Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Vitamin D of Writing

It is the organic nature of shaping words and ideas into a poem or short story that draws me in again and again.

The many pushes to publish, to earn and to learn in a whirlwind of desperation are the opposite.

The litmus test for me, then, is that before another theory on writing is put forward, they prove that we need it as much as we need vitamin D.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The 'Selfish' Act of Writing and Loving It

This blog is my ode to writing in all its wondrous complexity and simple pleasures.

We get to say whatever we want in the pages we write. It can be trite and still resonate and the prose can be overblown and still thrill us. This craft is nothing more nor less than the sum of all the parts we relish about writing.

You have to love it to live it completely. Forget all the struggling artist visions that everyone who considers themselves sensible will feed you in the name of rationality. (Notice how that word contains the scarcity of thought and action.) Money provides the food, the paper and the writing utensils we need to keep writing. That is only the bottom line.

Consider, instead, how reading aloud your own work is somehow satisfying. Forget the grammar, sentence structures and plot contortions that your internal editor screams about and just yell or murmur those words with all the feeling you used to create them.

It's way past time to acknowledge that writing, then reading our own works, makes this "selfish" act the most loving way we can nurture ourselves.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Writing Through Your Tears and Laughter

I've written before about the outlet writing offers to work through both the laughter and tears that populate a life.

In fact, pouring your heart out in a journal can be cathartic and still be counted as "real" writing. Consider it practice or an important aspect of your bigger picture. Either way, make it worth your while by being as truthful and free as you can.

Put the writing aside, then read it as a history of the ups and downs and the precursor to being the prolific writer you know is your destiny.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Explore Your Passions

What do you read? Does it tie into what you write? Do you love to ski, quilt or garden?

In considering your passionate commitment to any hobby, don't count writing itself, for now. Do, however, consider the articles, videos and audios that feed a creative need to express yourself in knitting, sewing, painting, fixing your home or creating the perfect souffle. Books we read over and over again for the sheer pleasure and the other hobbies that many creative people take on can make us more open to new ideas.

We can find our greatest inspiration to write in the day-to-day passions we explore without questioning whether we are good enough to do them. In the click of needles, pressing a peddle and the smell of grease paint, we learn or learned to appreciate colors, the feel of fabric or yarn and the end product.

Unlike writing, which we seldom celebrate for the word by word play of meaning and rhythms, most of us still appreciate the neck scarf with its dropped stitches and the lopsided pot we threw as the triumphs they represent.

I read and hear too many people say that writing is somehow painful, which begs the question of why they would write in the first place. If you hear yourself saying this to another person, try rephrasing your self-talk in terms of the passion that writing brings out. Also, stop worrying so much about that end product and enjoy the journey.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Nurture Your Idiosyncrasies

Another day, another advice column that centered on one person's opinions on the finer points of characterizations.

The one item that struck me was the author's encouragement to allow characters their idiosyncrasies. Instead, I believe we need to nurture our own and transfer that understanding to our writing overall.

It also helps to recognize and accept the vagaries (the whimsy and the unusual) around you that drive you to write. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Bring it Home

When you surround yourself with items, books or even people that light up the creative centers in your brain, rather than feeding the fear -- embrace them.

Just like the Northern Star, certain natural wonders help bring us home to writing as naturally as we breathe.We inhale words and their meanings and exhale deeper visions.

More to the point is that although we can't work in isolation, we can ask for time to write and accept in ourselves that this is our birthright.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Coast a Little

It you are by a large body of water, or can fill your bathtub without feeling guilty, then dip your toes in and feel the pull of just being.

In other words: coast a little. Over-thinking the writing can lead to not writing. Then it becomes a vicious cycle of guilt, doubt and no answer to self-recrimination.

Instead, when you find yourself at this point, just stop, drop and watch something funny or body surf if you can.

We bring the most to our writing practice when we can smile coming back to it.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


As humans we can't help but compare ourselves to others. It appears to be a biological imperative at times. But in writing, it's a fear-raising experience that can stop us in our track to author-hood.

Believe me, my mind wanders down that road too many times when I think of the books that are written, but not edited, and I hear of someone, anyone, who moved past this point and published.

All it takes to bring me back, however, is knowing that those others aren't me. Each of us must find a way to believe in our voice, our writing and the stories we have to tell.

It takes a fearlessness, and blinders sometimes, to stop looking around us and instead focus for our lives.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Five Ways to Free Yourself

Another e-mail and another reason not to buy a book on how writers can free themselves from the idea that everyone learns and writes based on arbitrary rules. It might have hooked me, but the very nature of self-help books requires an idea of its audience, a structure and more advice.

Granted, the book I saw might have been a good one. But just in case you get the urge to suffer through another 200 to 300 pages of advice, when you could be writing instead, I'm going to offer five ways to recognize when to run the other way:

  1. A book title states that it can provide a sure-fire method to get you writing again.
  2. Any famous author's name is used to sell that writing book. (Don't get me wrong... I have Stephen King's book on writing, and many other such tomes on my bookshelves. They just haven't been used since writing became a pleasure again.)
  3. It comes in a series.
  4. The author makes a living from writing and selling that type of book. (Also, no knock to writers who do make a living this way.)
  5. You look at your bookshelf and see more books on writing than fiction and really good nonfiction.

The 24/7 nature of advice can convince many rational individuals that an equal effort is necessary in return. Instead, we can free ourselves by realizing we just needed to quiet those voices to hear our own.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Look Around You

How do you describe the look on a baby's face who discovers that pulling up on a coffee table is a brand new experience. For a child who has only seen faces close-up in someone's arms, or the ankles, paws and waves of blankets that surround her on the floor, that instance of sheer success is empowering.

That's the feeling we seek every time we attempt to pull ourselves off the metaphorical floor to reach out beyond our current limitations. It's the new viewpoint a writer finds in walking a different way. It's the dialogue that comes from overhearing just a snippet of conversation that triggers a new story or article.

We need to shock our systems, ever so gently, with new faces, voices and tactile experiences.  Try leaving chocolate on your tongue and closing your eyes. Go out into your garden and take off your shoes, or touch the dried stems of the plants before they bloom again. In other words, look around you on another level you haven't tried yet.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

No "Use By" Dates

Read around and you will find article after article touting youth as the ultimate time to succeed as a writer, a musician, an artist or even a programmer. They would have us believe that we miss our chance at greatness based on an arbitrary "use by" date in life.

This is another nugget of supposed wisdom that should be seen for what it is: another way to make a few into the elite.

The age that you begin and continue to write, for yourself and no one or thing else, is the only valid date to embrace.

Friday, February 17, 2012


As adults we can see being grounded for the gift it is at times. Imagine, having the time without distractions such as televisions, iPads, laptop computers, instant messaging and adult responsibilities, just to sit in our rooms writing.

Of course, as children we railed at this injustice. The person or persons keeping us from the bigger world had too much power. Why is it, then, that we often give so much power to distractions now?

If you put those days down in a diary or journal when you were young, go back to rediscover the straightforward writing that came with being "forced" to sit still and think.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Attempt the Possible

In attempting the possible, as writers we embellish on the numerous known and unknown levels of possibilities.

Given a choice of outcomes, each of us chooses what we believe it is possible to do, to taste and to feel. This means that we open up more avenues of creativity in attempting what we can envision ourselves doing and saying.

Opening up to what "can be" also helps us resist the backlash from all the impossibilities we are told come with this life.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Take Care of Yourself

Some of the most famous writers were also prolific drunks or drug addicts. While this may have helped them get past restrictions that stop many of us, it may also be why the best work they did occurred earlier in life when writing was the drug of choice.

I know this is a sudden change of tone, but my blog is about a healthy self respect. Also, I'm not talking about medication that helps you focus, treats cancer or the glass of wine at dinner. (This is also not about getting you dried out or into a good clinic.) Personal choices are respected and the non-judgment zone enforced here emphasizes not letting anything external get between you and the writing.

You know you've reached a point of no return on this life course if: You find yourself on a bar stool and  ignore the drink in front of you to write a slice of atmosphere down on a cocktail napkin. It also shows when even a critique can't drive you to drink. (Pun intended.)

Try writing first.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


As this Valentines Day winds down, it's a good time to remember that as writers we always lead with our hearts.

It's our emotions that drive us to new heights, not the gray matter that allows us to form words and the connections necessary to tell a story. That is one reason why rules of any kind fail to thrive in most of our lives.

If you truly listen to supposed experts, it reaches only the brain. Figuring out what makes you happy enough to contemplate writing day in and day out, or even once a month, is at the heart of all good writing practices. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Try in Try Again

A try is an attempt, and the try again refers to the very trying part of being a writer. But it is all necessary for being true to yourself.

One aspect of learning to form letters into whole words is that the alphabet takes shape through the process and each word becomes more than just the sum of its letters. That's also the way that writers grow. We connect the word with a feeling, a phrase with past and future sentences and a paragraph with the overall plot.

Unfortunately,  many writers I know believe that what they write must come forth full-form and full speed ahead at all times.  That's why it's good at times to go back to the basics.

It you don't write because it doesn't come out perfectly each time, then consider trying something new like poetry or writing a song. Both these writing forms concentrate on words as the building blocks.

It's also good if you are coming back to the writing life, or just beginning it, to not to beat yourself up over not being perfect. We all have a lifetime to try again, and again, to reach the goals we set for ourselves.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Sound and Taste of Freedom

The word freedom is tossed around with abandon in this blog, and for good reason. Being free to succeed or fail, and defining what that means to us individually, is essential to the writing process.

My vision of freedom is multicolored. It glimmers with the colors of every being on earth, tastes like dark chocolate and sounds out with a clear chime. Freedom carries promise and ultimate defeat.

We can work with or against it. Writers can't buy-in to critical voices without giving away a portion of their freedom. Yet we can celebrate it by trying, failing, which we define, and succeeding.

Success is also defined by your needs, wants and the conditions you work under. This means that you decide whether the poem you write captures your vision. You choose how many words it takes to feel successful. And you determine when and how your work is seen.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Finding Time to Write

Time, as the word of this day, is arbitrary. It goes faster when a writer concentrates on a piece, slows down any time we pay attention to it and can be used as an excuse not to write in the first place.

In my vision, time is ice blue. It slips away in attempting to grasp it and can't be pinned down.

That's why it helps to commit at least five minutes a day to capture your thoughts, dreams or visions. Sneaking up on it helps. You can put a pad and pen by your bed at night, and in the morning make writing down your dreams  or thoughts the first priority. Just five minutes a morning can corral a notebook's worth of writing within a year or less.

Soon, it will be more about the accomplishments and less about the timing.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Power in Words

The words we use on ourselves and in our writing, on all levels, carry the power to heal or destroy. Although that may sound like hyperbole, it's more an acknowledgment of an innate ability to create.

For me, the way through grief is to physically write the pain down on paper. I have tried typing my thoughts, but it just didn't help. Instead, working through emotions by putting pen (not pencil) to paper is more satisfying. In part it's because the emotion is unchecked and the drama can play out naturally.

Writers live their words. They grieve when a character dies, they laugh when they say something funny and cry for all the losses and for some gains. In deciding the perfect phrase to express a feeling, the exact word to take a reader into the next paragraph or the way to carry a poem to its rhythmic ending, writers use their power to create and destroy.

You must decide for yourself which words do what and how to be alert to their influence.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

What Moves You...On

If the act of writing is what you avoid, even with a multiplicity of ideas waiting for light, then you're in the right place and with good company.

A blank page can intimidate even the most dedicated of writers, much less the fledgling ones that need a slight push to fly. So let's consider the writer's block as a place to jump into that page, just like all the starter blocks that allow us to move on.

  1. Draw a box, then write or type or record just one word for how you feel at this moment. [See, there is a way to creatively work inside a box.]
  2. This next part is not for the faint of heart where drawing or expansion is concerned. Use punctuation, drawings or squiggles to illustrate the word.
  3. Draw another box around the first and add two to three words, drawings symbols or other expressive designs to expand on that word, the idea or a stillness amid the chaos of life and survival.
  4. Continue to do this until you have filled enough of that blank page with free-form flows of words and visual stimulants to accept yourself as a writer and artist.
You don't have to have perfect columns, start or end with words, use lined or unlined paper. You can do it all in your head and see where the literal brainstorming takes you. And notice from the illustration, it doesn't need to be perfect, just heartfelt, to help move you on.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Feel and Heft of Pens and Paper

My writing habits show in the number and types of notebooks strewn around my house. In the past 10 years, the number has grown as my imagination caught on cues around me and refused to let go until I released them on paper.

I am picky about the type of pen, the lined or unlined page and the type of cover, or whether it stands up to being pulled in and out of a purse. (The best cover would be a metal one that didn't set off alarms at airports. Barring that, a heavy plastic cover does well.)

Triggers can be anything from a song that suddenly matches the rhythm of a feeling that swells or ebbs to the sound my cats make at my office door. The urge to write can come on in the middle of a movie, a walk or in the middle of the night when my brain cannot rest.

In other words, writing is my constant companion. And I can honestly say that life is never boring because of the feel of just the right pen on notebook paper.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Rules of No Rules

An e-mail today that offered the 39 best blogs for writers actually sucked me in. That is, they had me until I looked at one touting "No Rules" that had too many of those in the first 10 posts. Every post was an opinion piece on another aspect of writing, with each writer "selling" the idea that we must depend on expert opinions to be valid as writers.

Granted, you can read limitless articles and take a multitude of classes on the business of writing. But all those instructions will do is move you forward. For now, however, I believe that any writing prompt that pushes you in one direction should be approached warily. We need to trust in our voices and the strength they have to overcome any and all obstacles, including the criticism that is inevitable when we put our writing out there in the real world.

The first three months of this blog is just intended to encourage others to really believe in themselves as writers born to this life. The second quarter can focus on how we shape what we have discovered about ourselves into something that resonates on every level as writers.

I have already started playing with words, sounds, meanings and context again. It's been far too long since I've done that as a writer who wants to find the joy in all of this again. The one rule, for now, is that no rule is a good one and if anything in this blog sounds like one, ignore it, or tell me why you believe it smacks as one.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Belly Laughs and Motivation

As writers, too often it's sadness or grief that drives us to tell a story. Maybe it's time to laugh at life and motivate ourselves through the ironies that abound in what people say, do and their intentions.

Harking back to the Super Bowl yesterday, how many of you laughed out loud at the commercials? What struck me were the very basic actions and characterizations that led to those laughs.

No matter what you have been told about humor writing, it shouldn't prevent you from trying to make yourself smile when you read a line, or even a paragraph of something that you write. (Many "experts" write or say that only a few people are skilled at humor columns or books.)

I'll just stress once again that my approach to writing motivation is one of gentle, humorous, self persuasion. It also has no rules, no failure and much laughter. It's personal and powerful in allowing a freedom that only writing can provide.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Leaning Into Learning Styles

Although not written in stone, a better understanding of how and why you write, in terms of learning styles, can help alleviate some of the self-defeating self-talk.

Many writers know the doubt that follows an attempt to find inspiration in the habits or organizational skills of another writer via advice columns or classes. How many times have these experiences left you feeling like a failure when you can't bring yourself to write every day or write what or in the other ways that others believe you should?

Instead of beating yourself up for what you can't do, celebrate the way that you approach and accomplish writing. One way to do this is to assess your strengths and weaknesses, then acknowledge that the only failure comes from deciding you can't write because you can't follow arbitrary "rules".

For instance, as a visual learner, you might write more based on what you see than what you hear or feel. A kinesthetic writer could benefit from touching items she wants to describe. And an auditory learner could take a few minutes to close his eyes to listen for inspiration. If you are interested in learning more about these styles, do a search that includes any or all of these terms.

Also, just a quick nod to those with ADD or ADHD. Don't give up. Just try writing in smaller chunks, write down ideas when they come to you or try speaking into a tape recorder when the urge strikes. In other words, attempt to make it work for you.

For anyone who has been discouraged, please believe in yourself enough not to doubt your ability to express yourself in the unique way you have done all your life.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Escape the Inner Censor

An internal censor can be sensed in the midst of free-flow writing that is staunched by a gut feeling of guilt or a pain that cannot be explained.

 When a writer stops in mid flow because the story led to discomfort or emotional pain, it's a deep loss because we tend to only skim the surface after that.  When we allow ourselves to write through these moments, to plumb the events and even humor that urged us to create words, we come out on the other side stronger.

So gently tell the censor to turn away and let you continue. Then let the writing take you deeper.

Friday, February 3, 2012

So Close, But no Closure

How many times have you sat down with a goal to finish, complete or successfully end a story or book? Did you feel good about the outcome?

For many of us, the story continues on far past the need for "closure."

As a writer, the day comes when my characters may have killed each other off, either physically or emotionally, and deserve to be put to rest. But that time has to wait until I'm ready to let go. It can't be mired in a deadline, held hostage by an editor's needs or grappled into submission by me to fill anybody's expectations. That includes my own.

Only when I honor the writing by allowing it to flow and be shaped rather than forced into existence does it lead the way to a natural conclusion.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Write Your Way Through Life

At some point in our lives, it's imperative to stop counting words and start writing as an essential journey forward.

Writers for newspapers, magazines or online publications are always aware of the word counts, the need for graphics and the inevitable subheads and bullets. And if you search for word counts for books, you get the idea that literature can be contained in the number of pages a publisher can afford to print or a server can store.

At some point in the 24/7 push for "news", writing became a rote chore. Consider how many articles you read that are written based on interviews by e-mail or phone, which prevents the reporter from responding to questions based on proximity. You can't describe the tapping of a pencil or the way the person kept checking her or his watch. We miss the tears or disdainful raising of an eyebrow that would add teeth to the story or article. It's no surprise then that readers race through online articles and promise themselves to actually read the ones that offer meaning to them, but never get around to it. Instead, many committed readers bury the magazines, journals and newspapers that hold any promise of great writing under the daily give and take of survival.

Through all this, we can lose sight of the reason we started writing in the first place. So, write to shape the world. Write to express yourself. Write because your words and ideas allow you to write your way through life and give life to true freedom.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Think Big, Write Small

No, writing small doesn't refer to the length of a tweeting moment or the words you may think of during an argument. Combined with thinking big, writing small is about allowing your ideas to shine through.

The words you choose are up to you, but try to expand beyond the ones you regularly pick because they easily make sense. The words can be mile-long medical terms, or basics ones of color, sound, motion, taste and emotional depth. It only matters that you use them in unusual ways when you are stalled and can't get past a roadblock.

Think big in terms of the give and take of words and their meanings, rhythms and reach. Then shrink your focus to just that word and why it resonates for you.