The Importance of Connecting to Purpose

by Ingrid Schaffenburg

July 2014

As I mentioned in last month’s post, mentality work is one of the best ways to combat fear. I learned of this practice from an acting class in LA that not only taught me this invaluable exercise but deepened my love and respect for story.

Though her class was a traditional scene study, her unique almost poetic approach set her apart from the rest. She taught us that words were the gateway to imaginary worlds on the page. We studied scripts like road maps with hidden treasure. And we submerged ourselves in these make-believe worlds, finding the characters within ourselves. It was very much an inside-out approach and so much of her teaching can be translated to the world of writing.

She recognized that two things were essential for an actor: story and state of mind. And she argued that the proper state of mind not only enhanced our ability to work with story but also our sanity as we navigated such a nebulous business. The same applies to writers.

My biggest take away from her class was the importance of this mentality work, setting time aside each day to read from an inspiring work, before we begin creating. Her recommendations were always by great writers and philosophers. Peering into such brilliant minds can inspire us and help us connect to something greater than ourselves, getting us out of our own heads.

One of Castle’s top recommendations was Letters to a Young Poet. Written in the early 1900s, Rainer Maria Rilke responds to a budding writer who has written to him requesting a critique of his work. The entire book focuses on his advice to the young man.

Right up front, Rilke refuses to critique his work and instead suggests he stop asking the outside world for approval. He asks the poet to look within himself for the answers he so desperately seeks, and to find out what is really driving him.

“Search for the reason that bids you write; find our whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart… Ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple ‘I must,’ then build your life according to this necessity.”

Life as a writer, or any artist for that matter, is not for the faint of heart. The journey can be filled with doubt and insecurity. In times such as these, it’s vital to follow Rilke’s advice and return to the why. Reminding ourselves why we do what we do can carry us through even the toughest of times.


Ingrid Schaffenburg is a Dallas-based freelance writer who has a passion for helping others lead fuller, richer, more joyful lives. She holds a BS in journalism from Texas Christian University and has worked in entertainment for more than a decade. Her book, Threadbare Gypsy Soul, is due out this fall and she currently blogs at