Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
After Page One: Intention

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A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire



The Writer's Oath


Before I became a writer, I worked with surgeons--OB/Gyn's to be exact. Not all surgeons were great at their job, but no matter how proficient or incompetent they appeared to be, they always had my respect because I knew how hard they worked to be the one holding the scalpel.

It takes a long time to be qualified to operate on another human being. When you count undergraduate, medical school, residency, and oftentimes, fellowships, someone could study for over a decade before they are deemed proficient enough to perform some surgeries by themselves. Malcolm Gladwell writes in his bestselling book, Outliers: The Story of Success, that it takes 10,000 hours of doing a task before you can be considered a master. That’s roughly ten years of hard work.

The powers that doctors wield to transform and heal a person, is miraculous. Before a doctor is allowed to receive their medical degree, and thus earn the right to perform miracles, they must take what is called The Hippocratic Oath. It's an oath written in the 5th century B.C. by a student of Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine. This oath is a promise that someone who is given the great gift to heal people, will use it with the greatest intention and promise to Do No Harm.

I have been studying and writing consistently for over two years. I am years away from being a "master" at this work. I am a novice, a baby. I work really hard, though. Not only do I work hard at crafting sentences, but I'm also dealing with the other half of becoming an artist. The intention part.

Something happens to you when you choose a life of art (or the life chooses you). Something miraculous and frightening and powerful begins to shift inside your head and heart. Your desire and ability to see the world in all its Truth and Beauty starts to rip off layers of unconscious living. Old ways of being in the world simply do not work because as a sensitive observer you become as tender to its circumstances; as tender as the fontanelle on a newborn's skull.

Suddenly, the things that are beautiful are now painfully so. The things that seemed complicated before, are now more convoluted, connected and precarious than the mesh of capillaries under a preemie's translucent skin. In your efforts to create pure and genuine meaning out of your work, you find meaning in everything you see. It's heartbreaking to be so aware of the pain of living without the comforting layers of unconscious to protect you. It's like giving birth to yourself. It hurts more than words can say, but once you see the light, there's no turning back. You wouldn't if you could.

Then one day, someone says that what you wrote made them cry, or smile, or laugh, or feel better about their life and it hits you like a simultaneous discovery of a miraculously cured, incurable disease. You've been given a gift, and along with that gift, a fear. Your words, like precise surgical cuts, contain the awesome power of transformation. They can heal, but they can also hurt.

Right now I am learning how to use this gift, and before I am allowed to practice it on a larger scale, I must take The Writer's Oath. It starts with the painful awareness of this breathtaking life and leads to a certain kind of ageless wisdom about the Truth of intention; a wisdom that carries itself on the breath of God to anyone who has worked hard to earn the right to change people’s lives. And it says, Do No Harm.


Join our After Page One series.  We’re looking for 300 to 500-word guest posts that motivate, inspire, and encourage other mama-writers, and we’d love to feature YOUR thoughts about getting started, getting back to a writing project, integrating writing with motherhood, reading, or having a positive attitude.   The list is endless, but here are some questions that might help you get started. We’ll publish a short bio at the bottom of your post so readers can learn more about you and your projects.


Shannon Lell is a fallen corporate ladder climber turned stay-at-home Mother/ part-time Social Media Consultant and night-school student of literary fiction at The University of Washington. She blogs about social and introspective issues at, in addition to freelancing for a variety of online publications. She is working on her first novel called Heart Land about a girl from the Midwest who is scared to love.

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