Year: 2016

The Benefits of Journaling

As best as I can remember, I’ve been writing on a journal since I was a teenager. The notebook and pen became two of my very best friends on the journey through the hormone-saturated teenage years. I lost touch with these two friends for a few years when I explored the corporate jungle. The hectic lifestyle simply did not support nor provide moments for quiet reflection. When I decided to retreat from the world after a few years of elbowing and jostling in the corporate arena, reconnecting with the journal and pen was a vital part of my healing process. I do not remember neither the first time I wrote on a journal, nor the reason why. But I am deeply grateful for the way this writing habit has enriched my life in all levels. According to psychologists at the University of Texas at Austin as well as  psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker, writing regularly on a journal has several beneficial effects on one’s health: journaling strengthens our T-lymphocytes, the cells of our immune system it decreases …

Musings from Memoirland

  When we learn to tell the whole truth about experience, to discern our own soul’s odyssey, we come to understand the mythic dimension of our personal struggles, triumphs, confusions, longings, digressions, and so-called mistakes. -Mark Matousek   It’s been eleven months since I decided to explore memoirland and begin writing a first draft of a memoir. I have finished two online classes and currently I am in the middle of another one.  All good – there had been many lessons and discoveries. As I have written often in my blog posts, I have no formal education in writing. I became a feature writer for a magazine distributed all over Asia mainly through my penchant for wonder and my love for words. At this point in my life, I feel it’s time to experience being a student of writing. Memoir was very threatening in the beginning, primarily because I am a very private person. I am an energy therapist and spend lots of time listening to other people’s woes and tribulations so that I could help my clients transform the …

Discover Your Writing Self

Andi Cumbo-Floyd, author of Steele Secrets and The Slaves Have Names, is offering a free course for writers. “Join me on a journey to discover who you are as a writer in the world,” writes Andi. The free writing course will run from August 1-31, 2016. Participants will receive 31 email notes featuring questions that will prompt writers to discover their place in this world. Andi promises to explore “everything from motivation to goals to software, all with the aim of helping you know yourself better as a writing person.” Discussions and sharing will be conducted in an exlusive Facebook page.  To register, click here. 

Adventures in Journaling

My journal is my place to let go of formal constraints, to be crazy and creative, to take off my masks, to be me, to find me.  -Lynn G. Nelson I’ve been writing on journals since I was a teenager, and if anything, it is the one thing in my writing life that has remained constant. But after one has spent decades writing on journals, there’s a danger that it could become just another tedious chore. That’s why it’s important to have an arsenal of techniques and  various ways of writing on a notebook. Here are some that I’ve practiced through the years: The journal as a dumping ground: for rants during confusing times, and those moments when I just want to let it all out. “Use your journal as a garbage can. Discard your angers, your fears, your doubts, your frustrations by writing about them in your journal. This will lessen their power over you. You will feel better.”  – Lynn G. Nelson I use the journal as a lens through which I see the world from a different perspective. …

Drafting and Crafting: tools for every writer

First you draft, then you craft. This is what I am learning as I trudge along my book-writing project. Drafting first. Crafting second. I am still in the drafting phase. How long will that take? I have no idea. What direction will the book take? I have written a few thousand words but I still have no clue as to where I am going. After months into drafting, I hear whisperings from within…the title of a book, but it’s not the one I am writing. I read through my journals and find that repeatedly, I had written the same title, with the words, “This is the book I was born to write.” I go over my drafts and I realize that I could be writing chapters for two different books. I am learning too, that all of these are good. Andy Couturier says, “Trust the mystery. Really trust the mystery…What do I mean by the ‘mystery?’ It’s basically this idea of …I don’t know what’s going to happen with my writing…I don’t know what’s going to …

What You Have to Do to Be a Writer

“The second thing you have to do to be a writer is to keep on writing. Don’t listen to people who tell you that very few people get published and you won’t be one of them. Don’t listen to your friend who says you are better than Tolkien and don’t have to try any more. Keep writing, keep faith in the idea that you have unique stories to tell, and tell them.” – Robin Hobb I was looking for an epigraph that would serve as the introduction to a blog post about how some writers wrote their first books. This quote from Robin Hobb was the perfect one, but  it left me wondering because she talks about the second thing we should do to be a writer. What, I wondered, is first thing we have to do to be a writer?  I surfed the web and found this, the continuation of the quote from Robin Hobb about the second thing we have to do to be a writer: ” I meet far too many people who are going to …

The Long and Lonely Road to Writing a First Draft

“Creativity is the link between our inner work and the outer work that society requires of us. Creativity is the threshold through which our nonaction leads to actions of beautification, celebration, and healing in the world. Creativity is both an inner work and an outer work.” – Matthew Fox Many years ago, I worked as a feature writer for a Hong Kong-based publication. The transition from working as a travel photographer to feature writer was not difficult at all because I was familiar with my territory – Asia. I was also used to the hours and hours spent working on a story by my lonesome self. I spent many hours travelling to distant places, and more hours writing articles. I knew then how lonesome writing as a profession could be. I don’t know if I had just forgotten how it feels, but after spending weeks and weeks working on the first draft for a memoir, I feel it – the heavy weight of loneliness, a kind that I have never known. Don’t get me wrong – …

Prayers for Writers

  Prayer of a Writer  Lord of all things, whose wondrous gifts to man Include the shining symbols known as words  Grant that I may use their mighty power only for good. Help me to pass on Small fragments of Your wisdom, truth, and love. Teach me to touch the unseen, lonely heart With laughter, or the quick release of tears. Let me portray the courage that endures, Defiant in the face of pain or death; The kindness and the gentleness of those Who fight against the anger of the world; The beauty hidden in the smallest things; The mystery, the wonder of it all…. Open my ears, my eyes; unlock my heart. Speak through me Lord, if it be Your will.  Amen                                                                                                   –  Arthur Gordon A Writer’s Prayer …

The Zen of Writing (A Haibun)

I wake up to the sound of a voice in my head and I know instantly that it is “writing” what could be an introduction to a book. I listen intently as the voice “writes.” When it is over, I hear a familiar tune – a lone olive-backed sunbird is singing in the backyard. I smile and say to myself, “And then the sunbird sings…” Darkness still covers everything outside and inside the house. But within me, a veil is lifting. the sparrows and fantails are nowhere, their merry chatter a mere memory now the sunbird sings Our mornings are so different now. For almost eight months during the year, the backyard becomes a favorite meeting place for the Eurasian tree sparrows. From November to June, they are there tweeting, chirping. The birds converge while it is still dark and begin to chatter. By seven, just as we are preparing breakfast, they are gone. The monsoon rains are here and the sparrows no longer come. The sunbirds and the yellow-vented bulbuls have the backyard all …

When Life Interrupts

Sitting down to write won’t just happen; you have to resolve to make it happen.                                                                                                                  -Nan Merrick Phifer What does one do when the flow of words suddenly stops, when life interrupts our regular writing practice with an illness? That happened to me a week ago, when I was debilitated by a bout with intestinal flu. Suddenly, my regular journaling practice and memoir writing hour did not happen – there was simply no interest on my part to get up from bed and write. And that went on for a week. All we can do at times like these is to stop, heal and know that all will be well again. Life interrupts us in various ways, depending on …

How’s Your Verisimilitude?

 I learned about verisimilitude during the 2-month memoir  writing course I attended last year.  What a long word, and what a big difference it makes in our writing. The scene’s message MEANS more when the reader can picture it happening. Here, memoirists use the same conjuring trick as fiction writers do – verisimilitude – the craft of making a scene feel authentic by incorporating real life detail.  This is crucial to the literary and emotional impact of your personal narrative. -Mark Matousek In an interview featured in the Paris Review, John Cheever explained: Verisimilitude is, by my lights, a technique one exploits in order to assure the reader of the truthfulness of what he’s being told. If he truly believes he is standing on a rug, you can pull it out from under him. Of course, verisimilitude is also a lie. What I’ve always wanted of verisimilitude is probability, which is very much the way I live. This table seems real, the fruit basket belonged to my grandmother, but a madwoman could come in the door …

Slow-cooking a First Draft

“Go slowly. Love your story. It will wait for you.”                                                                                              -Allan G. Hunter Two years ago I began writing posts in this blog about my attempts to write a first draft. Those attempts resulted in a few dozen pages which are stashed in a shelf together with all the journals I had filled up through the years. Back then, I grabbed a notebook and pen after deciding to join a 5-pages a day writing challenge, and then a one-page a day challenge.  Both were supposed to culminate in a first draft in four to six months. Both times, I managed to write regularly for several  weeks then dropped out of the challenges because both times I didn’t really know what to write about.  Now that I am trying again for the third time, I realized that deciding …

From Blogging to Writing a First Draft

When I started this blog on April 1, 2013, it didn’t occur to me that it was April Fool’s day because I was so determined to create a blog focused on writing. ‘ Prior to this blog, I had another one, where I wrote about various things. I changed the name of that blog several times over the course of two years because I was not sure what I wanted to write about. I finally closed that blog after I realized that what I really wanted to do was to learn how to write again – and differently this time around.  I decided to blog about my writing journey as a way of forcing myself to keep on learning about writing even as I continued to work as an energy therapist. It wasn’t hard to think of things to write. I simply put on the same thinking cap I used when I worked as a feature writer. Joining blogging events also helped me stay on the blogging track and learn from other bloggers. The more I blogged, the more I …