She Writes, an international online organization serving over 20,000 writers, featured this post last week. It was #4 on their “Top Content” rating, which lists their top 20 posts.
Last week I posted this on my facebook fan page: “If I’d realized as a child that stars were never scolded for shinning, I might not have been embarrassed by—or ashamed of—my own light.”
Thirty-five people “liked” the post, a couple thanked me for it, and one person had this to say: “If you’re going to pay for a post to be featured on the walls of people who don’t know you, effectively spamming them, and tell them what a great resource you are for writers, you might want to spell-check it first. I’m just sayin’. Shinning?”
My heartbeat accelerated. I googled the word “shinning” and realized I’d meant to write, “shining.” At first I felt embarrassed, offended, and defensive. Then I centered myself and connected with my core, where I know who I am and what I have to offer writers.
I recalled another post I’d written earlier in the week on my fan page about inner gremlins trying to sabotage my writing. Fifty people had liked that post and three had shared it. The attention that post received had surprised me. I almost didn’t post it because I was afraid to show my weakness and appear less than perfect. I mentioned this on my page, and then added, “Who wants to read anything—or spend time with a ‘perfect’ person. The more transparency I allow, the higher my chances of connecting deeply.”
Grounded in this awareness, I understood that the heated energy of the post I’d received had less to do with me, and more to do with the person writing it. I consciously chose to release all feelings of shame and defensiveness. From this place I penned my response:
“Thanks for catching that. Wish I could say it was a typo, but it was an error, and since ‘shinning’ is the present participle of ‘shin,’ spell-check didn’t catch it. I apologize for the eyesore. I never thought of promoted posts as spam. My intention is to be of service. I’m a midwife of stories, not a copyeditor. I’m sure you know the art and craft of writing consists of much more than spelling. I help people reach into deep, dark places. Still, I understand your frustration, and as a fellow lover of words, I don’t enjoy seeing them mangled either. So again, thank you.”
Soon after, I received this private message from the woman who’d sent that comment: “I appreciate you taking it without offense. As a former newspaper copyeditor, I cringe when I see errors like that, particularly when it’s someone promoting writing! I almost didn’t post because I didn’t want to be snarky, and I should have been kinder about it. I’ll have to check out your site. I’m working on a book and might need some help!”
The point of this post is not to suggest spelling and grammar don’t matter. They do. I’m meticulous about having my work copyedited before sending it to journals, agents, and editors. My spelling has improved over the years, a result of my love for reading, which blossomed as a young adult. I’ve grown to enjoy grammar, too, tools of my trade. A recent article, “Ten Mistakes Writers Make,” inspired me to buy The Chicago Manual of Style, which I’m looking forward to reading—for fun! But not all writers are great spellers or grammarians. Last week in class two of my most imaginative storytellers felt embarrassed for not knowing what a “gerund” was. I’ve also worked with people who never finished, or even attended, college, and don’t have a strong command of the language, but can still tell a wicked story! So don’t think if you can’t spell, if you’re dyslexic, or if you don’t know the rules of grammar that you can’t write. Learn everything you can about your art and craft, have your work proofread by a pro, and never be ashamed of what you don’t know.
Last week, while in Claremont, California, visited Buddhamouse Emporium, a shop that carries imported ritual objects, art, music, and books. I was drawn to an oblong, polished stone.
“That’s a Shiva Lingam,” the saleslady said. “Are you familiar with those?”
I shook my head.
“They are sacred stones collected from a river in India. Here,” she said, “read this.”
She handed me a small sheet of paper, upon which these words were written:
“SHIVA LINGAM – Representing the power of Shiva, Vedic Lord of Creation. These sacred stones are collected from the Narmanda River in Central India during the dry season. Artisans shape and polish the stones to bring out the natural markings in their composite of quartz, basalt, iron oxide, and agate, which were fused together by a meteorite. The lingam is a powerful energy generator, appropriate for meditation and healing.”
I wasn’t sure why, but I associated the word “lingam” with penis. I didn’t really want a “penis stone,” and yet I couldn’t put the thing down. I carried it around the store with me while browsing. The stone was heavy—three or four pounds, I suspected. I’ve always preferred feminine icons and ritual objects. I studied the stone. It also looks like an elongated egg, I thought, making a case for its feminine attributes. And its abstract design resembles a pregnant woman bent forward, protecting her fetus.
“I like how it embodies energy from both sexes,” I said to the saleslady.
She nodded. “It’s supposed to stimulate creation.”
I could feel that in the stone, though I resisted my feelings as well as the saleslady’s words. The skeptic in me wondered, Is this stone more “sacred” than the ones in my yard?
Still, I didn’t want to put the stone down. Not only because of its smooth surface, but because of its energy, which I found comforting. I was all set to buy it when I saw the price: $70.00.
Suddenly, I found fault with the stone: “It’s not as if I could use it during my chakra mediations,” I said to the saleslady. “It would roll off if I put in on my body.”
“It is what it is,” she said, smiling.
I picked up the stone again. I loved its sleek heft. Still, $70.00 seemed steep, so I put it down, thanked the saleslady, and left the store.
While browsing other shops, and later, during dinner at a nearby restaurant, I couldn’t get this stone out of my mind. It called me, so an hour after I’d left Buddhamouse Emporium I returned and bought the stone. This was similar to my sewing box purchase in that I had no idea what I was going to do with it at first.
“It looks like a penis,” my teenage daughter said when she saw it.
“Yeah, I got myself a penis stone.” I said. “Well, actually it’s a Shiva Lingam.” I launched into my elongated egg theory before asking, “Doesn’t that pattern look like a pregnant lady protecting her fetus?”
Wikipedia says the Sanskrit word “lingam” has many meanings, such as mark, sign, and characteristic, to name a few. It also says, “The lingam and the yoni have been interpreted as the male and female sexual organs since the end of the 19th century by some scholars, while to practicing Hindus they stand for the inseparability of the male and female principles and the totality of creation.”
That’s how it felt to me: like the totality of creation. I appreciated the way the stone seemed to celebrate and call forth my creative energy. My rational mind believes this energy is not the stone’s magic; it’s me projecting creative abundance onto the stone—but either way, I feel calm, focused, and creative when I hold it.
The first night I brought it home my daughter had a stomachache. “Want to use my penis stone?” I asked. “You can massage your belly with it.”
It worked great for her, so I tried too. What an excellent massage tool! It’s the perfect shape for a stomach massage with its round, yet pointy tips that get into deep tissue. It also works great when rolled.
To my surprise, the stone stayed in place on my belly while lying in bed, in both horizontal and vertical positions. It turned out I didn’t even want to put that stone down while I slept! I fell asleep with it on my belly that first night, and under my palm the next. I’ll admit, I felt a little silly sleeping with a stone, but I couldn’t deny my rest was more peaceful than usual and I awakened feeling exceptionally grounded, calm, and eager to create.
I’m not saying this was because of the stone. And I’m not saying it wasn’t. What I am saying is the stone reminds me to keep my heart and mind open, to listen, to recognize that communication happens on multiple levels, to stay connected to the natural world, to accept people (and things) the way they are, and to take time to learn their secrets.