Ever since I was a child, I dreamed of writing a book. When I was eight years old, when people asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I said, “Pens!” which was my young way of saying, “I want to write.” So I got a lot of pens for Christmas, but I didn’t start writing seriously for another thirty years. Although I am most widely known for my book The Work We Were Born To Do I nearly didn’t get it published. I nearly sabotaged that life-long dream. This is the story of saying Yes! in face of my own great resistance, in September 1998.
I was giving talks on The Work We Were Born To Do and running some workshops in London, UK and beginning to be invited abroad. I also wondered whether that childhood dream of writing a book might be fulfilled through writing a book on this subject. So I started putting some ideas on paper, fleshing out a chapter or two and then learning what a “publishing proposal” was, and developing proposal for this book. At the time, it was all unknown territory for me.
I was involved with Alternatives so knew the major publishers in the mind, body, spirit area were, and the names of their commissioning editors. I took a deep breath and decided I would send the proposal for out to half a dozen of those publishers, half expecting to be laughed at. But to my great surprise, several expressed interest, and I had meetings with two of them.
Then, a short while later, thorough the post, I actually received a letter from Julia McCutchen, MD of Element Books. The letter said they would like to publish my book, and offering me the contract to write it. As I read the letter several times, my internal dialogue went something like this:
“Oh, shit, they’re serious. They’ve actually sent me a contract to sign. I wasn’t that serious, I was only curious.”
All my life I had dreamed of writing that book. And here at the age of forty, I was being offered a contract to commission me to write my book – and instead of being excited, I was mostly terrified. Part of me wanted to run away. My thinking went like this:
“What if the book bombed and no-one was interested? I’d look stupid and feel guilty and feel obliged to pay back their advance. What about all the trees that would have to be cut down to print it? What a shame that I would be the cause of trees being cut down. What if people took my advice or suggestions and then blamed me for their life not working? Or what if they even sued me? What if I can’t actually write it, what I can’t actually deliver?” What if I am met with massive indifference? What if, by writing the book, I will no longer be needed? By writing the book, no-one will need me to speak, coach or teach, because it will all be in the book.”
My resistance was having a field day.
It was one of those moments when I felt Life had called my bluff: OK, you said you wanted this, so here it is. So, what are you going to do now?
For a few days, I did nothing, and went in to some denial about what was on offer. I kept checking to see if I had received a contract with someone else’s name on it. No, definitely my name. I am definitely being offered £10,000 to write the book that has been germinating in me for years. They definitely want me to hand it in, in three months time if I sign the contract, and they have it scheduled to publish it in September 1999. This is suddenly very real and very grown up. I could become a published author with one of the UK’s most successful independent publishers.
I sensed deep down that my life could change significantly if I decided to sign that contract. It was like an initiation, an invitation to cross a threshold and make a conscious decision to alter the trajectory of my life.
With, my head still spinning, I took time to be quiet and ask my own soul what to do. If souls shriek at us, mine did, although gently! “Of course you should sign the contract,” it seemed to be saying, “You are a communicator, that’s one of the reasons why you are here. Please sign and send the contract back, now!”
So with a deep breath, I did sign the contract, put it in its envelope and walked briskly to post it in the post-box outside the home in Tottenham I shared with Helen before my resistance came back with another wave.
But something miraculous happened as I signed and posted the contract. In the process of committing to write that book and have it published, my anxiety lifted and a wave of peace seemed to flow through me. It was as though that the act of commitment had caused my demons to flee. And at the same time, I also felt like a door opened in me, a door to inspiration that had been closed for a long time.
Over the next three months, that door to inspiration stayed open and I spent between 3 and 13 hours writing each day. I completed and submitted the manuscript on time and the book came out and gradually gained a following (well before social media) and gently became a best-seller, a book for its time. It has become my signature work and got me invite s to speak, coach and teach around the world.
Something even more important happened when I signed the contract: the door to inspiration that opened has remained open ever since. I have many more ups and downs and many more layers of fear and resistance, but I felt like signing that contract was a commitment to showing up in the world and share my heart and soul with the world to the best of my ability. It was a commitment to a life of continual awakening to more and more of my own soul, and to who I truly am.
And in retrospect, I see that the idea of The Work We Were Born To Do wanted to exist in this world, and I chose to be the willing conduit for its existence. In writing it, I served myself, but I now see that I was, and still am, serving “Some greater mystery.” I have been blessed to hear many stories of how that book changed people’s lives, and there are probably thousands of stories I will never hear. I like the idea that a need in the world draws forth our gifts in response.
It’s not my business to know the results of what I wrote, it was my job to beat my resistance and make sure the book did exist. I am so glad I chose to sign that contract. We often say that a book changed our lives; certainly writing that book and getting it published changed mine. It gave me a tangible experience of the magic and miracles that happen when we choose to go beyond our own resistance and discover what’s on the other side. And it was the beginning of what has become a “whole body of work.”
If you know anyone who is struggling with their resistance to following their own dream, please feel free to share this post.