Friday, July 29, 2011


By now you have probably guessed that I love Anne Lamott. Actually, I've never read any of her fiction, but I have reread her non-fiction works multiple times. In Bird by Bird (her book about writing), she writes, "Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor." Think about that for a second. Sure, we strive to make our writing (and our lives, for that matter) better, but when is enough enough. We can revise as many times as we want to, but our writing could always improve. I'd be willing to bet even Shakespeare could have thought of a few things he'd like to change. We can stop perfectionism in its tracks, however, with our own minds. We don't have to live up to anyone's expectations, even our own, if they are unrealistic. I have chosen not to write alot of things simply because I was afraid it wouldn't be good enough. That definitely is the voice of the oppressor. Now, I have decided to fight back and just write. Does anyone have ideas on how to fight back from the monster of perfectionism.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

how to comment - part 2

Yesterday's post about how to make a comment inspired me to write a paragraph or two about writing for the internet. Since I've started blogging, I've discovered that the Internet has its own style code.
1. First of all, you've got to keep it short and uncomplicated. As a former academic, this one is hard for me. I tend to write long, convoluted sentences with lots of asides and prepositional phrases. This may have worked when I was writing about how Hawthorne uses the Other in The Marble Faun, but it's kinda hard to read online. So, keep it pithy.
2. Also, its important to have a clear idea what you are writing about. Meandering and ambling along results from not having a clear point, and none of us has the patience to wade through that.
3. Finally, it's a good idea to revise.It's easy to get swept away when writing (and, in fact, I recommend it). However, sharing your most intimate secrets with the entire world is just a click away, so take the time to review your writing. This not only makes your writing better, it ensures you have time to think about if you want to share what yo've written with everyone.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

how to comment

I have had a request to write how to make a comment on this site. Apparently, some of you have had a problem making comments. First, you need to set up a Google account if you don't already have one. It's free and really easy to set up.You'll use the name of the Google account after you have typed in your comments. So, type up what you want to say to world and hit the comment button. Then enter your Google account info. Finally, you'll have to type in those nonsense letters that ensure you are a real person (If anyone knows what these are called, write me a comment.). After that, you should be set. Post me a comment and let me know if it works.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


I apologize for not writing yesterday - we are getting ready to move and our house is a mess of boxes and all my free time has been spent packing. Yesterday, we spent seven hours painting our new place lemon yellow and bright blue. It was an expensive endeavor, with all the paint and drop cloths and little rollers, and certainly it was a major time suck. I believe it was worth it, though, because we diminish ourselves when we try to live without beauty. Though most of us don't agree on what is beautiful, one thing we can agree on is that it can take a mediocre day fabulous and turn a bad day around. Beauty brings us into the present and being in the present is crucial for writing effectively. After all, how else can you remember enough detail to conjure up a picture in your reader's mind. So, buy some throw pillows. Spend a little extra on that orchid you keep seeing in the shop window. Beauty is worth it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

In dreams

I am a big believer that a great way to tap into unconscious desires and thoughts is by paying attention to dreams. Last night, I wrote a song in my dream. Does that mean I want to be a song writer? Maybe, maybe not, but it brings up an idea that I want to share. I thought the song was good in my dream (who knows what it would sound like in the waking hours). Problem was that I only remembered the song for a couple of minutes after I woke up. That's why I'm going to start keeping a notebook and pen beside the bed. Dreams often bring ideas for stories and solutions to problems that are illusive in the waking hours because we bypass the rational mind. A notebook would be a great place to jot these ideas down in the first waking moments so they aren't forgotten. I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

short assignments

Another writing tip from Anne Lamott's book Bird by Bird. is to give yourself short writing assignments. For example, it's pretty intimidating to sit down and say, "I'm going to write a book." However, it's fairly easy to decide you are going to write a page, a paragraph, or three words. Just get yourself started and the words will come. Usually.
Actually, this strategy works pretty well in every day life, as well. We are moving to a new apartment in a couple of weeks, and we have to pack up. I've been dreading packing all our rooms, but yesterday I decided to start with a book case. That's how I'm going to pack - one small project at a time. You can take Lamott's advice into your own life even if you don't write regularly. Just take it one small step at a time.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

know your audience

The other day, I posted a link to this blog on my Facebook page. This may sound like no big deal, but it was a big step for me. Alot of my friends on Facebook are casual acquaintances or people I haven't since since high school. Because of this, I wanted to impress my new audience. This is very hard to do if you are trying to write authentically at the same time. I've been going back and forth on whether or not to write things that would interest my first audience (mostly family and close friends) or to write with my Facebook friends in mind. I've found similar problems mentioned on other blogs (, so I know I'm not alone. I think I am going to try to simply write from the heart.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

recommendation day

One thing I wanted to do with this blog is to recommend different forms of creative work that stimulate my writing and, hopefully, will spark yours, too. I thought about starting with some specific bands and singers that really speak to my heart. However, today it might be more useful to talk about how I find new music. Personally, I mostly listen to rock and have found that  has excellent reviews of up-and-coming and little-known bands. In particular, their best of the year list in December weeds out some of the flash-in-the-pan bands in favor of more solid albums.
For listening, I've found that World Cafe on has fabulous music. I recently heard a new band called the Head and the Heart, and I am eager to check them out on iTunes. World Cafe runs from 7pm to 9 pm, Monday through Friday here in Boulder. Check the NPR site if you want to see when it comes on in your area.

Monday, July 18, 2011

more tips on meditating

As I said last week, I went to a meditation retreat this past weekend. It was my first retreat, and I went with some trepidation. After many hours of sitting and walking meditation, however,I felt a great sense of clarity. I was feeling fairly stressed, and this retreat was like hitting the reset button. Hopefully, this will be reflected in my writing. 
I learned some new techniques that I thought I would share with you. One I found particularly helpful for my writing has an acronym called RAIN. This is a technique to deal with feelings that get in the way of clear writing. R stands for recognize. First, it is important to recognize what feelings you are having. Next, A is for accept. Instead of trying to fight uncomfortable feelings, accept them. I is for inside, which is figuring out where in your body you feel the feeling. For example, you might feel a pulsing in your hands when you're sad or a knot in the stomache when you're angry. Stay with that sensation. N stands for non-identify. Basically, this means staying with the sensation until it dissolves.
Hopefully, RAIN will brighten your day and clarify your writing.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Opening the cracks

I've been thinking about alot of things lately. We are moving to a town an hour away from where we are now in two weeks. Maybe it's not a huge change, but it's a change anyways. This would be a great time to change my writing.
There's a Leonard Cohen song that goes " There's cracks in everything; that's how the light gets in." When changes occur, I generally can see a few of my own cracks. Everything gets shifted, and who I am, imperfections and all, becomes strikingly clear. Instead of trying to cover up the cracks, I'm going to use this time of change to try to embrace the light. I hope to pass on this new attitude in more positive writings. I hope to pass it on to you, too.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

meditating on good writing

I have signed up for a meditation retreat this weekend. I am a little nervous because it is an all day affair, and I have never meditated this many consecutive hours in my life. For those of you who have not tried meditation, I highly recommend it. It is, however, difficult for some like me, who is always thinking and planning (and like some people out there, I suspect), to settle down and try to focus on the breath. If you are having a bad day or are stuck on a writing assignment or are even just curious, meditation can hold the key. I know some people will avoid it because it sounds too New-Agey, but actually, meditation has been practiced by thousands of years by thousands of people. Just find yourself a chair or cushion (you don't have to invest in anything fancy). Sit in erect posture, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. Don't worry if it is hard. Alot of people find it difficult. Just proceed without judging yourself and refocus on the breath every time you catch yourself wandering. I'll bet if you start to practice every day, you'll see positive changes in your mood, stress level, and, yes, your writing.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

one more thing about the artist's way

I know I'm beating it to death, but I have one more writing tip from The Artist's Way. The book itself is rather cumbersome to read, but it is full of great ideas. I especially liked Cameron's technique called morning pages. I don't practice this everyday but whenever I do, I can tell the difference. The idea is to write 3 pages every morning (or afternoon or evening). It doesn't matter what you write. It can be writing like a journal or an actual story or 3 pages of "I don't know what to write." I usually write 3 pages of "woo-is-me, I'll never write anything good again." According to Cameron, this is common. Writing 3 pages a day is great practice and a great warm-up for whatever you are going to write that day. It's just another way to get your creativity rolling.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Getting unstuck, or my writing quirk

I am a little quirky when it comes to writing. Pens and paper are essential. The keyboard is just an accessesory. I know alot of people, maybe even most people, write on computer now, but I think better on paper. Try it!
This idea came from my mom's best friend, a former english teacher. I was sitting at the computer, maybe thirteen-years-old, and completely blocked on a school essay. The paper on Cinderella (don't ask me why we were writing on a kid's story) was due the next day. I had nothing. Compulsive student that I was, I was in a panic. My mom's friend gently prodded me to close the laptop and get out some notebook paper. Lo and behold! The sentences I wrote were like candy, each more delectable than the last. The whole paper flowed that way. So, I became a convert. Now I can't write without my spiral and a quality pen.
Do you have a writing quirk or little ritual that helps?

Friday, July 8, 2011

more comments on the Artist's Way

Yesterday, I wrote about a trick in the book The Artist's Way called an artist's date. It's a time to enrich your creativity by being around something that inspires you. As I was talking my daily walk, I passed by a couple of 12-year-old boys playing tennis. As I watched them, I realized that sports are a great way to connect to creativity. Every movement is inspired from some place beyond the rational mind. Although we usually see sports as separate from art (think of how high school kids divide up into groups), sports can help us get in touch with our inner artist. The rhythm of movement, creating the next move, the joy of play - all are an art of their own. So, think about taking your next artist's date  - at the gym!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Reading the Artist's Way

I've been rereading Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way and gleaning it for information to share with you about writing. For those of you who haven't read it, it's a book about how to find your inner artist. One of the most helpful things she suggests is artist's dates. Basically, it's a time you set aside for yourself where you go involve yourself in a creative activity. In Cameron's mind, you can use up creativity, and you need to refill it by participating in something that sparks your inner artist. This could be going to a movie, or a play, or a museum. It could even be a concert (if you saw my post yesterday, you'll understand why I'm excited about this one). It's anything that speaks to you. So, get out there and fill up your vessel of creativity!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

getting energized

I havn't been writing much lately (with the 4th of July holiday things have been busy). However, that doesn't mean it hasn't been a furtile time. I've been hanging out with friends listening to music, and I find that listening to music is a great way to inspire myself to write. Not only do the lyrics stimulate my poetic side, the rhythm of the music awakens something deep inside me that is creative. Creativity in one area easily spills over into another zone, like music turning into writing.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Moving by standing still

I recently came across the following passage:
In the pursuit of knowledge,
every day something is added.
In the practice of the Way,
every day something is dropped.
Less and less do you need to force things,
until finally you arrive at non-action.
When nothing is done,
nothing is left undone.
I think this passage by Lao-tzu could have a profound impact on writers and those who want to improve their writing. Writing is not about forcing things. Writing works best when it has flow. I try to achieve this by writing stream-of-consciousness style. When I write without stopping to think, my writing is not only more lyric, it is more passionate and easier to understand as well. There will always be plenty of time later to edit. There is definitely a place for revisions. However, when writing the first draft, write quickly, and write from the heart.