What the Bali Goddesses Taught Me About Writing

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Long before the “Eat, Pray, Love” phenomenon, I went to Bali at the end of a painful divorce to lick my wounds, regain my center, and take time out to write again.

I had just spent a month in India with my spiritual master and felt very at home on “the island of the gods” partly because their consorts were three goddesses I knew and loved — Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Durga, the goddesses of Wisdom, Wealth and Power.

What I didn’t expect when I opened my notebook in Bali’s dream-like atmosphere, was that I would experience these goddesses first hand, feel their influence so profoundly, absorb some of their qualities, and be able to apply them to my writing.

But that’s what happened.

Since these goddesses are energies that exist within ourselves, you can call upon them also and imbibe their qualities, even in if you’re not in Bali, although it’s especially moving to encounter them in a culture that honors them.

I was already very familiar with the warrior goddess Durga, because this “Divine Protectress” had been instrumental in helping me fight and win a seven-year divorce lawsuit.

On Bali, however, Durga’s destroyer nature took aim at my inner enemies — those that plague so many writers, including the fears and doubts and insecurities that contribute to writer’s block.

Do you know what I mean?

Those voices in your head that tell you your writing is not good enough and that prevent you from getting it done?

With those subdued, I was then inspired experiment with the wild and uncontrollable aspect of Durga’s creativity. On Bali, Durga is known for her power to create all kinds of things, from the benign to the malevolent.

That may sound kind of scary, but it’s a handy power to have if you’re writing literature!

In helping me surrender to the creative force, Durga also tamed my urge to second-guess my writing.

Great writing may ultimately lie in the editing, but the time of the strongest creative impulse is not the time to short-circuit the process by going back and reworking things. The clean up can come later, otherwise you may ruin your writing’s power and freshness.

Moving to the next goddess, it’s nearly impossible to miss Saraswati’s influence on Bali. An image of this lovely goddess of beauty, wisdom, and the arts, including writing, adorns every school on the island, so deeply do the Balinese revere her as the source of all knowledge.

Musicians and other artists keep her image on their desks to bless their creations. When I learned this, I found one for my own desk and now appreciate being beneath Saraswati’s adoring gaze when I write.

You might search the internet for a picture of her that you love, put it in a beautiful frame, and let her adorn your desk, also, for an extra touch of support.

Visiting Saraswati’s gorgeous temple in the artistic town of Ubud was one of the highlights of my trip, awakening not only my own inner Muse but also the idea of holding my own writing retreats on Bali. Saraswati naturally became the patron goddess of those retreats.

It’s traditional to dedicate your creative projects or anything to do with communication to Saraswati. When you dedicate your writing to her, you in turn are blessed with knowledge — and in many cases, a creative download.

The third goddess, Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, goes by the name Dewi Sri in Bali.

Her abundant nature, which reveals itself continuously in the island’s lush vegetation and cultural richness, reminded me to be generous in my writing instead of always looking over my shoulder, wondering how the critics would respond.

If nature could be continuously giving, why should I hold myself back?

This realization freed me to write from my heart, from a place of inspiration instead of a place of fear and worry.

Try it.

Although considering your audience is important, sometimes it makes sense to “write as if no one’s reading!”

If you’re like most writers, you probably do worry about the marketability of your work and whether or not it will sell.

The goddesses can teach us something about that, too, reminding us that if we write for fame and glory instead of acting as a vessel for the words that want to come forth, we may find that wealth eludes us.

There’s an interesting goddess story related to in Deepak Chopra’s book, “Creating Affluence.” According to the story, Saraswati and Lakshmi both dwell in the hearts of everyone, but the wise person focuses their attention on the Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom, rather than her sister, Lakshmi, (Dewi Sri in Bali), the goddess of wealth.

The reason is intriguing, not just because wisdom trumps wealth and is in fact your greatest fortune, but because if you pay attention to Saraswati, Lakshmi gets jealous and starts showering her attention on you!

Want to apply this to your own writing journey? While the goddesses of Bali may not speak to you personally, you can find your own goddess, god, or muse to inspire and motivate you.

Find an image that speaks to you and place copies in strategic places around your home. There’s nothing like constantly seeing them and remembering the qualities you want to emulate until they sink into your consciousness and become your own.

1 COMMENT

  1. What a beautiful, creative source for inspiration! Travel seems to free the mind from regular constraints, so I really like how Jill shows how to bring that different perspective into your usual writing space.

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