Writing Toward Home

Writing , Ideas, and Encouragement

Category: Encouragement (page 1 of 2)

Thirty in Thirty Day 23

Thirty in Thirty Day 23  A Festival, Friends, and Filling the Reservoir

I have so enjoyed the challenge of writing every day for thirty days. ( 1 week to go!) However, even when one has lots of story ideas and a love of creating, there comes a time when the tank is running a bit low. Over the past three days I have engaged in activities to refill my mental reservoir.

Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, calls this filling the well. One of the best ways to do that is to take an Artist Date or two. An Artist Date can be anything that brings pleasure and helps nourish and recharge the batteries of the artist within.

Here are the things I have done recently replenish my creative well:

Thursday I took a long drive along winding mountain roads enjoying the early fall colors and taking photographs of old barns.

Friday I met a new writer friend for drinks at a local restaurant. We sat for two hours discussing  our writing  projects and long-term goals and making plans to meet regularly to support one another.

Today my husband and I drove to our former city and spent the day with good friends. We went out to lunch, attended an art festival, went out for dinner at a favorite restaurant, and ended the evening over drinks and great conversation that ranged from travel, to history, to board games, and politics.

The art festival was a feast for this writer’s soul as I took in all of the sights, sounds, and smells.

There were dozens of booths filled with paintings, pottery, jewelry, fiber arts, and sculpture.  There is nothing better than immersing ones self in the creative work of others to invite inspiration. A dozen story ideas presented themselves while I browsed the booths. And of course, I couldn’t resist making a couple of purchases.

The air was filled with the competing scents of various carnival foods: kettle corn, funnel cakes, bratwurst, cotton candy, fudge and much more.

 There were storytellers, clowns, dancers, and musicians on various stages, plus the hundreds of people and dogs that roamed the sidewalk that encircled the lake.

 

We walked and looked and chatted with the artists and among ourselves.

It was a lovely, relaxing day. Now I am back at the hotel, propped up in bed next to my snoring spouse feeling grateful, refreshed and renewed.

When we return home from our mini-vacation on Monday I will be ready to jump back into the studio again.

Thirty in Thirty Day 21

Thirty In Thirty Day 21   

 The Creative Life: Doing What You Can Not Do

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Choosing to be a creator writer, painter, composer, fiber artist, sculptor is to also choose to be a life-long learner. In every creative endeavor there is always something to learn: a new form, technique , medium, or method.  That is the joy and the struggle of being a maker. There is exhilaration and fear in learning something new, in pushing one’s self. 

There are often breakthroughs, triumphs and discoveries.

More often one experiences struggle, doubt and do-overs. It may involve painting over a canvas, pulling out stitches, crossing out notes, filling up the wastebasket , or hitting the delete button.

It is not a straight road; rather, it is a wild stumble though the brambles looking for the path. And, it takes time.

Picasso said, “ I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”

 

Yes.

For many years I have been working in long-form fiction – the novel.  I completed one a number of years ago. It is the one that many novelists refer to as their “under-the-bed book” because it will never see the light of day. I worked on it for several years until I completed it. Then I put it away.  It had served its purpose by teaching me how to write a novel and how not to write one. I learned how to tell a story.

Four years ago I participated in NANOWRIMO. It is an international event that takes place every November. The goal is to complete a novel of at least 50,000 words in 30 days.  That means averaging around 1700 words per day.  I began a new novel with a character and a situation that had been bouncing around in my brain for a while. I completed the challenge and ended up with a completed novel that needed lots of polish.

I am on draft number six of that story. What I have gained from that effort was how to revise and edit a novel length manuscript. Plus, I have learned perseverance.

 

It is still a work in progress that I hope to publish one day.

Recently I have been working on a series of short fairy tales for children.  I have enjoyed writing complete stories in this shorter form. This has kindled a desire to write short stories for adults with an eye on publishing in magazines. This is a recommended step for fiction writers who wish to build a platform that will attract  the interest of agents and book publishers.  So now I am teaching myself to write short stories.

 I have been using the Thirty in Thirty challenge  to try out my skills in quickly developing interesting characters and compelling  story lines. So far I have been able to write some acceptable opening scenes. Now I need to figure out how to extend a story premise to a satisfying conclusion.

I just keep plugging along, one step at a time.

 “I am doing what I cannot do in order to learn how to do it.”

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Wordplay Wednesday: What I Know By Heart

Wordplay Wednesday: What I know by heart

This weekend, the calendar, in a rare, serendipitous juxtaposition, ushers in both Christmas and Hanukkah, followed by the beginning of Kwanzaa on Monday.  To me, it is a perfect year for the holidays to overlap so completely. We need unity in our celebrations of what we all believe and hold dear. And we each need to articulate those things to ourselves and to one another.

I am reading an Advent devotional book called Why This Jubilee?,  written by a local church pastor, James C. Howell. It contains daily meditations on the meanings of specific lines from familiar Christmas songs. It is a lovely book and filled with many  memorable phrases that I have jotted down. One in particular made me stop and reflect over the last few days since I read it.

James Howell asks the reader to consider what we “know by heart.”  On the one hand to know something by heart means to have something  committed to memory as  a  well-loved song , poem or quote.  Another way to think of  knowing something by heart is to reflect on those things that our heart tells us  are true no matter what is going on in the world around us. It is this concept that I want to ask you to consider with me.

What do you know “by heart?” What does your heart tell you about the world, faith, people, circumstances, right and wrong?  I think that at this time of year and in this year in particular it is  something we should all consider.

Here is some of  what I know by heart:

No matter the circumstances in the world, God is still in control.  I can trust  in His goodness and sovereignty even when politics, governments and mortal humans disappoint.

All people are made in the image of the Creator and have innate worth, no matter their race, color, nation of origin, faith or  financial position. Everyone deserves to be treated with kindness, compassion and courtesy.

Despite the skewed version of the world given by the news, most people in the world  simply want to pursue a quiet life in which they provide a  safe home, enough food and hope for a better future for their families..  Everyone deserves a chance to  pursue those dreams.

Every person is created on purpose and for a purpose. We are all individually  designed to offer our unique gifts and dreams to the world.  We are given skills, talents and abilities not to hoard, but to share with others in order to enrich all of human experience.

Being kind, considerate and generous are not weaknesses, but are the true measure of a person’s strength.  To quote George Eliot, “ What do we live for if not to make life less difficult for each other?”

What do you know by heart?

Wordplay Wednesday: List-Making

Wordplay Wednesday:   List-Making

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I am a great list-maker. I create detailed grocery lists only to leave them in the car or even at home when it is time to go to the store. I make lists of things to do, books to read, projects to attempt, stories to write, menus for dinner, errands to accomplish and so on. The lists mostly end up like the one for my groceries—not available when actually needed. 

One could be tempted to assert that for me creating a list is a waste of time, however I disagree. I think that in my case the physical act of creating the list is the salient  part of the exercise. By writing it down, I actually engage my brain and the list is then internalized and remembered. Not perfectly, mind you, but accurate enough.  I tend to get 95% or more of the things on my grocery list even when it is left behind at home.

When I was teaching, I would make my lessons plans for the week and rarely look at them again after entering them in the plan book. The act of thinking through my plans and writing them down was the important part, not looking back over them. There was rarely a need to do so. Plus, I often found that if I did vary from the plans, my “seat-of-the pants” thinking and resulted in serendipitous moments that were actually better than the original. Because I had taken the time to plan, my mind was able to make subconscious connections that seemed random, but really were not.

So, this week I am advocating that try making lists and discover what comes to mind. You will find that as you write ideas or down, other things will pop into your head that may not seem relevant. Write them down anyway. Often the things that come unbidden from the recesses of our minds carry a lot of power. I find that sometimes those ideas have just been waiting for a chance to emerge and get some attention.

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So what kind of list should you make? There are many options. I am going to offer several, but you may come up with others.  For this activity you can either set a timer or determine a certain number of items to list. Having either the time or the number parameter gives the exercise a bit of structure which helps with the thinking process.

Make a list and then choose an item off your list that has some power. Make a story, poem, essay, memoir, collage or art piece. Keep your lists in your writing. notebook and return to them often.

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Things I love              

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Things I fear              

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Favorite places

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People I admire

 

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Make a list and see where it takes you. Happy Writing!

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Wordplay Wednesday: Free-writing

Wordplay Wednesday :   Free-writing

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Over the past few months we have explored words and played with them in a variety of ways . The purpose behind those activities was to demonstrate the potential that words possess. Used purposefully they can reveal, inspire, inform, entertain, engage, and more. By playing with words in different ways for a short exercise, a writer becomes more comfortable and confident in wielding them for a specific purpose.

 

The next step in playing with words is Free-writing, which is the equivalent of an artist’s warm-up sketches she may do before tackling her main work or the scales a musician undertakes before playing a piece of music. It is writing practice of a short duration that helps limber up the writing muscles and get them ready.

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In Free-writing you use a word, phrase, or quote as a starting off point for your writing. It is a way of stimulating thinking, not a writing assignment. The words or phrase may end up not being used at all if your thinking takes you in a different direction. The purpose for having a starting point is so that you don’t find yourself staring a blank page frozen by indecision over what to write about.

 

The Process:

 

Writing practice should occur on a regular basis. Set a schedule for yourself that works. Daily writing practice is ideal, but not always practical. Decide how many days you will practice and stick to it.

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Writing practice is best done by hand. The physical process of writing longhand creates an important mind-body connection.

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You need some type of bound paper and a pen. You can use legal pads, the marbled composition books or spiral notebooks. I make a bulk purchase of inexpensive 1 subject spiral notebooks when the office supply stores are having sales before school starts. By using something that does not cost much, I free myself up to throw words down on the paper with abandon. Choose a pen that you enjoy writing with and always have a spare handy.

 

Write the date at the top of your paper.

 

Set a timer for 15 minutes. The purpose of the timer is to set parameters so that you will start writing quickly. You don’t have time to worry too much about each word when the timer is counting down. Just write!

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Write the prompt at the top of your page. Read it over and then start writing whatever ideas pop into your mind. Don’t edit your words. Just write them down and keep going. Ride the wave of your thoughts wherever they take you. You might write a memory, a poem, a scene, a character sketch or, an essay. Don’t decide beforehand, just let the writing take the form it needs to take in the moment.

 

Keep your hand moving until the time is up. If you cannot think of what to say, write that. Your brain will quickly tire of “ I cannot think of what to write about” and it will come up with an idea or image to get you back writing.

 

Do not stop to edit, cross out ,or re-read until time is up. This is not the time for worrying about spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Just get those ideas and thoughts on the page. You can pretty them up later if you wish.

 

Write what matters to you. That’s where the power and magic live. This is not school, so you don’t have to worry about pleasing anyone but yourself.

 

Read aloud what you have written. The process of hearing your own words aloud is a way of discovering and honing your unique writing voice.

 

 

Now for the prompts. You may be wondering where the words and phrases for writing practice come from. I get my best prompts from reading. When I read, I always have a pen and something to write on nearby. I usually stick several index cards in the books I read. They make great bookmarks and are also handy for writing down words, phrases, or quotes that I want to remember. When filled up the cards migrate to my desk and wait until I need a prompt for writing practice.

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The best prompts are ones that resonate with you. If it makes an impression when you are reading, then it will likely make a good prompt for writing. Collecting prompts is something I enjoy. I encourage you to do that as well. However, if that is not your inclination, keep reading.

 

Each Wednesday, I will post 5 prompts that you can use for your writing practice during the week. I will also post some of my writing from the previous week’s prompts. Let’s do this together!

 

 

The most frightened I have ever been

 

An obsession

 

Thanks for nothing

 

Give yourself permission to….

 

Embarking on an adventure

 

 

Happy Writing!

 

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The Joys and Struggles of the Writing Life

The Joys and Struggles of the Writing Life

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 A writer is someone who writes. I am a writer. That means I spend a lot of time in my studio  alone with my thoughts, ideas, and words. They tumble from my  mind, to my fingers, into notebooks, on scraps of paper, on sticky notes, and onto my computer screen.  Sometimes they get shared with others, often they do not.  I have to say it is not lonely work. All of my characters, both those realized on the page and those still clamoring for attention in my head keep me company.  Daily we set out on quests together. Sometimes there is an itinerary and perhaps a map and we know where we are headed. More often we move by serendipity and impulse, taking the distracting side roads that offer adventure.

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This is the best part of being a writer.  When I am in the middle of a story in the company of  interesting characters, the time just flies by. I start writing or typing and soon I am caught up in the narrative and I forget everything else. Hours go by and I will look up in a bleary-eyed haze and realize I have written through lunch and that it’s time to think about making dinner or walking the dog who is pacing nervously at the door.  That is the reason I write. Being able to construct whole worlds populated with characters I created is so much fun that it does not feel like work. I have read often about writers who say that writing is agonizing and frustrating  and I do not understand that sentiment at all. The act of creating something that did not exist before is what keeps me going. It is powerful.

On the other hand, being a writer also means trying to find a way to get your stories out into the world. This is the tough part. You send out your work that you have spent hours writing, re-writing., honing, and polishing and you cross your fingers and wait. Recently I submitted a story to a magazine and waited for two months. I knew it was a long shot because they only publish 24 stories a year and  receive hundreds of submissions.  When the deadline passed and I had not heard anything I was disappointed but not surprised.

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Two days after the deadline for notification,  I received word that my work had passed the first round and was short listed for publication. I was elated.   This would be my first national publication which would mean validation from the “writing world.” Not only that, unlike many magazines, it offered a cash payment which would vault me into the ranks of a professional writer. I was rather full of myself for a few days. Still, I kept writing.

A  week later, the second email informed me that my story had not made the final cut. Despite the kind words they offered for my work, I was devastated.  Alas, this is the most common outcome for hopeful writers. Knowing I am in good company helps a bit, but the sting is still there.  I allowed myself a bit of a pity party and then I went back to work.

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I am a writer.  Does the fact that I am still unpublished   and unknown change that? No.  A writer is someone who writes. I keep writing, churning out stories, because I love it.  It is what I was created to do.  Those noisy characters in my head insist that I tell their tales so I have adopted the roles of scribe, bard, storyteller. I will also keep putting my stories into the world, no matter the odds. One day  soon, I hope, publication will happen. If not I will still write.  I am a writer. It is what I do.

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Who is a Writer?

Who is a writer?

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As I have stated before,  a  writer is someone who writes.  However, you may want a fuller profile of  the kind of person who decides to be a writer.  Who exactly are they?  

Today I am going to introduce  you to some writers I know.  They are from my writing groups and from the classes I teach. They span a wide range of ages and life experiences, but what they have in common is a love of stringing words together to remember, to understand, to create, and to tell the stories only they can tell.  I have changed names and a few telling details, but each profile describes  a fellow writer whom I have the privilege to know.

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Sara is a grandmother who  began telling her granddaughter bedtime stories several years ago about a magical land of pixies, fairies, and dragons. The bedtime stories have become a fully realized fantasy world. Sara’s manuscript of her tales is taking shape as a  hero’s quest that promises many hours of delight for her future readers. Sara is a writer.

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Debra is a widow who lost her husband  way too soon. She began writing as a way back from her grief, filling pages with her memories and sorrow.  Now Debra is crafting a mystery story and is enjoying creating characters and scenes from her imagination. Debra is a writer.

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Brian is a middle-aged executive employed at  a technology firm. He writes humorous anecdotes which have been published on several occasions in a well-known magazine. He also writes memoir and fiction in a descriptive style that is comforting yet compelling.  Brian is a writer.

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Elaine is 30, and works in an emotionally demanding and draining profession. She writes lush,  powerful fiction and evocative memoirs and essays. Her writing is a way to both process and escape from her work. Elaine is a writer.

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Ben, 85,  crafts memoir of growing up in Brooklyn in the 1930s and 40s. Ben writes lovingly of his family, friends and favorite places from his childhood and youth. He also writes about his experiences as a photographer and designer.  He has crafted a powerful and moving eye-witness account of the events of September 11, 2001.  He is in the process of compiling his stories into a book. Ben is a writer.

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Victor is a retired scientist and professor. He writes memoir of growing up in a small North Carolina town during the Depression and World War II. Victor has a witty, understated writing style that delights those who hear his stories. Victor is also a poet who has published a small volume of his work. Victor is now working on a biography of a fellow scientist. Victor is a writer.

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Those are just a few of my fellow writers. To quote Brenda Ueland, “They are all talented, original, and have something important to say.”  They write in many styles and genres and each brings their own purposes to the writing table.  They write because they love it and because they can’t  not  write. The desire for self-expression and understanding, not fame and fortune, compels them to put pen to paper.

So who is a writer?  A writer is someone who writes.

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The Writing Life

The Writing Life: Taking the Dream to Fruition

I have been a writer for most of my life. “ A writer is someone who writes” after all, and I have been writing since age eight. However my dream for a long time has been  to make writing my full-time job, not just an amusing hobby. I think I have achieved my goal, but it looks rather different from what  I imagined.  And while I am a full-time writer, I am not yet a published author. Living the writing life is not just about creating the next bestseller.  It is about loving all the aspects of the work, no matter the outcome, because it allows you to tell a story that is yours alone.

Here’s what my writing life looks like at the moment.

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I am sitting in my studio composing this post with my laptop on my knees because there’s no room for it on my desk, the surface of which is covered with the detritus of a full weekend of writing. There are at least seven spiral notebooks in a sort of pile on the desk along with about ten others at my feet. They represent all of my rough drafts and half stories scribbled in writing sessions covering a couple of years. 

 Interspersed with the notebooks are crumpled, scribbled sticky notes, ragged pages torn from notepads, collapsed stacks of books and magazines and a number of abandoned cups of tea.  The trashcan has overflowed onto the floor and the bookshelf under my desk looks ravaged.

Since retiring from my first career as a teacher almost three years ago I have undertaken developing my “second act” as a writer. Here’s what that entailed over the last three days:

~Goal: Publish stories and articles to establish my credentials as a writer.

Publishing credits are an important piece of the puzzle as I work toward getting a book ready for publication. If I want to attract the notice of an agent or a publisher, I need to  have published work I can point to.

 I spent many hours this weekend rewriting, tweaking and polishing three personal essays for submission to two different online literary publications. The deadline for submission was today, so that took precedence over everything else.  The final drafts went out yesterday afternoon accompanied by my high hopes. The stories were ones I had written over the last year in various writing groups I belong to. As soon as I read the submission guidelines  I knew I had pieces that would fit. The problem was they were located in my vast collection of notebooks- somewhere. I pulled them all out and began to flip through until I found the pieces I wanted.

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 Once I found a story,  I began to work on it, and work on it and work on it. Hours later a story of less than 1,000 words was ready to go. I repeated this same pattern two more times, fueled by gallons Earl Grey tea, Kind bars, and peanut butter on rice cakes. I went through countless drafts of each story before pronouncing it ready to send. Then there was the learning curve in getting my work formatted to the specifications for each publication. That was several more hours filled with frustration and grumbling.  Still, it was valuable learning time since I have new skills I can use in the future.

Goal: Teach writing classes in order to help other writers pursue their dreams and to be part of a group of like-minded people.

Today I spent the entire day planning for my Fiction writing class that I teach each Tuesday. Tomorrow’s lesson is on Setting and Description.  I spent several hours on the internet scouring posts for ideas and making notes on sticky pads and scraps of paper.  Plus I consulted my vast writer’s library, pulling books from my shelves and making more notes. I wanted to be sure I have a complete and thorough lesson for my students. They are all talented writers with goals of their own.  Teaching writing classes to adults has been a goal of mine for many years. It is one of the highlights of my week. It offers me an opportunity to be around my “tribe”, those folks who love stories so much they want to create their own.

Next I completed my homework assignment for tomorrow’s writing class. I assign a writing prompt for homework each week . For the first activity in class we all share our writing based on the prompt. I needed to have my writing done for that as well in order to model what I am teaching.

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Goal: Create a blog about writing to encourage others to write.

Having to write for my blog also helps me create new content on a regular basis as well as meeting my goal to produce at least 500 words a day. Blogging is helping me hone my writing skills as well as putting me in touch with others who love stories.

 

Goal: Learn more about blogging, publishing and targeting my audience.

Right now I am working through 3 online classes that are helping me develop skills as a blogger, writer and entrepreneur. In order to be successful as a writer in the 21st century I need to learn as much as I can about creating and growing  my website, marketing, electronic publishing and so on. I spend time each week listening to podcasts and modules to help me acquire those skills that do not come so naturally to me. This has been a steep learning curve for me, but I am gradually gaining valuable skills and confidence.

Goal: Publish my novel. And then another. Repeat. 

This of course is my ultimate goal. Each week I am spending time rewriting and editing my book. I am also working on the first draft of another book as well as several other story ideas. I have no shortage of projects I wish to pursue. I just need more hours in my day.

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For now, I am going to tidy my desk and call it a day.

My Manifesto Part 2

My Manifesto Part 2 :   The Why, How and What of Writing

 

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In Part One of my Manifesto, I stated that a “ Writer is someone who writes.”
My intent was to promote writing as a something everyone can and should do.
Today I am going to address some anticipated questions.

 

Why should I write? Who do I think I am to try writing?

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Writing is the great equalizer. No matter our age, background or experiences we all have stories to tell. Our experiences and stories are as unique and individual as we are. They need to be written down, if only for ourselves. Your story, your dreams, your ideas deserve to be written down.

 

It is through writing that we take a journey of discovery, finding out how the world looks through our eyes and through the filter of our thoughts and feelings. It is what makes us human and also humane.

 

Writing helps us discover what we really think, feel and want. We can use it to uncover lost dreams, memories, or passions that we may have forgotten or perhaps never understood. Writing brings us home to ourselves.

 

How do I get started?

 

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One of the wonderful features of writing, is how easy it is to begin. Unlike many creative pursuits, there are few start-up costs. No fancy tools, elaborate supplies or equipment are needed. Do you have some paper and a pen or pencil? Then you have all the supplies you need. If you have a computer, you can use it. I choose to compose by hand for much of my writing practice. I will elaborate on the reason for that preference in a future post.

 

Another feature that writing offers over many other creative pursuits is that you need no special place. Writing can and does happen everywhere: libraries, coffee shops, waiting rooms, carpool lines, on the bus or subway, sitting in the bleachers during a child’s sport practice and so on.

 

You also do not need large blocks of time. John Grisham wrote his first novel, A Time to Kill, during court recesses, before work and during his lunch hour while working 60-70 hours per week as a lawyer. Find 10 minutes in the morning, or write during your lunch break at work. Schedule a few minutes before bed, or give up one 30 minute show on TV or Netflix episode and write instead. You have time to do the things you want to do.

 

 

What do I write?

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So you have paper, pen, a table at the coffee shop and 15 minutes. Now what?

Here are some ways to incorporate writing into your life. Pick a form and stick with it for a while and see if it resonates with you. If not, try another. Sometimes it takes a few false starts until we discover the structure our writing wants to take. I will elaborate more on each of these writing forms in future posts.

 

~ Keep a diary. Write about your days. What you do, who you see, what the weather is like. Keeping a diary helps you slow down and pay attention to your life. It also helps you keep count of your days and remember them. Start with just a few sentences.

Start with “ Today I…..”

 

~ Keep a journal. A journal is different from a diary. In a diary you record what you do. In a journal you record what you think. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, and other books on writing and creativity, recommends writing Morning Pages. Morning Pages are three handwritten pages in which you record your thoughts, worries, annoyances, emotions and ideas. You write whatever is on your mind and see where it leads you. Morning Pages, when done regularly, often lead to insight, clarity and even new projects or inspiration.

Start with “ I am …” or “I wish…” . In doing Morning Pages the idea is to just keep your hand moving and write whatever emerges in your thoughts until you have 3 pages written by hand. No editing or second guessing allowed. You may be surprised with what emerges. To find out more on Morning Pages, you can go to www.juliacameronlive.com or search for Morning Pages on the internet.

 

~ Keep a gratitude journal. This idea has many proponents including Oprah, Sarah Ban Breathnach and Anne Voskamp . In a gratitude journal you list those things that you are thankful for each day. This is often done at the end of the day. It can foster feelings of contentment and well-being and also make you more attuned to your life.

Start with “ Today I am grateful for…”

 

~ Thinking on paper. Often if I have a project I am working on or an idea to explore, I get a legal pad and just write. Writing down my chaotic thoughts and ideas often helps me to begin to see connections or holes in my thinking.

Start with “ My idea is…..”

 

~ Write your memories. Writing a memoir for yourself or for your family is a valuable and satisfying endeavor. Writing your memories helps you recall forgotten incidents, people and events and to reflect upon them. It is also a way to record your life for those you care about. It is a way to declare “ I was here. This is my story.” It will be yours and yours alone. If you don’t write it no one will.

Start with “ When I was 10…”

 

There are many other writing forms to explore: opinion pieces, personal essays, food memoirs, book/movie/restaurant reviews, travel logs, letters, science or nature writing, poetry and fiction. In future posts I will about each of these in greater detail.

For now, grab that spiral notebook or legal pad, a pen and a cup of coffee and give yourself a few minutes of writing time. Start today!

Happy writing!

 

 

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One Writer’s Beginnings

One Writer’s Beginnings: How Creativity Can Flourish Anywhere and The Power of Encouragement

            Today is St. Patrick’s Day, which happens to be my younger brother’s birthday.  It is also an anniversary of sorts for me. It was on this day, over 50 years ago, that I began to pursue my avocation as a writer.
            I was sitting in the first seat of the first row of desks in Mrs. Gudger’s third grade class. I was sitting in this prime spot, not because my teacher liked me, but for the opposite reason. I was a  bossy, opinionated, chatter-box at age eight and my teacher  had attempted to tame me by putting me up front where she could quell me with her steely-eyed stares.  She had given up on making me write lines for punishment .  100  written repetitions of   “ I will not talk in class” on multiple occasions had not put a dent in my talking. So there I sat, with a wall on one side and no one sitting behind or next to me. I was in exile.
            Driven to entertain myself another way while Mrs. Gudger droned on from her exalted position in front of the board, I began to draw and then write on the piece of paper in front of me.
This was a major infraction right up there with talking. My teacher,  in a desire to be in complete control of her class , I suppose, did not allow us to keep paper or pencils at our desks. At the beginning of each lesson she would choose two helpers. One child would pass out a single piece of paper to each classmate while the other would walk around with a box of  pencils for us to choose from.   You may be sure that I was never chosen for this honor.
desk-pens-school-design
  While she was teaching we were supposed to sit with our hands folded in our lap awaiting instructions for what we were to do with the paper in front if us. We were always warned that we would only get this one piece of paper, so we needed to work neatly and not mess it up.
Fortunately for me the teacher rarely even looked in my direction so I was able to quietly slip my pencil from the desk tray and begin to create. I was thinking about my brother’s birthday and St. Patrick’s Day and there on the paper a poem about leprechauns took form.
By the time Mrs. Gudger had finished her lesson and told us to begin the assignment, my paper was filled with my poem and little drawings of leprechaun , toadstools and shamrocks.
I was thrilled with what I had written until belatedly I realized I would have to ask for another piece of paper to complete the assigned task. I raised a trembling hand and when called on I told her I needed another paper. By this time my teacher was seated at her desk as the class silently worked. She frowned ( and likely rolled her eyes) and told me to bring my paper to her. She took the offending paper, placed it on her desk and lectured me, once again, about paying attention in class and following directions. I am not sure but I may have heard some weariness in her tone. I was given another piece of paper and sent back to my desk.
Later that day she asked me if I had written that poem all on my own. I assured her that I had. She gave me a look I did not understand and then told me she was keeping the paper for the time being. I assumed she would be attaching  it  to yet another note  home to my parents.
 The next day we unexpectedly began a poetry writing unit and I was a happy and engaged participant in class for probably the first time that year.  A day or so later my poem was displayed in large print on the main bulletin board in the lobby of the school. I received praise and attention from former teachers, the principal, parents and friends.
I was hooked! I was a writer. I penned many poems, a neighborhood newspaper, stories, comic strips and more after that. Records and copies of those early  literary efforts no longer exist. What remained and flourished was the love of writing and the realization that my thoughts, words and efforts matter.

My message to you is two-fold:

Do not let circumstances dictate your dreams or crush  your creativity.

Remember that a bit of encouragement to a child or adult who is testing the waters of creativity can make all the difference.

Go create!

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