Posts filed under ‘Becoming a Writer’

Nov 30 2016
2

A Writer’s “Four Noble Truths”

I was on a retreat recently, hosted by the Friends of Silence, which was founded by the writer Nan Merrill. Nan passed away a few years ago, and her legacy — the Friends of Silence newsletter — has been inherited by residents of the Rolling Ridge Retreat Center. As a tribute to Nan, Rolling Ridge has built a cabin to house her library, and in that library one can sit in Nan’s rocking chair, and…

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Oct 30 2016
12

Is Creative Writing Your Destiny?

Is Creative Writing Your Destiny?

So many doubts assail the writer as she struggles to put fleeting thoughts into memorable words.  He’s tempted to give up, because it’s hard.  There’s little recognition and even less remuneration.  The question keeps coming back:  “Is this really what I’m supposed to be doing?” The great priest-scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote beautifully about the process of becoming “something more.”  What he said about the Universe moving towards its Omega Point – its moment…

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Dec 17 2014
Comments Off on Sarah Alan’s DIY blog success story

Sarah Alan’s DIY blog success story

When I wrote the post about starting one’s own blog, I was definitely hoping that some of my students would consider blogging as a way to extend and enhance their daily writing practices. I was not disappointed. Check out this comment on the Center’s Facebook page by Sarah Alan, who is a Writer’s Eye student I’ve “known” through her skilled writing over the past two months:

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Nov 19 2014
Comments Off on Writing needs vs. wants

Writing needs vs. wants

Writing needs vs. wants

I read an essay last weekend called “Body Narrative: Needs, Wants, Desires,” written by Debbie McCulliss and published in the Doctor TJ Eckleburg Review, that discusses our goals as writers. More specifically, the essay discusses how to identify and differentiate between what we need and what we want out of our writing. McCulliss poses four questions to writers: What is it that you want to write? What is it that you need to write? Do…

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Feb 21 2014
Comments Off on Moving Past Shoulds

Moving Past Shoulds

In April 2013, I was interviewed by writer Julie Leuk for an article called “Overcoming a Writer’s Identity Crisis: Find Your Writing Joy Again,” published in Wow! Women On Writing.  I incorporated Julie’s questions into an evaluative segment of my Writer’s Eye online writing class, and I’m publishing Michele Burnett’s answers because I thought they were particularly illuminating.  Here Michele answers this question, originally put to me:  “What suggestions do you have to help writers…

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Feb 14 2014
Comments Off on Getting Unstuck: Beyond Words

Getting Unstuck: Beyond Words

In April 2013, I was interviewed by writer Julie Leuk for an article called “Overcoming a Writer’s Identity Crisis: Find Your Writing Joy Again,” published in Wow! Women On Writing.  I incorporated Julie’s questions into an evaluative segment of my Writer’s Eye online writing class, and I’m publishing Michele Burnett’s answers because I thought they were particularly illuminating.  Here Michele answers this question, originally put to me:  “What kind of practical suggestions do you have…

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Feb 07 2014
Comments Off on Overcoming Fear in Your Writing Practice

Overcoming Fear in Your Writing Practice

In April 2013, I was interviewed by writer Julie Leuk for an article called “Overcoming a Writer’s Identity Crisis: Find Your Writing Joy Again,” published in Wow! Women On Writing.  I incorporated Julie’s questions into an evaluative segment of my Writer’s Eye online writing class, and I’m publishing Michele Burnett’s answers because I thought they were particularly illuminating.  Here Michele answers this question, originally put to me:  “You have started a creative writing center to…

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Jan 31 2014
Comments Off on Doris Lessing on the Writing Life

Doris Lessing on the Writing Life

Doris Lessing was a prolific British novelist, poet, playwright, librettist, biographer and short story writer. She was awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature. In awarding the Prize the Swedish Academy described her as “that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny”. Lessing was the eleventh woman and the oldest person ever to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.  She died in November…

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Jan 24 2014
Comments Off on Doris Lessing on the Writing Life

Doris Lessing on the Writing Life

Doris Lessing was a prolific British novelist, poet, playwright, librettist, biographer and short story writer. She was awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature. In awarding the Prize the Swedish Academy described her as “that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny”. Lessing was the eleventh woman and the oldest person ever to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.  She died in November…

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Jan 17 2014
Comments Off on Doris Lessing on the Writing Life

Doris Lessing on the Writing Life

Doris Lessing was a prolific British novelist, poet, playwright, librettist, biographer and short story writer. She was awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature. In awarding the Prize the Swedish Academy described her as “that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny”. Lessing was the eleventh woman and the oldest person ever to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.  She died in November…

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Jan 10 2014
Comments Off on Doris Lessing on the Writing Life

Doris Lessing on the Writing Life

Doris Lessing was a prolific British novelist, poet, playwright, librettist, biographer and short story writer. She was awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature. In awarding the Prize the Swedish Academy described her as “that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny”. Lessing was the eleventh woman and the oldest person ever to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.  She died in November…

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Jan 03 2014
Comments Off on Doris Lessing on the Writing Life

Doris Lessing on the Writing Life

Doris Lessing was a prolific British novelist, poet, playwright, librettist, biographer and short story writer. She was awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature. In awarding the Prize the Swedish Academy described her as “that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny”. Lessing was the eleventh woman and the oldest person ever to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.  She died in November…

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Dec 27 2013
Comments Off on Great Writers on Writing (E.L. Doctorow)

Great Writers on Writing (E.L. Doctorow)

Elizabeth suggests:  “In this series, you’re asked to look at what master wordsmiths have to say about the activity which is central to their lives.  See if you can invite their passion into your writing life.  Try copying out the quote onto an index card and pasting it above your desk.  Contemplate it, live with it, noddle it around in your head.  Journal about it.  Try to come up with one concrete way to incorporate…

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Dec 20 2013
Comments Off on Great Writers on Writing (Stephen King)

Great Writers on Writing (Stephen King)

Elizabeth suggests:  “In this series, you’re asked to look at what master wordsmiths have to say about the activity which is central to their lives.  See if you can invite their passion into your writing life.  Try copying out the quote onto an index card and pasting it above your desk.  Contemplate it, live with it, noddle it around in your head.  Journal about it.  Try to come up with one concrete way to incorporate…

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Dec 13 2013
Comments Off on Great Writers on Writing (Anne Lamott)

Great Writers on Writing (Anne Lamott)

Elizabeth suggests:  “In this series, you’re asked to look at what master wordsmiths have to say about the activity which is central to their lives.  See if you can invite their passion into your writing life.  Try copying out the quote onto an index card and pasting it above your desk.  Contemplate it, live with it, noddle it around in your head.  Journal about it.  Try to come up with one concrete way to incorporate…

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Dec 06 2013
1

Great Writers on Writing (George Eliot)

Elizabeth suggests:  “In this series, you’re asked to look at what master wordsmiths have to say about the activity which is central to their lives.  See if you can invite their passion into your writing life.  Try copying out the quote onto an index card and pasting it above your desk.  Contemplate it, live with it, noddle it around in your head.  Journal about it.  Try to come up with one concrete way to incorporate…

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Nov 29 2013
Comments Off on Great Writers on Writing (Zora Neale Hurston)

Great Writers on Writing (Zora Neale Hurston)

Elizabeth suggests:  “In this series, you’re asked to look at what master wordsmiths have to say about the activity which is central to their lives.  See if you can invite their passion into your writing life.  Try copying out the quote onto an index card and pasting it above your desk.  Contemplate it, live with it, noddle it around in your head.  Journal about it.  Try to come up with one concrete way to incorporate…

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Nov 22 2013
Comments Off on Great Writers on Writing (Edna Ferber)

Great Writers on Writing (Edna Ferber)

Elizabeth suggests:  “In this series, you’re asked to look at what master wordsmiths have to say about the activity which is central to their lives.  See if you can invite their passion into your writing life.  Try copying out the quote onto an index card and pasting it above your desk.  Contemplate it, live with it, noddle it around in your head.  Journal about it.  Try to come up with one concrete way to incorporate…

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Nov 15 2013
Comments Off on Great Writers on Writing (William Styron)

Great Writers on Writing (William Styron)

Elizabeth suggests:  “In this series, you’re asked to look at what master wordsmiths have to say about the activity which is central to their lives.  See if you can invite their passion into your writing life.  Try copying out the quote onto an index card and pasting it above your desk.  Contemplate it, live with it, noddle it around in your head.  Journal about it.  Try to come up with one concrete way to incorporate…

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Nov 08 2013
Comments Off on Great Writers on Writing (Cyril Connolly)

Great Writers on Writing (Cyril Connolly)

Elizabeth suggests:  “In this series, you’re asked to look at what master wordsmiths have to say about the activity which is central to their lives.  See if you can invite their passion into your writing life.  Try copying out the quote onto an index card and pasting it above your desk.  Contemplate it, live with it, noddle it around in your head.  Journal about it.  Try to come up with one concrete way to incorporate…

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Nov 01 2013
Comments Off on Great Writers on Writing (Annie Dillard)

Great Writers on Writing (Annie Dillard)

Elizabeth suggests:  “In this series, you’re asked to look at what master wordsmiths have to say about the activity which is central to their lives.  See if you can invite their passion into your writing life.  Try copying out the quote onto an index card and pasting it above your desk.  Contemplate it, live with it, noddle it around in your head.  Journal about it.  Try to come up with one concrete way to incorporate…

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Oct 25 2013
1

Great Writers on Writing (Franz Kafka)

Elizabeth suggests:  “In this series, you’re asked to look at what master wordsmiths have to say about the activity which is central to their lives.  See if you can invite their passion into your writing life.  Try copying out the quote onto an index card and pasting it above your desk.  Contemplate it, live with it, noddle it around in your head.  Journal about it.  Try to come up with one concrete way to incorporate…

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Oct 18 2013
Comments Off on Great Writers on Writing (Toni Morrison)

Great Writers on Writing (Toni Morrison)

Elizabeth suggests:  “In this series, you’re asked to look at what master wordsmiths have to say about the activity which is central to their lives.  See if you can invite their passion into your writing life.  Try copying out the quote onto an index card and pasting it above your desk.  Contemplate it, live with it, noddle it around in your head.  Journal about it.  Try to come up with one concrete way to incorporate…

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Jun 28 2013
Comments Off on Advice To Fledgling Writers: Fear of Being Creative

Advice To Fledgling Writers: Fear of Being Creative

 This series of blogs, “Advice to Fledgling Writers,” is excerpted from the book, Writing the Wave: Inspired Rides for Aspiring Writers by Elizabeth Ayres.  Here, a typical student expresses a common fear and Elizabeth responds. Writing the Wave is also an online writing class. TS:  “I haven’t been writing for very long, and it’s thrilling and terrifying at the same time. Sometimes, when I’m writing, I lose track of time. I feel like Something Else is…

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Jun 21 2013
Comments Off on Advice To Fledgling Writers: Getting Started

Advice To Fledgling Writers: Getting Started

This series of blogs, “Advice to Fledgling Writers,” is excerpted from the book, Writing the Wave: Inspired Rides for Aspiring Writers by Elizabeth Ayres.  Here, a typical student expresses a common fear and Elizabeth responds. Writing the Wave is also an online writing class. TS:  “I have lots of wonderful ideas. But they float through my head and I Don’t write them down. When I do sit down to write, all the ideas disappear! How do…

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Jun 14 2013
Comments Off on Advice To Fledgling Writers: The Inner Critic

Advice To Fledgling Writers: The Inner Critic

This series of blogs, “Advice to Fledgling Writers,” is excerpted from the book, Writing the Wave: Inspired Rides for Aspiring Writers by Elizabeth Ayres.  Here, a typical student expresses a common fear and Elizabeth responds. Writing the Wave is also an online writing class. TS: “I have a fierce inner critic.  What should I do about it?” Elizabeth responds: Remember that your inner-critic problem is exacerbated by a very real outer critic problem. Most people have…

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Jun 07 2013
Comments Off on Advice To Fledgling Writers: Avoiding Perfectionism

Advice To Fledgling Writers: Avoiding Perfectionism

This series of blogs, “Advice to Fledgling Writers,” is excerpted from the book, Writing the Wave: Inspired Rides for Aspiring Writers by Elizabeth Ayres.  Here, a typical student expresses a common fear and Elizabeth responds. Writing the Wave is also an online writing class. TS: “I have really great ideas. But as soon as I get the first sentence out, I compare it to what’s in my head, and it sounds so stupid, so primitive, so…

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May 31 2013
Comments Off on Advice to Fledgling Writers: Moving Beyond the Personal

Advice to Fledgling Writers: Moving Beyond the Personal

This series of blogs, “Advice to Fledgling Writers,” is excerpted from the book, Writing the Wave: Inspired Rides for Aspiring Writers by Elizabeth Ayres.  Here, a typical student expresses a common fear and Elizabeth responds. Writing the Wave is also an online writing class. TS: “I’ve been keeping journals all my life. I like to write poetry, too, but I never show it to anyone. Lately I’ve wanted to write something a little less personal, but…

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May 24 2013
1

Advice to Fledgling Writers: Discipline

This series of blogs, “Advice to Fledgling Writers,” is excerpted from the book, Writing the Wave: Inspired Rides for Aspiring Writers by Elizabeth Ayres.  Here, a typical student expresses a common fear and Elizabeth responds. Writing the Wave is also an online writing class. TS: “I’ve never written before at all. I just thought it’d be fun. I need a creative outlet in my life, but I also know I need discipline.” Elizabeth responds: Discipline! When…

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May 17 2013
Comments Off on Advice to Fledgling Writers: Discouragement

Advice to Fledgling Writers: Discouragement

This series of blogs, “Advice to Fledgling Writers,” is excerpted from the book, Writing the Wave: Inspired Rides for Aspiring Writers by Elizabeth Ayres.  Here, a typical student expresses a common fear and Elizabeth responds. Writing the Wave is also an online writing class. TS: “I love to write, too! But when I compare what I’ve written to the books I read, I get so discouraged. I’m afraid I’ll never be that good. I guess I’m…

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May 10 2013
1

Advice To Fledgling Writers: You’re Not Wasting Time

This series of blogs, “Advice to Fledgling Writers,” is excerpted from the book, Writing the Wave: Inspired Rides for Aspiring Writers by Elizabeth Ayres.  Here, a typical student expresses a common fear and Elizabeth responds. Writing the Wave is also an online writing class. TS: “I’ve always loved to write, to keep journals, to make up stories and poems, but I never seem to get anywhere. I feel like I’m wasting my time, goofing around, pretending…

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May 03 2013
Comments Off on Discovering Point of View

Discovering Point of View

In this excerpt from a letter to a student in her online class Writing for Children, Helena explains issues of voice and discovery that are applicable to adult fiction-writing as well as children’s writing. There is certainly a story to be discovered here, but remember, the point of view has to be the young people, not the adult’s view of the young people.  This is a shift slowly made in understanding and in actually experiencing…

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Apr 26 2013
Comments Off on Journal Writing

Journal Writing

In this excerpt from a letter to a student in her online class Writing for Children, Helena explains her journal writing practice. I write in my journal every morning.  It’s something I’ve practiced for almost 35 years, is a way I collect myself, commune with myself and, frankly, God.  All my hopes and dreams, my insights, all kinds of contemplation go into that pen-tip on paper. Looking back at them is not something I ever…

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Apr 19 2013
1

Moving On In Your Writing Practice

Recently, I was interviewed by writer Julie Leuk for an article she’s working on about how a writer handles a changing identity within her or his writing practice.  Here’s her third question and my answer. JL: What suggestions do you have to help writers move past the self-imposed “shoulds” of their writing career, release them, so they can embrace the “coulds” of the future? EA: I think the most important suggestion I could make is…

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Apr 12 2013
Comments Off on If Your Writing Needs To Change…

If Your Writing Needs To Change…

Recently, I was interviewed by writer Julie Leuk for an article she’s working on about how a writer handles a changing identity within her or his writing practice.  Here’s her second question and my answer. JL: What kind of practical suggestions do you have to help people get “unstuck” if their current writing path isn’t satisfying for them? EA: The very first suggestion I would have is to take seriously the nudge to do something…

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Apr 05 2013
Comments Off on A Writer’s Chrysalis

A Writer’s Chrysalis

Recently, I was interviewed by writer Julie Leuk for an article she’s working on about how a writer handles a changing identity within her or his writing practice.  Here’s her first question and my answer. JL: You have started a creative writing center to help writers transform themselves creatively. The key word here is transforming, which implies change. For some people this is scary. How do you help people move past the fear of change…

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Mar 29 2013
Comments Off on What Is Communication?

What Is Communication?

If you want to write, you want to communicate, yes?  But what does that really mean? I invite you to consider the Latin root of our word “communicate,” which is “com” (with) plus “uni” (one).  The literal meaning of the word “communicate is “to be one with.”  The word “community” has the same root, and means the same thing:  “to be one with.” So when you write, there is a “being one with” that happens,…

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Mar 08 2013
4

Finding an Authentic, True Voice: One Writer’s Story

This week our guest blogger, Karen Karper Fredette, describes the risks — and rewards — of discovering a true and authentic voice. The need to write was hounding me but whenever I tried, my thoughts flitted in fifty odd directions, and whatever I produced was scattered and shallow.  A habit of concealing my feelings, my fears, and my weaknesses kept me spinning my wheels, writing only superficial events. I seldom wrote directly of myself or…

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Mar 01 2013
2

A Guilt-Free Writing Practice

Many of the aspiring writers I’ve worked with seem to feel guilty that they can’t keep up with all of life’s demands and still have time to write. I would like to encourage all of you to adopt an attitude beautifully expressed by Isaac Asimov in his book, Asimov Laughs Again: I was once being interviewed by Barbara Walters in three segments, all at once, though they were to be run on three separate days….

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Feb 22 2013
Comments Off on Solitude in the Writing Life

Solitude in the Writing Life

With the popularity of social media — 10 million people networking 24/7 on Facebook — and given the cultural bias in favor of extroversion, it’s difficult for the writer to claim for herself or himself the one thing without which nothing can be written:  solitude. For that reason, I’ve provided a set of inspiring quotations on the value of solitude for the writing life.  You can pin these up on the closed door of your…

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Jan 18 2013
Comments Off on Failure: A Writer’s Constant Companion

Failure: A Writer’s Constant Companion

One of the laments I hear often from my students is that the words they’ve poured out onto the page seem shabby imitations of the story or poem or essay they really want to create.  For that reason, they tear up their papers and toss them in the wastebasket, considering themselves failures and giving up on the whole dream of becoming a writer. That experience — of being unable to capture the shimmering vision —…

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Jan 11 2013
Comments Off on A Writer’s Homeland

A Writer’s Homeland

In his poem, “Boast of Quietness,” Jorge Luis Borges writes, “My homeland is the rhythm of a guitar, a few portraits, an old sword, the willow grove’s visible prayer as evening falls.” The writer, it seems to me, is one whose true homeland is the imagination.  And if that’s true, then whenever we’re caught up in other endeavors, we’re in exile, longing for home.  I know that’s how I feel when I’m not writing.  And…

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Jan 04 2013
1

Why Do You Write?

Why Do You Write?

As the new year begins, I invite you to reflect on why you write.  And don’t be ho-hum hum-drum — put some muscle into it!  That special muscle available to the writer called “imagination.” As a warm-up, please read the following, excerpted from Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert by Terry Tempest Williams. Dearest Deb: You asked me why I write…. I write to make peace with the things I cannot control.  I write…

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Dec 14 2012
Comments Off on The Writer You Are Becoming

The Writer You Are Becoming

The Writer You Are Becoming

The other day I was wandering around nearby Leonardtown, after my appointment at the dentist’s and before the bookstore opened.  In the yarn store there was this woman sitting in front of a loom, doing mysterious things with her hands and feet that transformed stiff, straight rows of brightly-colored thread into soft billows of patterned fabric.  The me that has always been a weaver said, “I’ve always wanted to learn how to weave,” and I…

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Nov 23 2012
Comments Off on Procrastination: How To Write Around It

Procrastination: How To Write Around It

A famous quote most writers can relate to is Dorothy Parker’s: “I hate writing, but love having written.”   This quote might mean different things to different people, but to me it speaks to one thing above all else: procrastination. Without a doubt, my biggest weakness as a writer is my penchant for procrastination.  I’ve been blessed with the ability to never really have true writer’s block.  I’ve always been able to think of ideas and…

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Oct 19 2012
Comments Off on The Pains of Publication

The Pains of Publication

Recently I’ve had two pieces accepted for publication — I’ve mentioned these in other blogs.  (See September 14th and September 21st.) The word ‘publish’ means ‘to make public.’  Because we live in such a results-oriented culture, a writer can be seduced into thinking that the act of making the work public is the important thing, the critical thing, the thing without which a writer can’t go on, and the frustrations of not being able to…

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Oct 12 2012
2

A Writer’s Voice

how to write, how to be a writer, writing prompts, writing tips

I’m taking a weaving class.  I’m learning on a small, portable loom, but it has all the necessary pieces of a traditional loom, and it’s great fun to learn an entirely new language, with words like “heddle” and “thrum” and “shed” and “apron” and “shuttle.” I’m learning how to “warp the loom:” to set up the long threads that provide the structural integrity of woven fabric.  It’s extremely complicated, requiring a lot of math and…

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Aug 31 2012
Comments Off on Writers Are What They Read

Writers Are What They Read

This is no new insight, but it does bear repeating:  if you aspire to write well, you must fill your mind with the very best writing. Nutrition provides a good metaphor.  If you want to be healthy, you must eat well.  You must put into your body only the best food. If you want your mind and imagination to remain healthy, you must feed it with the best writing you can find.  This is especially…

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