. Meet what surfaces and wants to be met rather than chasing after what’s shy and dodging your attention. As writers our job is to receive what wants to come of its own volition rather than forcing it to arrive before it feels ready. Writing is an act of patience, an exercise of showing up and building trust. We don’t want our words to adapt to our expectations and arrive dressed in well worn threads of familiarity. We want them to arrive at the time of their choosing entirely untamed and wildly fresh. Rarely do our words debut themselves upon the page adorned in the trim-fit poise of Kate Middleton glam. And, that’s okay! Of course, we often need to go back and re-read what we wrote, but the word editing is too cerebral, distant and detached. I prefer the word refining...sensing more closely for a single word or string of words that fit this feeling better … or...sensing if there’s an image that can better express what feels a bit wordless. But don’t start refining too soon. Don’t be afraid of the drifting, tangled up mess accumulating upon the page. Embrace the summer swiftness of run-on sentences and the autumn crispness of fragments. See what happens when you let go of agenda-driven plans and begin writing from a place of uncensored awareness rooted in embodied presence.


*A huge shout out of thanks and appreciation to Ann Weiser Cornell, my teacher and co-developer of Inner Relationship Focusing (IRF). The invitation to turn towards the Inner Critic and the steps that followed in paragraph two come from my IRF training and studies. IRF has radically changed my life in how I chose to live it and engage with it. So, naturally it’s beginning to show up in my writing with a stronger, perhaps even louder, presence.


- Lauren Taub Cohen