6 Unlikely Places to Write and Find Inspiration

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writing, places to write, laundromat, free wifi, best places to write, where to write, writers, muse, writing promptsAs a writer, you know how important setting is to your stories. But what about your own setting—the place(s) where you do most of your writing? Where you write can be just as important as what you are writing (poetry, psychological thriller, vampire unicorn dystopian novella?), how you’re writing (pen and paper, laptop, old Remington typewriter?), or even when you’re writing (morning, noon, midnight, 7:33 p.m.?). Sure, you can plop your writer butt down in a coffee shop and attempt to bang out the next great American novel, but why be like everyone else? You certainly don’t want your writing to be like everyone else’s, do you? Of course not, so open your mind, think outside the proverbial box, and try some place new. You just might be surprised where you find inspiration…

Here are 6 unlikely places to write and find inspiration:

Laundromat

Yes, the Laundromat. Nowadays, many of them have free Wi-Fi and little tables—some even have full-blown cafes. Which means you can order a croissant and an Americano while you clickety-clack away on your laptop. And the spinning of your delicates can be quite mesmerizing as you’re brainstorming about who killed Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick.

Train Station

It may seem counterproductive to drive all the way to the train station to sit amongst the comers and goers. But trust me, the hustle and bustle of real people coming to and fro can lend quite a bit of inspiration—and reality—to whatever you may be working on. And many train stations now have the old Internet up and running, so there’s a win. Plus, if you get stuck, you can just people-watch until the muse is back. Not to mention, Amtrak now offers a Writer Residency Program, which means you can write that novel AND have a mini “moving vacation.”

The Airport

While you probably can’t get up to the gates without stripping down and getting a hands-on meet-and-greet from a TSA agent, you can sit in a designated lobby. Like train stations and laundromats, many airports offer free Wi-Fi (which may or may not have a time limit). This is a great way to people-watch and glean a little inspiration for new characters. And you can always daydream about hopping on one of those planes and flying away to Paris for a real coffee and croissant.

The Gym

OK, so maybe you’re allergic to exercise. I’m not saying you should get on the treadmill or anything. But going to the gym (if you have a membership or if they allow non-members in certain areas) can be another great source of inspiration. And if you’re writing a novel about an ugly-duckling-turned-swan who finally gets the guy (or girl), well, you’ve got inspiration at every elliptical. Plus, possible free Internet, a café (with healthy shakes to keep your brain boosted!), and the whirring of exercise equipment can all be meditative and foster some serious creativity.

The Mall

The go-to place for people-watching. Families, couples, teenagers, old folks—you name it, there is character inspiration everywhere. And the dialogue of mall-goers is generally unfiltered, so feel free to take some snippets here and there from anyone walking by. Again, possible free Wi-Fi, tables (or even those awesome massaging recliners), and Auntie Anne’s (because pretzels and writing go together like…pretzels and writing). Just try not to go on a shopping spree in the middle of your writing session.

Cemeteries

Yeah, this can sound creepy. Unless you’re writing a creepy novel, in which case, creep on. Some cemeteries are well-kept, with beautiful grounds. And if you’re writing a ghost story or zombie novel, well, you’ll already be smack-dab in the middle of inspiration. Plus, it’s peaceful and quiet and you’ll have a plethora of names to choose from. And at least you know the “patrons” won’t bother you—well, let’s hope not.

Honestly, you can find inspiration anywhere—even the bathroom…sometimes it just takes a change of scenery (and a little peace and quiet) to get the words flowing.

Just use your imagination. Put on your raincoat or your swimsuit, slather on a little sunscreen, and pop in a CD of ocean sounds and boom, you’re on a tropical island. Do whatever you need to do to trick your mind into thinking you’re somewhere exotic and get those creative juices flowing.

Where are your favorite—and unlikely—places to write and find inspiration?

12 Gifts for Writers: Mother’s Day Version

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Mother’s Day falls on the second Sunday in May. It’s one of the most celebrated non-religious holidays in the US. According to Hallmark, it is the third-largest card-sending holiday in the US—nearly 133 million Mother’s Day cards are exchanged per year. And phone calls increase up to 37 percent on Mother’s Day—with approximately 2 billion mothers in the world, it’s easy to see why it’s one of the most celebrated holidays.

So what do you get for the mother who is also a writer?

Writers are generally easy to shop for, right? Notebooks and pens and we’re as happy as clams. But that can become as tiresome as a tie on Father’s Day. And you don’t necessarily want to get your mother a composition book and a cheap Bic pen, do you? You want to get your writer/mother something unique, something amazing, and something useful.

Here are 12 gifts for the writers (and/or mothers) in your life:

Typewriter jewelry

Typewriter Mother Bracelet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literary Mugs (because Writers ❤ Coffee!)

Literary Mug

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This “Please Don’t Make Me Mock You in My Novel” T-shirt

Mock You in My Novel T-shirt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quotable Chocolate Bars (Who doesn’t love chocolate? Evil people, that’s who!)

Quotable Chocolate Bars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This “Procrastination Pen-in-a-Box”

Procrastination Pen-in-a-box

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inspiration Dice

Inspiration Dice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A handmade journal covered with writing prompts

Journal with Writing Prompts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aqua Notes (because don’t all great ideas happen in the shower??)

Aqua Notes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gorgeous handmade metal bookends

Nerd Bookends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These 18K Gold Costis Pencil Bracelets, Pencil Pendants, and Pencil Shaving Earrings

18K Gold Pencil Jewelry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personalized Writer’s Keepsake Box

Personalized Writer's Keepsake Box

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or anything from The Literary Gift Company

Vintage Typewriter Scarf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day—written as Mother’s Day (not Mothers’ Day or Mothers Day) because founder Anna Jarvis wanted to celebrate each mother, rather than the collective “mothers”—falls on May 11th this year (a little more than a week away). So there’s still plenty of time to get out there and find the perfect gift for the writer/mother in your life!

(And as a writer/mother myself, I plan to show this post to my kids)

12 Tips for Writers to Become More Eco-Friendly: Earth Day Version

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green, eco-friendly, environmental, fair trade, green earth, climate, global warming, eco, earth day, natural cleaners, green writers, environmentalists, green office, ecofriendly, Unless you’ve been living under a rock (in which case, you’re probably already very “eco-friendly”) you know that today is Earth Day, an annual event that has sparked global demonstrations every year to bring light to environmental issues. What better way for writers to celebrate Earth Day than to take steps to become more eco-friendly.

12 Tips for Writers to Become More Eco-Friendly:

As a writer, it stands to reason that you use a combination of laptop (or other mobile device) and pen and paper to do your writing. Maybe you work from a home office and have a printer, fax machine, and shredder. If you’re a freelance writer or published author, you might even have a file cabinet full of invoices and important business documents. Maybe you have a home office, or maybe you make a daily commute to an office or a coffee shop where you do most of your writing. Whatever your setup, there are some surefire steps you can take as a writer to become more eco-friendly.

  1. Use ENERGY STAR® appliances. Ensure your electronic office equipment (such as laptops, printers, fax machines, etc.) and other home appliances are energy efficient (look for the “energy star” label). Using appliances with energy star label can significantly reduce your energy consumption.
  2. Use Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs. Use CFLs instead of incandescent, halogen, or LED bulbs. CFL bulbs are more energy efficient and reduce electricity use by up to one-third of traditional bulbs. And CFL bulbs last nearly 15 times longer than other bulbs.
  3. Leave the lights off. As soon as you leave a room, make it a habit to turn off the light. And try leaving the lights off for as long as you can, using natural light instead. Open the curtains or work from a well-lit room. You can even work outside on the porch. It’s also a great way to get some fresh air!
  4. Turn off your computer. Too often, we leave our computers on at night. I know I’m guilty of this. Turning off your computer not only saves energy, it’s also good for your computer. Leaving them powered up can result in heat stress and mechanical wear. Make sure to unplug other unused chargers and appliances to save even more electricity.
  5. Use a green web host. If you have an author or business website or blog, consider using a green web host, such as iPage or HostGator. You can find reviews of the top green web hosting companies here.
  6. Consider the green cloud. Use cloud storage to save your files and other important data. Cloud storage is not just eco-friendly, it is convenient and can be a lifesaver in some instances (like when your laptop is stolen or you get the BSOD and need instant access to all your files).
  7. Go paperless. This is a bit more involved, but going paperless in an as many areas as you can will help reduce your carbon foot print and foster more eco-friendly practices. Call your utilities to see if you can get paperless billing. Use your debit card instead of writing checks. Pay your invoices with Paypal or other online payment services, such as Dwolla or Chase QuickPay. Use accounting software like Quicken or FreshBooks to reduce your paper trail.
  8. Use less paper (and reuse scrap paper). Going paperless doesn’t completely eliminate the need for the use of paper. You’ll still need to print certain papers, write letters, address envelopes, etc. Use less paper by printing on both sides when possible. Reuse scrap paper for notetaking or cut unused portions of old scrap paper to use as index cards. And be sure to recycle any unused paper that you can’t repurpose.
  9. Use eco-friendly furnishings. Furnish your home office with repurposed or recycled furnishings as often as you can. Use a secondhand desk. Buy an eco-friendly office chair made with natural materials. Reuse old Mason jars and cookie tins for office supplies like pens and paperclips.
  10. Don’t waste coffee. If you make coffee at home, make a full pot and refrigerate the rest to reheat for later. Making less than a full pot each time you want coffee uses unnecessary electricity. You can also use a programmable coffee pot or the magical Keurig, which has an Auto-Off feature that when selected turns the brewer off after the last brew. (Keurigs and other single-serving machines can save up to 20% more energy than regular auto-drip coffeemakers).
  11. Switch to an eco-friendly coffeeUsing eco-friendly coffees with “Fair Trade” and “Rainforest Alliance Certified” labels can reduce deforestation, ensure coffee farms continue to provide habitats for birds, and help to support farmers in developing nations.
  12. Use natural home office cleaners. Using eco-friendly cleaners for your home and home office can eliminate harmful toxins and help the environment in the process. Luckily, green cleaning supplies are becoming increasingly available. You can also opt for DIY natural cleaners such as baking soda, vinegar, water, and borax.

There you have it, an Earth Day guide to becoming a more eco-friendly writer. And remember, if you’re self-publishing, consider using a site like Kbuuk, with features that help reduce your carbon footprint by offering full-service account plans that allow you to take care of all your publishing efforts from one place.

5 Reasons to Write Poetry

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poetry, #poetry, #NaPoMo, national poetry month, #poetrymonth, poets, poetic, writing, journaling, sonnets, shakespearePoetry is thoughts that breathe and words that burn. – Thomas Gray

Did you know April is National Poetry Month?

There seem to be two kinds of people when it comes to poetry: those that love poetry and understand it, and those that don’t like it and can’t understand a lick of it.

For those that don’t like it and/or can’t understand it, it may seem like a frivolous and overly prose-y way to express something better said plainly. Or as Jess in Gilmore Girls said, “I can’t get into poetry. It’s kind of like, geez, just say it already, we’re dying here.”

But for those that understand and find beauty in poetry, it can be a wonderful outlet for emotion or thoughts, a catalyst to inspire other creative areas, and it can even be a great form of therapy for some.

For me, poetry was an outlet for the raging hormones of my teenage years: first loves—and the subsequent first broken heart(s), the ups and downs of friendships, the curious and callow way I viewed my world. Poetry was an abstract way to journal through my emotions, and often, it was cathartic being able to safely express the sorrow or rage or euphoria.

As Irene Lantham said, poetry allows us to explore emotional terrain in a safe manner. Says Lantham:

Poetry is compressed emotion. The whole point is to create an emotional experience for yourself…Poetry is the place for the most sustaining and destructive emotions. Your job is to be passionate. This passion is the vehicle that will take you toward your own emotional truths.

While I admit that I have lost a bit of my poetic inclination over the years, I do believe poetry is still very much essential as a craft.

Here are 5 reasons you should write poetry:

  1. There are no “writing” rules for poetry as there are for other writing forms. With poetry, you have much more freedom to express yourself and your art in a way that is congruent to your deepest need. You don’t need to worry about linear storylines or run-on sentences or “show, don’t tell”—you simply write what is in your heart and mind…whatever the form, whatever the length.
  2. Poetry is a form of therapy. You give yourself permission to express your story in a way that acts as an outlet, a comfort zone, a healing space. Poetry is a conversation with your deepest self, a monologue that can be both incredibly personal and amazingly exoteric.
  3. It can act as a catalyst to inspire other creative areas. Whether you write, paint, sculpt, teach, dance, or just live, poetry can inspire creativity in all areas of your life. It can open your mind and your heart to see and feel things outside the boundaries of normal social limitations.
  4. Poetry fosters understanding and compassion. As an abstract art form, poetry causes us to think differently about our expression of ideas, thoughts, and feelings. It encourages us to think deeper about our communication and how we interact and engage through the language we use.
  5. Poetry forces us to be brave and confident and invites discovery—of self, of life, of others. As Jane Hirshfield said, “Writing takes down all protections, to see what steps forward. Poetry is a trick of language-legerdemain, in which the writer is both magician and audience. You reach your hand into the hat and surprise yourself with rabbit or memory, with odd verb or slant rhyme or the flashing scarf of an image.”

Whether you understand poetry or not, it is a valuable and rewarding art that is too often underappreciated. And the most beautiful part about poetry is that you don’t even have to like it or understand it—the simple act of witnessing a poem come to life is what gives poetry its validation.

 

3 Writing Resource Books You Should Own

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wild mind, stephen king, natalie goldberg, bird by bird, anne lamott, writing resource books, writing resources, writing books, authors, inspiration, writing muse, writing exercises, writing promptsI am a writing resource junkie. I love any and all books about the craft of writing, publishing, editing, style—you name it, I buy it. I buy them almost as often as I buy notebooks and pens (I know I’m not the only one that does this, only to never write in them. Right? RIGHT?)

I consider myself to be a perpetual student when it comes to writing. I don’t think anyone, even the bestselling authors with hundreds of books under their belt, knows everything there is to know about writing.

Some books I like more than others. My three most favorite writing resource books of all time are (in no particular order):

Stephen King’s On Writing is one of my favorite writing resource books, and I know I’m not the only one. It is written mostly in memoir-style, but it is one of the most brilliant writing resource books there is. King, whose own simple writing style has continued to sell millions of books, touches on all the aspects of writing that tend to plague us writers from time to time (or constantly, if that’s the case).

One of my favorite passages is:

Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation. Affectation itself, beginning with the need to define some sorts of writing as “good” and other sorts as “bad,” is fearful behavior. Good writing is also about making good choices when it comes to picking the tools you plan to work with.”

Beautifully said!

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is one of the most well-known writing resource books out there. It’s not just a great writing resource book, however. It is also “instructions on life.” Told in a similar memoir-style as King’s On Writing, Lamott regales the reader with stories about growing up and relates them to writing in a way that is both inspirational and instructional.

One of my favorite passages is:

One of the things that happens when you give yourself permission to start writing is that you start thinking like a writer. You start seeing everything as material. Sometimes you’ll sit down or go walking and your thoughts will be on one aspect of your work, or one idea you have for a small scene, or a general portrait of one of the characters you are working with, or you’ll just be completely blocked and hopeless and wondering why you shouldn’t just go into the kitchen and have a nice warm gin straight out of the cat dish. And then, unbidden, seemingly out of nowhere, a thought or image arrives. Some will float into your head like goldfish, lovely, bright orange, and weightless, and you follow them like a child looking at an aquarium that was thought to be without fish. Others will step out of the shadows like Boo Radley and make you catch your breath or take a step backward. They’re often so rich, these unbidden thoughts, and so clear that they feel indelible. But I say write them all down anyway.

Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind is still my absolute favorite writing resource book. Given to me in my senior year by a beloved English teacher (the kind they make movies about), this book has become what I call my writing bible. I have come back to it over and over again throughout the years.

One of the wonderful things about this book is that it teaches us to keep our hands moving. It’s the number one rule of writing practice. Through “Try This” exercises and prompts in the book, Goldberg inspires writers to write—and live—by letting wild mind take over, instead of sitting safely in monkey mind.

Goldberg describes the concept of monkey mind and wild mind. Monkey mind is the conscious mind, the inner editor we always listen to, that stops us, that limits us in our expansive thinking. Wild mind is the unconscious. Wild mind is everything, everywhere. Wild mind is the fiery, passionate muse that lurks underneath monkey mind. And Goldberg believes if we can live in wild mind, we can find our true creativity.

One of my favorite passages is:

At the back of every word we write is  no word. Only because no word exists is there space enough to write some word. So when we write about our feelings and perceptions, it is writing practice when we also touch the place where there are no feelings, no perceptions, there is no you, no person doing any writing. In other words you disappear, you become one with your words, not separate, and when you put your pen down, the you who was writing is gone. This is why I do not call my notebooks journals. They are simply blank pages I fill.

These books are always on my desk. They have been dog-eared, highlighted, filled with sticky notes and napkins or envelopes as bookmarks—they have been used, lovingly, over and over to the point they are barely held together anymore. That is the mark of a good writing resource book—or a good book, in general.

What are some of your favorite writing resource books? (No really, please, tell me, I need more!)

Celebrate National Reading Month

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reading month, reading, readers, books, book, i love to read, best books to read, read classics, the fault in our stars, john green, winter girls, ernest hemingwayDid you know March is National Reading Month? Of course, if you’re like me, every month is a “reading month!”

National Reading (Group) Month was established in 2007 by the Women’s National Book Association, which aims to “increase public awareness of the joy and value of shared reading, provide opportunities for individuals to join an existing reading group or start a new one, [and] to encourage libraries, bookstores, and organizations to host special reading group events.”

As writers, it’s practically a prerequisite that we love to read. You could even say it’s part of the job. And as the great Stephen King once said, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” That last part is subject to muse availability, of course.

One of the best ways to celebrate National Reading Month is to read, re-read, and share the books you love.

I tend to read a mix of different genres and writing styles, but the books that resonate with me the most are ones with lush language, unforgettable characters, vivid imagery, and a story that changes me somehow by the time I’m done reading.

Because I couldn’t pick just ten, the list below are my top eleven favorite (fiction) books of all time (in no particular order). I could spend hours and days reading and re-reading these books.

Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson – Gorgeous prose about an all-consuming affair between the narrator (who remains genderless) and a married woman.

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn – A stunning novel about the life of the Binewskis, a family of carnies born and bred with the purpose of being beautiful freaks.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – The compelling but tragic YA novel of a young love that blossoms between two cancer-stricken teens.

Asta in the Wings by Jan Elizabeth Watson – A dark but touching read told from the viewpoint of seven-year-old Asta, who has been kept hidden from society, along with her little brother, by a now-missing mother. (Similar to Room by Emma Donoghue)

Winter Girls by Laurie Halse Anderson – One of the most beautifully poetic fiction novels about the close but dark and deadly bond between two friends who compete to be the thinnest.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – A very dark, thrilling read about a marriage gone wrong and the two key players who play each other well…too well.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant – Dinah, from the Book of Genesis, tells the story of her growth into womanhood—in more depth than the Bible gives—from her point of view.

She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb – A wonderful, funny, and heartbreaking read about Dolores, an overweight heroine, who goes on a wild ride of self-discovery and renewal as she blossoms from a girl to young woman.

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien – A beautiful novel about the various things carried by some very memorable US soldiers in Vietnam.

The Pact by Jodi Picoult  – A hauntingly heartbreaking novel about two families torn apart by a suicide pact.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway – A simple but stark read about a Cuban fisherman and the lesson he learns as he chases a giant marlin out to sea.

Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think? If not, feel free to celebrate National Reading Month by sharing some of your favorite books of all time in the comments below.

Happy National Grammar Day!

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grammar, grammar girl, national grammar day, your you're, they're there their, grammar rules, elements of style, english, editorsHappy National Grammar Day! Yes, March 4 is a day dedicated to good grammar. National Grammar Day was established by the founder of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar (SPOGG), Martha Brockenbrough, in 2008.

To honor Ms. Brockenbrough and National Grammar Day, here are some delicious little tips that can help to keep your grammar—and your writing—error-free. These tips are also great for self-editing your own work before publication.

  • Their, There, They’re – Many grammar gurus claim this as their pet peeve (myself included). There are a lot of people, even the best of writers, who make this mistake because they’re not careful. A simple trick I taught myself was to take off the “t”—heir is a person (their is people), here is a place (there is a place—usually), and apostrophes almost always denote a missing letter(s), so they’re is just short for they are.
  • Your, You’re – The same with your and you’re. You’re means you are. Anything else is your. When in doubt, read aloud. If you are doesn’t make sense, it should be your.
  • It’s, Its – Again, the apostrophe here denotes a missing letter or letters. In this case, it’s means it is (or occasionally, it has) Its without an apostrophe is a pronoun, the same as his or hers. It is just a non-gender pronoun.
  • Apostrophes – Now that we’ve established that apostrophes usually imply a contraction, it’s time to look at the other reason we have apostrophes—to show possession. There is no other use for an apostrophe, its job is to show possession or a contraction.
  • Comma splices – This is another pet peeve of some editors (like me!) and grammar gurus. Comma splices are really just two sentences joined incorrectly by a comma instead of a period. (Ex: Kemari doesn’t like comma splices, they’re incorrect.) Both statements are independent clauses (meaning they can stand alone). You can insert the word and, a semicolon, or a period. In some cases, you can use an em dash, but beware using too many em dashes together.
  • Should’ve, Would’ve, Could’ve – Texting and Tweeting (and IMing) has caused us to shorten our words, mostly for the sake of brevity. So sometimes shoulda, woulda, or coulda saves a few characters. And that’s okay—when you’re texting or Tweeting. But in your writing, you should never use shoulda, woulda, or coulda, unless it’s in the dialogue of one of your characters. And never, ever use should of, would of, or could of. Even in textual conversations, should/would/could of is incorrect.
  • Affect, Effect – This one is a bit easier to remember. In most cases, effect is a noun and affect is a verb. The simple way I’ve always remembered? Affect is part of affection, and a is for amore, which I equate with to love. To love is a verb. Effect is usually the result of cause (cause and effect) and cause ends with e, and effect starts with e, so I know that effect here is something that has happened because of something else.
  • Try to, Try and – This one is trickier, because there seem to be no clear cut rules that try and is wrong, it is just informal. However, try to is preferred by most grammarians, editors, English teachers, and any lover of the English language. According to the grammar goddess herself, Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty, when you use try and, you separate the act of trying with the thing you’re trying to do (I want to try and dance = I want to try, then I want to dance. Whereas I want to try to dance means you want to try to dance. See the difference?)
  • You and I, You and me – I have a friend who constantly corrects anyone who says you and me. “It’s you and I,” she always corrects. But that’s not always the case. There are instances where you and me (or when using a person’s name, Bob, Barbara, etc., and me) is correct. The easiest way to remember which to use is if the phrase is the subject or the object in the sentence. You and I are best friends. Tell her to send you and me the invitations. Easy peasy!

There are a plethora of great grammar and style tips online. Check out Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips, Grammarly, and Grammar Monster for other tips to help improve your writing.

Happy National Grammar Day!

Writing as Meditation

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writing meditation yoga natalie goldberg writer's life jane brunette flamingseed.com insight meditating writer's notebook self publishingWhatever your reason is for writing, whether it’s as a creative outlet, a desire to be published, therapeutic release, your job (or if you’re like me, it’s because YOU HAVE TO, it’s your breath, a necessity that is hardwired into your soul), chances are it is also probably a way for you to escape from your daily life: the mundane, monotonous sludge of everyday life that can drag you down. Maybe you write poetry or short stories, or maybe you keep a journal. Whatever your medium, whatever your genre, that writing takes you to another place and creates an energy that purges the bad and brings in the good. That is, in fact, what makes writing the perfect form of meditation and why you should try to do it every day, even if only for a few minutes.

As Jane Brunette, writer and meditation teacher at FlamingSeed.com, has said, “As little as 10 minutes of writing practice a day can reap great benefits.”

Whether you do journal writing or choose to tell stories as part of your writing practice, the act of putting words to paper is itself a sort of prayer. As writers, we’re gifted these words and charged with the work of giving form to our stories. In doing this, we are able to reach inside ourselves and gain a level of awareness and insight we might not otherwise achieve.

One of my favorite ways to use writing as meditation is to do 10-15 minutes of freewriting. I have always found that I get some of the best, most raw material when I am freewriting. Years ago, an exceptional English teacher gave me a copy of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Mind: Living the Writer’s Life (it remains my writing bible to this day!). In it, Natalie talks about the rules of writing practice. They are:

  1. Keep your hand moving. Don’t stop writing, no matter what.
  2. Lose control. Don’t be afraid to be crazy in your writing. Don’t hold back. Let yourself go.
  3. Be specific. Not the green sweater, but the chartreuse sweater with the aquamarine seams.
  4. Don’t think. If you’re thinking, you aren’t FREEwriting.
  5. Don’t worry about punctuation, spelling, grammar, etc. You should never worry about this stuff during the writing process. Save this for editing and publishing.
  6. You are free to write the worst junk in America (or the world, the solar system, the galaxy!). Seriously, rough drafts are called “rough” for a reason.
  7. Go for the jugular. This goes back to #2. Don’t be afraid. If something scary comes up, go for it. That’s where the adrenaline is. And most often, we find out exactly who we are in those kinds of situations.

You don’t need to be a yoga master or an expert on meditation to do these writing exercises. You don’t even need to meditate in the traditional sense.

“Those who have a regular meditation practice can simply add the writing immediately following it, and those who find it difficult to do traditional meditation will find this practice fruitful as the writing gives your busy mind something to do, curbing your restlessness as you cultivate awareness of your overall experience. Writers will particularly find this practice beneficial, as the resulting freewrites will be rich with ideas and images to seed further work,” says Jane.

I recommend doing this in the morning, when your mind is still in a state of freshness, uncluttered with responsibilities, duties, worries, etc. Find a quiet place, center yourself with some deep, conscious breaths, and write for 10-15 minutes without stopping (whether you’re using pen and paper or your laptop). Just keep writing. If you get stuck, just keep writing nonsense until something comes back into your mind. You might be surprised what you come up with.

The Not-So-Secret Secret of Writing Success

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kbuuk self-publishing success writers secret authors indieWhen I first began to write with the goal of becoming a published author, I found myself constantly wondering what secret everyone else knew that I did not. Surely, there was some magical formula, some secret ritual, something, anything that these successful authors were doing to have the almighty light of publication crowning their glorious little heads. I couldn’t get it out of my mind that there was something I hadn’t yet discovered, that I hadn’t yet touched upon to make me wildly successful. In my obsession to figure out the secret, I lost a bit of my own passion, focused so much on seeking out the glory of publication.

As Jill Jepson, author of Writing as a Sacred Path, says, “Storytellers are the custodians of human history, the recorders of the human experience, the voice of the human soul.” Jepson believes writers are vessels for these stories, charged with the work of giving form to our stories and passing them on to others.

John Green, successful YA author of “The Fault in Our Stars,” would agree. In a recent Brainpicking’s article, Maria Popova sang the praises of John Green’s always timely and inspirational advice to aspiring writers. Green, who posts vlogs to his brother Hank with messages that focus on everything from his love of the internet to the writing process to telling NaNoWriMos it’s okay to suck, says that the only advice he can give about writing is:

Don’t make stuff because you want to make money [or] because you want to get famous—make gifts for people…your responsibility is not to the people you’re making the gift for, but to the gift itself.

When I suffered a rather long barren period of creativity (or lack thereof), I began to realize that the secret I was so desperate to find out was no secret at all. It was simply doing what you love and loving what you do. That is ultimately what makes a writer, or any artist, successful. Not how many books have been published, or how many Facebook fans an author’s page has.

In the words of William Faulkner, as recounted by John Green, a writer’s success is ‘a life’s work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before.’

In this quick-to-publish digital world we live in, with so many successful self-publishing stories, it’s easy for writers to lose sight of the passion for their writing. But passion is where the art springs from. That is your success secret. Come to your craft with dedication and excitement. It will shine brilliantly out of your writing. And the rest will follow.

New Year’s Resolutions for 2014 or Your Creative Manifesto

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New Year's Resolution 2014 - Your Creative Manifesto writers writing goalsLast year, we told you all the new year’s resolutions we hoped you DIDN’T make in 2013, including:

  • Write less
  • Start implementing the word “awkward” wherever possible in writing, especially in locations in which it is incorrectly used to replace “distasteful.”
  • Insert useless exclamation points into writing
  • Get more inspiration from Lifetime movies

And we’re so glad you followed our advice!

This year, it’s time to focus on what you should be doing. With the arrival of a new year comes a blank canvas, ready to be painted with the vibrant details of our journey–past, present, and future.

It is a metaphorical rebirth: mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and even physically for some. For writers, it can also represent a creative rebirth, a cleansing of the writer’s soul. It is so easy for creative beings to feel dejected, sluggish, uninspired. Especially when the year is coming to a close, and all of our hopes and dreams and goals are weighed and measured against our actual accomplishments.

Now is the perfect time to tie balloons around last year’s unfulfilled desires and goals, to bury any unrealized resolutions, to sweep those pesky bad habits and bothersome nuances out the door. Let us not carry any of 2013ʹs dead weight into the new year. Let us instead forge ahead into 2014, inspired, confident, and open to the path we’ll walk.

Several years ago, I decided to forego the antiquated act of making New Year’s resolutions (which usually went unrealized), instead writing a personal creative manifesto (or manifesta, if you will): an organic declaration of my creative
principles, my values, and my intentions for the coming year.

Here’s a glimpse at my Creative Manifesto for the year:

  • I am a writer. I may be more than that, but I am never less than that. I will remind myself everyday that I am a writer until there is no room for doubt.
  • I will keep moving forward, never backward. I will create and never un-create. I will write and never unwrite.
  • I will love my stories as if they are living beings. I will care for them, respect them, and nourish them. I will nurture them and give them a safe place to grow.
  • I will create from a place of truth, from the raw, real self without walls, self-imposed or otherwise.
  • I will open myself to beauty, to light, to love. I will create from this place–with no barriers between myself and the open world.
  • My creative self is malleable and holds no shape. It cannot be put into a box or pigeon-holed into any of life’s genres.
  • My craft is a gift I have been given. I recognize that I am only a vessel for the language I ask for every time I sit down to write. My words are a prayer, a meditation, a chant, and that whatever the words, whatever the meaning, whatever the genre, my writing is a gift.
  • Everyday is a blank canvas, a clean sheet, a new day, and I will treat everyday as a gift.

Why not write your own Creative Manifesto (or Manifesta) for the year to come. We’d love to read them!