I met Deb Cooperman at her home in the beautiful boonies of New Jersey in the midst of a month-long roadtrip capturing conversations about practice. At the time of our conversation a few years ago, she was nearing the end of one career and already in the midst of another, as a coach and writing mentor for women in transition, and her insights into the practice of writing and self-awareness are timeless.
Deb discusses journaling as a practice in being present and in consciously directing our attention, the challenges of being honest on the page, and the longer arc of truth that results from being in a writing practice over time. We talked about how we make space around the margins of full lives for, as Deb says, “the thing that gives us back to ourselves when the whole world is conspiring to take us away from that” – and how there’s not one right way to do that.
One of my many favorite moments in this conversation was Deb conveying the feeling of that sense of coming back to ourselves, an experience that is at its essence, indescribable – her words are resonant and true: “I find it’s a place of … I want to almost say it’s a place of rest, but it’s not really rest. I don’t rest there really. It feels like yes, it’s a place of yes.” Listen in for her entire beautiful description, and enjoy our whole conversation.
Deb offers this advice on writing practice – which happens to apply beautifully to any practice.
“…start where you are. If you think you can’t write, start there. Start with those words on the paper, ‘I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t think I can write.’ Then see where that takes you. I recommend that you try not to have any preconceived notions about what it’s supposed to be, or even what you’re going to get out of it. Just see what’s in your head, invite it to come out on the page, resist the urge to edit yourself. Don’t worry about spelling. Get it down. Resist the urge to perfect. Just start where you are. Say whatever comes up.”
Try it out, and let us know how it goes.