Who Are You Before the Writing Begins?

Friday 03 July 2020 - Posted by Julia McCutchen

All of a sudden, as if from nowhere, an idea or phrase arrives fully formed in my awareness.

It’s like receiving a ready-made piece of a creative jigsaw; the complete picture is often revealed at a later date, yet I’ve learned to pay attention and capture these fragments straight away.

An example is the question, “Who are you before the writing begins?”

It came to me in the early days of developing my ideas for Conscious Writing and remains one of the key questions for self-enquiry that lead you to discover your authentic voice as a Conscious Writer.

Your Authentic Voice

The usual definitions of what your authentic voice is have always left me feeling short-changed as they seem limited and incomplete, certainly where Conscious Writing is concerned.

If you look it up, you’ll find variations on the following:

  • An author’s style, use of language and development of content, characters and dialogue.
  • The equivalent of the presence an actor has on stage.

Both of these pointers are absolutely valid. Yet there’s an additional component that makes all the difference with Conscious Writing; it’s the essence of who you are that is the true source of authentic communication.

The Big Questions

It’s hardly surprising that this realization should emerge for me as I’ve always been drawn to exploring the big questions in life: Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here?

After many years of experimenting, I discovered that the state of consciousness you’re in when you do your creative work (or indeed anything at all) fundamentally affects the quality of your experience and the end results.

So if you’re present in the moment and connected with the real you, you’re far more likely to be able to express yourself authentically.

Essence and Form

When you combine this state of internal alignment with your ability to communicate through the spoken and written word, you end up with a completely original blend of soul and craft.

It’s this mix of essence and form that defines your true voice.

Fundamentally, the essence remains unchanged.

Yet the way you communicate it and the forms you use evolve as you deepen your connection to the truth within and develop your experience of allowing the right words to pour through you onto the page.

Zen Koan

“Who are you before the writing begins?” is like a Zen Koan. These stories, statements and riddles are used in Zen Buddhism to interrupt the monkey mind that can’t stop chattering, and point towards a greater level of awareness and truth.

I love the fact that this question can be explored at so many different levels and, amongst other things, reveals whether your head and your heart are on the same page.

Essentially it serves as an excellent reminder of how important it is to pay attention to who you are being when you sit down to write.

If you’re feeling stressed, for example, your whole system will be in a state of contraction which makes it much harder for you to create freely and write deeply in a way that reflects the real you.

Dive In

  • Reflect: schedule some time for reflection on the question, “Who am I before the writing begins?” Play with possibilities to find your way in to answers that resonate with you.
  • Write: use stream of consciousness writing to deepen your enquiry and capture your responses on the page.
  • Remember: develop the positive habit of paying attention to the mindset you bring to the writing you do as an integral part of your creative practice and a key component of authentic communication.

If your inner critic ever challenges you with comments like, “What’s the point, it’s all been said before and far better than you could ever achieve”, remember this:

No-one can express what you’re here to share in the way that you do
when you’re aligned with your true voice!


    • Oui, vous pouvez utiliser ce principe pour votre peinture. Qui êtes-vous avant le début de la peinture? Profitez de l’exploration!

  • Who am I is the question of Questions ! So ” opening up ” in its import.Thank you for reminding us to be in that space before commencing our creative work


    • It is indeed the question of Questions Peter; beautifully put! Yes, it’s the space to be in before creative work… and ideally as the backdrop to everthing as life unfolds moment by moment.

  • after my morning meditation I came to my computer with far more clarity and the courage to move on in my project. I enjoy a writing ritual starting out with a cup of coffee, reflecting, and listening to background music. I am finding it helpful to remind myself that my authentic voice is the essence of who i am. it is this which inspires me to carry on and why i am finding ‘conscious writing’ so meaningful.

    • Hi Beth, that all sounds good to me! Having a writing ritual does make a difference doesn’t it (in fact I wrote another blog on a similar topic you may enjoy – see https://www.juliamccutchen.com/blog/conscious-writing/action/) and I’m delighted to hear that Conscious Writing feels so meaningful to you. Enjoy exploring your authentic voice through aligning yourself with the essence of who you are.

  • I asked the question and here is the beautiful answer i received and share from the One Universal Heart; “Deeper than the ocean, Higher than the mountains, The vast space where all answers lie, where no question goes unanswered, where all is possible. Open your heart in this vast infinite space, and you will find the treasure you are seeking. This treasure awaits you, seek and you will find and your heart will sing the song of your Soul. Thank you Julia

    • I love the answer you’ve received to this question Ann Marie! It speaks volumes from the One Universal Heart… it feels like the first notes from the song of your soul. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful answer.

  • Bonjour Julia
    quelle bonne surprise de lire votre réponse en Français. Merci pour vos pensées!
    I live in Sweden and I was born and brought in France.2011 I had a stroke and after rehab and recovering and accepting the changes in my life, I begun writing in Swedish. a suite of poems about my experience of being stroke by this thing in my brain.
    it just came and then nothing. but I was active drawing, painting and knitting. Reading was difficult but I persevere.
    2015 I bought your Beautiful book and I read some of it and felt it was too demanding as I easily fatigued. but it was an incentive, an inspiration. something in its sincerity touched me deeply.

    Spring 2015 I followed a twelve weeks class on Creative Writing and I experienced a never before felt happiness I was extatic and exhausted.

    Spring 2016 I was admitted to Creative Writing University program and I have been writing since. I attend the Master Program now.
    A novel, a book for children, essays and poems have been written through me.
    and the inspiration often come as a sentence that I can read in the inside of my forehead. it can come anytime. oftentimes at night. some times as I meditate.

    but I am aware that I am a channel for a flow to be expressed through me. so I cannot not pay attention. And it is a blessing even though I have had to give up most of my life as I knew it.

    thank you


    • Bonjour Delphine, you’re most welcome and thank you for sharing your experience here.

      I understand that Conscious Writing as an approach may feel too demanding when you’re experiencing fatigue. However, you can apply the principle of aligning with your inner truth before you write in extremely simple ways such as pausing to take 3 conscious breaths and connect with your body… then see what flows through you onto the page. Enjoy the awakening journey!

  • Its a great pleasure to read these posts and the wonderful replies.Thank you again Julia for all you are doing to inspire and awaken us. After a long period of silence I have recently written a blog on Lockdown, and now I am on a roll, with more to come!

    • Thank you Daphne for reading, commenting and embracing the pointers to awaken and be inspired!

      Silence is deeply restorative, especially when experienced consciously, and it’s the source of all “sound” which includes the written as well as the spoken word… and at one level absolutely everything!

      So welcome back from you period of silence, and enjoy riding the wave of your writing roll 🙂

    • Hi Helen, all I mean by that is writing down or recording a voice memo of your insights and ideas as soon as they arrive in your conscious awareness rather than leaving it till later when you may not remember!

      It’s one of the hallmarks of a mature creative practice to notice and respect what comes to you before it slips away!

      I hope that helps. Julia

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