All posts tagged: writing lessons

Writing Prompts from Everywhere

Writing prompts can come from everywhere – they can even come from your own writing! Diana Wallace Peach, who has several books to her credit and blogs at Myths of the Mirror wrote a brand new story by retelling another story she wrote earlier. The second time around, she told it from the perspective of a different character. Taking her cue from an online site that offers lessons for writers, Diana writes about the challenge to “Retell the 500 word piece from last week using a fresh perspective. If you wrote about the person with the narrator as observer, write about it from the perspective of the observed person. If you wrote in the third person, change to first person. In other words, shift whatever you did 180º . ” Jill Jepson, author of Writing as a Sacred Path suggests that writers do a “360.” Jepson says that doing a “360 is an easy, fun, and fascinating exercise that can give your writing new depth and vision. It begins with a single scene. To do a 360, rewrite the scene from …

How to Write Crisp, Evocative Descriptions: Allow the Dream Eye to Inspire Your Writing (11)

Every night, as you sleep, the dream eye sets about to destroy your world – the world of logic, literal meaning, lock step order and cause and effect. It dismantles daylight visions, razes buildings, ravishers the landscape in preparation for paving what Freud called “the royal road to the unconscious.” -Rebecca McClanahan   McClanahan believes that for dreams to help writers, they must be used in the raw. Writers should not attempt to interpret dreams: “When we stop trying to figure out our dreams, to apply our conscious minds to the pictures the unconscious is painting, we may begin to feel the power of their images.” She explains further, “And we may find that those images emerge in our writing.” The author says writers can keep pen and paper within easy reach when they go to bed and record everything they remember about their dreams: feelings, shapes, physical details, and dialogue. McClanahan also suggests using the present tense when recording the dream because present tense verbs act as guides that lead you through the dream, When …

How to Write Crisp, Evocative Descriptions: The Eye of Memory (5)

When the eye of the imagination is engaged, it illuminates the artful possibilities hidden within actual events. From the hard rock of fact, stone by stone the writer builds a castle – Rebecca McClanahan Rebecca McClanahan describes the Eye of Memory as a “kind” of Imaginative Eye. When she talks about the use of memory in writing, she goes beyond the mere recollection of past events. McClanahan emphasizes that as writers, we should use the facts and details of our experiences as raw materials that we should transform into a new shape. If you are a fiction writer, you can transform your experiences by taking an event or experience and “loaning” it to a character who is very different from you. “Hand over the event, no strings attached, and see what your character does with it,” writes McClanahan. Or, you can take two events which happened years apart and place them in the same story or poem and see how they interact with each other. McClanahan explains, “The interaction between the two events will force you …

How to Write Crisp, Evocative Descriptions: The Different “Eyes” of a Writer (3)

Depending on your writing process and style, the eyepiece could be the physical world, or it could be the world of the inner eye, the world of dreams and illusions. Or you might be a writer for whom the world themselves – their sounds, rhythms and shapes create the world of story or poem. – Rebecca McClanahan I think every writing class should begin with the concept that a writer can write from different “eyes.” McClanahan identifies six “kinds” of eyes that a writer can use. The naked eye is most simple and easiest to use – it is based on reality, on what exists right before your eyes. As in the previous post, McClanahan emphasizes that the problem is that writers don’t often stay long enough with a subject to observe its dynamic form and nature. As a result, we lose the details that could give what we are describing a different perspective. She writes, “The most common things yield startling surprises when we give our attention to them.” The eye of the imagination is more complex than the …

How to Write Crisp, Evocative Descriptions: Key Ingredients (2)

Description begins in the beholder’s eye, and it requires attention. If we look closely long enough and stay in the moment long enough, we may be granted new eyes. —Rebecca McClanahan In Chapter Two of Word Painting, McClanahan says that good description begins with observation. When we focus on something or someone long enough, we begin to notice things that we would have missed if we didn’t give our full attention. Singer and songwriter Paul Stookey said, “Sometimes, if you sit in one place long enough, you get used. You become the instrument for what it is that wants to be said.”  McClanahan advices writers to keep on looking, to put the writer’s eye to use as often as possible and long enough so that we will be able to see forms emerge and patterns reconfigure themselves. Says McClanahan: “Most of us simply don’t stay in one place long enough to be used.” She also pointed out that the advice a comet-hunter gave to novice comet-hunters during a radio interview could also work well for …

How to Write Crisp, Evocative Descriptions (1)

“If description is the flowering, it is also the root and stem of effective writing,” wrote Rebecca McClanahan in her book, Word Painting, A Guide to Writing More Descriptively. I’m reading this book because I meet my Waterloo every time I have to describe something in writing. I honestly feel this makes my writing flowerless. This is such a good book and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to write well. McClanahan says that description is one third of the story telling tripod; with exploration and narration as the other two legs. She emphasizes that “Description doesn’t begin on the page.It begins in the eye and ear and mouth and nose and hand of the beholder.” According to McClanahan, the most essential task of a writer is careful and imaginative observation. That means I’m in big trouble because I have no patience in noticing. My eyes skim scenes and gloss over details. I’m only in the first chapter and so far McClanahan has not yet presented any exercises that I can do to help …

Pssssst! Do You Want to Receive Free Author Coaching for One Week?

Ever heard of Compose, A Journal of Simply Good Writing? I’ve been a subscriber since its inception. It’s a great online magazine that features good writing and accepts submissions. I still have to summon up the courage to submit my work though. But that’s not what this post is all about. This post is about freebies now being offered by Compose to its readers. There are a couple of freebies right now:The first is a free download of their No Excuses Book Map.  The second freebie is courtesy of Jennie Nash who was once a features editor for Compose. The current issue features an article by Nash: A Lesson on Procrastination and Doubt. Certainly a good read if you have these two nemeses as bedfellows Aside from this, Nash also offers Compose readers one week free trial of her Author Accelerator program. If you sign up, you will receive sample emails for one week which will offer lessons, insights and inspiration. On the 7th day, you have the option to send up to 10 pages …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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

An Afternoon with Hemingway

In 1964 Edward Stafford wrote about the unforgettable afternoon that he spent with Ernest Hemingway. Here are some quotes from Hemingway, from the article written by Stafford: The hardest trade in the world is the writing of straight, honest prose about human beings. The important thing is to work everyday. I work from about seven until about noon. Then I go fishing or swimming – whatever I want. The best way is always to stop when you’re going good. If  you do that, you’ll never be stuck. And don’t worry about it until you start to write again the next day.  That way your subconscious will be working on it all the time. But if you worry about it, your brain will get tired even before you start to write again the next day. But work everyday.  No matter what happened the day or night before, get up and bite on the nail. Watch people, observe, try to put yourself in somebody else’s head.  If two men argue, don’t just think about who is right and who …

Studies Reveal Benefits of Writing and Editing Our Own Stories

A recent article that appeared in the New York Times will give journal writers cause to celebrate. In Writing Your Way to Happiness, Tara Parker Pope chronicles the various scientific researches that have been done on expressive writing, which prove that it is good for a person’s general well-being. The author also delves on a recent research study which involves writing and then rewriting one’s personal story. This method of journaling can provide journal writers another way to tackle the blank page. I haven’t tried it yet, but I would certainly keep it handy in case the blank page of my journal refuses to give a message or the words simply won’t flow from my mind. This method of expressive writing, according to the author, has been found to have various beneficial effects. Pope explains, “The concept is based on the idea that we all have a personal narrative that shapes our view of the world and ourselves. But sometimes our inner voice doesn’t get it completely right. Some researchers believe that by writing and then …

A Journaling Exercise (part 2)

Part 1 of A Journaling Exercise was all about changing a pattern – instead of quickly writing on a blank page, we are asked to: 1) spend some time staring at the blank page; 2) ask for a message or messages 3) engage the blank page in a dialogue 4) and finally, write about your impressions about the exercise. Now. we all know that the blank page won’t really answer – if it does even I would bolt for the nearest door!  In this exercise, the blank page serves as a focal point.The exercise serves several purposes: First of all, it provides a break from your usual, daily journaling habit which could lead to boredom. The waiting part silences the conscious mind and provides an opening for the subconscious mind.  Jenny Davidow, in Embracing Your Subconscious: Bringing All Parts of You into Creative Partnership wrote: “Your subconscious is a powerful and mysterious force which can either hold you back or help you move forward. Without its cooperation, your best goals will go unrealized; with its help, you …

A Journaling Exercise (part 1)

  If you are a journal writer like me, you’ve probably tried different ways to fill the pages of your notebooks. You may have tried freewriting, ranting, listing, poetry, naming and describing. Here’s an exercise you may want to try. For a change, instead of writing on the blank page, just stare at it and don’t write anything. That’s right, don’t write anything. Instead, ask the blank page what message or messages it has for you and then wait for an answer. When an answer comes, don’t write – not yet. Dialogue with the blank page. Keep talking to it until it stops talking to you, and then write about the whole experience. I could share with you what I wrote about my experience with the blank page but if I do that, I will be putting ideas into your head and you won’t have an authentic experience. So I won’t post it here. Besides, I’m reserving it for another blog post! photo credit: Melissa Venable via photopin cc

Why We Blog

A couple of days ago I ended my blog post with the question, “Why Blog?” Susanne, who blogs at Life in a Flash answered, “I blog to write and have people read my writing. I’m not sure I would continue if there weren’t any readers! And I SO enjoy connecting with people from places I may never visit and learn about their worlds and lives.” A blonde reader and blogger (Blondewritemore) wrote, “Interesting question! I am still thinking about that myself, I suppose its about having a regular voice, attracting like minded souls and venting some creative frustration.” I can answer this question now! I blog because: I love to write and when people read what I write, I am encouraged to write some more; there is that need to share with others what I have learned but I cannot do this on a deep level if I cannot open up and write about my feelings. Blogging is the perfect way to achieve all these while I keep a day job which I need to pay the bills.   Once …

Birthing a Book

As we approach the end of the Christmas Season and in the spirit of Noel, a word that is rooted in the Latin natalis, which means  “birth,” I felt that this is the proper time to reflect on what I had tried to begin or give birth to this year in my writing life.  This year I embarked on the process of a “birthing” a book. I knew that there were many things I needed to do to be able to write a book, and that it was a process that I did not want to rush.  I wanted to accomplish something, and so I began by (1) identifying the reason why I wanted to undertake this journey. When I knew that I wanted to write a book for adults (I had written two books for children) because I want to experience the process of writing a book for grown ups, I was then able to (2) set a timetable for myself. There was and is no rush, and the project would be done even as I continued with my work, so the timetable I came up with is …

Writers on Writing

“Instinctively, years ago, I knew the part that Work must play in my life. More than twelve years ago I wrote in ink on my typing board at my right hand the words: DON’T THINK!…The time will come when your characters will write your stories for you, when your emotions, free of literary cant and commercial bias, will blast the page and tell the truth. Remember: Plot is no more than foot prints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations. Plot is observed after the fact rather than before. It cannot precede action. It is the chart that remains when an action is through. That is all Plot ever should be. It is human desire let run, running and searching a goal. It cannot b mechanical. It can only be dynamic. So, stand aside, forget targets, let the characters, your fingers, body, blood and heart do.” -Ray Bradbury in Zen in the Art of Writing   “I had learned long before, in my own writing life, …

Exercise Time!

Here’s a great exercise that is simple yet amazing. Whether you’re a non-fiction writer like me, or someone who loves to write novels, this short exercise will help clarify issues, point you towards new directions, or show you something you missed in whatever it is you are writing. This is the first exercise in Andy Couturier’s Writing Open the Mind. The book’s subtitle is Tapping the Subconscious to Free the Writing and the Writer – and if you do this exercise from a perspective of play, you’ll see some amazing revelations pertaining to your writing project. To begin, keep in mind the writing project you want to focus on. It could be a book, a novel, an article or a simple blog post. Now get a sheet of large paper and make five columns with the following headings: Scenes, moods, questions, concepts and for the last column, faces. All you need now is seven minutes to write as fast as you can, anything that comes to mind pertaining to each column. Under the column “Scenes,” write about places – …

Writers on Writing

It’s been a while since I last featured quotable quotes from writers. Here are some words of wisdom from writing masters: “Writing, the creative effort, the use of the imagination, should come first–at least for some part of every day of your life. It is a wonderful blessing if you will use it. You will become happier, more enlightened, alive, impassioned, lighthearted, and generous to everybody else. Even your health will improve. Colds will disappear and all the other ailments of discouragement and boredom.”    – Brenda Ueland “Writers don’t have lifestyles. They just sit in little rooms and write.”   – Norman Mailer “Writing is a craft. You have to do the work, be willing to put scattered words down. The magic is in the commitment.”         — Jennifer Baszile “I am the only one who can tell the story of my life and say what it means.”    – Dorothy Allison  “The essential question is, “Have you found a space, that empty space, which should surround you when you write?” Into …

Falling

I’ve been enviously feasting on pictures of autumn featured in various blogs across the web. I love the splash of colors that autumn brings. We don’t have that kind of season here in the tropics – when leaves turn yellow or brown, they fall off and the trees go bald. Green leaves push their way through the branches just as the last dying leaves fall off. Tropical tress also have their own rhythms. We don’t have a season of falling leaves. Different species shed at different times of the year. The Talisay tree sheds twice a year: after summer and midway through the cooler months of the dry season.   Some trees shed completely and look like skeletons for a week or so, until the new leaves begin to dress up the trees again. Shedding is part of a tree’s life. It’s a dying of sorts that paves the way for new growth. People go through autumnal seasons as well, but the falling, the dying happens internally. Sometimes they manifest through the rituals in our lives. When the soul-based practices …

The Words We Write

When I was in grade school, one of my favorite hobbies was reading Reader’s Digest.  The long articles didn’t really appeal to me, but  Word Power, Life’s Like That, Humor in Uniform and Quotable Quotes  were like candy treats which I devoured voraciously. Looking back, I think that my young mind was not ready to deal with the more serious articles, and so I focused on the shorter sections.  Those reading days, I’m sure, contributed much to my love for writing, which led me to pursue a career in feature writing. For any writer,  having a vast amount of words at one’s disposal is power.  And for the feature writer, quotes are so important – a necessary ingredient to a sumptuous feast of words, sentences and paragraphs. A feature writer is quick  to note a quotable quote, and having at least a couple of them can transform an article from one that is interesting, to one that is both interesting and authoritative. Like many writers, I collect quotations.  I have a small notebook where I copy …

The Nuances of Early Morning Writing

I missed posting last week because it was an exceptionally busy week. Robin Williams’ suicide put a spotlight on depression, which happens to be my specialty as an energy therapist (along with trauma resolution). I had more than the usual number of requests for one-on-one sessions and for a while until late last week, I switched back to all-giving mode. I kept up with early morning writing though but I missed a couple of days. I’ve slowed down since, after I caught myself reaching for a second cup of coffee so that I could see my way through the last client for the day. Gone, for the past two weeks though, were all the time I should have spent on what I call my book writing spree ( Dorothea Brande’s term, writing by prearrangement is simply too straightforward  – writing is fun for me). But I did manage a few haibuns, along with a few haikus and tankas. Even through the rush of the past two weeks, I noticed that early morning writing had resulted in  several surprising …

Creating a Writing Life

Redesigning life to accommodate more writing time requires many adjustments and compromises. But all the efforts are well worth it.   Reorganizing my life around writing has brought a level of excitement that I have never experienced before. It’s like preparing for an adventure. There is a plethora of advice from popular writers and as always, they provide guideposts to help us along the writing path. As I’ve mentioned in another blog post, I never received formal training as a writer. Three months of writing classes during summer school was all the education I received. Everything else I learned from reading and sheer determination. I’ve written two books for children before: one was a retelling of Philippine folktales and legends, and the other one was a retelling of childhood incidents in the lives of five Filipino heroes.  It was a wonderful experience, but the books were written out of need: the company I was working for needed a product to sell and I delivered the goods. “Better to write for yourself and have no public, than …

Nuggets of Wisdom from Writers: On Writing

Here are some quotes that I hope will inspire you or strike a chord and get you writing. My favorite is from Khaled Housseni, an Afghan-born American novelist and physician.   “You cannot write with the conviction that your work will be one day reprinted to the extent that Hemingway’s has, but you ought to write in such a fashion that if it is, you will have no apologies for it.  Nothing is as destructive to a writer’s self-esteem– and, ultimately, his ability– as shoddy craftsmanship.  Make it well.  Whether or not the thing lasts, the care you have taken will be the measure not only of your talent, but of your integrity.”  -William Ruehlmann  in Stalking the Feature Story   “People write because they need to. People make stories for themselves and others, to fight the bomb, or the war, or to fix the broken places. We electric socket into the full power of our Selves by scribbling into our interior hinterlands.” -Andy Couturier in Writing Open the Mind   “Writing is an act of hope. …

Besieged by Writing Ideas

Through the days since I first wrote about early morning writing and how to carve out more writing time, I had indeed been writing more. Early morning writing branched out to writing on a gratitude journal. Then I found my brain “itching” to write a haiku a day in a smaller notebook. For a few months last year, I tried to write a small stone a day, mainly because I felt incapable of writing a haiku a day. After a few weeks of writing a haiku a day, I read a tanka from a blog and I said to myself, “I want to write that too!” Then I encountered and fell in love with haibun, and my writing days have never been the same. Life literally changed for me when I began writing a haiku, a tanka and a haibun a day.  Throw in the six word memoir, which is like icing on the cake. Today’s six word memoir is: Writing has now become sheer joy. The first hour of my days are spent in …

A Comment for a Blog Post

One of the wonderful things that have come out of this blog is the online friends I have “met.”  These are people who regularly comment on my blog posts. One of these regular commenter is Cecil Barr, who is also a regular blogger. Cecil wrote a very lengthy and highly informative comment to my last blog post, “The Book that I am Already Writing.” His lengthy comment was packed with information which I want to share with all of you.  Here is Cecil’s comment:   Hi Rosanna, with your background I’m sure you’ll write a great book if you keep at it. As Woody Allen once remarked: “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” I don’t, however, go along with Seth Godin’s assertion that books are more important than blogs (not that I think books are less important than blogs). The contention doesn’t seem to be supported by facts. Zen Habits, for instance, is daily required reading for hundreds of thousands of people. And Chinese blogger Han Han gets around a million visits every time …

The Book that I Am Already Writing

I woke up this morning with the answer to a question that I had been pondering upon since last month: Should I begin writing a first draft again? I had previously attempted to write a manuscript, but  had to give it up when life interrupted. I considered lack of time as the issue because my therapy work is on the upswing and most days I am simply too tired to do any more writing after work. Giving up therapy work is out of the question – I know that it is my right livelihood and it is as important to me as writing is. The words to this blog post came flooding  through my mind the minute I woke up. Nevertheless, I sat down and began my early morning writing. I stopped this practice for three days. I always stop writing when I am not clear about my writing life. Abstaining has its merits, and early morning writing today was an eye-opener – I found myself writing from a fresh perspective. More Writing Books are …

Why Write a Book?

It’s still on my mind. Should I write a book? I honestly cannot consider letting go of a once in a lifetime opportunity- in this case, experiencing a most powerful, profound vehicle for transformation. I have tried once to write a manuscript by joining a two-pages-a day writing challenge. I was doing quite well until the dam broke and I had to face the fact that I was using writing as a distraction to keep me from feeling the pain of losing a loved one. I had to give in to the grieving process, and I was not able to continue with the challenge. This month, the Spiritual Writers Network launched it’s book writing challenge again, but the goal this year is to write a page a day and finish a manuscript by the end of 2014. I was hoping to join this event but a heavy workload got in the way. Mark Matousek’s words,“Writing a book may be the most important commitment that you will ever make in your life,”  keep haunting me, and …

Nuggets of Wisdom from Writers: On Writing a Book

The two-week Transformational Author Experience is over and I am grateful that I was able to listen to several powerful and learned people who were willing to share their experiences. It left me with mixed feelings about becoming an author. I admired the great speakers, especially the writers who shared their wisdom about the craft of writing. But then it got all muddled up for me…and I don’t know if it’s because I have embraced a Zen-inspired life, or maybe I’m simply an introvert. But all the stuff about promoting and marketing, social media, building an author’s platform, and learning how to be a speaker, made me feel like crawling into a cocoon. It was great learning though, and I am grateful that I was able to listen to Christine Kloser, Panache Desai and Mark Matousek talk about the process of writing a book. Transmuting Writer’s Block Worth sharing with all of you are the thoughts of Christine Kloser on writer’s block. Kloser asked Matousek what his thoughts were on “That perceived thing called writer’s …

Of Podcasts and Writing

I’ve been learning so much about writing from the “4th Annual Transformational Author Experience.” It’s still ongoing, and I am trying to catch up because there are several podcasts in one day. The recordings are available only for 24 hours for the free membership plan – it’s like running a race. One big lesson I learned from this event is that listening to podcasts is a great way to learn from writers. I’ve shied away from podcasts  out of laziness, but now I am a fan. Mark Matousek has a podcast series which he offers for free, and among the people he interviewed for the series are writers including Julia Cameron and Natalie Goldberg. In his interview with Natalie Goldberg, the writer discusses her thoughts about various aspects of writing, memoir writing and teaching. If you want to listen to the 15-minute podcast, click here.      

Good News for Aspiring Authors

Christine Kloser is offering her 4th Annual Transformational Author Experience (TAE) from May 19-30, 2014. Every year since 2011, Kloser had been bringing together experts from different fields including best-selling authors, marketing experts, transformational leaders, and publishing industry experts to help aspiring authors understand the myriad possibilities in writing, publishing and marketing a book. Bestselling spiritual writer, teacher, and speaker Mark Matousek descirbes Kloser as “a one-woman empowerment network for people who feel that they have a book in them but don’t quite know what to do next.” Matousek will be conducting one of the teleseminars in TAE with Christine Kloser on “Writing Through Fear.” The best thing about this event is that it’s free. You can register here for the basic and free membership which gives you live access to all the classes, as well as a 24-hour window when you can listen to the tapes of the classes. The upgrades to Platinum and Diamond will give you the chance to participate in the 4th Transformational Author Writing Contest. Mark Matousek says, “There’s no …

Find Your Own Writing Rhythm

Two years ago, I decided that I wanted to learn more about creative non-fiction writing. With Amazon.com as my guide, I ordered ebooks and books on journaling, creative non-fiction writing, as well as books on writing exercises and writing techniques. For the first time in my life I had so many books on writing, and I explored the pages eagerly. I am still in the process of reading the books…there must have been quite a thirst in me at that time because I ordered quite a lot! I have learned and continue to learn from the books. There are many discoveries. For instance, I discovered that long before Julia Cameron wrote about morning pages, Dorothea Brande recommended early morning writing in 1934; before Tony Buzan surprised the world with mind-mapping, Gabrielle Lusser Rico wrote about clustering in 1983; and Eric Maisel’s recommendation to write a little every four hours during the day, “just like taking your medicine,” is very similar to Dorothea Brande’s writing by prearrangement. Setting aside my concerns about attribution, perhaps we can …

Becoming Your Own Critic and Teacher

As promised, here is the third installment of the series based upon Dorothea’s Brande’s recommendations on how writers can write effortlessly and how they can carve out more writing time for themselves. Her suggestions for writers include early morning writing and writing by prearrangement. After one has practiced both for some time, Brande assures the writer that s/he will reap many rewards from the faithful practice of writing first thing in the morning and making appointments with one’s self to write. When you have succeeded in establishing these two habits — early morning writing and writing by agreement with yourself — you have com a long way on the writer’s path. You have gained, on the one had, fluency, and on the other control, even though in an elementary way. You know a great deal more about yourself, in all likelihood, than you did when you embarked on the exercises. For one thing, you know whether it is easier to teach yourself to write on and on and on, or whether writing by prearrangement seemed …

How to Carve Out More Writing Time

Dorothea Brande (1893 – 1948) was an American author, lecturer and magazine editor. Her book Becoming a Writer, was published in 1934. Brande says the book is about the writer’s magic. The book is actually a treasure trove, filled with suggestions on how a writer can get over his/herself and begin writing. In the previous post, we discussed Brande’s method that “teach the unconscious to flow into the channel of writing” through the practice of early morning writing. In this post, we outline the next steps which are geared towards helping writers carve out more writing time. Brande assures us that once the first two steps are practiced daily, there will be many discoveries: You will begin to express the day’s experiences into words You will tend to know ahead of time how you will be able to use an anecdote or episode You will be able to transform the rough material of life into fictional shape – and you will be able to do this more consistently than before After you have reached this …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …