All posts tagged: Writing

The First Draft: fodder for the writing process

“Make writing your practice. If you commit to it, writing will take you as deep as Zen.” Katagiri Roshi   It’s been a very long while – several months- since my last blog post. Although I had not blogged, I had been actively creating word art and exploring the many writing avenues that I had not ventured into.  Writing the first draft of my memoir was a very therapeutic and eye-opening experience. As I mentioned in a previous post, memoir writing was like an exercise in connecting the dots that were my life experiences. It was at the same time therapeutic and draining, because the energy that came along with the memories demanded to be written, no matter if the body was tired from the day’s work.  Connecting the dots of my life also showed me that there were a few missing dots-those pursuits and interests that I had put aside to give way to a life dedicated to helping others heal themselves. So after the first draft was written, I felt it was time to …

Musings from Memoirland

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

Adventures in Journaling

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

Drafting and Crafting: tools for every writer

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

Prayers for Writers

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

When Life Interrupts

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

How’s Your Verisimilitude?

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

Slow-cooking a First Draft

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

From Blogging to Writing a First Draft

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

To Memoir or Not to Memoir

A memoir is a series of moments. In order to bring these moments to life, it is necessary to create scenes that capture and communicate the physical reality of the chosen moments. — Mark Matousek   The online memoir class I attended ended a few weeks ago. Thankfully though, the teacher listened to our pleas and have set up a check-in webinar. I enrolled in the memoir class because the nagging book project has not materialized at all. A couple of years ago, I heard the call to write a book.  I told our teacher that I was literally dragging myself to memoir class because honestly, things are good in my life now and I see no need nor purpose to write a book. If I could just silence this calling… I was fortunate to have a very patient and astute teacher. Inspite of my reluctance, I am one of those who signed up for the check-in in early December. Which means that I have been trying to write the first drafts of a few life …

Pico Iyer on Writing

“To write is to step away from the clamor of the world, to take a deep breath and then, slowly and often with shaking heart, to try to make sense of the bombardment of feelings, impressions, and experiences that every day and lifetime brings. The very act of putting them down—getting them out of the beehive of the head and onto the objective reality of paper—is a form of clarification. And as the words begin to take shape and make pairings across the page, gradually you can see what you thought, or discern a pattern in the random responses, so that finally, if all goes well, you’re convinced you’ve got something out of your system and into a domain where it creates a kind of order. Random experience becomes teaching, cautionary tale, or even blessing.” _Pico Iyer

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.

Kimberly Snow on Writing

I have read and re-read this paragraph many times. It is one of the most eloquent and succinct piece on writing that I have read: “Writing releases us into a timeless world where all things are possible. Through the play of our imagination, we gain the power to expand our limits, to integrate change and to guide our personal growth. In this magical realm, we can reclaim past events, retrieve former selves, live out what almost was, what could have been. Through writing and visualization, we are able to develop a personal language that fills out the hollows and blank spaces in our lives, to make sense of and give reality to our experience. In this private arena where conscious and unconscious meet and interact, we are granted a unique opportunity to negotiate peace settlements between inner and outer, between self and other. In short, to create and maintain core happiness thorough a time-honored method that is not only free but non-caloric as well.” – Kimberly Snow in Writing Yourself Awake: Meditation and Creativity

William Zinsser on Writing Well

“There are many good reasons for writing that have nothing to do with being published. Writing is a powerful search mechanism, and one of its satisfactions is to come to terms with your life narrative. Another is to work through some of life’s hardest knocks—loss, grief, illness, addiction, disappointment, failure—and to find understanding and solace.”   “Less is more.”   “The only way to learn to write is to force yourself to produce a certain number of words on a regular basis.”   “Simplify, simplify.”     “The reader is someone with an attention span of about 30 seconds.”       – William Zinsser in On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction   

What Writers Should Look for

In his article Writers Should Look for What Others Don’t See, Joe Fassler highlights key points in his interview with the Serbian-born poet Charles Simic: “To me, the ideal poem is one a person can read and understand on the first level of meaning after one reading. An accessible quality, I think, is important. Give them something to begin with. Something that seems plain and simple but has something strange—something about it that’s not quite ordinary, that will cause them to do repeated readings or to think about it. The ambition is that, each time they read, they will get to another level of the poem. This fearsome little 10- to 15-line poem becomes something like this poem of Whitman’s, which the reader wants to read over and over again.” – Charles Simic   A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim by Walt Whitman A sight in camp in the daybreak gray and dim, As from my tent I emerge so early sleepless, As slow I walk in the cool fresh air the …

How We Spend Our Days: Katrina Kenison

In this post Katrina Kenison writes, “We live surrounded by story. To write is simply to pay attention, to allow the day its ebb and flow, to summon up its riches and find some way to give them form.” I hope you give yourself time to read this post – it’s a beautiful meditation on life, writing and beauty.

A Maundy Thursday Reflection for Writers

“We should write because it is human nature to write. Writing claims our world. It makes it directly and specifically our own. We should write because humans are spiritual beings and writing is a powerful form of prayer and meditation, connecting us both to our own insights and to a higher and deeper level of inner guidance. We should write because writing brings clarity and passion to the act of living. Writing is sensual, experiential, grounding. We should write because writing is good for the soul. We should write because writing yields us a body of work, a felt path through the world we live in. We should write, above all, because we are writers, whether we call ourselves that or not.” ~ Julia Cameron       Photo courtesy of Morguefile 

Encouraging Words from a Writer: Susan Tiberghien on Writing

“Annie Dillard says that it is “life at its most free.” Julia Cameron says “the writing life is a simple life.” For Stephen King, it’s “a brighter, more pleasant place.” From William Strunk, Jr. to Brenda Ueland to John Gardner, writers have been offering counsel to encourage people to write. And all the words come back to one fundamental truth: a writing life is a creative life.” “For me it has become a life that awakens to birdsong in early morning, that lingers with sunlight in late afternoon. For me it is a life that slows down to touch each moment, a life that deepens from an inner source.” “Once I acknowledged that I wanted to be a writer, the well within me filled with fresh creativity.” “The first component, inspiration, comes from my trust in writing as a way of life: a trust nourished by practice. It is a habit. A person who writes has the habit of writing. The word habit refers to a routine, but also to a stole, to a costume …

On Writing: Quotes from Parker Palmer

“I’ve always been an obsessive writer, and, before age slowed me down, my rush to write sometimes kept me from seeing the beauty around me. Part of me regrets that fact. And yet, back then — focused laser-like on surveying and mapping what’s “in here” to the exclusion of what’s “out there” — I was able to write something that helped a stranger find new life. Looking back, I’m awed by the way embracing everything, from what I got right to what I got wrong, invites the grace of wholeness.” “For 50 years I’ve been writing almost daily. I’m driven not by expertise but by my own bafflement about many things — some of them “in here” and some of them “out there.” Every time I write, I’m surprised by what I discover about myself and/or the world. “So I no longer wait until I have a clear idea to start putting words on the page. If I did, I’d never write a word! I simply start writing, trusting that the writing itself will help …

Writing Away from the Keyboard

I haven’t been spending much time writing these days. These daily blog posts are just about the only writing I have been doing. But it doesn’t worry me. I’ve taken writing fasts before and they have all been productive, though in a very different way. In an interview with George Wickes which was published in the Paris Review, Wickes asked Henry Miller, “Is there a particular conditioning that the writer can go through, like the Zen swordsman?” Miller answered, “Why, of course, but who does it? Whether he means to do it or not, however, every artist does discipline himself and condition himself in one way or another. Each man has his own way. After all, most writing is done away from the typewriter, away from the desk. I’d say it occurs in the quiet, silent moments, while you’re walking or shaving or playing a game or whatever, or even talking to someone you’re not vitally interested in. You’re working, your mind is working, on this problem in the back of your head. So, when you …

Friday Web Finds

I found some interesting posts on the web….! The Writing Life: A Case of the Mondays  Cynthia Morris: Why Books Can Take So Long  Productivity 101: How to Use Personal Kanban to Visualize Your Work How To Train Your Brain To See What Others Don’t  

Dancing a Slow Dance

I feel like I’m dancing a slow dance. Priorities fall away one by one and I am left with one task at hand, and then another, and another. No multitasking, no running after time. It is a strange place, a landscape heretofore unknown. But I like being here, dancing to a slow tempo that allows the body to really feel life’s melody, and the spirit to relish every step. In this kind of life there is no need to rush, simplicity is the norm and wants and needs fall by the wayside. This is the life that Zen inspires. Many, many years ago I began to practice Zazen, which is basically the study of the self – a form of meditation that is very much at the heart of Zen practice. Zazen was life changing for me, and it has taken all these years to reach the pinnacle of this journey. And now the challenge is to find out how this new way of BEing can be applied to writing. In the Writing Life, Annie Dillard wrote: A …

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 …

Writers on Writing: What It Takes to Write

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

How to Avoid Clutter

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

Granta Open for Unsolicited Submissions

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

Routines that Help Sustain Creativity

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

Finding My Own Rhythm

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

Writing as a Healing Tool

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

It’s a Privilege

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

The Writer’s Voice

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

Writers on Writing : Rejection

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

Another Free Writing Course from Coursera: Crafting an Effective Writer: Tools of the Trade

Coursera is offering a free course on fundamental English writing beginning January 30 till March 9, 2015. The course description for Crafting an Effective Writer: Tools of the Trade reads: Learn to become an effective builder of sentences using the basic tools of grammar, punctuation, and writing. By dedicating yourself to the craft of writing English, you will learn to use the eight parts of speech and grammar to develop the four basic sentence types into a well-organized, detailed paragraph. This course is designed for anyone who wants to become a better writer. If you need to write more clearly for work, prepare for a placement test for a college, or improve your skills for current writing projects, this class is beneficial. Please be aware that basic writers are the targeted audience for this course. Here’s where you can register and find more information: Crafting an Effective Writer: Tools of the Trade photo credit: Prince Heathen via photopin cc

Writing as an Act of Hope

  Jack Heffron in The Writer’s Idea Book wrote: “Writing is an act of hope. “It is a means of carving order from chaos, of challenging one’s own beliefs and assumptions of facing the world with eyes and heart wide open. through writing, we declare a personal identity amid faceless anonymity. We find purpose and beauty and meaning even when the rational mind argues that none of these exist.” Have a blessed Sunday… Photo courtesy of pippalou

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 …

Good Writing

I so admire Barbara Kingsolver. Her non-fiction books are like musical scores – there’s a lovely rhythm that permeates her essays. I haven’t read any of her six fiction books, but I’m sure they’re just as amazing. Here’s how she defines good writing: “What makes writing good? That’s easy: the lyrical description, the arresting metaphor, the dialogue that falls so true on the ear it breaks the heart, the plot that winds up exactly where it should.” Well if that’s the recipe for good writing, it looks like I still have to find the right ingredients.   photo credit: Vaultboy via photopin cc

Freewriting

The best time to write is when you don’t know what to write. Those moments are golden opportunities, full of possibilities because ideas could just come from nowhere. Beginner’s mind – that state of mind in Zen where one’s mind is free from all fetters – is a jewel in a writer’s world. We call it freewriting – writing with no agenda other than to write down without judgment all the words that flow from within. You keep the pen on paper and write without stopping to think about grammar, syntax or if you are making any sense at all. On the surface, this kind of writing seems useless. But among other things, you are giving the mind permission to relax and play. It’s like allowing the mind to let go and be. And when the mind is allowed to play, the body relaxes, and for some of us that’s  hard to come by given the many stressors and stresses of modern life. Try it, – write freely. Give yourself permission to play with words, to …

Turning Aside

All monastic life centers around silence and solitude. These twin blessings are also the essence of a writer’s life. Writers need silence and solitude in huge chunks.  However, in an increasingly noisy world dominated by cell phones, mp3s, tablets and social media, we are barraged by constant stimulation. The renowned psychologist Wayne Edward Oates developed a technique called turning aside, which helps one find silence within even in the midst of turbulence. Turning aside means removing your focus from the chaos around you and shifting your focus upon a small object. Giving the small object your hundred percent attention trains the mind to shut off all the noise and chaos around you, and in time all that will matter to you will be the object of your focus. It is as though the noisy world simply recedes into the background. This exercise can be done anywhere and at anytime. It’s a great exercise for writers. I’ve practiced turning aside for many years. My brother taught me how to shut off the noise around me and fully focus on my intention or …

Reflections

Seth Wickersham, senior writer, ESPN The Magazine said, “Stories end up being a reflection of you. You choose to begin a story with a certain sentence and to end it a certain way. Objectivity is a myth. You can’t be objective because you’re a person.” In so many ways, our blog is also a reflection of who we are.        

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 …

On Journaling

“I realize now that journaling has been the one consistent thing that I’ve done for myself. Through the days of serving and helping others, journaling has been my way of paying attention to me.” I wrote those words late last year, through the business of the holidays and work. It seemed like I was caught in a whirlpool of work, chores and social obligations. Nevertheless, I continued to journal and tried to do it during the first few hours of the day. My journal became my sanctuary, far and away from the crazy demands of the world. “The decision to write a journal has been the most important decision I have ever made because it has led to every other important decision I’ve ever made,” writes Christina Baldwin in her book, Life’s Companion, Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest.”  She continues, “The existence of the journal provides writers with confidence and courage that we can travel as far as the mind allows, and find our way home through the act of writing.” Journals have been my constant …

Writing and the Forgotten Art of Savoring

Jack Heffron tells writers to have fun with the writing process. I’m sure humor writers have lots of fun when they write, but I was absent when heaven showered writers with the gift of humor. I have the sneaky feeling though that two other bloggers, Pam and Susanne were in the front row when  it happened and I always grow green with envy after reading their blogs. To have fun during the writing process, I started a “fun journal.” That’s my best shot at having fun while writing. I love to write, but I cannot say it’s fun. How does one have fun while searching for the right words to express one’s feelings? English is my second language so when I’m writing, I’m regularly questioning whether this or that word is the right one and I Google the meaning of words when I am in doubt – which is quite often. No, writing isn’t fun for me yet, I haven’t found the path that leads to that state and I hope I’ll see the signposts that leads to that place – soon. But  writing does …

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, …