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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

The Heart is a Compass

After that rather enigmatic post two weeks back, a couple of friends (faithful blog readers—thank you, thank you!) were a bit concerned when I wrote that “some important people in my life aren’t going to like the direction I’m headed in.” It’s nothing dramatic, it’s just the ordinary resistance you experience when the people who have always loved you don’t see why you need to change.

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This is how I feel on the inside, every day
.

As you may know, I went vegan two years ago this month. I have never felt happier, more loving or more at peace with my place in the world. I have never felt such clarity of mind and purpose. I am more honest than I used to be, and every day I experience joy and gratitude on way deeper levels. I love the lifestyle so much that I want to share this feeling with anyone who is open to it!

This is the shift I was alluding to a few weeks ago: I will always write novels, but novels aren’t enough. So in June I’ll be training with Victoria Moran to become a vegan lifestyle coach, with a focus on veganism for enhanced creativity. I am insanely excited about this new epoch in my career; I can see my life unfolding decade by decade toward (and past) the century mark, and this really is the beginning of the big work. No matter your dietary habits or personal philosophy, I trust you will support me as I make myself as useful as I can possibly be. (Later on in the summer I’ll be launching a brand-new website, which will have my book stuff and the vegan coaching stuff all in one place. I’m also making the jump to WordPress, which means I’ll have spam filters that actually work!)

I want to tell you more about the internal changes I experienced when I went vegan at Sadhana Forest two years ago, so you see how the shift came about and why I believe in the connection between veganism and creativity.

I arrived in India a longtime vegetarian feeling increasingly uneasy about consuming dairy products, although I wasn’t able to articulate this until afterward. I was really excited at the prospect of spending a month in a vegan community, so when Jamey sat down next to me at dinner one night and asked, “What’s keeping you from going vegan?”, I was totally ready to hear him out. He spoke his truth, and it became my truth. It felt like my head had cracked itself open and a great white light was shining through. Or—if you want to describe it more prosaically—a light bulb went off.

You are still hurting animals by consuming their milk and eggs.

You were not built to eat these things.

The world will be a better place for your choosing not to eat them any longer.

I was giddy with joy for having made the choice to go vegan. And then, a few days later, I came down with sunstroke.

I’d been drinking lots of water, but I hadn’t been getting enough electrolytes. (It happened to pretty much everyone at some point.) So I spent six days in the “healing hut,” alternately stumbling to the toilets and taking reluctant sips of downright nasty electrolyte powders dissolved in water. I slept a lot.

It sounds miserable, I know. I was miserable. But my brain was alight, and whenever I woke up from a fever dream I had to scribble in my journal. I finally got “the click” for my epic Edinburgh novel, what McCormick has referred to (bless her!) as “my Wolf Hall.” I tossed, I turned, I roused myself and wrote GOTHIC SATIRE! in exuberant capitals. I’d been waiting a long time for that click, and when it happened I momentarily forgot how rotten I felt. Looking back on those six days in the healing hut, I wonder if my body checked out so that my brain could process the leaps I was taking–psychologically, spiritually, and creatively.

It may seem at first like I’m making too much of this–making a connection between going vegan and getting good ideas when it’s just a coincidence–but believe me, it isn’t. Ever since I began writing in earnest in 2002, I have had “trough periods” in between novel projects. These periods could last up to two years, and were characterized by false starts, frustration, and plenty of self doubt. Before I went vegan, whatever new story I tried to work on right after a successful project was doomed, inevitably: there was a ghost novel between the practice novel and Mary Modern, another two or three ghost novels between Mary Modern and Petty Magic, and yet another one afterward. It bugged the hell out of me, but I figured this was just the way things were. This was how my brain worked, right? Wasn’t it just the nature of the creative cycle?

Not at all! The past two years have been my most prolific by far. I’ve written two novels, one of which–a children’s novel—I believe to be my best work. The other one, a new novel for adults (which I originally took for YA because the narrator is a teenager), is my agent’s favorite out of everything I’ve written. I have never written two successful novels in as many years before. I have never transitioned so seamlessly from one project to the next and back again. (I began with the adult novel in June 2011, pressed pause to write the children’s novel in early 2012, then returned to it at the end of last summer.)

The ideas keep coming, and these days everything clicks. I have my Edinburgh novel to look forward to along with another adult novel I may end up writing first (I actually wrote the first 10,000 words while I was in India), more travel writing (travelogues! YES!), and more stories for children. I have never felt so inspired, and I know it’s because I am striving to live with greater compassion and authenticity. And of course, on a physical level, I am thinking more clearly because I am no longer putting unnatural, disease-promoting substances in my body.

Why shouldn’t everyone feel this amazing? Why shouldn’t you?

* * *

I was trying to think of a catchy title for this post, and when I thought of “The Heart is a Compass” some other part of my brain kept wanting to replace it with “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.” It’s the title of a novel by Carson McCullers, which I remember as very finely written but relentlessly depressing. There is a piece of classic Yaddo gossip to do with McCullers crushing on Katherine Anne Porter, to the point where she literally curled up and fell asleep on the floor outside KAP’s bedroom door, and from what I’ve read about her, McCullers had a rather short and not particularly happy life. I’m bringing all this up because that particular string of words, “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” serves as a stark reminder that our thoughts really do create our reality. So here goes:

My heart is never lonely.

My heart is always full.

1 Comment to The Heart is a Compass

  1. crazyliberalkate's Gravatar crazyliberalkate
    April 2, 2013 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    It would make sense that being healthier would make you more productive.
    I’m excited for your new direction!

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.