While writing a book about my own journey to heal childhood abuse issues and chronic illness, I attended a talk by Dorothy Allison, author of the powerful novel, Bastard out of Carolina, based on her own childhood of abuse. Afterward, I asked, "How did you find the courage to write that novel?"

"I didn't," she answered, grinning widely. "It wasn't courage that helped me write the novel. It was stubbornness - and persistence. " Then, she wished me luck with my writing.

I wrote her words on a piece of paper and posted them on the wall next to my desk. Every time, I felt terrified, like I would sink into a bottomless abyss if I wrote - or rewrote - a particular scene, like I could not do it, I would look at that piece of paper and remember I didn't need courage to continue. If Dorothy could do it with stubbornness and persistence, so could I. That seemed much more doable than mustering courage and many times, persistence, showing up to write day after day, helped me face the vulnerability, transform the fear and move ahead with the book.

And each day I persisted, I got stronger and clearer and built my courage muscle, too. I added to a foundation of inner support that said to me, "You survived last time. You'll survive this time, too - and remember how good you felt when you actually filled the blank page with writing that expressed what you longed to express. "

From Courage to Witnessing.

The more I persisted, I was also frequently able to move into the "witness" position. Here, like in meditation, instead of being lost in the "story" of my life, I could in my mind stand outside to witness and write the scene almost as if it had happened to someone else.

Do you also find yourself avoiding writing a first person scene about challenging subject matter or conflicted personal relationships in your or your characters' lives because you find them too emotionally charged?

Help is available. Just as I did, you, can take a mental "step backward" and more objectively witness the event rather than re-live it wrenching emotion by writing emotion. This means taking a step back and writing from the witness mode instead. To experience the "witness" mode in writing, here is what helped me:

1. Take a scene you would like to write about your life or a challenge you have faced. In the beginning, to practice, choose a scene or challenge that is only mildly charged - for instance, an argument with a family member over what to serve at a family reunion dinner. Save trying the witness mode for super-charged issues like confronting a parent about childhood abuse or other controversial topics until you've practiced first.

2. Instead of writing the charged scene, interaction or subject matter in the first person, write it initially in third person as if you were writing it about someone else.
3. Revise it as much as you can in third person. Then, move it back to first person and see how it feels now to write or read it out loud. You will likely experience less of a charge to the scene.

4. Or, instead of seeing the scene play out in your own mind and feeling all the feelings yourself as you write, picture the scene playing out on a screen in front of you. See it as if you are watching a movie outside you, and report what you are seeing.

When I write from the witness perspective, the writing process transformed into more than "survival. " Many days, writing about the outer and inner challenges I had faced became a transcendent and sacred experience, and I lost track of time and space. I transmuted through writing the circumstances of what had happened into the beauty and profound healing of true artistic expression and the larger perspective that came with it.

I would also remember something in writing that I had discovered in my life - that vulnerability, letting myself be open, heart unarmored, was actually my strength. And it is your strength, too.

"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along. ' You must do the thing you think you cannot do. " - Eleanor Roosevelt

Author's Bio: 

Write a Book -- Transform Your Life now. Sign up for your free writing ecourse with Alissa Lukara to discover 7 key steps to write a book. Plus visit www.transformationalwriters.com for lots more writing resources. Alissa Lukara, author of the memoir, Riding Grace: A Triumph of the Soul, works with writers and authors who want to make a positive difference. She is an editor, writing coach, book whisperer, and online and in person writing workshop leader and presenter.