All posts tagged: love for writing

How to Write Effortlessly

I’m still at it: Everyday I use rituals to provide me with the focus I need to write. It’s an exhilarating feeling to be able to write regularly for the first time in my writing life. Making a date with one’s self to write and using rituals to signal my brain that it’s time to write literally feels like carving out writing space in my life.  And I want more! As I explained in another blog post, I never attended writing school and my writing career was launched by chance. Now that I have decided to do more writing other than journal writing and blogging, I feel the need to study and learn more…oh, there are so many lovely books on writing waiting to be read! I want more writing time. I need more writing time. I also have to learn to write more freely. When I was a feature writer, our publisher used to tell me that I occasionally suffered from cerebral constipation – and I think I am suffering from that now, especially …

How to Begin a New Writing Habit

Last month, I decided it was time to start a new writing habit. In a blog post written last year, I explained why I write on my journal at various times of the day. It was a habit formed a long, long time ago, when I was working as a feature writer. I value the ability to write everywhere – even in the midst of a noisy and busy place, and it is one habit that I plan to continue as long as I want to write. I have been journaling since I was very young, and through the years, it had become a very therapeutic practice. But as I recounted in another blog post, I have been feeling that something was amiss – somehow journaling no longer seemed so enticing and fulfilling. Perhaps I had been doing it for so long? I was thus very grateful to have been given a  scholarship by Shift Network to Mark Matousek’s course, “Writing as a Spiritual Practice.” Mark is a generous teacher – the course materials were …

Celebrating First Year with a Giveaway for Commenters

This blog is celebrating its first year with over 1,200 followers! I am of course in a happy mood as I mark this milestone. I believe that in the game of life, we achieve milestones with the help of others. In my case, I am well aware that WordPress.com was a big help in inviting followers. I remember when the blog was new, after each post, I would get a message from WordPress.com saying they had alerted a certain number of bloggers about my blog post.  That went on for a while – a much needed boost. Then it stopped, and I knew that it was up to me to keep the ball rolling. Joining blogathons helped a lot too.  I joined the Wordcount Blogathon, Yeah Write’s 31dbb, and NaBloPoMo. I know that these blogging events helped spread the word about my blog, and I encourage you to join one if you haven’t yet. Writing the posts for this blog was very therapeutic for me. I set it up initially with the intent of learning …

Own Your Story! Free E-course

Canvas Network is once again offering a host of e-courses. Two courses would be of interest to writers: Advancing Women’s Leadership: Own Your Story which starts on April 25, 2014; and Doing Journalism with Data: First Steps, Skills and Tools from May 19  to July 31, 2014 Here is the course description for Advancing Women’s Leadership: Own Your Story: We all have a story. No matter where we are in our life’s journey; no matter our circumstances; we have something to share that has made us who we are. Capturing and examining our life stories increases our resilience and clarifies our place in the world. Join eight leaders and authors in exploring the power of these stories in our lives. Together, we will share our stories of family and community, work and career, college or school, and the financial, physical, and spiritual triumphs and challenges we have faced. Together, we will acknowledge and embrace those stories using them to ground us and to help us shape our futures. Focused on adult women but open to …

The Transformative Power of Journaling

I woke up this morning with an uneasy feeling, one that had been building up through the days. I sat and wrote on my journal. It has been my habit to journal in the morning, before I leave my room for breakfast. But on days when I have to leave early for work, I take the journal with me and write where I can, when I can. Although I had been journaling for several decades now, it never ceases to amaze me how this writing tool can transform the heaviness within into a feeling of lightness; how, when the feelings that had been hidden, can become beacons of light that give direction to my day when they are brought out into the light and expressed in writing . I have written much about this amazing and transformative writing tool in several blog posts. In this post, I would like to feature some quotes on journaling from the book, “Writing and Being,” by Lynn G. Nelson. It is one of the best books on journaling that …

Writers on Writing

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great. -Mark Twain Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it. -Maya Angelou You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.                                                                                                                                       -Neil Gaiman Keep on beginning and failing. Each time you fail, start all over again, and you will grow stronger until you have accomplished a purpose… not the one you …

Drawing Inspiration from Followers and a Determined Writer

How time flies! It’s been a month since I last posted on this blog. Blogging took a backseat again when I was stopped for a couple of weeks by complaints from my body. There was a need to purge accumulated debris from unwise decisions I had made through the years – eating bad food, taking unhealthy drinks, and a lifestyle that focused on rushing instead of living. When life dishes out interruptions to routines, it is trying to say something to us humans who are forever running around in circles. My journal holds the details of my current trip down the slow lane of dis-ease, as well as the fine lessons learned during the down-time. But journaling too, took a back seat for many days, when the body simply refused to budge and hungrily took all the rest it had been starved of. During those days, I wondered if hard-core writers and bloggers – those who steadfastly keep a routine of daily writing – wrote during times of illness. Did they struggle against the already …

One Writer’s Little Bag of Writing Tricks

My Little Bag of Writing Tricks By Rachel Toor     How I translate grammar directives into moves I can use to make my sentences better                                           illustration by Brian Taylor In the progressive campus lab school I attended until sixth grade, my friends and I wrote poetry, celebrated the passage of Title IX, and did “new” math. The boys sewed and cooked in home economics, and the girls sawed and drilled their way through shop class.   read more

When Writing, Ask Yourself: “What do I want?”

Shawn Coyne explores the process of finding the theme for the stories we want to write in a guest post featured in Stephen Pressfield Online:  What Do You Want? When thinking about the kind of story you’d like to tell, what do I want? is a great question to ask yourself.   What’s the theme of this book? Obviously you want to write a successful work of art, which will bring you recognition and ultimately enough of a living wage for you to write another one. read more…

Writers and their Writing Spaces

When work takes most of my time, I write on my journal wherever I am, whenever I can. In the house, I have a table for writing on notebooks, and a computer table. It’s that simple, but then, I am not a well-known writer. It’s always interesting to know how writers write… here are some glimpses into the writing spaces of some writers: Amy Tan describes her writing space as “womblike.” In New York, she has an office which was once a closet; and in San Francisco, her writing space has a window covered with drapes: “I cannot deal with distractions,” she says, so the curtains are there to block the view. American novelist and young-adult and children’s writer Alice Hoffman paints her writing space, her office, a different color each time she begins working on a new book. She also decorates the room with items that reminds her of the book she’s working on. Sherman Joseph Alexie, Jr., a poet, writer, and filmmaker, writes mostly at 3 a.m. at one of the branches of …

Words of Wisdom from Writers

We…write to heighten our own awareness of life…We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection…We write to be able to transcend our life, to reach beyond it…to teach ourselves to speak with others, to record the journey into the labyrinth…to expand our world, when we feel strangled, constricted, lonely…When I don’t write I feel my world shrinking. I feel I lose my fire, my color. -Anais Nin  Writing itself is one of the great free human activities. There is scope for individuality, and elation, and discovery. In writing for the person who follows with trust and forgiveness what occurs to him, the world remains always ready and deep, an inexhaustible environment, with the combined vividness of an actuality and flexibility of a dream. Working back and forth between experience and thought, writers have more than space and time can offer. They have the whole unexplored realm of human vision. -William Stafford People often lack any voice at all in their writing because they stop so often in the act of writing …

Journaling to Free the Soul

I am now writing on a light-weight, unlined journal. In an earlier blog post, I wrote about moving away from spiral, lined notebooks because I felt the need for change. It wasn’t until I opened the new unlined journal that I realized that there is an advantage to writing on the same type of notebooks. When I first opened the new journal to write an entry, my mind went as blank as the page that was staring back at me – it was as though my mind didn’t know what to do with the blank page. I am also a trying-to-be painter and I usually doodle and play around with paint on drawing books or drawing pads. Thus, when I opened the unlined journal, my mind couldn’t decide whether I would write or draw. Julia Cameron, in The Right to Write, tells us to begin where we are. I tried that and although it took a while before I was able to write anything, eventually I began writing…I wrote the date on the lower right …

A Peek into the Writing Habits of Famous Writers

Writers are an odd group of people – indeed, it does take a certain kind of mentality and character to be able to use words to create stories that people would want to read. If you ever find yourself doing strange things just to be able to write, take heart – famous writers have and do go to great lengths to summon the muse: -Ernest Hemingway wrote from 5:00 a.m. to 10 a.m. He would first write standing up and would sit down and type only when he felt his creativity flowing. -Because of his intense need to listen to his muse, Rainer Maria Rilke left his wife and baby. -Before sitting down to write, Thomas Wilder took long walks. -Willa Carther invited the muse by reading a page from the Bible everyday before writing. -“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” was written on different hotel stationery.  When he was done writing it, Tennessee Williams sent the one and only copy to his agent by ordinary mail. -Toni Morrison uses a number two pencil to …

Free Teleseminar: Freeing Your Soul Through Writing

Bestselling spiritual writer, teacher, and speaker Mark Matousek will be featured in a free teleseminar on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at  5:30pm US Pacific / 8:30pm US Eastern time. Matousek uses self-inquiry and life writing as a means to achieve personal awakening and creative excellence.  If you can’t join in on the live teleseminar, you will receive an audio recording if you register here. Here’s a copy of the synopsis for the teleseminar: Do you feel liberated by pouring your heart’s deepest truths into a journal? Do you turn to writing as a way to free yourself from old stories, clear negative emotions and open to your higher wisdom? If so, you’re not alone. Our intimate writings are far more than “just” a diary; they can be a powerful spiritual practice that frees us from stuck energies, old ideas and stagnant visions. They can be a gateway to our soul’s liberation. It is time for writing to take a respected place of honor among more venerated spiritual practices like meditation and prayer. Indeed, there is …

The Benefits of Taking a Break from Writing

It’s been more than a week since the new year began, and I am only now beginning to write publicly again. I’ve continued journaling of course, recording the pivotal events that marked the end of 2013, as well as the calm and peace that signified the beginning of a new year for me and my family. But I took a few day’s  break from journaling as well during the first week of 2014. I know that taking a respite from writing is not a popular concept in the west. But in the eastern part of the world, where I live, taking regular breaks from life as we know it is an essential part of growth. In the western contemplative tradition, a break or a pause is referred to as statio. Statio is a period of rest, where one does nothing, when one allows the ebb and flow of life to continue without effort. In the east, pausing is not only normal, it is necessary. Hindus note that we pause after an exhale, just before another …

Precious Words from Writers

“You’re a writer. And that’s something better than being a millionaire. Because it’s something holy.” -Harlan Ellison “There are significant moments in everyone’s day that can make good literature. That’s what you write about.” -Raymond Carver “You just have to sit down and write. I never saw myself as a literary figure. The phrase, “writer’s block” would sound a little pretentious in my mouth.” -Red Smith “If you write a hundred short stories and they’re all bad, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. You fail only if you stop writing.” –Ray Bradbury “When I sit down on my writing desk, time seems to vanish. I think it’s a wonderful way to spend one’s life.” -Erica Jong “Watch children at play. They are terribly serious. The same is true with writing: you get caught up in the rhythm. That’s when it really gets to be complete play.” -Madeleine L’engle  

Digital Journaling or Pen and Paper?

I won’t debate about which journaling method is easier, smarter, better. Ultimately, I believe that every writer will have his/her own reason to choose one over the other.   I’ve been journaling with pen and paper most of my journaling life – I say most because for brief periods I tried digital journaling. There are many journalers who are all praises for digital journaling.  That’s why I tried it. I journaled for a while in Penzu, but when it didn’t feel right, I thought of trying a private blog with WordPress.com.  That went well for a few days, but I soon got tired of it and something just didn’t fit. I read about OhLife – and tried it. It was great to receive an email everyday, reminding me of the day and date, and the question: “How did your day go?” My journaling stint with OhLife was short and sweet  – in time I felt railroaded by the question,”How did your day go?” When journaling became a mere act of answering OhLife’s question about my …

Digging Through My Journals: Lessons on Choosing the Right Journal

After journaling for decades, I recently hit a plateau and could not get the pen to move on the paper as fast as I used to. After a few months of touch and go, I decided it was time to take a closer look at my journaling habits and perhaps incorporate a few changes here and there. To do that, I thought of going through all my journals – those that I hadn’t burned. I had burned many journals simply because I felt they had served their purpose. The remaining ones were written during the past eight years.  I hadn’t decided what to do with them – it’s not yet their time to get burned, apparently. The notebooks had been stored in a cabinet in my room and it’s been a few years since I’ve looked at them closely. It was surprising to see that through the years I had written on spiral notebooks in different colors but all of the same size. I had forgotten about these notebooks, but upon seeing them again, I …

Free Online Writing Courses

Several institutions are offering free online writing courses and the great thing about these courses is that they are self-paced. So, no pressure and lots of learning. What is good writing? If the idea of writing an essay intimidates you, this unit offered by The Open University  will help you realize that there’s no reason to fear essays. Writing what you know If you want to improve your skills in descriptive writing, this unit will help you “to develop your perception of the world about you and enable you to see the familiar things in everyday life in a new light. You will also learn how authors use their own personal histories to form the basis of their work.” Start writing fiction This unit will help you learn how characters might be drawn, as well as how setting is established. The course description says the unit “works on the different levels of characterisation, from flat to round, and how character and place interact. It also works on the effect of genre and how genre can …

Finding It Hard to Blog Regularly? Join a Blogging Challenge!

Today is the last day of NaBloPoMo. Another blogging challenge completed – well almost, since I missed one day. After (almost) completing three blogging challenges this year, I can very strongly recommend that you try it – if you haven’t yet. If you are a blogger who needs to get into the habit of blogging regularly and frequently, then blogging challenges are the perfect tool for you. Joining a blogging challenge will help you set the habit of blogging regularly because you are part of a group and because you have committed to it. Don’t worry if you fail to complete a blogging challenge.  This year, I bowed out of three daily blogging challenges because of circumstances in my life.  But I kept trying, so now I have completed my third blogging challenge for the year. There are many blogging challenges that are being held throughout the year – from daily, to weekly to photo challenges – there’s a whole array of choices. I’ve collated a list of the different blogging challenges in another blog …

The Journal as a Stepping Stone

The notebook – no matter what size or shape; whether it’ cheap or expensive – holds many promises for any writer. It can be called a journal or simply a writer’s notebook, but those blank pages can serve a variety of purposes. A journal need not be a mere diary – actually, a journal should not be a mere diary. Writer James Brown uses his journal as a stepping stone, where he explores his ideas and characters for whatever he’s writing. It is, so to speak his “drawing board.”   When writing non-fiction, he writes short biographical sketches of his characters in his notebook and workouts the scenes in the pages of his journals. “What matters is how journaling can help the writer come up with ideas, kind of a warm-up to a bigger process. The next step is building on those ideas, discarding some and fleshing out others, developing characters and motives, and arranging the scenes in a logical, meaningful sequence with a firm sense of a beginning, middle and end,” Brown explained. Brown …

Why Writers Keep Journals

  I don’t remember exactly when I began writing on a journal. Unlike some writers who remember the precise time and day when they first wrote on their first journal, journal writing crept into my life slowly and unceremoniously. But if I am ever to lay claim to the title “Writer,” the only viable reason I can give is that I have been a journal writer most of my life.  It is the only writing activity that I have constantly practiced since I was young. In my younger years, journal writing had been a venting place where I could write without abandon about things that confused, saddened and angered me.  Later on, it became a safe place where I could write about the deep secrets that I could not share with anyone. In my adult years, when I worked as a photojournalist, then as a journalist, the journal was my constant companion through my travels to the jungles, the mountains, and into other people’s lives. I wrote in hotel rooms, at tiny eateries in the …

Poetry Tryout

Although I never studied poetry, I love to write poems. Here is a poem written a few months ago, using one of the techniques suggested by Peter Levitt in his book “Fingerpainting on the Moon, Writing and Creativity as a Path to Freedom.” Pen and Me Pen in my hand, Cold and warm in places I write with this – It is an extension of my Self. For that brief moment That the words flow From the innermost places Of my being. Pen in hand – A friend. And, just like me, An instrument. The process of writing this poem was almost magical – the words simply flowed from within. The words of the poem were drawn out through a process that Levitt calls, “soft focus.” Levitt explains, “I call the techniques that help you listen at the root of things while freeing your senses and imagination soft focus. These techniques know how to slip beneath your ego’s defenses and make it possible for you to approach the exact name of the thing itself…” Soft …

Give Yourself Permission

One of the best, easiest, yet highly effective and extremely liberating writing advice I have followed and integrated in my life is Peter Levitt’s recommendation to make a sign that reads, “PERMISSION GRANTED.” I still remember how I felt when I first read those two words – it was as though shackles were removed from my mind and the doors to the chambers of my heart opened and a waft of fresh air pushed out constraints that had been deposited there through the years. “There is room. Room for every part of life. Even room enough for me.” This realization came to Levitt one day and it led him to understand that each one of us, and every thing in this world possesses what he calls “an inherent permission to exist.” Levitt explains, “No matter how many obstructions are thrown up in an attempt by some fearful part of ourselves to disrupt the natural flow of our expressive lives, no fear, no writer’s block, no personal history, no internal conflict or neurosis changes this fact …

Authors Talk About Life

Virginia Woolf: “Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends.” Ernest Hemingway: “In order to write about life first you must live it.” Ray Bradbury: “And what, you ask, does writing teach us? First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right.” C. JoyBell C.:“I hope I don’t write TOO many books! When I look at authors who have written too many books, I wonder to myself “When did they live?” I certainly want to write BECAUSE I live! I know I don’t want to write in order to live! My writing is an overflow of the wine glass of my life, not a basin in which I wash out my ideals and expectations.” C.K. Webb:“It is a long journey, not just as a writer, but as a human being. Take nothing and no one for granted, be humble always, be kind especially when it’s difficult and never forget the place where you came from and the people …

Lessons About Writing From Doris Lessing

Doris Lessing instructs us on the craft of writing -You can only learn to be a better writer by actually writing. I don’t know much about creative writing programs. But they’re not telling the truth if they don’t teach, one, that writing is hard work and, two, that you have to give up a great deal of life, your personal life, to be a writer. -Words. Words. I play with words, hoping that some combination, even a chance combination, will say what I want. -What I had that others didn’t was a capacity for sticking to it. -I’m very unhappy when I’m not writing. I need to write. I think it’s possibly some kind of psychological balancing mechanism—but that’s not only true for writers … anybody. I think that we’re always … just a step away from lunacy anyway, and we need something to keep us balanced. -The story dictates the means of telling it. -Well, it’s certainly true that I’m driven myself, about writing. But you know I don’t do anything else. I don’t …

How to Be A Good Writer

  Matthew Arnold said that the only secret to good writing is to “Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can.  Every successful writer has his or her own success formula. Here are some writers and their advice on how we can all become good writers: Elizabeth Gilbert: “I believe that if you are serious about a life of writing, or indeed about any creative form of expression – you should take on this work like a holy calling. I became a writer the way other people become monks or nuns…I was writing’s most devotional handmaiden. I bult my entire life around writing.” Doris Lessing: “The essential question is, “Have you found a space, that empty space, which should surround you when you write?” Into that space, which like a form of listening, of attention, will come the words your characters will speak, ideas – inspiration.” Jane Yolen: “Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. …

The Graciousness of Life

“So, Joe, why grow your hair long? Why not just go bald?” Len asked our friend Joe, matter-of-factly.  I heard Joe mutter something, but my mind was far too preoccupied to listen to his answer.  I gazed out the car window, thinking of Joe’s back hair gathered into a thin, foot-long ponytail, his head topped by a glistening crown that was bare of any hair strands. “Just like Pico de Loro,” I thought, sadly anticipating the sight of deforestation at the  two-peaked mountain my mountaineering buddies and I had climbed many years ago.  On this cloudy Friday, my friends Len, Joe and I were finally headed to the beach house owned by Len’s family, and she promised us we would pass by a resort that had been built on a cove near Pico de Loro. I say “finally,” because Len had, for years, been asking me to visit their beach house.  When I acquiesced, I asked her to invite our Tai-Chi teacher-friend Joe. Living in a country that is an archipelago composed of 7,100 islands, …

Insights from Writers

On the need for silence and solitude – from Doris Lesing: “To write takes dreaming and remembering and thinking and imagining –and very often that 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.” On loving the reader – from Ellen GilChrist: “The first thing a writer must do is love the reader and wish the reader well…Only in such well wishing and trust, only when the writer feels he is writing a letter to a good friend, only then will the magic happen.” On trusting one’s voice – from Natalie Goldberg “Once you have learned to trust your own voice and allowed that creative force inside you to come out, you can direct it …

Invocation for Writers

Today is the first day of NaBloPoMo, and thousands of bloggers will begin blogging daily till the end of November.  It is a challenge to blog daily, and life sometimes takes over during the challenge, presenting us with various distractions. It is easier to give up than continue.  I know – I’ve joined and dropped out of at least three blogging challenges this year.  But I did manage to finish two, and hopefully, I will be able to even the score by finishing NaBloPoMo. To inspire us, hopeful NaBloPoMo bloggers, here is an invocation from the book “Before You Quit Writing, Read this!” An Invocation to You, Writer on the Brink by Jeanine Nicole Cerundolo Dear Writer, Before you quit writing, Don’t. Instead, remember why it is your birthright, Remember why you started, one day, once upon a time. Remember what compelled you to express the words that are your song. Dearest writer– Put away your staff of fire. Destruction has its place. But today, you are birthing something grand and generous. Let the currents …

Lifelines for Writers

When we write, we lay bare what lies within.  When we write, we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.  Vulnerability is a scary thing, which is probably why so much of writing is preceded (and oftentimes accompanied) by fear. This is the paradox that many writers struggle with – what nourishes the soul grips the heart.  It is probably one of the reasons why many famous writers were and are alcoholics.  The rest of us (I raise my hand) who are neither famous nor alcoholics frequently fall by the wayside and allow days, weeks and months to pass by without writing.  Never a year though – we cannot survive that long without writing. But one day, we read something, we feel something within, or someone says something that hits us to the core and makes us think, face our fears and finally inspires us to decide whether we will embrace writing as a calling or indulge in it as a hobby. “I didn’t know you write so well – it would truly be sinful if you …

Join the Two-Page a Day Writing Challenge

Spiritual Writers Network is sponsoring a two-page a day writing challenge, which begins on September 1 and ends December 31.  That’s a total of 122 days and if you write an average manuscript page consisting of 200-250 words, you would have a complete manuscript by the end of the year! I’ve joined this challenge mainly because I realized just recently that my writing persona has changed through the years, and from being a feature writer, I want to focus on spiritual writing.  Join us! HOW IT WORKS: On September 1st we will all start the Two-Page-a-Day challenge together.  Be sure to join this event NOW so you will be reminded to start writing on September 1st. (Late-comers will be welcome to join at any time but they will have to spend some extra time writing to catch up.) Be sure to dedicate a time for writing each day.  It’s only two pages. You can make time…no excuses! Get up an hour earlier if you need to. You must make a commitment to yourself and stick to it. Some days your …

Generate 10 Blog Posts Through Mind Mapping

Over at yeah write‘s 31 dbbb, we learned how to come up with 10 blog posts through mind mapping, a technique  that allows the brain to open up and freely explore. By using Tony Buzan’s mind mapping technique, you will allow your mind to enjoy the freedom to explore heretofore undiscovered areas of your brain.  Buzan says mind mapping “harnesses the full range of cortical skills – word, image, number, logic, rhythm, color and spatial awareness – in a single, uniquely powerful manner.” No to outlines, yes to branching The sequential linear outline is out, mainly because it’s left-brained thinking.  What’s in is using both sides of our brain through mind mapping.  During mind mapping,  ideas come from the center—a main source, or focal point—and radiates outwards with as many rays as our minds can conceive. This is whole-brain thinking. In 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, Darren Rowse shows us how he came up with so many blog post ideas from a single blog post he had previously written.  Copying his style of mind mapping, …

yeah write’s 31 dbbb

This July, I intended to join yeah write’s 31 dbbb (days to better blogging), which is based upon Darren Rowse’s 31 Days to Build a Better Blog.  But as fate would have it, life kicked in and got in the way of writing (again).  Anyway, there’s such a thing as catching up, which is what I’m trying to do with this blog post. Installing a stats tracker Our first task was to install a stats tracker on our blog.  Why? yeah write’s editors explain: “It’s a good way to know how your readers are responding to each improvement to your blog along the way. Are they staying to read? Are they jumping ship in the first 30 seconds? What search engine terms are they using to find you?”  They recommend Google Analytics and Clicky. I chose Clicky simply because it was easier to install. Write or Re-write an elevator pitch On the second day, we were asked to write or re-write our blog’s elevator pitch, or tagline.  Since I hadn’t done that yet, I’ll do it now.  My blog’s …

Fear as a Writing Prompt

As a feature writer and blogger, I’ve written articles and posts about many things under the sun, but I have never publicly written about my fears.  Of course, my journal pages are peppered with entries about the fears I’ve had to face through the decades, but those pages are meant for my eyes only.  I haven’t been able to use those experiences in my writing life. In an article that was published in the New York Times, journalist and author Sarah Jio writes about how she uses fear as a writing prompt: “Here’s the thing: Everyone tells you to write what you know. It’s the tried-and-true advice every writer hears at some point in her career. But to take my writing to a deeper level, I’ve found that a better practice is to simply write what frightens you, haunts you, even.” “I now keep a sign on the bulletin board in my office that reads: “Write What Scares You.” I’ve learned that tapping into the hard stuff — whether it’s the fear of loss or …

Give Yourself Permission to Write Garbage!

During those days when the words won’t flow, and ideas simply won’t come – don’t pack up your writing tools.  Instead, allow yourself to write garbage!  It could just be what you need! Make it fun!  I have a “garbage writing” notebook where I write as I please.  It’s more than just freewriting, it’s funwriting.  It’s my writer’s playground where there are absolutely no rules. I allow myself to write in any fashion and form – big letters are allowed. The notebook is also where I do brainstorming for my articles, posts and would-be books. Possible titles and story ideas are written in big, bold letters – sometimes with lots of curls on the tips of the letters. It’s a fine, fun way to give the writer in you a break from all the serious writing.  In “Writing on Both Sides of the Brain,” Henriette Anne Klauser wrote: “Giving yourself permission to write garbage is like having a compost pile in the backyard. It might smell a little and even look yucky, but it provides …

Five Great E-Courses with Bendy Pricing

I first learned about Satya and Kaspalita last year when I read about their mindful writing practice of “Writing Small Stones.”  That was about two years ago, and the couple’s blog, “Writing Our Way Home,” was a very busy site, and Satya’s name was still Fiona Robyn.  Much has changed in the Buddhist couple’s blog – they now concentrate on giving online courses, and after being ordained as a Buddhist priest, Fiona changed her name to Satya. Now, Satya and Kaspalita are generously offering their E-courses with a “pay as you like” option.  Last year, I enrolled in Kaspa’s  Eastern Therapeutic Writing course, which cost US$70.  It was well worth the money: I was introduced to a few Japanese theories such as Naikan, Waka  and Morita journaling  (I was already familiar with the koan); there were plenty of reading resources and each day an email arrived with the day’s work.  The discussion forum was not very active though, but I think it was because the structure of their E-courses require individual work and much introspection.  This …

Where to Get Pictures for Your Blog Posts

I have a blog theme that requires a picture for every blog post – otherwise I’ll have empty squares on my homepage. I honestly feel that a page full of text is a thing of beauty, but I happen to like the theme for this blog, and so I willingly undertake the search for the perfect picture every time I post. I use royalty-free pictures which oftentimes do not require attribution, but I always try to give credit to the source of the photos.  It only takes a few minutes to type the name of the website and add a link, so why not give credit where credit is due?  Afterall, the photos do lend color and texture to my blog posts. Here is a list of photo sources on the web.  These sites will provide you with a wide selection of images.  There’s no need to log in, no complicated matters such as credits and points, and best of all – the photos can be used for free! But please attribute! Morguefile  “The morguefile was …

MSU Offers Free Online Writing Course

Two faculty members of Michigan State University will teach a free online non-credit course which will focus on improving writing skills.  “Thinking Like a Writer,” will be offered this summer by Dr. Jeff Grabill, professor and chair of the Michigan State University Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Culture, and Dr. Julie Lindquist, Director of First-Year Writing at Michigan State. The pair of Michigan State University faculty members are on a mission: They want to know whether it is possible to keep the high level of engagement that is characteristic of face-to-face interaction in an online setting. The course is open to students who want to prepare for college-level writing, international students intent on improving their English writing skills, professionals who want to sharpen their writing abilities and anyone who wants to learn about the craft of writing. The course, which will run from July 1 through August 31 will focus on the process of review and revision.  It is designed to help students develop skills in persuasive writing and narrative writing; participants will  also learn how to …

Sunday’s Blessings

“I think that creativity is about reaching to the soul, connecting to the inner Self so totally that no difference exists between inner and outer, good and bad, reality and fiction, past and future. Everything rests in the utter and magnificent I AM. “I remember once working at my typewriter, deep in thought, when I glanced up at the tree outside my window, and for a startling moment I was the tree – no separation – and also the air between the tree and me, the glass of the windowpane, the story I was writing, paper, typewriter, and myself. “Satori, I thought, and with the naming, which constitutes a movement back into conscious Mind, I wrenched our of that sweet stated, and I was looking at the page again, marveling at what had happened, and how to reach that suspension of time and Self again…” –Sophy Burnham, For Writers Only Photo: Morguefile

My Writer’s Altar

  My writer’s altar is up – creating it was actually a simple affair.  There were no singing angels, no chiming bells – just something short of spring cleaning. What happened was, I decided to surf the internet for a quick look on what other writer’s altars look like. I found only one site with a picture on it – the writer built an altar on the window sill in front of the computer.  Not for me – I don’t have a window sill anywhere near my computer.  So I decided to pull out my books on writing (a good number of which, I have not yet read) to look for ideas on how to build  a writer’s altar. It was then that I realized that the books on writing were mixed up with the books on energy healing, art, spirituality, crafts, gardening…and all others. Of course it had been that way for a long time, but it didn’t seem to matter nor bother me before. The decision came quickly – I knew that if I …

Of Synchronicity, Altars, Rituals and Writers

Carl Gustav Jung  coined the term synchronicity  to refer to two or more events that do not seem to be causally related but occur within the same time frame; events that do not seem to have occurred by chance, but when experienced together, create a deep impact on the one experiencing the events. Jung said that synchronistic events are more likely to occur when a person is in a highly charged state of emotional and mental awareness. He used the phrases “acausal connecting principle”, “meaningful coincidence” and “acausal parallelism” to describe synchronicity. As an energy therapist, I am always on the look out for synchronicities.  It was thus no surprise when, after posting my last entry,” A Writer’s Altar,” I opened my email and found the 56th issue of WOW (Women on Writing), waiting to be read. In my previous blog entry, I wrote about being at a crossroads in my life as a writer, of the persistent “call” to create a writer’s altar, and the desire to find the writing path that would fulfill my new-found purpose …

A Writer’s Altar

I’ve decided to build a writer’s altar – perhaps because I am at a crossroads in my writing life.  Whatever the reason, the call to build an altar has been floating around in my head lately, and I’ve decided it’s time to build one – a first step towards re-creating my writing space. As a Catholic, I know about altars. I’ve created altars in my room in various places, with numerous symbolic objects.  My altars changed as my spiritual life changed.  Finally, when my spirit calmed down (after many years), the altar settled in a space up above a big cabinet in my bedroom.  It is sparse compared to all the altars that I’ve built-in my lifetime – a crucifix made of capiz shell with a simple filigree design in the middle, a small capiz angel, a silver candle snuffer and a two-sided picture frame with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on one side, and my own personal spiritual symbol on the other side. Why build a writer’s altar? Andy Couturier in, Writing …

Listen to Your Favorite Authors

A recent and precious find in You Tube is a series of video-taped interviews with several authors. For someone living in Asia – in the Philippines – it is such a welcome and lovely opportunity to be able to hear well-known writers talk about the craft of writing (for free!). Writer’s Symposium by the Sea is an annual event sponsored by Point Loma Nazarene University. This yearly symposium “brings interviews with cutting edge creators, life stories, examples of great writing, and evocative conversation that will inspire the reader and writer alike.” Among the writers interviewed for the series are Ann Lamott, Ray Bradbury, Mary Karr, Chris Willman, Christopher Hedges, Philipp Yancey, Gay Talese, Barbara Bradley, Gary Hart, Geroge Plimpton, …and many others. It’s a long list!  I was so happy to see Peter Matthiessen’s name on the list – he has been a favorite since I read his book, “The Snow Leopard.” It’s a great find, and now I’m planning to watch at least one video a week – and maybe blog about it here! Thanks …

Lessons from Ray Bradbury

I own only one book written by Ray Bradbury – Zen in the Art of Writing.  The small book’s cover is torn, and the pages have yellow speckles – signs of aging, as well as wear and tear.  For indeed, the book had been read over and over.  For almost a decade, it was the one book that could be found at different places in my bedroom. From Ray Bradbury’s book, I learned how important poetry is to a writer. “Read poetry every day of your life.  Poetry is good because it flexes muscles you don’t use often enough. Poetry expands the senses and keeps them in prime condition. It keeps you aware of your nose, your eye, your car, your tongue, your hand.  And, above all, poetry is compacted metaphor or simile.  Such metaphors, like Japanese paper flowers, may expand outward into gigantic shapes.  Ideas  lie everywhere through the poetry books, yet how rarely have I heard short story teachers recommending them for browsing.” Although Bradbury’s personality was so un-Zen, many of the things …

A Conversation with Ray Bradbury

“If you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer,” Ray Bradbury wrote in his small but seminal book, Zen in the Art of Writing. During his lifetime, Bradbury was a most prolific writer and  received several citations: He was awarded the 2000 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, the 2004 national Medal of Arts, and the 2007 Pulitzer Prize Special Citation. One of the stories Bradbury frequently recounted throughout his life was his encounter with a carnival magician named Mr. Electrico.  They met in 1932 when Bradbury was only twelve years old.  The magician, Bradbury said, touched him with his sword and commanded him to “Live forever!” For the young Bradbury, it was the greatest idea he had ever heard and from then on he started to write everyday because,  “Not to write, for many of us, is to die.” This man LIVED.  And he continues to live through his close to fifty books, as well as the numerous essays, poems, operas, plays, teleplays …