Rocks Away: The Writers We Choose Ourselves to Be

This week’s guest blogger, Lisa O’Neil, is a student in Writing Women’s Lives™ Transform Your Writing/Transform Your Life™ Mentoring Program, where she and her mother— Lorain Fox Davis, Native American Elder, teacher, and singer— are working together on a memoir that chronicles the powerful connection that persists between a mother and daughter despite generations of silence and separation in their Native American maternal lineage. Lisa recently attended a “girls writing weekend” with three other women writers. Together they created a sacred ritual of release and renewal that returned them to their writing truths. Today’s blog is Lisa’s reflection on that experience. 

Puget Sound

Photo by Leigh Kopicki


It is a mid-May day in the Pacific Northwest, overcast and hushed with a palette of grey-blues and muted forest greens. We sit on a rocky beach of Penn Cove wearing fleece and wooly hats and whatever else was found in the nearby cabin to keep us warm. We are four women coming together in support of the writers we choose ourselves to be.


We have collected various rocks to represent those aspects of ourselves that block or hinder the writer in us, and we mean to release these subversive ideas with each toss of a rock into the body of water before us.


One writer, a soft-spoken and petite high-tech consultant now studying massage therapy, throws a rock that she is stupid, that she is not intelligent enough to write, and she then throws another that she isn’t worthy to write, that she has nothing worthy to say. As she shares, my body responds and I am reminded how visceral truth is, and how binding it is when shared. We cheer with each release and when she is done she is visibly lighter and surprised. This is sacred work.


Photo by Kris Parfit

Photo by Kris Parfit


Our next writer rears back and then lets loose her rock of dullness; she throws the rock that what she has to say, to write, will be dull. I am touched and honored to witness this vivacious woman who has travelled the world give voice to and then release this particular rock that no longer serves her. Then, in quick repetition, she slings in more rocks. We cheer her on with each emphatic toss, clapping loudly and hooting.


The next writer chooses a hefty rock that will make a big splash upon impact because that’s how she wants it. Into the water she hurls the rock that nobody will want to hear what she has say anyway, which is lunacy as she commands my ear whenever she speaks. We cheer as this rock creates an audible sploosh followed by a fabulous shower of spray. This is followed by a few more rocks, splashes, and cheers. Thank you is my prayer.


And lastly, the writer that I am, she throws in her dentedness, her brokenness, her bitterness and calcification, for she no longer wishes to hold these. She prefers now to chuck ’em into the Sound, where they will be caressed and worn smooth with each tidal breath. Celebratory hoots and hollers abound.


With the conclusion of the ritual we tuck into writing spaces among the tangle of beachside driftwood and rocky outcrops. Eventually we make our way back to the parked car as bodies chill and hunger calls. And this writer notices, as the car pulls out of the park side, a road sign titled Rockaway, and she beams: Rocks away indeed.


What mindsets block your writing? What rock would you toss into the water to return you to your writing truth? Let us know in the comments below so that we can cheer as you become the writer you choose yourself to be.


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  • Janet Evans May 20, 2015   Reply →

    Hi Marilyn, I love these small challenges. They certainly get me thinking.
    I could have chisen any one of the “rocks” thrown by Lisa and friends…..

    Up to this point writing about Grandmothers and favorite people in my memoir stories has been fairly comfortable. When considering writing about my husbands recent cancer diagnosis and his courageous struggle so far, it becomes harder. I cannot say it is the anger, that is there for sure, but pehaps the sadness and denial of what is to come that holds me back.

    I know, for me, writing is a definite release. I have been able, at times, to difuse my anger and resentment with putting words on paper. Therefore, I need to begin
    Sharing those feelings…. If only with myself.

    • Marilyn Bousquin May 30, 2015   Reply →

      What beautiful insights here, Janet: “I cannot say it is the anger, that is there for sure, but pehaps the sadness and denial of what is to come that holds me back.” Thanks so much for giving us a glimpse into your writing process. Warmly, M

  • Charla May 27, 2015   Reply →

    Marilyn, I so loved this challenge. Sitting here in a rustic cabin overlooking the Pacific, I made a list and then burned it in the wood stove.
    Here are some of the false beliefs that hold me back from writing my memoir, and I am so relieved to release them!
    I am not good enough.
    I have nothing to say.
    No one wants to read it anyway.
    Writing about myself is just self-indulgent and narcisstic.
    My experiences and feelings don’t matter.
    It all happened a long time ago.
    I am afraid of being judged and criticized.
    I am afraid of encountering and experiencing painful emotions.
    I am afraid of losing my mind.
    I will hurt my family and am being disloyal.
    I will never do my story justice.

    • Marilyn Bousquin May 28, 2015   Reply →

      Hi, Charla. What an excellent ritual for returning to your writing truth! I may have to “steal” this : ). I’ll pass your comment on to Lisa–she’ll be so pleased to know that her words spoke to you. Best best, M

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