August 20, 2015

What I Learned this Summer by Sleeping with Waylon Lewis.


“You slept with Waylon Lewis?!” My girlfriend shouted at me when I told her the title of this post.

“Yup. Every night for the last three months.”

“How is this possible? He’s in Boulder and you’re here.

Still shouting—she was only worried about logistics—not about how I got this past Steve, my partner of 20 years.

Steve was clued in, that something was going on, early into month one.

We were lying in bed, and I was dispensing distracted kisses.

My lover looked me in the eye and asked what I was thinking about.

“I’m thinking about the way Waylon says the word ‘important.’ He doesn’t roll the letter ‘t’ the way North Americans do, he pronounces it like the British.”

Steve returned to his side of the bed, tucking his arms behind his head.

“And?” He prompted as I continued to stare at the ceiling, lost in thought.

“And, when he says it this way—I hear it. It actually makes me pay attention to the rest of his words. It’s taught me about writing in a new way—about engaging the reader and writing words that matter.”

“Is Waylon going to be in our bed for the next three months?” Steve queried. I nodded, affirming his fears.

This summer I have thought nothing but Waylon, elephant journal and the apprenticeship I have been participating in.

Having Waylon in my bed has proven to be one mindful lesson after another. An online apprenticeship with elephant journal—in social media, editing and journalism—has stretched me in ways I was sure my mind and consciousness did not bend anymore.

Yes, I’ve been more than a little preoccupied, somewhat unable to disconnect from the echoes of Waylon’s words, and often lying awake long into the night thinking, thinking.

Steve finally succumbed to my obsession with the man who haunted our bed, and he listened to me going on and on, about the wisdom I had gleaned from online meetings with editors, other apprentices and, of course, Waylon.

It’s been an intense experience, and quite honestly, I have been scared senseless most of the time—hoping I could keep up with what I was learning, and still pound out sexy blog posts as a featured author with elephant.

The novel I’d been working on has sat untouched. I haven’t been this challenged in a while, but it’s been worth it.

Having Waylon in one’s bed can be exhausting—and just in case you’re considering trying the next apprenticeship on offer—don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

Here’s what I learned from Waylon, and elephant journal, about writing and living a mindful life:

1. “When we’re at our best at writing, we’re simply genuine. Good, bad, sad, excited—just breathe it into words. Personal, not selfish. Accessible, not emotionalism.” ~ Waylon Lewis

These are words that Waylon typed out in one of our earliest online meetings as apprentices. I read them every day before I sit down to write. These words apply to life as much as they do to the art of writing.

Having Waylon’s words in front of me keeps my ego in check, my heart in balance and my desire to share with the world as pure as I can make it.

Waylon delivers wisdom in a uniquely humorous, bossy, engaging and awe-inspiring way. I never knew if what he would say next would scare me or spur me into writing heaven. Sometimes he’d say things that made my heart plummet, and I’d wonder whether I qualified as a writer at all. Other times he’d say things that kept my fingers flying over my keyboard.

But when I read the above quote, I am reminded that in life, as in writing, I must aspire to share myself in a way that is of benefit. If I write only as a means of self-therapy, I run the risk of burdening someone instead of inspiring them. If I’m not authentic, then why am I sharing?

I signed up to learn about social media and learned that honest human connections are what will make this world a better place.

2. Life is lived at the edge of a precipice.

“You’re angry with him, and yet, you’re still thinking about what he said—when we could be cuddling.”

Words from my man when I lay in tears, folded into myself, debating why I ever thought I wanted to learn anything from a mountain hiking, yoga practicing, bicycle riding, vegan food eating Buddhist. But through my tears, I knew that Waylon had challenged me into a better version of a mindful writer.

Let me just get this out there—I am no computer whiz. Monday meetings were hell for me. I’m not social, and I need a lot of time to think things through. I am just not good at impromptu exercises.

And there was Waylon, saying, “Ok, go—you’re got five minutes to be brilliant. Go, go ,go—hurry up. Take your time, but hurry!” Sheesh. (But really, another word comes to mind.)

Elephant journal editors and Waylon challenged me to re-think my insular, sensitive view on life. I don’t like that one bit.

But, if I never come out of my shell, and if I never process words that anger me and transmute them into something useful—something tangible that will make my life more mindful of others—then how am I going to contribute to society?

“Life is lived at the edge of a precipice,” I always say. Waylon challenged me to the edge constantly, and I’m stronger for it.

3. ”Slow people down and make them feel something.” ~ Waylon Lewis

We live in fast world. There are a lot of bloggers out there—many words and many opinions. I was attracted to elephant journal because someone shared a post that had caught their heart.

I read it and thought, “Hmmm—what is this elephant journal?”

A few clicks of my mouse later—I was in.

I’d fallen down the elephant journal rabbit hole. Once I’d stood up and dusted off my skirt and straightened my hair, I rapidly blew through my first three, free reads. Then, like an addict, I parted quickly with thirteen dollars, for a year’s subscription, to be able to read more.

That one article someone had shared changed my life.

Much of the wisdom of Waylon’s vision with elephant is really a guise for his vision for a better world.

I respect that immensely. My life lesson from that?

4. Live life with gusto—with a vision and with integrity. Live with a heart full of love and a commitment to slow down the pace of life. Help people connect to what is real.

That’s what I am attempting to do here, and that is what this apprenticeship has further taught me to do.

I have made incredible connections with writers, from all over the world, who have now become my friends as a result of a hasty decision to jump into this course. I’ll never be the same again.

Sleeping with Waylon whispering in my ear has given me no choice but to expand into a more introspective human being.

Last night, Steve reminded me that the course was almost over, and he also wondered if one could be accused of having an intellectual affair. I smiled and promised to leave Waylon in my writing room from now on.

But quite honestly, I’m not so sure that I can.

“Just breathe it into words,” keeps ringing in my ears.

One more thing—it’s very imporTant!

“Never give up.” Waylon said that also. It is perhaps my biggest takeaway in the end.

Hey Waylon, was it as good for you as it was for me?


Relephant read:

Join: Elephant’s Fall 2015 Academy: an Online Certificate Apprenticeship in Social Media, Writing & Editing.


Author: Monika Carless

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photo: elephant archives.


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