NON-ATTACHMENT FOR WRITERS or 100 uses for misprints

Ripping up my own book!

One of the key precepts of Buddhism is that of non-attachment. If all suffering springs from desire then, the Buddha argues, we should free ourselves of desire, through non-attachment to things, people, situations, even our own creations.

The most famous example of non-attachment at work is when Tibetan Buddhist monks create intricate sand mandalas, some as big as rooms. The creation takes many monks many days, sometimes weeks. But as soon as the mandala is finished, it is swept away. Their magnificent creation turned to dust. The joy comes in the process of creating the mandala, they argue, not in the mandala itself.

Tibetan monks at work on a mandala sand painting.


As writers, a lot of the time, our work feels like this. We spend months, years, if not decades creating our own masterpieces, some of which may never see publication. Unlike visual artists who can hold an exhibition of their work every year or so and show the world what they have been creating, we writers must wait for the hallowed grail of “publication”. These days with the rise of independent publishing we too can share our work, but for those writers still waiting for the elusive goal of a trade publisher or producer’s commitment to their work, their novels/memoirs/screenplays may forever remain unseen.

Every time we send our stories out to a publication or competition it is an act of non-attachment. We send out our, to us, perfect work, to be judged or chosen. However, most of the time, it disappears into the ether, and we don’t even get the dignity of a response. This rejection/dismissal of our work hurts. To the sensitive soul of the writer, it cuts deeply.

So how can we free ourselves from this particular brand of writerly suffering? How can we detach from stories we have worked so hard over for so long? How can we find the joy in the act of creation itself, and let that be enough?

Over the past twenty years of writing and submitting work, sometimes I’ve got lucky, other times I’ve had strings of rejections. Sometimes stories that have faced strings of rejections then find a good home, without a word changed!

Really, all we have power over when it comes to this most difficult part of a writer’s life is our attitude. In Big Magic Liz Gilbert talks about not putting too much pressure on our writing by expecting it to pay the bills. In Australia, if writers had to rely on book sales paying our way, we’d all be starving. So take that pressure off. Find another gentle way to bring in the cash, that still leaves you some time and energy for the joy of writing.

And then, free yourself of the burden of expectations. Continue sending your stories and books out but know it’s all a lottery. A rejection doesn’t mean your work isn’t good, only that the random person reading through the slush pile can’t yet see its beauty. This writing game can be a grand adventure if we let it be. If we think of it as a game. Send things out, but expect nothing. If you write, you are a writer. You need do nothing more.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on

Recently I reprinted my A Guide Through Grief which now has distribution throughout the Australian market, including in bookstores. When the boxes arrived, I cut one open to smell and feel my new edition. The cover looked great! I flicked through the pages and noticed something wasn’t right. I opened at what should have been the first page to discover page 55!  Ten pages later I found the opening. Ten pages after that was page 180! All 300 copies were the same. A total mess. I had to laugh.

OOPS! Not page 1!

Ever since then I’ve been practising non-attachment with all the misprints. I could have just thrown them in the bin, but I didn’t. Instead, I’ve been devising ingenious ways to use my words. I remove the covers and use them as postcards. The insides make great garden mulch and wonderful kindling for my fire. I could line jackets with them to keep me warm. Leave the odd copies on train stations to spark curiosity. Donate them to schools and get the kids to solve the puzzle of putting the pages back in order.

As I’ve torn off the covers and fed my words to the flames, I’ve pondered the nature of non-attachment. The writing of the Grief Guide brought me healing as I recovered from the loss of my baby boy and earlier losses of my father and brother. The process of writing was what healed me. Not the publication. 

We learn and grow as we write, often accessing another state of being as we immerse ourselves in the process. It is THIS PROCESS that is precious, not the printed page.

It doesn’t mean I’m not going to keep sending work out, that I didn’t demand a free reprint of my Grief Guide order for the stores, because I still want readers for my work. I still want to help people through my stories. But after ripping apart hundreds of books with my name on the cover, it all seems less important. My words can also help my garden grow and keep me warm on cold winter nights.

So let go of your intense connection with your writing. Take the pressure off the work, and yourself. Know that you are on the right path, just by writing. The stories don’t have to go anywhere or do anything, except be written.

I hope that helps soften the blow of rejections. Create your beautiful mandala of words, then sweep them out into the world without regret.

With lots of love,

Edwina xxx

PS. Any ideas for repurposing misprints most welcome

WRITING THROUGH HARD TIMES -writing activities for emotional healing


When the going gets tough, writing helps. From an early age I discovered that writing helped me make sense of the world, or at least helped me understand it better. Many writers are driven in the same way. We write to get thoughts in order, or discover the truth of our feelings about a situation. 

Over the past several years I’ve been working with Forgotten Australians who have suffered more trauma than most of the rest of us put together. Together we’ve figured out ways to use writing, and in particular fiction, to harness the power of the imagination to bring comfort and healing to the stories of our pasts and bring in lighter energies for our futures. Transforming victims into superheroes!

We are often driven to write after the loss of someone we love, not just to try and make sense of their loss but also to leave some sort of record of them, a mark on the world. This was certainly so for Thrill Seekers which bears witness to my brother Matty’s battle with adolescent onset schizophrenia. I wrote A Guide Through Grief the year after my infant son Teddy’s death from a congenital heart defect, to comfort myself and make sense of his loss, but also to bring some good into the world from his coming and going.

Most of us have long hard stories stuck in our heads about all the wrong that has been done to us, the litany of woes, the stories that just won’t let us rest. These stories need to be released onto paper. It’s the best way I know to free yourself from having to relive those sad stories over and over. After all, the past is gone forever. We don’t have to keep replaying it in our minds. 

Dorothea Lange: Dyanna lying on her back in the grass circa 1961

Here are a few writing activities I’ve found useful for healing emotional pain.

  1. Keeping a journal

This is never to be read. Not by you. Not by anyone. This is just pure complaining, whinging and moaning territory where you can play the “poor me” record as often as you like. Pour anger, grief, bitterness and rage onto the pages of your journal every morning then head into your day feeling lighter. I follow the Julia Cameron Artist’s Way “Morning Pages” commandment of three pages longhand, but you don’t have to do that much. Just make sure you download at least some of the hard stuff each day. Come home to yourself on the page. And finish with something positive – an affirmation like I am safe, all is well, or a list of things you’re grateful for.

  • Write out your Truth

If you have a story stuck in your head about a past traumatic event, or a recent loss, then write it down. Don’t gloss over it. Go into specific details. Where were you? What was going on before and after this? Fill in all the sensory details, every last moment explored deeply. Weep and wail as you write but get all that hard story out of your head and onto the page. It doesn’t have to be great art, but it just might be the start of something like beauty. Be honest. Tell your truth. Your voice is valid and valuable.

  • Rewrite the Past

We don’t have to stick with the endings life gives us. We have the great gift of our imaginations to create other alternate realities. For example, although in real life my brother killed himself at twenty, in Thrill Seekers I was able to give him a new ending where he and his brother went off to explore the world. What ending would you like to change? Who would you like to give another chance at life? Write your story and change the ending to what you wish it could have been. The past can’t be changed, but we can change the way we feel about it by giving ourselves alternate happier endings that make us smile.

  • In the Shoes of the Enemy

This one is a little challenging but can be very rewarding. If someone has done you wrong, let’s say that wicked nun who beat you up and belittled you in Grade 3, then write a story from the perpetrator’s perspective. You can make her as mean and vicious as you like, but maybe, just maybe, something was going on in her own life that made her act so abhorrently. This is one of writing’s greatest gifts. It is the only artform where we can truly explore what it is like to be in the mind of another person. It is a wonderful tool for compassion, even for the very worst of enemies.

  • Revenge is Sweet

If having compassion for those who hurt you, isn’t your cup of tea, then try writing a story where they get their comeuppance! Get the kids in the nun’s classroom to lock her in and throw mud at her. Or write an unhappy ending to that lover who did you wrong. Revenge is safe on paper. I’d rather try to forgive and move on, but if you must have your revenge, then do it on paper. You could write yourself a brand new lover and write a scene where you encounter your ex and show off like mad. Have fun!

These exercises are just the tip of the iceberg of the many ways we can use writing and other creative activities to help us to heal our emotional pain and find peace. If you’re struggling with loss or trauma, you may find my Guide Through Grief a useful ally, full of helpful ideas and exercises to help you heal. I’ve also recorded a short Meditation for Comfort and Joy to help uplift your heart, even on the toughest of days.

We are given creativity to express our feelings and help us to heal. What helps you most on hard days? 

Take good care of yourself and keep looking up. Life is good and love is around every corner.

Lots of love,

Edwina xx

Little Pearl the puppy – the newest addition to our extended family.