Posts filed under ‘Blocked writers’

Nov 13 2019
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Why you need to write about your writing

Why you need to write about your writing

I know what you might be thinking: It’s hard enough to find time to write creatively, but now I need to also find time to write about my creative writing? In a word: yes. The thing is, finding time to write isn’t just about finding time to write. It’s about making time where there previously wasn’t any, or even taking time from other, less worthwhile activities. It’s about elevating your practice of writing to a…

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Nov 06 2019
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4 ways a writer’s notebook is a recipe for success

4 ways a writer’s notebook is a recipe for success

Shawna Ayoub Ainslie urges you to keep a notebook of writing ideas so you always have something cooking. My first graduate writing workshop opened with the professor assigning all students to obtain a journal in which we would record writing topics, lines and phrases and sensory observations of the world for future use. The task was not to master a craft tip, acquire a certain critical text, or commit to writing a formidable number of…

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Nov 01 2019
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Photo writing prompt, November 2019

Photo writing prompt, November 2019

What looks imperfect, flawed, or even ugly to one person might be beautiful to another. Take the gourd, for example. Among the final fruits of the harvest, these gnarly pumpkin-cousins are some of the oldest cultivated plants in the world, even appearing in creation myths. They have many uses and come in lots of shapes, sizes, and colors. And some of them are…well, less traditionally attractive than other things growing in your garden. Consider flaws,…

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Oct 16 2019
Comments Off on How revisiting old writing can inspire new ideas

How revisiting old writing can inspire new ideas

How revisiting old writing can inspire new ideas

Shawna Ayoub Ainslie suggests a little time travel to light your way out of a writing rut—and offers a great exercise as guidance. Sometimes the path to a new, exciting writing project leads back through a well-worn path. Writers, when you’re stuck in a rut and it seems like you’re writing the same story over and over—or worse, you aren’t writing at all—try going backwards instead of forwards by blowing the dust off some old…

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Oct 09 2019
1

How to get back on the writing ride

How to get back on the writing ride

Shawna Ayoub Ainslie shares a metaphor to get writers back in the saddle. I once took a writing class with an avid equestrian who offered a riding metaphor for every writing exercise. I loved the way she related her two passions to each other, both of which are creative art forms that require science to build skill. I’m a writer, not a rider or scientist, but that won’t stop me from passing along some of…

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Oct 01 2019
Comments Off on Photo writing prompt, October 2019

Photo writing prompt, October 2019

Photo writing prompt, October 2019

Most of us probably have a memory of leaping into small mountains of autumn leaves. They change color, fall, and we drag them into piles to be taken away in garbage bags and trucks, year after year. The rake is our tool of choice. Consider tools, then. Consider our human attempts to control, collect, and clear nature and the natural world from our consciousness. Does it feel positive or negative to you? Practical or impractical?…

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Sep 18 2019
Comments Off on How (and how not) to compare yourself to other writers

How (and how not) to compare yourself to other writers

How (and how not) to compare yourself to other writers

We all do it. We all compare ourselves to the people who are good at what we want to be good at, right? Sometimes such comparisons motivate us. Other times, they erode confidence and can lead to chronic negativity and even self-sabotage. Here are four things you need to know to make the right kinds of comparisons, the ones that will light a fire under you to write more and better:

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Sep 11 2019
Comments Off on Develop these 3 points of connection for more memorable writing

Develop these 3 points of connection for more memorable writing

Develop these 3 points of connection for more memorable writing

Think of your favorite stories, the ones that have stayed with you the longest. Perhaps you first read them as a child or young adult, then passed them onto your children or grandchildren. Or maybe you are revisiting a beloved book year after year, delighting in new observations or different perspectives as you move through different stages of life. Have you ever wondered why those stories are so memorable? Chances are, the authors created characters…

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Sep 04 2019
Comments Off on Maximize readiness for your next great writing idea

Maximize readiness for your next great writing idea

Maximize readiness for your next great writing idea

Sometimes, an amazing idea hits at the worst possible time. Maybe you’re in the parent pickup line at your child’s school and out of nowhere, you realize how to solve a problem your novel’s main character is having. Or you’re up to your elbows in tomato sauce during a late-summer canning spree when a strong image or first line of your next poem bursts into your consciousness. How many of those ideas actually make it…

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Aug 31 2019
Comments Off on Photo writing prompt, September 2019

Photo writing prompt, September 2019

Photo writing prompt, September 2019

The harvest is imminent. Let’s talk about food: farming, growing, and cultivating it, the journey from seed to sustenance. Consider growing food on a large and small scale, the environmental impact(s), sustainability efforts, and personal fulfillment. How do nature and industry interact in this photo and in the context of our food supply? Or, what is your favorite late summer fruit or vegetable? What of the vibrancy of colors in these veggies that rivals the…

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Aug 14 2019
1

How to develop your writing voice

How to develop your writing voice

A writing voice is a style or a manner of writing that is authentic to the writer. It’s your voice, how you speak and verbally emote, translated to the page. And your voice is the single most important element of your writing because it is what sets you apart from everyone else. Think about how there are billions of people in the world, and we all have distinct voices. Some of us might sound similar,…

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Aug 07 2019
Comments Off on Why all writers should practice free writing, and how

Why all writers should practice free writing, and how

Why all writers should practice free writing, and how

Free writing is writing quickly without regard for audience, spelling, grammar, or even clarity. The intent is to generate content fast, and then proceed with what’s working best or is most exciting to you. The process is simple, but the benefits can be tremendous because free writing allows you to enter a head space where anything goes. Imagine the potential for creativity if you aren’t worried about who will be reading or where that comma…

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Aug 01 2019
Comments Off on Photo writing prompt, August 2019

Photo writing prompt, August 2019

Photo writing prompt, August 2019

In the northern hemisphere, August nights are for the Perseid meteor showers. Do you remember the first “falling star” you ever saw? Did you make a wish? Who were you with, and from where were you viewing? Do you think of science–of astrophysics, of cosmology, of dying stars, red giants, and white dwarves–or of spirituality and the oneness of the universe, when you see this image? What of the human element, the phone lines and…

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Jul 17 2019
1

Writers, set micro goals for major progress

Writers, set micro goals for major progress

I want to finally write my memoir. I want to finish my novel. I want to learn how to write poetry. I have this great idea for a children’s book… It’s good to have goals. As writers, we often focus on the big picture, but let’s face it: the big picture can sometimes feel too big to achieve. So what if we made smaller goals—not giving up on the bigger ones, but breaking them down…

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Jul 10 2019
Comments Off on Why good readers make good writers

Why good readers make good writers

Why good readers make good writers

You have managed to create time and space in your life for a writing practice, and have a bit of routine going that is working for you. It was hard enough to carve out this time for writing, something you love to do, but now you need to find time to read as well? It shouldn’t be hard, you reason. You loved reading as a child, and still occasionally find time to pick up a…

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Jul 01 2019
Comments Off on Photo writing prompt, July 2019

Photo writing prompt, July 2019

Photo writing prompt, July 2019

How does the world change underwater? How are sounds and sights different? What does water do to the feel of things? Does the image frighten or excite you? What of the soft fuzz of algae and growth on the smooth stones? Is this a river or a lake? What is just beyond the photo’s frame, or behind those filtered sun rays? How long can you stay submerged in close observation without a breath? What do…

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Jun 19 2019
Comments Off on How to make writing prompts work for you

How to make writing prompts work for you

How to make writing prompts work for you

  Writers either love or loathe prompts; there seems to be no in-between. Those of us who love them use them to focus, or to explore, or just to write when we are stuck on another project or feel uninspired. Those of us who loathe them feel constrained by their specificity, or think there are no original prompts out there, or just don’t want to be “told” what to write about. At the Center, we…

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Jun 12 2019
Comments Off on What is a writing community and how can you build one?

What is a writing community and how can you build one?

What is a writing community and how can you build one?

Adapted from a 2015 post on creating a writing exchange. At the Center, we use the word community a lot. We have a clear if general idea of what community means to us: writers writing “together”—in our online courses, at our retreats, in comments on our social media posts, in response to our prompts (through the monthly photo prompt contests or One Year of Weekly Writing Prompts), or with us directly in private writing guidance…

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Jun 05 2019
Comments Off on Spring-clean your writing practice in 3 steps

Spring-clean your writing practice in 3 steps

Spring-clean your writing practice in 3 steps

Shawna Ayoub Ainslie shares some practical tips for tidying up your cache of drafts and completed works to make writing time more efficient. Is there anything so ominous as a backlog of unfinished writing? Writers are artists who go through creative and . . . less creative periods. Creativity is marked by productivity. The words seem to arrive on the page with little effort, but that does not mean writing is completed. Raise your hand…

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Jun 01 2019
Comments Off on Photo writing prompt, June 2019

Photo writing prompt, June 2019

Photo writing prompt, June 2019

What about green? What about rain, or is it dew? What about dirt, worms, and bugs, and the beauty that rises from it, cyclical and strong? What about what’s hiding in or under these hostas? What about hostas? What about spring and growth and regrowth, the return of color and light and warmth so forcefully that winter seems once again so far in both the past and future, it’s unimaginable? What do you think about…

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May 15 2019
2

Writers, master the art of word economy

Writers, master the art of word economy

Adapted from a 2016 Center post about how to pare down a first draft by looking at specific elements of the writing, one at a time. Word economy is the practice of using fewer words to say more. For less practiced writers, it means revising your work to eliminate redundant, unnecessary, cliché, or weak language to make your writing stronger and clearer. Once you practice word economy enough during revision, you will teach yourself how…

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May 08 2019
Comments Off on Make the absolute most of your writing time

Make the absolute most of your writing time

Make the absolute most of your writing time

You did the hard part already. You shuffled things around in your schedule, prioritizing what needed prioritizing and letting go of what didn’t. You analyzed your “free time” and figured out when and how and where you might fit in a good writing session instead of a Netflix binge, and you created a space in your home specifically for writing, complete with good lighting and your favorite pen. You are ready to go. Now, what…

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May 01 2019
Comments Off on Photo writing prompt, May 2019

Photo writing prompt, May 2019

Photo writing prompt, May 2019

A shore at sunset–a place where all the elements converge, interact, affect one another. The waves shape the shore, erode and smooth stone. The sun paint colors on water and sky. The water enters the sky in clouds; the clouds rain back into the water. So many mirrors. The infinity of tide and horizon. In this photo, is infinity contained by the view through this pipe, or does it grow out of it? You could…

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Apr 17 2019
Comments Off on Dive into writing readiness with these 5 tips

Dive into writing readiness with these 5 tips

Dive into writing readiness with these 5 tips

Shawna Ayoub Ainslie offers some suggestions to set yourself up for success before you even start writing—especially if you’re writing about tough topics. Writing readiness is more than having a dedicated writing space and practice. Especially in the case of writing harder stories or traumas, it’s important to prepare mentally and emotionally for putting memories into words. If you are suiting up for a deep dive into rough waters—or even just a marathon laptop session—here…

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Apr 10 2019
Comments Off on 7 writing tips for moving from rut to routine

7 writing tips for moving from rut to routine

7 writing tips for moving from rut to routine

Adapted from a 2015 Tips for Beginning Writers post on the benefits and logistics of establishing a writing routine, if you’ve struggled to do so. Maybe you aren’t a routine kind of person. Some of us are; some of us aren’t. But I’m guessing that if you’re reading a blog post about writing tips, you’re open to suggestion. Because there are precious few writers out there who can subsist solely from practicing their craft, most…

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Apr 01 2019
Comments Off on Letter from the director, April 2019

Letter from the director, April 2019

Letter from the director, April 2019

Life is springing back everywhere you look, it seems. The egg is a primordial image, loaded with meaning. Do you think of baby birds when you look at this image, the mighty pine sheltering the nest from harm and the lingering chill? Or do you think, in broader terms, of the egg’s symbolism, of fertility and possibility? Does the vibrant blue of this tiny egg make you think of Easter egg hunts, or of Ostara,…

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Mar 27 2019
Comments Off on Plot problems? Plan your story like a party

Plot problems? Plan your story like a party

Plot problems? Plan your story like a party

Shawna Ayoub Ainslie breaks down the process of creating a narrative plot into manageable bites, so you can write the who, what, where, when, why of your story as clearly as you see it in your mind. Stuck in your story and wondering what happens next? Can’t get your scene and characters out of your mind and onto the page? There’s nothing quite as wonderful as the story that tells itself, and nothing quite as…

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Mar 14 2019
Comments Off on DIY writing retreats: When, why, and how

DIY writing retreats: When, why, and how

DIY writing retreats: When, why, and how

Adapted from a 2017 Center post about what to consider when planning your own writing getaway, in the absence of opportunities that meet all your needs. Writing getaways can be incredible experiences for building a community around words and your writing practice. Some are quite affordable, with extras like meals and opportunities for fitness and exploration built right into the registration fee. Many offer both group and private instruction for a nice balance of camaraderie…

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Mar 01 2019
Comments Off on Letter from the director, March 2019

Letter from the director, March 2019

Letter from the director, March 2019

  Talk to me about the night sky, about late winter under stars speeding (hopefully) toward spring in the northern hemisphere, about the pending return of more light than dark, about the various points of light in this image, both natural and artificial. Who is this person? A stargazer? Explorer? Someone on the run? Is this person coming or going? Is this our world, or another–where are we? What do the stars, the winter trees,…

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Feb 27 2019
6

3 reasons to write outside your genre

3 reasons to write outside your genre

Shawna Ayoub Ainslie talks genre, and the benefits of writing in more than one. Getting stuck in a genre of writing is the equivalent of typecasting yourself. As a writer, you are no doubt a highly creative individual motivated by wordsmithing. But even the most creative soul can find their art stagnating. If you have ever felt stuck—and haven’t we all?—maybe it isn’t that you don’t have anything to write about. Maybe you just need…

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Feb 14 2019
Comments Off on Your trauma, your truth: Overcoming resistance to trauma writing

Your trauma, your truth: Overcoming resistance to trauma writing

Your trauma, your truth: Overcoming resistance to trauma writing

Shawna Ayoub Ainslie, who teaches Writing through Trauma to Truth, discusses some of the social challenges to writing about traumatic experiences. Writers who explore their own experiences in nonfiction often grapple with issues related to the sharing of personal trauma. Teaching writing about trauma necessarily means providing guidance on some resistance that writers sharing trauma might face. Reading others’ trauma can be problematic. Recognizing triggers and choosing when and how to access certain topics is…

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Feb 06 2019
Comments Off on Write more and better by embracing quiet

Write more and better by embracing quiet

Write more and better by embracing quiet

Adapted from a 2017 Center post about resisting distractions that keep us from the page, this post distills those resistance tips into an ethos that will yield more and better words: you have to be alone sometimes to write. Many writers are all about developing a community around the practice of writing. At the Center, we certainly love our community. But let’s face it, the writing itself doesn’t happen when you’re in a (physical or…

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Feb 01 2019
Comments Off on Letter from the director, February 2019

Letter from the director, February 2019

Letter from the director, February 2019

  They are all frozen water, but no two snowflakes are exactly alike. Let’s talk about our differences, the traits, qualities, quirks, and so on that make us unique. Let’s talk about what “difference” and “uniqueness” mean–and for that matter, sameness, and what most humans have in common. What do you think about when you look at this image? Write about it.

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Jan 16 2019
Comments Off on When to write on vs. when to write later

When to write on vs. when to write later

When to write on vs. when to write later

Sometimes it might seem like the best writing advice you’ve ever heard conflicts with other advice that also makes sense. Step away and gain some perspective sounds like a wonderful tip…unless what you really need to do is keep pushing yourself and finish that draft! If you’re wondering how to tell when you should do which—write on or write later—this post offers some insight. First, remember that all writers have their own process. You are…

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Jan 01 2019
Comments Off on Letter from the director, January 2019

Letter from the director, January 2019

Letter from the director, January 2019

What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger. Do you see the persistence of death and destructive forces or life and generative forces when you look at this picture? Is it one of warmth or coldness, defiance or acquiescence? Where is it? Who is seeing it? What do you think about when you look at this image? Write about it.

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Dec 11 2018
Comments Off on Avoid repetitive writing with these 4 tips

Avoid repetitive writing with these 4 tips

Avoid repetitive writing with these 4 tips

Shawna Ayoub Ainslie shares four revision practices that will help you eliminate redundancy in your writing and keep your readers reading. Repetition in writing can happen when writers become too reliant on certain words, phrases, or sentence structures. We can fall into a rut when we don’t add some variety to our choices. Sometimes the best method to break free of writing redundancies is a conscious return to minimalism. If your draft needs work, it’s…

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Dec 05 2018
Comments Off on How to write what isn’t there

How to write what isn’t there

How to write what isn't there

I recently had a Writer’s Eye student who was drafting a chapter in which one of the main characters in her excellent ongoing story dies. The character’s wife experiences feelings of numbness, entering a state of survival we often describe as auto-pilot: she was simply going through the motions and not actually connecting with anyone or anything. Trauma and loss often result in feelings like this. But how do you write about this particular emotional…

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Dec 01 2018
Comments Off on Letter from the director, December 2018

Letter from the director, December 2018

Letter from the director, December 2018

Who is this creature, and how did you come upon her? Or did she come upon you–is she running from or toward her own threat? Is she a menacing figure that instills fear, or is she majestic, perhaps an animal guide, a companion? Is she an omen or a sentry, foe or friend? What makes you think so? What do you think about when you look at this image? Write about it.

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Nov 14 2018
Comments Off on Build confidence as a writer in 5 steps

Build confidence as a writer in 5 steps

Build confidence as a writer in 5 steps

I write, but I don’t feel like a writer. I hear this from beginning and blocked writers all the time, and the issue isn’t talent or commitment or energy. The issue is confidence. Do you feel insecure in your writing, like maybe you just aren’t cut out for it? Do you feel like it’s something you enjoy doing and want to do more, but you can’t justify the time spent on it, either because it…

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Nov 08 2018
Comments Off on Write now, worry later! Avoiding the path of self-censorship

Write now, worry later! Avoiding the path of self-censorship

Write now, worry later! Avoiding the path of self-censorship

Shawna Ayoub Ainslie offers some critical advice against censoring our work in our early drafts. “What parts should I leave out?” a student asked regarding the memoir she’d begun. “Why are you asking?” “Well,” she said. “There are some things I don’t want my kids to know.” I nodded in understanding. Self-censorship is a common theme in all writing, not just trauma-based narratives. Moving our stories from our minds to the physical world can leave…

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Nov 01 2018
Comments Off on Letter from the director, November 2018

Letter from the director, November 2018

Letter from the director, November 2018

You can’t tell whether this leaf is still attached to a tree or has drifted to the soon-frozen ground, but you can see the intricate beauty of its veins, the damage its papery skin has endured, the bold color, the fragility, the persistence…all these competing forces contained in one iconic seasonal image-object. So. Look close. Do you see life or death? What do you think about when you look at this image? Write about it.

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Oct 17 2018
Comments Off on Over-write first for a better final draft

Over-write first for a better final draft

Over-write first for a better final draft

You’ve heard the age-old writing advice “show, don’t tell,” right? We try to incorporate as many sensory details as we can, and to rely on imagery as much as simple, declarative sentences. But no matter what kind of prose you’re writing, you can turn ordinary action, like making a sandwich, into a showing scene by first over-writing it. You might be asking, what do you mean, over-write? Aren’t I supposed to use word economy, cut…

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Oct 10 2018
Comments Off on Respect the process to meet your writing goals

Respect the process to meet your writing goals

Respect the process to meet your writing goals

Shawna Ayoub Ainslie offers an exercise to integrate into your writing practice, one that’s as much about recognizing where you’ve been as it is about planning where you’re going. Writer Brenda Ueland, in her book If You Want to Write, describes a writing practice as coming to the page and remaining with it whether or not writing happens. Translation: a true writer shows up even when the words don’t. Ueland adds that, with consistent showing up, the…

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Oct 01 2018
Comments Off on Letter from the director, October 2018

Letter from the director, October 2018

Letter from the director, October 2018

Ah, a country road in the fall. Is this a road in, or a road out? What is it leading to or away from? What is that old fence holding in or keeping out? What do you see around the bend? What do you hear, smell, taste, feel? What do you think about when you look at this image? Write about it.

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Sep 19 2018
Comments Off on How to write like no one is watching

How to write like no one is watching

How to write like no one is watching

Shawna Ayoub Ainslie flips the old adage about cutting loose on the dance floor to offer advice to writers about keeping rhythm on the page. It was the night of our local Pride festival that I, for the first time, danced like no one was watching. I’ve heard the adage plenty, but I am a self-conscious soul who has long battled with letting go enough to have fun. That night, I saw someone dancing who…

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Sep 12 2018
Comments Off on Writers, revise or edit? How and when to do both

Writers, revise or edit? How and when to do both

Writers, revise or edit? How and when to do both

You’ve written something that really excites you. After the initial adrenaline rush of creative energy subsides, you can see the writing has, well, issues. You were rushing, so there are misspellings. You know in your head that this character is good and that one is villainous, but you aren’t sure it’s coming across that way. And this flashback, does it make sense at the beginning or near the middle of your story or chapter? And…

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Sep 05 2018
Comments Off on Put yourself “out there” with this writing exercise

Put yourself “out there” with this writing exercise

Put yourself "out there" with this writing exercise

Shawna Ayoub Ainslie offers a fun writing exercise that will help you step outside of your own comfort zone and take more risks in your writing. One of my all-time favorite (and well-written!) TV shows is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and one of my all-time favorite moments from the show is when the character Spike, a vampire, tells the heroine he loves her. It’s a risk. A huge one. His affection is not well-received. He…

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Sep 01 2018
Comments Off on Letter from the director, September 2018

Letter from the director, September 2018

Letter from the director, September 2018

Where are you going? Where have you been? What mark(s) will you leave on the world? What mark(s) have others left for you? Who left this footprint? How long do the footprints go on? Are they the only ones, or do they go where others have gone before? What do you think about when you look at this image? Write about it.

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Aug 15 2018
Comments Off on 3 tips to re-focus your writing energy

3 tips to re-focus your writing energy

3 tips to re-focus your writing energy

We all get lost on the page or screen sometimes. Shawna Ayoub Ainslie reminds us, with three tips, to slow down and hit the reset button to protect our writing space(s) and energy from negative thought patterns that might sabotage us. When you find yourself repeatedly deleting typed passages or wading through balled up pieces of notebook paper previously discarded in your trash bin, you may be unknowingly stuck in a negative pattern. Much like…

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Aug 09 2018
Comments Off on How to submit to literary magazines, part 3: Submissions best practices, or, the dos and don’ts

How to submit to literary magazines, part 3: Submissions best practices, or, the dos and don’ts

How to submit to literary magazines, part 3: Submissions best practices, or, the dos and don'ts

To conclude our three-part series on submitting your writing to literary magazines, we present the following list of dos and don’ts. Some of these tips might be new, and some might rehash the best advice we offered in part 1 and part 2 of this blog series on submissions. Either way, these best practices separate the pros from the nos, so assimilate them into your submissions approach asap.

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Aug 01 2018
Comments Off on Letter from the director, August 2018

Letter from the director, August 2018

Letter from the director, August 2018

Is this a positive or negative image? Do you see a bright future or a dark hole with escape just out of reach? Are you focused on up or down? How did the photographer get down in there, anyway, and how did they get out? Does the thought of a cave or underground enclosure make you feel warm and safe or claustrophobic? What do you think about when you look at this image? Write about…

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Jul 17 2018
2

A 3-step practice of silence to rev creativity

A 3-step practice of silence to rev creativity

In this short and sweet post, Shawna Ayoub Ainslie returns to the topic of silence as a catalyst for creativity. Let’s face it, the world is full of noise and you are part of the noise machine. We have already talked about how keeping your stories to yourself as they are developing can help you finish writing them. But what about when you can’t seem to get started? This is the prime time to practice…

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Jul 10 2018
Comments Off on How to submit to literary magazines, part 2: Submissions logistics

How to submit to literary magazines, part 2: Submissions logistics

How to submit to literary magazines, part 2: Submissions logistics

In part 1 of this series on submitting your writing to literary magazines, we provided some resources for finding literary markets and translated some common directives from editors about how to get your work in front of them. Now it’s time to get down to the practical logistics: which magazines do you want to send to, what finished pieces of writing will you submit, and how do you craft the actual submission email or letter?…

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Jul 06 2018
Comments Off on 3 reasons not to discuss new writing (yet)

3 reasons not to discuss new writing (yet)

3 reasons not to discuss new writing (yet)

At the Center, we emphasize sharing and community-building around our writing, but Shawna Ayoub Ainslie wants you to be aware of three reasons it might be best to keep a new writing project to yourself for a bit. The first pages of a new writing project are often dappled with the dew of optimism. Writing is an adventure. Your heart soars and dips with your characters. Everything is rose-tinted because you’ve had an idea–a beautiful,…

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Jul 01 2018
Comments Off on Letter from the director, July 2018

Letter from the director, July 2018

Letter from the director, July 2018

Are you feeling the heat, writers? How are you interpreting that phrase? Are you thinking about whether or not your air conditioner is working, or are you under pressure at work or even in your writing practice? What does this photo make you think about? How does the literal and figurative heat connect you with the rest of the world, the rest of the universe? Write about it in July. If you feel so inclined,…

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Jun 20 2018
2

How to submit to literary magazines, part 1: 10 things to know about editors and guidelines

How to submit to literary magazines, part 1: 10 things to know about editors and guidelines

If you’re a writer who is considering sending your first literary magazine submission, we have some advice for you, for what it’s worth. First, congratulations! Sharing your work with the world for the first time is a big step. Second…where do you even begin? There are thousands upon thousands of publishing markets for creative writers. Your very first step–once you’ve polished and completed some writing, of course–should be to familiarize yourself with some of them….

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Jun 12 2018
2

Starting a blog: The whys and hows

Starting a blog: The whys and hows

Writers everywhere are using blogs to publicize their writing. Surely you know of some. I mean, you’re reading one right now! Word Press, the content management system that hosts the Center blog (and one of the most popular CMS’s for beginners in existence) defines a blog as: an abbreviated version of ‘weblog,’ which is a term used to describe websites that maintain an ongoing chronicle of information. A blog features diary-type commentary and links to…

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Jun 06 2018
Comments Off on When writer’s block is really a breakthrough

When writer’s block is really a breakthrough

When writer's block is really a breakthrough

Shawna Ayoub Ainslie explains how what feels like a roadblock might actually be a breakthrough to the story you’ve been trying to write—and how to keep moving forward. A writing student recently shared with me that he has been stuck for three months on the story he’s developing. He wrote a chapter, then felt the pull away from that piece to another. This was troubling for him because he is a person who keeps his…

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May 23 2018
Comments Off on 4 workout tips to strengthen writing muscles

4 workout tips to strengthen writing muscles

4 workout tips to strengthen writing muscles

Feeling motivated to make some writing gains but overwhelmed and not sure where to start? Shawna Ayoub Ainslie shares some workout advice that translates easily to overcoming challenges on the page. When you want to develop any skill, you practice it. When I learned to play basketball, I started with dribbling and passing drills that improved my hand-eye coordination and in-game reflexes. When I learned to swim, I practiced floating. When I learned to write…

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May 08 2018
Comments Off on How to end your story already! (in 3 steps)

How to end your story already! (in 3 steps)

How to end your story already! (in 3 steps)

Shawna Ayoub Ainslie shares some tips for placing the final puzzle piece in a story that doesn’t seem to want to end. If I am being very honest, I am not great at endings. Writing beginnings and middles feels natural to me, as I am swept along by possibility. An ending puts, well, an end to the joy of the writing journey. Once I’ve committed, there is still revision to do, but it is (hopefully)…

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Apr 18 2018
Comments Off on 3 reasons not to fear your writing haunts

3 reasons not to fear your writing haunts

Don't fear your writing haunts, embrace them!

Writing through Trauma to Truth instructor Shawna Ayoub Ainslie defines recurrent themes in her work as “haunts,” but explains why you shouldn’t let that characterization scare you off. In graduate school, one of my writing workshop instructors waxed poetically about writing haunts every time she reviewed my work. I had several. My short stories often contained abused female characters trying to break free of their cultural or parental bindings. In retrospect, the reason my writing…

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Mar 07 2018
Comments Off on 3 questions to ask yourself when writing The Truth

3 questions to ask yourself when writing The Truth

3 questions to ask yourself when writing The Truth

  Writing through Trauma to Truth teacher Shawna Ayoub Aislie presents three important considerations for writing honestly about our own lives. Mining your life for the sake of your art can feel scary and vulnerable. The good news is, whether you are using your personal experiences in memoir, short story or poem form, you get to choose what you include. The best details are those which offer truths to which readers can relate, creating a…

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Feb 21 2018
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4 ways to de-stress your writing practice

4 ways to de-stress your writing practice

I promise, I won’t insist that writing is without stress and that you’re somehow doing it wrong if you aren’t having fun 100% of the time. Writing should be fun, of course. Getting down the last scene of a suspenseful story or finally finding the right metaphor for a childhood experience you’ve been trying to accurately show on the page are feel-good moments in a regular writing practice. But nothing gold can stay, writers. Inevitably,…

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Feb 06 2018
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Steer around writing blocks with relief projects

Steer around writing blocks with relief projects

Writing through Trauma to Truth teacher Shawna Ayoub Ainslie wants to help blocked writers get some relief–and keep the creative energy flowing–with relief projects. Stuck in a story/poem/essay? This post has you covered. Here’s what you need to do: instead of hammering away at going nowhere until your writing world cracks and you fall into the void of doubt, wonder why you even try, and burn your laptop in a bonfire, shortcut negative self-talk by…

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Jan 24 2018
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5 non-writing activities to make you a better writer

5 non-writing activities to make you a better writer

  There is no shortage of advice for writers on the internet. We’ve heard everything! Meditate and then immediately write in your journal! Join every writing group you can! Attend this expensive conference/that fancy festival! It isn’t that these things won’t work for some people. It’s that just as there is no real way to “get rich quick,” so to speak; there is no way to skip the work of writing and pole-vault to the…

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Jan 09 2018
Comments Off on 3 steps to banish blocks through expressive writing

3 steps to banish blocks through expressive writing

Banish blocks through expressive writing

Writing through Trauma to Truth teacher Shawna Ayoub Ainslie touts the efficacy of expressive writing for moving past blocks and getting your creativity flowing again. In my teaching practice, writers most frequently come to me with the question of how to get the words out. They feel stuffed so full of their own stories they are choking, or their stories flee as soon as they have the time to look at them. Expressive writing is…

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Nov 22 2017
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3 self-care tips for writers

3 self-care tips for writers

  What is self-care, and why and how should you practice it while writing? A brief history of the term “self-care” according to Slate tells us that its origins are in the medical community in the ’60s, when doctors encouraged patients to develop healthy habits and contribute to their own treatment. Soon after, “academics began to look for ways for workers in more high-risk and emotionally daunting professions—trauma therapists, social workers, EMTs, and so on—to…

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Nov 15 2017
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Should you compose on paper or screen? 3 ways to tell

Should you compose on paper or screen? 3 ways to tell

  Remember journals? Remember filling notebooks with drafts of poems and stories? Remember typing them all up when you were sure they were “finished”? Or do you still keep those journal and notebooks? For many writers, paper and pen were our original method of composition. Technology has given us word processing software and even writing apps that have replaced pens with key strokes—for some of us. If you’re trying to organize your creative process and…

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Nov 08 2017
Comments Off on 5 techniques for accessing your creative flow

5 techniques for accessing your creative flow

5 techniques for accessing your creative flow

A guest post by Center teacher Shawna Ayoub Ainslie (Writing through Trauma to Truth), reposted from The Honeyed Quill with permission A main struggle I face as a writer is letting go. Sitting down to write has become easy. I have trained myself to get words on the page. But writing authentically, giving value to words and recording or creating a story with integrity–well, I know writers who seem to have mastered that skill. I…

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Oct 25 2017
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Write every day with these 6 apps

Write every day with these 6 apps

If you’re a tech-loving writer who composes on screen but hasn’t explored the wide world of writing apps, you might be missing out on some ways to majorly boost your productivity, motivation, and inspiration. Think beyond using iPhone Notes to quickly jot down an idea before it escapes you. There are so many quality apps out there that have been optimized for beginners, veterans, screenwriters, freelancers, and more. The best writing apps boast benefits that…

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Oct 18 2017
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5 types of journals to keep

5 types of journals to keep

Why journal? To chart your progress, jot down ideas on the fly, list goals and challenges, record feelings, make lists, and so much more. Check out these five types of journals to keep:

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Oct 11 2017
Comments Off on How to make the “write” work space for you

How to make the “write” work space for you

How to make the "write" work space for you

My writing space is a deeply personal realm. I enter it to make art; and while I can technically write anywhere, my home base for writing is a sanctuary for my creativity. I firmly believe that the self-expressive comfort of my desk, bookshelves, and bulletin board is directly related to my productivity and the quality of my writing. Why? Because when creating my writing space, I adhered to these three “rules”:

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Oct 04 2017
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5 tips for sharing your writing for the first time

5 tips for sharing your writing for the first time

Some of the most difficult aspects of writing make themselves known after the first draft is on the page or screen: revising, cutting beloved passages that don’t advance a narrative or metaphor, choosing a title, editing to make tone and voice consistent, and so on. When they get stuck anywhere in this process, many writers turn to other writers for help and a different perspective. If you’re new to sharing your writing with someone else,…

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Sep 20 2017
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5 reasons why word choice matters so much in good writing

5 reasons why word choice matters so much in good writing

Writing is one set of choices after another—about imagery, sound, what to include, what to leave out, who to name, who to kill off, where to give background info, when to let readers fill in the blanks for themselves, and so on and on and on. I want to talk a little about our building blocks, as writers: individual words. In workshops and writing courses or groups, feedback frequently references “word choice.” One of my…

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Sep 05 2017
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How to make more time to write (and why it’s probably not a time problem you have)

How to make more time to write (and why it's probably not a time problem you have)

I hear that phrase so much, writers: make time. As if we can possibly manufacture more time than there actually is in a day, week, month, or year. Or can we? My suggestion to you, if you’ve ever complained that you can’t make time to write in your busy life, is to re-frame the problem. My guess is, it isn’t always a time problem you have…

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