Month: February 2015

Writers on Writing: What It Takes to Write

“Finding the courage to write does not involve erasing or “conquering” one’s fears. Working writers aren’t those who have eliminated their anxiety. They are the ones who keep scribbling while their heart races and their stomach churns.” — Ralph Keyes   “To write takes dreaming and remembering and thinking and imagining — and very often what feels like wasting time. It takes silence and solitude. It takes being okay with making a huge mess and not knowing what you’re doing. Then it takes rewriting and struggling to find your story and the truth of the story, and then the meaning of the story. It takes being comfortable with your own doubts and fears and questions. And there’s just no fast and easy way around it.” Barbara Abercrombie   “Know that it is good to work. Work with love and think of liking it when you do it. It is easy and interesting. It is a privilege. There is nothing hard about it but your anxious vanity and fear of failure.” — Brenda Ueland   So let’s …

Some Web Finds

  Today I’d like to share some great web finds: Elizabeth Gilbert on Big Magic Blogging – It’s Good for You A Memoir is Not a Status Update Write Start: Brad Taylor on that Dreaded First Page Here’s to your reading pleasure!     Photo courtesy of Morguefile

On Listening

  Listening is one of the more important tools in a writer’s toolbox, and it is an ability that writers should try to develop early in their writing careers. We listen to what others are saying.  We listen to the dialogue between and among people.  We listen to the sounds around us as we interview or participate in a conversation.  We listen to the “unspoken” words that sometimes matter more than the words that are uttered.  We listen to the voice of inspiration.  We listen to our own inner dialogues.  We listen to our own feelings. We listen to the chirping of the birds. We listen to the silence around us. Listening and writing go hand in hand.  We cannot write if we don’t listen. And when we listen, we have more to write about.     Photo courtesy of Morguefile

A Passive Stretch to Ease a Writer’s Aching Body

    Last week was an extremely busy one for me, mainly because I committed to submit ten articles to a London publisher. Sometimes we make decisions that are totally insane, and that’s what I did when I accepted the writing assignments that had to be submitted within one week after acceptance. I managed to finish all ten articles one day and a few hours late because I was able to work on them only a couple of days before the deadline. It required hours and hours of striking the keypad and needless to say, by the time I finished, my shoulders and back were really stiff. Through the years, when the body stiffens and begins to ache due to overwork, I always do a passive stretch which I call the “Fulford stretch.” It’s an easy and highly effective way to relax the muscles. This stretch was recommended by Dr. Robert Fulford,  who was a leading practitioner of cranial osteopathy.  In his book, “Dr. Fulford’s Touch of Life: The Healing Power of the Natural Life Force,” he …

Introducing…the Judge

As writers, we’re all so familiar with the Muse, and the nemesis called the Critic.  Jack Heffron, in his book The Writer’s Idea Book, introduced another nemesis – the Judge. Who is the Judge and what does he do to writers?  Hefron attributes a number of the “dark” strategies we usually blame on the Critic to  that aspect of ourselves that he calls the Judge. The Judge instills guilt. It’s that voice from within that tells us how inconsiderate we are for sitting in front of our desks all morning when there are many chores to be done. The Judge is especially harsh on women Heffron says, because from the time they can walk, women are instilled with the concept of sacrifice, of ignoring their needs.  Men also wrangle with the Judge, but not as much as women do. The Judge does not spare any writer – published or not, it wields its power. Listen to  fiction writer Gish Jen, who was  interviewed by Publishers Weekly: “Even today, I think my family would be more relived than dismayed if I were …

Permission to Fail

Originally posted on BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog:
From I’m at an artist residency, at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, which I highly recommend. A small group of “associate artists” are chosen to work with a “master artist,” someone notable in our field. There’s a daily class meeting, provided meals, and a lot of free time in a beautiful location to work work work…or relax and let the ideas flow. I’m a work-work-work-er. And when I was here last year, I finished a book, so I came this year ready to rock-and-roll. Except…for the two editing projects that were overdue. And the last traces of bronchitis dogging my mornings, making it hard to get up and go. And of course the initial awkwardness of always feeling like the uncoolest kid at the party, any party. It’s been three days, and I haven’t actually written anything yet. But I’ve sure aced that quiz on the periodic table, my current time-suck when I know I should be doing something else. (Yttrium, ytterbium, rubidium, zinc…) I feel…

Come to the Center

Come to the center of your being on a daily basis. Gather strength from these moments of powerful prayer. Invoke your highest good. Give yourself the opportunity to open up to more aspects of your BEing.   –  Notecards from the Soul, by Rosanna C. Rogacion

Notes on Observing

  Observing is an activity that allows us to watch and witness what is going on around us – but it can go beyond that.  As we observe, we can touch base with our soul, with what is within.  And it is this that makes the difference in the way we write. Observing is a fine, steady thread that connects the outer world with our inner world.  We watch and observe, and at the same time we feel, and draw from within, insights that help us create a story unto its own, one with the indelible mark of our soul.

How to Avoid Clutter

When I was still studying, I diligently memorized new words and their meanings because I wanted to use highfalutin words in my writing.  I thought they would make my work distinctive and memorable.  Reading William Zinsser’s book, “On Writing Well, An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction” set me on the right and uncluttered path. “Fighting clutter is like fighting weeds – the writer is always slightly behind,”  Zinsser says.  In the chapter on clutter, Zinsser describes how writers (me included) “drape prepositions routinely on verbs that don’t need them.”  We say “free up” when we can simply say “free.”   We write “at this moment in time” when we can say “now.” He mentions a few among hundreds of words that we use to clutter our writing: numerous (many), facilitate (ease), individual (man or woman), sufficient (enough), implement (do), attempt (try). Here are some very helpful tips from the author on how to deal with clutter: Be grateful for all the words you can throw away. Prune ruthlessly Examine and re-examine every  word you use. …

Words of Wisdom from a Writer: What is Journal Writing?

“When you write a little each day (jour means day in French), journaling becomes a daily practice.” “Journal writing is practice and much more. With your words you give life to what you see, what you hear, what you touch. In this way you transform the outer thing that you see or touch into something inner. You bridge the outer and inner worlds, the visible and the invisible. This is the gift of journaling. Your daily life calls you in a thousand directions; journal writing centers you. You slow down and write. You learn to look anew at the world.” “So why journal? Here are some of the reasons. To establish the habit of writing (A writer writes.) To capture memories (places, characters, conversations, events) To discover what you think and feel (each time going deeper) To find your voice (When does your writing sound the most natural? Look at your entries to see at what time of day and in what place you write most easily. Track your writing habits.) To take risks (in …

The Need for Study

When we go on a journey or an exploration, it is always best to seek the advice of those who have gone ahead of us. The same is true with writing. I wish I had the time to join an online writing course, but my workload is heavy now, so I have to settle for books to guide me along the way. I have settled down with two books on writing:  The Writer’s Portable Mentor, A guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life by Patricia Long; and One Year to a Writing Life, Twelve Lessons to Deepen Every Writer’s Art by Susan M. Tiberghien. Long’s book reads like a complete writing course – very thorough and takes you slowly towards the direction of creating a writing life. Tiberghien’s book on the other hand is more meditative, reflective and slower paced – one lesson for one whole month. I feel that I’ve found my writing mentors and have settled down to serious study. Blogging daily has made me realize that I can use this blog as a sort …

A Bio that Reads Like Fiction

In 2005. my beloved spiritual mentor, Abbot M. Basil Penington – a Trappist monk – died from injuries sustained in a vehicular accident. Since then, I had been without a spiritual guide although I had searched far and wide. Recently, my search brought me to a most magical place in cyberspace. – the website of Edward Hays. I am just beginning to explore this new-found wonderland and among my discoveries is his short bio, which reads like a juicy chunk of fiction. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a profile that reads like a short fairy tale? “Edward Hays portrays himself as walking the razor’s edge between madness and magic. Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, he describes his childhood as being surrounded by silent applause from his parents, his brothers Joe and Tom and his sister Jane. “With that enchanted childhood as a bulletproof vest, he entered adult life — but never totally abandoned the wonder-world of stories and imagination. His professional education was shaped in the magic monastery of Conception Abbey in Missouri, where the Benedictine monks opened his …

Granta Open for Unsolicited Submissions

Originally posted on BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog:
News from our friends over at Aerogramme Studio: After a long hiatus Granta, one of the world’s most prestigious literary magazines, is again accepting unsolicited submissions. Granta’s history can be traced back to 1889 when a student politics and literature magazine called The Granta was founded at Cambridge University. Since its relaunch 35 years ago, Granta has been a quarterly literary journal, with the aim of publishing the best new writing. Granta publishes fiction, non-fiction and poetry. There are no strict word limits, though most prose submissions are between 3000 and 6000 words and the editors advise they are unlikely to read more than 10,000 words of any submission. The deadline is April 1. For more information, check out the full post on Aerogramme, or head over to Granta itself.

Slowing Down

After the flurry of activities, life deliberately provides us with opportunities to slow down and rest. If we have learned to move our focus away from the call of the material world, we are able to enjoy this time. Life ceases to be a race and begins to take on the pace of a sweet, slow dance.  

Write about what you love and Love what you write! Happy Valentine’s Day! photo credit: Zum Valentinstag – Happy Valentine via photopin (license)

Routines that Help Sustain Creativity

I came across this interesting post about the routines of some highly creative people. It features the top ten favorite routines of the editors of 99U, who conducted the interviews with various creatives. No. 1, “Take a quarterly vacation,” and No.6, “Take a Daily Nap,” are my top two favorites.  Care to develop a ritual or 2? Then read “10 Creative Rituals You Should Steal.” In “The Odd (And Effective) Routines of Famous Minds like Beethoven, Maya Angelou, and Francis Bacon,” you’ll read about how Maya Angelou rented a small hotel or motel room to do her writing. Nothing eccentric about that, but the habits of Francis Bacon, W.H. Auden and Beethoven, who counted exactly 60 coffee beans every morning are interesting, but hard to follow. I’m thinking hard about what routines I have and I hope drinking tea after a heavy meal counts, because I don’t seem to have any other. If I had known “How Mundane Routines Produce Creative Magic,” I would have established routines when I was younger. Perhaps it’s not too late. Want …

Finding My Own Rhythm

I work on weekends and today was my day off! I spent much time pondering upon yesterday’s post on early morning writing, and my failed attempts at it. I opened up to a dialogue and it helped a lot – it always helps to clarify persistent issues. From the dialogue with the Self, I realized that I was being too “left brained” about the whole issue. This much I would say, though. All those times that I was consistently doing early morning writing, I tell you, the writing ideas literally flowed…sometimes it was a deluge. Looking back now, that’s one of the reasons why I kept at it and tried to get back to it after backsliding. But it’s time to get real. Five days a week I come home late – sometimes after 9 p.m. from my therapy sessions. I usually start sessions at noon and some days I begin at 3 p.m. I have to meet my clients halfway – many of them work too, so my work schedule is far from regular. Aside from …

Establishing a Daily Writing Routine

I’ve been blogging about my on and off romance with early morning writing for sometime now. Every time I think I’ve established the daily routine and raise both arms in triumphant celebration, something just pops in my brain and pretty soon I’m not doing early morning writing again. I think that on an unconscious level, this is why I committed to daily blogging this year. It’s a public commitment that would not be so hard to put off. So far I’ve been consistently posting everyday – including Monday reblogs – which equates to time off for good behavior during the past week. I write and post my blogs whenever I have the time. But it hasn’t been an antidote for my failed attempts to keep a daily early morning date with the Muse. But the commitment to blog daily at least forces me to write everyday. I know the reason is neither laziness nor procrastination. Ok, so now I’m giving myself a nice excuse, because according to neuroscience, research indicates that creative personality types and habit/routine simply don’t go together. …

Writing as a Healing Tool

Whether or not you hope to publish a book, if you want to write, you should keep on writing. Here’s why: Writing to express one’s self helps improve one’s mood Expressive writing helps us resolve psychological trauma Research indicates that writing about our deepest thoughts and feelings is beneficial to physical well-being Writing about what bothers us reduces stress Writing improves sleep …and all these are backed up by research. I want to assure you with all earnestness that no writing is a waste of time–no creative work where the feelings, the imagination, the intelligence must work. With every sentence you write, you have learned something. It has done you good. It has stretched your understanding. I know that. Even if I knew for certain that I would never have anything published again, and would never make another cent from it, I would still keep on writing. -Brenda Ueland in If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit   photo credit: [Poems], [ca. 1620-1640] via photopin (license)

It’s a Privilege

Originally posted on BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog:
Hananah Zaheer weighs in on the recent discussion in Salon, Dame, Missouri Review, Bustle, Medium and on various personal blogs, about writers, money, privilege and support. (Gentle Readers, we’ll do a round-up on those posts later this week). It’s a privilege. I often joke that I wish I was a writer in the old days. Non-specific, old days where artists had patrons who took care of their expenses and living, and all they were responsible for was writing, creating, painting. My husband likes to remind me that I do: him. This is true. Much like Ann Bauer admits in her Salon piece I, too, must confess that I do not have the pressures that come from having difficult financial circumstances. I live in Dubai in a nice neighborhood. I have help at home, I drive a nice car; I had never considered the word exactly, but I fit the description of being “sponsored.” I work, too, but it has been mostly as an adjunct and let’s face it, that…

The Writer’s Voice

Discover your voice. Determine how it is different from all other voices. Make it hot for yourself. Get to where the jeopardy is. A writer’s voice. What is it really? I’ve been pondering upon this since last year, and have been trying to find my voice. At first, after reading other blogs and appreciating the way some people can write with humor and candor, I thought my voice was that of a serious writer. But then again, I wondered if that isn’t what’s called writing style. Or is that one’s niche? Late last year, when journalists from all over the globe were arriving in our country to cover the arrival of yet another supertyphoon that threatened to pummel our already supertyphoon-weary archipelago, I told myself I should also blog about typhoon Hagupit. I started with the intention of writing about the supertyphoon and the preparations being done to prevent casualties, but in the end, the blog post centered on prayer. That was a twist that happened as I was writing, and I wonder if somewhere …

Writers on Writing : Rejection

  “Writers have a little holy light within, like a pilot light which fear is always blowing out. When a writer brings a manuscript fresh from the making, at the moment of greatest vulnerability, that’s the moment for friends to help get the holy light lit again.” –Cynthia Ozick “I discovered that rejections are not altogether a bad thing. They teach a writer to rely on his own judgment and to say in his heart of hearts, ‘To hell with you.’ ” –Saul Bellow “In every real sense, the writer writes in order to teach himself; the publishing of his ideas is a curious anticlimax.” –Alfred Kazin “I know of potential writers ruined by the harshness of a teacher, the thoughtlessness, or even malice, of a fellow student. And I know of works stopped dead by showing it off too soon. “What’s the solution? “Write. Read. Practice. Find a support group if you wish. But if you want to write, just write.” –Sophy Burnham   photo credit: 004 via photopin (license) 

How to Handle Fear and Doubt

“When I am happiest, I write almost every day,” Sophy Burnham wrote in For Writers Only.  As for me, I am happiest when I write everyday… Just as what happens to us, life gets in her way and keeps her from writing. It’s nice to know that even accomplished writers have this problem – misery loves company… “For long periods, however, my time is taken. Days pass…weeks. Then I forget I ever once began…” How to begin writing again? “At times like these, then, fear and doubt must be fought with all the weapons in our arsenal. These include: affirmations, prayer, silence, stillness, trusting, trying, waiting, walking, reading, not reading. Writing about my fear…”        

Why Keep a Notebook?

Why should you keep a notebook and carry it with you?  A notebook reminds you that you’re a writer Carrying a notebook teaches you to pay attention A notebook gives you the chance to write even if the only time you have is just a few minutes. Taking notes is also a creative act Carrying a notebook encourages you to be creative “The constant use of the notebook keeps you working and writing and provides a mine of material to be used down the road. Keep anything pertinent to your development as a writer:character sketches, found poems, observations, all of the preliminary stuff for the first stages of the writing process. What you write down now goes toward all the writing you will ever do.”  — John DuFresne   photo credit: VeRoNiK@ GR via photopin cc

More on the Art of Savoring

In Writing and the Forgotten Art of Savoring, a blog post I wrote sometime ago, I explained how I take the time to savor the little pleasures of life; and how writing can teach us the art of savoring those precious moments. In this TEDx Talk, neuroscientist Ted Hansen explains how we can use pleasurable moments to change our brains. It’s a scientific way of explaining the fine art of savoring. Enjoy!   My apologies, for some reason I can’t get the video to appear – please click on the link.

Of Candlemas and the Fallen 44

I clutched my ochre sweater as I walked through the yard this morning, relishing the second day of the coldest month in the Philippines. The northeast monsoon brings with it chilly winds coming from the Siberian High and it tends to blow strongest in February – it was 19°C during the wee hours of the morning. It’s also Candlemas, the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple and there’s a fiesta in the Parish where we celebrate mass every Sunday. According to Biblical accounts, Mary presented Jesus to God at the temple after observing a traditional 40-day purification period. At the temple, they were met by an old Jewish man named Simeon, who declared that the infant would be a light for the Gentiles – thus the event came to be known as Candlemas. It is also celebrated as the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin – the Feast of Our Lady of Candelaria, the Spanish word for Candlemas. According to the Bible, Simeon was promised that “he should not see death …

Writing is an Act of Courage

  “Writing, therefore, is also an act of courage. How much easier is it to lead an unexamined life than to confront yourself on the page? How much easier is it to surrender to materialism or cynicism or to a hundred other ways of life that are, in fact, ways to hide from life and from our fears? When we write, we resist the facile seduction of these simpler roads. We insist on finding out and declaring the truths that we find and we dare to put those truths on the page. “To get ideas and to write well, you have to risk opening yourself.” photo credit: dietmut via photopin cc