Bennett is the amazing author of 28 books on creativity, Earth-based
spirituality, intuition, and healing. His titles include Write From
the Heart, Follow Your Bliss and his newest, Spirit Circle.
Recently I talked to Hal about writing, creativity and his favorite
Connie Hill: Hal, how did you begin writing?
Hal Bennett: Recently I was asked to write something for the Chicken
Soup series and a similar question was asked. I started writing in secret
when I was 8-10 years old. I always did really badly in school. And
I never connected writing with school. So I would write at night, under
the covers with a flashlight. I had forgotten that until Canfield asked
me to write one of these little stories.
CH: How did your writing career begin?
HB: After high school I took a night poetry class. That was the first
time I'd gotten supportive feedback from live people. They really liked
what I did and that got me started.
CH: Tell me about the books you have written.
HB: The first one with a major publishing house was called No More
Public Schools with Random House. It was about alternative schools and
how to set them up. Then I did a series of books including the Well
Body Book, one of the first self-help, health books. I've also worked
with over 200 authors, many you'd recognize like Jerry Jampolsky, Shakti
Gawain and Gabrielle Roth as a behind-the-scenes person to help get
their books out. The central theme is always empowerment whether I'm
talking about medicine, spiritual development or shamanism.
CH: Where did the empowerment focus come from?
HB: It came from my "wound," which is also my gift. After birth I was
literally left alone in the nursery for almost 2Ĺ days. I was withering
away and dying and they couldn't figure out why. So early on I chose
to live and take control of my life and by luck certain people came
into my life, certain events happened that inspired me. That theme of
empowerment came very early.
CH: Who were some of the people who brought this theme of empowerment
HB: A nurse maid, a Cajun woman. That's all I spoke early on; it was
my language and no one could understand me. Then a couple of teachers,
an uncle I admired, a variety of people, a shaman in the sixties. Not
one single person, but little encounters along the way.
CH: What does shamanism mean to you?
HB: Shamanism has been a core interest of mine since my teens. At 16
I was very ill and in a coma for a couple of days and had a very profound
near-death experience. When I came out of the coma I was blind, unable
to walk and literally had to learn how to live in my body again. All
of the life path ideas I'd had were gone. I searched through many disciplines
and was pretty nihilistic and suicidal. I met a person you would now
call a shaman. That gave me a perspective that nothing else did. It
saved my life and clarified things for me about the nature of human
perceptions and the existence of a higher power. It also taught me a
lot about the essential principles of how to change things: whether
itís your own life or changing a community direction. We've learned
how to fix things but not how to change or heal them. That's what the
shamanic tradition is about. If you suffer a great wound or illness
or are an alcoholic, allopathic medicine might give you a drug as an
aversion to alcohol. In the shamanic tradition you team the alcoholic
or wounded person up with one who has gone through recovery. AA has
this kind of a shamanistic tradition. Instead of being shamed by your
disease or life experience, you would say, this is a source of great
wisdom. Sharing that wisdom with others gives the sufferer hope. You
are the light at the end of the tunnel, you're their inspiration, their
proof that this can be changed. That is the shamanistic tradition. It's
not just fixing, it's transforming and really valuing our life experience,
whatever it is.
CH: What do you like the most about writing?
HB: Dealing with the inner processes, what the shaman calls the invisible
world; our spiritual connection with our own lives and the worlds around
CH: Can this process be done through other arenas besides writing?
HB: I don't see writing as the only way. Any creative or spiritual
process and many psychological systems work. Writing is almost contradictory
to the process. The oral tradition is much more to the point than writing,
but writing is something that we have invented in our modern world and
we're kind of stuck with it.
CH: What about computers?
HB: Well, when I really got good at using a word processor it changed
language for me from two to three dimensional, more "sculpturesque,"
because you can mold and move stuff around and to me it's really closer
to what I always wanted language to do for me, away from the linear
nature of language.
CH: What do you like least about writing?
HB: Dealing with publishers. My wife and I started our own publishing
company in part to free me creatively so I didn't even have to think
about the publishing end except as an extension of what I do. There
are certain books that I publish and certain books that I do with other
publishers. We are now taking on other writers to help them publish
their books, as well.
CH: What suggestions do you have for people who want to be writers?
HB: To trust your own life experience as the source of your own voice
and to understand its importance and power. That is the source of your
voice. You can't go anywhere but your own life experience to find your
voice; that's what we have to give. There are no new ideas except for
one thing and that's your voice. And once you get into your unique voice,
you can be saying something that has been said millions of times before,
but because you say it in your own unique way, it allows others to hear
it for the first time. It's our voice that makes the difference. In
writing, the book or the end product has never been very important to
me. The fact that it is one of the things we do that honors the creative
spirit, that's what's important to me.
CH: Yes, it's the process that gets you there.
HB: It's a sacred process. It is, in and of itself, an honoring of
the sacred, creative urge that this whole thing starts with. It's an
CH: What else do you teach in your workshop?
HB: A lot of people say "If I'd known what this workshop was about
I wouldn't have come. But I'm so grateful I came." What I want to teach
is not just writing, but this other message: how do you get in touch
with your voice, how do you honor the creative, how do you reclaim your
intimate relationship with nature, other people, yourself, and with
a higher power, whatever that might be. The workshops are always that,
and incidentally you learn about writing.
CH: Thank you, Hal, for taking time to tell us about yourself.
The interviewer, Connie Hill, is Event & Newsletter Coordinator
at New Renaissance Bookshop. She also has an astrology practice both
in Portland and on the Oregon coast. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.