All posts tagged: Writing

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 – …

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 …

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 …

Writing on the Fabric of One’s Soul

Dear Readers,  I am on my third week of sabbatical from blogging. Bumping up a post written last year, about taking time out from writing: In 2004,  I decided to leave a burgeoning career as a feature writer to hearken to a spiritual calling. For almost a decade I stopped writing professionally and relied solely on journaling as my way of writing. It was not easy to leave behind a career I had worked so hard to establish; and it took sometime to accept the fact that I was no longer a writer – and perhaps would never be one, again. During that period, journaling was the only writing activity I had.  It was a welcome avenue, but it could never equal the joy of being a feature writer for an international magazine.  Because of the absence of deadlines, there were days, even months when I abandoned journaling altogether.  I didn’t write a word. Yet, it didn’t bother me.  Abandoning a writing career made it easy for me to accept the days when the words would …

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 …

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 …

Oh NO! I’m Growing a Monster!

But oh, that ever-present critic keeps getting in the way, producing and creating distractions. Such as a headache. Still the muse persists. It arrived on time this morning, at the appointed hour, even if I was not seated at my writing desk. Eventually, I sat and wrote the words that flowed.

The Call to Write

“Why did you abandon your career as a journalist?” a therapy client once asked me.  At that time, I was just  beginning my therapy career – albeit grudgingly, because I did not want to go into the healing profession even if my grandmother was a healer, and three of my cousins had followed the healer’s path. I stared at him, unable to find the words amidst the motley of emotions within. Perhaps sensing my struggle, he stared at me and provided the answer to his own question: “You hearkened to the call,” he said with a smile. It was the first of many instances that  I would experience role reversal in my therapy work. When this happens the healer becomes the healee and vice versa.  In this particular moment, the client helped me regard my gift to heal as a blessing. “There are many things that call us out of ourselves and, in the moment we transcend our own boundaries, open us to the presence of the Beloved, to the background call of the cosmos, ” David Spangler writes …

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. …

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 …

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 …

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 …

Celebrating First Year with a Giveaway for Commenters

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

Own Your Story! Free E-course

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

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 …

Journaling to Free the Soul

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

A Peek into the Writing Habits of Famous Writers

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

Free Teleseminar: Freeing Your Soul Through Writing

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

The Benefits of Taking a Break from Writing

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

Precious Words from Writers

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

Digital Journaling or Pen and Paper?

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

Why Writers Keep Journals

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

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. …

Writing Regularly – A Prerequisite to Good Writing?

  I didn’t study writing in college and have never attended writing workshops.  The only writing classes I ever attended were “Creative Writing 101,” and “Advance Journalism,” during summer school in Harvard.  At that time I was already a feature writer and my articles were being published by a foreign magazine. I became a journalist by chance: When I was working as a travel photographer, the person assigned to write an article that had to be published immediately couldn’t make it, so I conducted the interview, took the pictures, wrote the article and sent it to our main office.  I received a call from our publisher shortly before publication date and he said the article was written well. Thus began my writing career. In 2010, I decided to revive my writing life after a ten-year hiatus, and even though I continued to journal, I had no confidence at all as far as writing was concerned. I began reading up on how to improve my writing. Up until then, the books on writing that I had …

Thriving in the Most Unlikely Places

Without any effort from humans, this plant sprouted from a crack between our concrete fence and the floor near our garage.  I have always marveled at how plants can grow in the most unlikely places.  And they don’t just grow – they bloom and multiply. It is past midnight in the Philippines.  I had planned to stay up late to do some work, because we don’t know what tomorrow will be like. I drank two cups of tea to keep me awake and as soon as I finished my second cup, the lights went off…then it came back on…went off…on again and then…it just stayed pitch dark. The rain poured. Yesterday, I wrote in my journal, “Rain in November, God is watering the plants.” The rainy season in the Philippines ends in October. Tonight, after the lights went off and the rain poured, I carefully went about the task of lighting candles around the living room as the other members of the family lit candles in their bedrooms.  I don’t know what was going on …

The Graciousness of Life

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

Insights from Writers

On the need for silence and solitude – from Doris Lesing: “To write takes dreaming and remembering and thinking and imagining –and very often that feels like wasting time.  It takes silence and solitude. It takes being okay with making a huge mess and not knowing what you’re doing. Then it takes rewriting and struggling to find your story and the truth of the story, and then the meaning of the story. It takes being comfortable with your own doubts and fears and questions. And there’s just no fast and easy way around it.” On loving the reader – from Ellen GilChrist: “The first thing a writer must do is love the reader and wish the reader well…Only in such well wishing and trust, only when the writer feels he is writing a letter to a good friend, only then will the magic happen.” On trusting one’s voice – from Natalie Goldberg “Once you have learned to trust your own voice and allowed that creative force inside you to come out, you can direct it …

Lifelines for Writers

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

Writing About What One Knows Best

I had often wondered about the advice that had been given to writers for who knows how long: “Write what you know.” Since this advice had been handed on from generations past, I never questioned it.  Now that I am no longer a professional writer, I find it easier to go against the grain, so to speak, and question what I read and hear about the writing craft. This is one advice I cannot now bring myself to believe.  Why?  Because if I wrote only about what I know, then I would be limiting myself considerably.  Come to think of it, through the years that I worked as a feature writer, I never followed this advice. Thank goodness I didn’t.  Otherwise, I would have lost many opportunities to explore areas of life that I knew nothing about.  As a feature writer, I was always on the look-out for good story sources – and there were no limits. If I had limited myself then to what I knew, I would have probably written only a fraction …

For Bloggers and Writers

Blog hopping is one activity that we should try now and then.  Discovering new blogs is like discovering new places – you experience new vistas, meet interesting people and learn something new. Here are some blogs posts that I discovered and read over the past weeks. I hope you’ll have the time to explore these sites: A New Writing Challenge: 31 Days of Letters   Micaela D’eigh writes about a unique writing challenge Stealing Creative Inspiration from Austin Kleon  Marial Shea writes about some very creative ideas from Austin Kleon 6 Ways to Defend Your Blog Copyright WordCount’s Michelle Rafter tells bloggers how they can stop online plagiarism Top 5 Reasons to Keep a Journal Victoria Musgrave has been journaling daily since she was 12.  She shares her views on why we should all keep a journal  The Bright Side Of A 30 Day Challenge Vilma Sceusa gives advice on how to survive a 30-day blogging challenge Anatomy of a Writers Workshop Ever wondered what it’s like to attend a writer’s workshop? Annette Gendler gives us a peek at life …