Montecito resident Diana Raab is a memoirist, poet, essayist, blogger, educator, and award-winning author. Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life is her eighth book. I recently spoke with Raab about journaling, telling stories as a way of self-discovery, and being courageous in your writing.
What was the genesis of your new book, Writing for Bliss? My passion for writing began at the age of 10, when my mother gave me a Kahlil Gibran journal after my grandmother/caretaker committed suicide in my childhood home. My mother was an English major in college and suggested that I pour my feelings and sadness onto the pages of my journal.
So, journaling as a way to heal loss? That’s right. Since then, my journal has been my confidant and best friend. I’ve used it to navigate difficult times, and it’s also a place to store memories and creative ideas that later result in poems, essays, and books. My journals have also been an invaluable and integral part of my healing and transformation during transitional times in my life, such as adolescence, three pregnancies laden with bed rest, menopause, and two bouts with cancer.
I know from reading your many articles that you have a knack for simplifying complicated information. I try! Writing for Bliss is a culmination of my life’s work. Ever since my mother gave me that first journal, I have used writing for healing — also the subject of my doctoral work, which focused on the transformative powers of writing a memoir. After getting my PhD, I continued my path of teaching writing-for-transformation workshops. Many participants asked if I would write a book they could use as a reference after the workshop ended.
Obviously, you’re a big advocate of journaling, which is a very private activity, yet you’re also someone who writes online for a number of venues. Can you talk about the tensions between private and public writing? Is it possible to “write for bliss” while also writing for publication? The pendulum from private to public writing is always changing. As a two-time cancer survivor, I have had to learn to be both fearless and courageous, which is essential for being a good writer. When you release your fears, you accept what happens in your life, and a sense of wonder follows. However, writer’s block can occur if the fear of telling your story gets in the way. Fear can be immobilizing and limit your joy and bliss.
How so? If you’re fearful, then you’re not living in the moment. Sharing my stories gives others courage to share theirs. Storytelling is a reminder of the interconnectedness between humans.
If readers were to take away one lesson from Writing for Bliss, what would you want that lesson to be? That’s a tough one, as I have shared many lessons and pieces of wisdom in the book, which I’ve compiled from more than five decades of writing. My overarching message to my readers is to give them permission to tell their stories as a way to attain self-discovery. Another crucial message is the importance of finding one’s life passion as a way to happiness by asking the question: Why am I here, and what is the meaning of my life?
Being in touch with your heart center is also at the core of any well-being practice. When writing, it’s important to be in touch with your heart because it is usually a truth holder. Speaking from the heart helps it open up and expand. This expansion can lead to a greater sense of freedom and bliss.
Join Diana Raab on Saturday, September 16, 3-5 p.m., at Tecolote Book Shop (1740 E. Valley Rd., Ste. 52) for a book-signing and book-launch celebration, and on Saturday, September 30, 2:30-5 p.m., at The Sacred Space (2594 Lillie Ave., Summerland) for a book-signing and talk.