All posts tagged: writing tools

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 …

Stumped? Use An Epigraph

An epigraph is a tool that every writer can use when the creative muse refuses to appear.  It’s one of those things that can help us ward off the infamous writer’s block. What is an epigraph?  It has nothing to do with words you see on a gravestone — that’s an epitaph. An epigraph is a short quotation that is placed at the beginning of an article, a journal entry, or any writing piece. Why are they such great writing tools?  An epigraph can get the writer to start thinking – akin to a writing prompt. The difference is that the epigraph not only stimulates the writer to write, it also provides direction and insight: It is, after all,  the wise saying of another person.

Musings: On Revising

  When I was a feature writer, I heeded the advice of established writers regarding revisions of manuscripts. The common advice was: Revise, revise, revise! The chorus convinced me that revising was indeed important, so every article I wrote was revised, revised, revised – and revised some more. The advent of blogging and my forays into content writing has tempered my determination to revise to the nth degree, but revisions are still very much a part of my writing life. I read about an author who writes with a pencil.  As he transfers his work to the computer, he automatically makes revisions. Then he reads his work one last time for a final editing. I do revisions periodically as I write.  First I read what I had written silently and revise. Then later I go back to it and read it aloud and make more revisions.  There is a definite change in the way the words come together when I read my work aloud – somehow the cadence is more apparent and I can “hear” the …

On Listening

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

Why Keep a Notebook?

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

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 …

On Writing

A quote from Ralph Keyes: “Anxiety is not only an inevitable part of the writing process but a necessary part. If you’re not scared, you’re not writing.” Advice from Barbara Abercombie: “We’re so good with the negative voices: You idiot, what kind of an idea is that? Who do you think you are to be writing a book? Why are you sitting there in your bedroom slippers writing about your boring life? Who cares? When that voice starts chirping in your head and chipping away at your confidence, here’s what you do: Listen to another voice, the sweet, calm voice that’s saying, Just do the work. Tell your story; it’s important. Have faith. If you’re sitting at Starbucks or at the library, it’s probably best not to say this out loud, but if you’re home alone — say it loud. And often.” According to Eric Maisel, this will improve your writing life:  We make many kinds of spaces for ourselves: noisy spaces, busy spaces, unsettled spaces, and sometimes calm self-reflective spaces. Make a calm self-reflective …

Writing Tips

“You’re not going to be a writer someday. You’re a writer today. Discipline yourself to write and take time to enjoy writing. Do it a lot. Have fun with it. Begin now.”   -Jack Heffron For today’s post, I’m featuring some wonderful tips from Jack Heffron, a freelance writer and editor. In The Writer’s Idea Book, Heffron says, “Like many things, writing becomes a habit. If you do it, just keep doing it.” How to make writing a habit? He offers the following suggestions: Show up, go to your desk or open your computer on a regular basis. Try using Thomas McGuane’s approach for one week. Every day, McGuane goes to his study at a certain time and stays there for a certain length of time to write. If the words don’t come he tells himself, “I don’t have to write, but I can’t do anything else.” Be kind to yourself if you’re not able to follow your schedule. Acknowledge the difficulty and keep trying “Though it may sound stupid, cultivate gratitude even for the obstacles that stand …

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 – …

What’s up for Non-Fiction Writers in November?

The blogosphere is abuzz with the upcoming NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November, and what a surprise – there were 609 novelists from the Philippines who joined this writing challenge last year. Since I am not a fiction writer, it makes me wonder how people can whip up thousands of words in a day while concocting plots and creating characters. An amazing feat indeed! There is also  a writing challenge for non-fiction writers every November. This lesser-known and less intense writing challenge for non-fiction writers is called WNFN/NaNonFiWriMo (Write Non-Fiction in November/National Non-Fiction Writing Month). WNFN/NaNonFiWriMo is the brainchild of  Nina Amir, who blogs at Write Non-fiction Now! Amir explains why she came up with this writing challenge:”In October 2007, a year after I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I asked myself, “What’s a nonfiction writer supposed to do during November?” Searching around in the NaNoWriMo forums, I discovered NaNoRebels. Participating as a rebel might be fine for some nonfiction writers, but not for me. Although I have a rebellious nature, I wanted to participate …

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 …

Web Finds

It’s been raining here in my part of the world – the kind of “rainy” that makes one want to cuddle up in bed and sleep all day. Nothing dramatic, just very cloudy days with intermittent rain and showers. Life somehow takes on a different hue when it’s raining – things just seem to be quieter, the days are cooler and the plants are so much greener. This week I’d like to share some web finds with all of you. A few free but great finds which I hope you will all enjoy. A really great find is Jill Jepson’s website where she offers to send weekly strategies for writers. I’ve been receiving her emails for sometime now and highly recommend you try it out. If you want to receive her weekly strategies for writers, please fill up this form. I’ve written several posts with reference to Mark Matousek. Aside from being a bestselling author, Mark is a very generous person. I attended one of his online courses and he continues to ask us, his ex-students …

Playtime!

The brain can keep developing long after we leave adolescence and play promotes that growth. We are designed to be lifelong players, built to benefit from play at any age. The human animal is shaped by evolution to be the most flexible of all animals: as we play, we continue to change and adapt into old age.       -Stuart Brown, M.D. with Christopher Vaughan in “play, How it shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul” We wake up earlier to do early morning writing. We journal. We write haiku, sonnets, haibun. We blog and participate in blog challenges. We work on our drafts. We work hard to improve our writing. The time comes when it’s time to stop taking writing so seriously… Now it’s time to play! Crazy wisdom means abandoning preconceived notions, seeing through surfaces, and moving beyond ordinary reason. It is wisdom built of multiple perspectives,  irreverence, paradox, and a love of the absurd.   -Jill Jepson in “Writing as a Sacred Path”    Jill Jepson says analogies are a …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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.      

Nuggets of Wisdom from Writers: On Freewriting

Free writing during the early hours of the morning has now become a wonderful way to start the day. Early morning writing has been a good way of telling my brain that writing is also a priority in my life. No matter how busy the day gets, I am comforted by the knowledge that I had at least done some writing for the day. Natalie Goldberg has another name for free writing: In her book, Writing Down the Bones,”she refers to it as writing “first thoughts.” Goldberg writes that”First thoughts have tremendous energy. It is the way the mind first flashes on something. The internal censor usually squelches them, so we live in the realm of second and third thoughts., thoughts on thought, twice and three times removed from the direct connection of the first fresh flash… “First thoughts are unencumbered by ego, by that mechanism in us that tries to be in control, tries to prove the world is permanent and solid, enduring and logical… “You must be a great warrior when you contact first …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

Do You Scoop.It!?

I discovered Scoop.It! when I was so busy with work I had no time to blog. It was a fascinating discovery – within minutes I became the curator of a magazine-like webpage which I was then able to publish and share.   I tweeted,  “Too busy to blog, so I Scooped.It!” This free platform allows you to gather stories pertaining to the topic you want to focus on.  Scoop.It! provides you with dozens of suggestions within minutes of typing the topic you want to curate. If you find a blog or web page that you like, you simply press the “Scoop.It!” button and the post is included in your page. The article or blog post is linked directly to the original blog site or webpage. Scoop.It! is akin to Pinterest – instead of boards though, you have curated topics.  There are three plans: free, expert and business. The free plan allows you to curate up to five topics. Since I blog more often now, I use Scoop.It! to help me gather ideas for my blog …

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. …

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 …

I Just Wrote a Sneeze Page

It’s day 11 of yeah write’s 31 dbbb challenge, and today’s task is to create a sneeze page. According to Kerstin Auer, who wrote the introduction to today’s lesson, “A sneeze page is an actual page on your blog, reserved for your very best posts, posts on a certain topic or even monthly features.” Kersten  adds that, “As with everything else (at least as far as your blog is concerned), the possibilities are endless. The purpose, however, is the common thread: to show off the best of your blogging, hopefully attract new readers and turn them into loyal ones.” Having a sneeze page on your blog is thus having a list of the best blog posts you’ve written (hopefully the list will be long). It spares your readers from going through your archives while giving your blog an extra boost – readers would most likely want to see what your best posts are. I gave my sneeze page the title “Pages that Rock,” and it appears on the blog menu.  Hopefully, you’ll click on the …