Bella Mahaya Carter is the author of the new book Where Do You Hang Your Hammock?: Finding Peace of Mind While You Write, Publish, and Promote Your Book. Her other books include the memoir Raw. She lives in Studio City, California.
Q: Why did you decide to write Where Do You Hang Your Hammock?
A: Over the past decade, I’ve been blogging about personal transformation and growth for writers.
I felt compelled to revisit and update that material to share what I’ve learned about liberating writers from doubts, fears, self-sabotage, and the mental strife that comes from navigating the inner critic, as well as the vagaries and frustrations of the publishing industry.
What I found after chronicling hundreds of posts was that most of them fell into one of five categories: dream, nourish, write, publish, and promote. When you assemble blog posts thematically, rather than chronologically, each piece informs the others in ways that reinforce, expand, and recast your material.
Q: How was the book’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?
A: It didn’t take long to realize that stringing blog posts together doesn’t make a book. The material needed a structure—a story—to hold everything together. No sooner did this realization hit, than the perfect story emerged. I tell it in the book’s introduction.
It’s too long to include here, but the hammock became a metaphor for a healthy perspective and peace of mind. It offers reassurance that our happiness comes from within, and we don’t have to be limited by our circumstances, expectations, or challenges. Fresh possibilities exist in every moment, even when we don’t (at first) see them.
The title points to these questions: How do you see your world when the proverbial shit hits the fan and life is not what you expected or planned? How might a shift of perspective set you free?
When you find ways to slow down, stop fighting, let go, and trust life, when you find a good place to “hang your hammock”—the perspective from which you view your situation—miracles happen. So much depends on your point of view.
Q: Who do you see as the audience for the book? Do you think it applies to experienced as well as beginning writers?
A: The audience is writers, but the underlying themes, such as resilience and how to relate to life’s challenges—will speak to non-writers too, especially artists, musicians, and others with creative dreams.
This book will also resonate with people interested in psychology and spirituality. I was moved when I heard psychologist and author Dr. Gail Brenner, refer to this book as a “writer’s bible” and “a quintessential guide to writing for both novice and experienced writers alike.”
Q: What impact did writing this book have on you?
A: It taught me that writing doesn’t have to be hard. I cranked out the first draft over a couple weeks. Every step along the way has felt as if someone were whispering into my ear and telling me what to do. A question would pop into my mind and then, soon after, the answer arrived.
This was a new experience for me. Previous projects took much longer and were filled with uncertainty.
Although this book came quickly, I’ve been developing the material over 10 years. Still, I felt like I was given this book. Sometimes I read it for inspiration, forgetting that I wrote it! Preparing this book for publication has brought light to dark pandemic days.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m launching a book! This includes writing articles, interviews, blog posts, and newsletters, as well as keeping up with social media. I’m also doing podcast and radio interviews.
I enjoy all this, but during a launch cycle it’s more important than ever to write in my journal to stay grounded and connected.
I have several ideas for my next book: an intergenerational family memoir, a spiritual memoir, another inspirational self-help for writers, and a poetry collection. I’m not sure which I’ll pursue.
Lately I’ve been rereading old journals with the sense that my next book project may be hidden within those pages. It’s interesting revisiting my younger self. I tend to judge her harshly, so it’s a tender practice to take a step back and try to love my younger self in a way I couldn’t earlier in my life.
I’m sure that when the time is right, the project I need to write next will reveal itself. I tell my students and clients not to worry about what to write. If you’re listening closely and showing up for your creative practice, the work will let you know what it wants to be.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: At my core I’m a teacher and coach with a passion for helping others live large and express themselves fully. I love to liberate my students and clients so that what they long to communicate comes forward.
I work on multiple levels, with small and large groups of writers in a variety of settings. My next round of writing circles begins July 7. My newsletter goes out once or twice a month and includes short, inspirational essays about writing, healing, personal transformation, and growth.
For more information, please visit my website: www.BellaMahayaCarter.com.
Thanks for having me, Deborah!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb