Friday, June 11, 2021

Bella Mahaya Carter Interview - Where Do You Hang Your Hammock?

Photo Content from Bella Mahaya Carter

Bella Mahaya Carter is a creative writing teacher, empowerment coach, speaker, and author of an award-winning memoir, Raw: My Journey from Anxiety to Joy, and a collection of narrative poems. She has worked with hundreds of writers since 2008 and has degrees in literature, film, and spiritual psychology. Her poetry, essays, fiction, and interviews have appeared in Mind, Body, Green; The Sun; Lilith; Fearless Soul; Writer’s Bone; Women Writers, Women’s Books; Chic Vegan; Bad Yogi Magazine; Jane Friedman’s blog; Pick The Brain; the Spiritual Medial Blog; Literary Mama, several anthologies' and elsewhere.


Where were you born and where do you call home?
I was born and raised in Long Island, New York. I call Studio City, CA (L.A. area) home.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
There have many rewarding experiences since being published, too many to name, but one highlight was hearing from a reader in Okotoks, a small town in Alberta, Canada, who found my book on a display table in her local library, and wrote to let me know how much my book meant to her.

A year after my memoir was released it won a silver medal in the “Body, Mind, Spirit” category of the Benjamin Franklin Awards, sponsored by the Independent Book Publishers Association. I’d never won an award for my writing before. I’ve experienced much more rejection than accolades as a writer. Years earlier, I was convinced I was a failure and considered quitting writing, but I couldn’t. I needed writing like I needed air.

But the most rewarding experience of all was internal. Many significant shifts came with publishing my work. I went from needing external validation to realizing I could give it to myself. When faced with obstacles and disappointments, I adopted a learning orientation toward life, which meant that I came to believe there was no such thing as failure—only opportunities for growth. In the past I’d had to dig deep to validate myself and my work, often in the face of menacing doubts and despair. But I finally understood that I was fine and didn’t have to prove myself to anyone, not even to myself. I realized that in grasping or clinging to things and people I thought would save, liberate, approve of, or validate me, I was ignoring and inadvertently pushing away my inherent gifts and goodness. I discovered I didn’t have to fight or conquer life to make it good. I could slow down, breathe, and relax—and still get everything I wanted done.

What inspired you to pen WHERE DO YOU HANG YOUR HAMMOCK?
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.

Your Favorite Quotes from WHERE DO YOU HANG YOUR HAMMOCK?
  • “Without needing anything from your writing, you’ll find that it’s free to exist on its own terms, which are more powerful than anything your mind conjures.
  • Nothing outside you–no accomplishment or accolade–will bring deep validation, peace, or love. This comes from within.”
  • “The present moment is our point of power. It’s the moment in which we are free to act.”
  • “I followed my bliss and learned that what you love is your path.”
  • “I had traded the powerful peace that I am for the illusion that somebody had taken it. And my mind had been fixed. I thought things needed to be a certain way.”
  • “My rigid thinking was one thing, but the fact that I believed my rigid thinking was something else.”
  • “Fearlessness is not the absence of fear but moving forward in the face of it.”
  • “The difference between doing a little writing and a lot of writing is small. The difference between doing no writing and a little writing is tremendous.”
  • “The muse shrivels under a microscope.”
  • “Opportunities abound when you refuse to make rejection mean anything about you.”
  • “Do the best you can with what you’ve got.”
  • “It doesn’t matter which project you work on; the important thing is to commit to one and follow it through to completion.”
  • “Publishing, regardless what path you take, is about what you make of your experience.”
  • “The last thing you want to do is hang your freedom and peace of mind on the vagaries of the publishing industry.”
  • “Publishing is not an all-or-nothing proposition. There are more opportunities to publish now than ever before.”
  • “There’s no ‘right’ way to publish a book any more than there’s a ‘right’ way to live a life—except to do it your way.”
  • “There is never a good reason to reject or abandon ourselves.”
  • “Resist the urge to make rejection or failure all about you; it’s not personal.”
  • “Things work best when you’re not attached to specific outcomes.”
  • “If you’re wondering whether to take a risk, either personally or professionally, look not to your chances of success, but to the depth of your desire.”
  • “JOYMO is the Joy of missing out. When you follow your bliss there’s nothing to miss.”
  • “In grasping and clinging to things and people I thought would save, liberate, approve of, or validate me, I was ignoring and inadvertently pushing away my inherent goodness.”
What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read WHERE DO YOU HANG YOUR HAMMOCK?
I can do this! I can write, explore my truth, speak my mind, go after my dreams, take creative risks, and soar in ways I never thought possible. I can liberate myself from old, stale, conditioned thought. I am larger than I imagined. I will mine my treasure within. I will nourish myself. I will give myself permission to play, dream, explore, create, practice my craft, and respect myself and others, knowing no one is better than me and I am better than no one.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
Honestly, there were no distractions writing this book. It poured out of me over two or three weeks. I wrote like a woman possessed. Although it came quickly, I was drawing upon material I’d written over ten years. My focus was laser-sharp to the point that I neglected food, personal grooming, and exercise.

  • 1. To ignite your creative spark, and be inspired.
  • 2. To cultivate peace of mind and joy.
  • 3. To feel held, guided, and supported in your creative life.
  • 4. To unblock and expand your creativity.
  • 5. To nourish yourself.
  • 6. To find spiritual sustenance.
  • 7. To learn about publishing options.
  • 8. To get excited about sharing your creative work.
  • 9. To learn a values-driven approach to book promotion.
  • 10. To cultivate confidence to move to the edge of your comfort zone, take leaps of faith, and fly.
What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Dance naked in the rain. It helps if it’s warm outside, but it also works if you have hot water to jump into afterward. You obviously shouldn’t do this public, although I’ve danced in the rain in public clothed. But it’s not the same. Clothing sticks to you body and weighs you down. When you’re naked, you’re light and free and can let yourself be caressed and massaged by water pouring down from the sky. We have a Jacuzzi in our bathroom with French doors leading out to a redwood deck. There’s nothing like going from the warm water into a cool drizzle or rain. It’s refreshing. Invigorating. The dancing part is about letting go. Moving your body in whatever ways it wants to move. Allowing yourself to be drenched feels like a baptism, or a cleansing, renewal. You have to let go to do this. You cannot hold onto your inhibitions (even if no one is watching), or your sense of smallness when you become one with the rain. I recommend it.

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?
I’d return to a backpacking trip my now-husband, then boyfriend, and I took to Yosemite National Park. We were in our early twenties and I took my health and youthful vigor for granted. It was the first time I experienced wilderness, and was blown away by its vastness. We were small, but at the same time part of it all, connected to each other, but also to something larger than ourselves. We skinny dipped in rivers, watched sunsets, cooked meals over an open fire, and, when, on the last night, a bear ate what was left of our food, I realized that I was a guest in its home, which was way more impressive than the box I called my own.

In Where Do You Hang Your Hammock? seasoned coach and author Bella Mahaya Carter shows writers how to use their present circumstances as stepping-stones to a successful and meaningful writing life, navigated from the inside out. It encourages writers and authors to rethink their ambitions (which may be fueled by the tyrannical demands of the ego) and trust in their heartfelt purpose and values in the journey to becoming, or continuing on, as authors.

Many writers believe their self-sabotaging thoughts are trustworthy and true. They take rejection personally. They surmise that if they don’t achieve their goals they have failed, and lose sight of who they are and what matters most.

This book is for writers looking for inspiration and for authors daunted by the publishing process, who might lack the requisite author platform to get published the way they dreamed, or whose careers may not be unfolding as expected. It aims to be the friend and trusted expert writers turn to when hijacked by their own thinking. Ultimately, it reminds authors that they are infinite creators.

You can purchase Where Do You Hang Your Hammock? at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you BELLA MAHAYA CARTER for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Where Do You Hang Your Hammock? by Bella Mahaya Carter.