Conversation with a candle

Most of us have memories we’d rather forget, but forgetting isn’t an option. Writing about the situation often pulls the plug on the power these memories have on your mind, but it takes a lot of time to write, and you may not want to run the risk of having your words discovered.

Take heart. Take hope. And talk, if only to a candle.

A candle as therapist? No, I have not lost my mind. Quite the contrary, I think I found it. I recently wrote a post about reading Paulo Coelho’s book The Zahir, and the importance he places on telling stories as a preliminary to becoming more loving. Although this injunction intuitively rings true, he doesn’t give directions on how to go about it.

Coelho’s first book of note was The Alchemist, published in English in 1994, and I must be the last person on the planet to read this book. Aside from selling millions of copies, it is always checked out in libraries. Where have I been? I finally reached the top of the reserve list at the library the other day and set about reading my third Coelho title.

Halfway through the book, I was overcome by the urge to stop and “tell my story.” I was home alone, and . . . you can find the details of that occasion in a story I posted on my site on For those who don’t have time just now to click over and read it, I’ll summarize by saying it was a transformative experience, and one I highly recommend.

From this event I discovered that sometimes sitting back and talking, even to a candle, can lead to greater self-awareness and insight than writing for months. Furthermore, that insight can have a powerful impact on your writing.

I’ve reached the point in my writing that the urge to continue piling up “scrapbook” stories is waning. I’m becoming more interested in compiling my collection into more complex memoir form. Without a vision of that unifying thread, there isn’t much hope for a meaningful melange, and I hadn’t found that thread.

One of the outcomes of my mysterious life review sort of process was finding that thread. By sitting and telling my story, without interruption or the need to clarify, explain or defend, a sense of orderly progression developed. Lots of other good things happened, but I’ll let you read about those in the story. This post is about writing.

Should you wish to experiment with my discovery, I suggest these ingredients:
  • A comfortable chair or other place where you can sit upright, without needing to squirm for an hour or two.
  • A block of unstructured time, at least two hours.
  • Privacy — if you can’t find time alone at home, try a park or other secluded spot. Turn off your cell phone!
These are the basics. I found darkness helpful, along with a candle for a focal point, but a leafy glen would work as well. The important thing is to find a place that “feels right.” This is an intuitive process. There are no rules. Read my story, and see where it leads you. You can make notes if you like, but I, the compulsive writer, found it liberating to just talk. You can share your thoughts later if you wish, but this is about going deep inside yourself. Share later. Dialog is distracting.

This process should help you get at the heart of your story, as well or better than anything I know of. It could help you get past fears and block you weren’t even aware you had. Communing with self is the core of the writing process, and this is the most effective way I’ve found to do that.

Peace be with you.

Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal


Becca T said...

Thank you for sharing these tips! I'm going to have to pick up Zahir. I own several different editions of The Alchemist--such a beautiful, hopeful, and affirming tale! It was truly life-changing the first time I read it. In fact, I think it may be time to pull it off the bookshelf again! :)

ybonesy said...

I also had a transformative experience when I was 26 talking to a candle in a monastic room in Granada, Spain, when I lived there in the mid-1980s.