Category Archives: The Healing Effects of Writing

Miracles Can Happen: Update on Ginger

Ginger on June 30th – she could barely hold her head up here, a few days later she couldn’t stand. We had to carry her everywhere.

Today seems like a good time to give you an update on dear Lhasa Apso, Ginger for those of you who had read some of my posts in June about her illness.

I wish I was a better photographer, so I could show the transformation of our little dog Ginger from June to July to now.  Her healing journey has been amazing!

As some of you will recall, I asked for your prayers back in June because Ginger looked liked this and frankly much worse.

She had all the signs of a dying dog.  She wasn’t eating or able to stand, she lay down with her eyes open for days on end.  Her whole body was shaking violently, and we couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her.

Her illness happened about two weeks before we had scheduled to go on vacation in the Appalachians.  From the way things were going, we had thought she wouldn’t be alive when we went on vacation.

Back in June, when I asked for your prayers and kind thoughts, my boys and I held all night vigils.  We slept next to her on the floor, the place she was most comfortable.

And to our great happiness and the surprise of our veterinarian, the medicines started to work.  He’s still not completely sure what she had.  He thinks it was encephalitis – swelling of her brain.  It could have been something else as well, we don’t know.

At first, Ginger began to be able to sit up, then start walking in a wobbly way.  By the time we started our vacation, she was walking and eating well enough for us to feel safe leaving her at the veterinarian hospital.  We had considered taking her with us, but thought it might be tougher on her health than being where she could just relax and keep recovering.  So, we called the animal hospital every few days to check in on her.  She was doing fine!

There’s life in Ginger’s eyes again!

This is what Ginger looks like now.She may be on certain medication for the rest of her life, it’s not clear yet.

What is clear to me, is that we are blessed that she recovered.

I wanted to share her story with you, just to say never give up until you must.

There are times when all our actions and all our prayers don’t create the results we want.  But sometimes they do, and it’s always worth fighting for that possibility.

Thank you to everyone who sent your love and healing energy while Ginger was sick.  I’m convinced it made quite a big difference in her recovery.  When you need prayers or kind thoughts from me, don’t be afraid to ask for them.

Here are a few more photos just because I’m so happy that the great Spirit of Life has given Ginger some more time with us!

Ginger standing and ready for action.
I was trying to create some more cute photos of Ginger, but every time I clicked the camera she looked away. She’s cuter than she looks in my pictures.

Creating an Enchanted Oasis in a World Where Violence Too Often Occurs

Enchanted 1955

I had planned to share a post on symbols of enchantment today, but with the latest tragic gun violence in Colorado last night, it seemed appropriate to talk about the challenges of daring to live an enchanting life when we live in a world that is filled with injustice, tragedy, and senseless actions of the few that affect the many.

Whether we see senseless violence in the world or ongoing injustices, we can feel that creating peace and beauty for ourselves is frivolous or a way of burying our heads in the sand.

I felt a tinge of guilt for my own prosperity when I was reading Behind the beautiful forevers Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity  a book by the Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, Katherine Boo, about life in the slums of India.  She spent four years observing Annawadi, a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport.  As I read the book, I couldn’t help but be struck by the injustice of so much wealth juxtaposed next to such dire poverty.  For most of us, the way forward is not to all become impoverished but bring balance to our abundance and prosperity.

Yesterday, I heard a riveting radio program that talked about research that has shown that countries where income inequality is high experience increases in a large number of undesirable effects including mental illness, while countries with greater income balance experience more of the good things we all want. In my other blog, I wrote about the increasing amounts of data pointing to the societal problems caused from income inequality in America and other countries around the world.   You might be surprised to find how poorly America shows up on the income inequality scale, or maybe you wouldn’t if you have been paying attention to what has been happening in this country during the last 30 years.

We are living in a time when the questions for all of us include:

  1. How do we keep our heart and mind open to the injustices and tragedies in the world, at the same time that we allow ourselves to experience and create enchantment in our own lives?
  2. Can we use positive thinking and prayers to change the inequities in the world around us?
  3. Is there a change we feel called to make in our own lifestyle?
  4. How can we improve lives for ourselves and help others when we live in less than ideal cultures and social systems?
  5. Can we do something to change the inequalities in our own world?

When I hear or read about a tragic event like the shooting in Colorado, I choose to focus not only on the causes of the senseless violence, but on the outpouring of the kindness of strangers to those who have been hurt.  There is so much goodness in the world, and we need to remember that too.

The enchanted symbols that I’ll return to discussing tomorrow can help us realize that our questions are the same ones that humans have struggled to answer for millennia.  Perhaps seeking a more enchanting life individually can lead to new understandings of how to create a better world for all of us.

Energy Booster for Writers

writing (Photo credit: found_drama)

This is the final post in my current series of blogs about taking the brakes off of your personal energy and innate goodness.

Today, I am sharing ideas about why it matters for writers to understand our personal energy, and to be aware of the type of energy that we’re putting into our writing.

Nowadays, most of us are bombarded with information and writing that is packed with different kinds of energy.

Some communications are uplifting, funny and inspiring.  Others are angry, demeaning, fearful.  Of course, many pieces of writing are boring because the energy of emotion is not present in them at all!

Your writing has an energy to it that often reflects the kind of day that you’re having.  This doesn’t mean you should only write when your energy is “good”. Sometimes, the “negative” energy is just what a story needs to create drama and interest.  So, it’s not necessary that your energy becomes all sunshine and roses.  However, it’s helpful to track your energy over the course of time to notice how the type of energy you are experiencing and creating affects your writing.

south to north view of chicagoland area
south to north view of chicagoland area (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Energy Boosters for Writers worksheet is something I’m putting together for my 7 Elixirs class for Writers that I’ll going to be offering this fall in the Chicago area.  It’s based on the writing coaching work that I’ve done in the last few years.

I’ve noticed that finishing projects often requires that we manage our energy for the toughest part of writing which is when we are refining our work.  This is the time when we throw out good and sometimes great ideas for the sake of a story or grant application or marketing brochure or memoir.

This worksheet may not make complete sense, because it’s out of context to the rest of the course that I’ll be giving.  Yet, I’m sharing it anyway because it’s rather self-explanatory, and shows you a different way of managing your time and energy in conjunction with your writing.

Energy Booster for Writers Worksheet

Hope you’ve enjoyed this series of blogs!  Tomorrow, we’ll be back to some literary musings.

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Novel Excerpt Monday

Last week, I offered up an excerpt from the opening of the book.  This week, I wanted to share a poem/song that comes near the end of the second chapter called The Chant of the House of Verdish.

I’m also including an audio of the piano music that goes along with this.  I’m not much of a piano player, the piano is out of tune, and my recorder is terrible, nevertheless, I thought some of you might appreciate the haunting melody or somewhat creepy music as my kids describe it.

Playing the piano and creating songs and even just riffs to go along with the book has helped me to feel the story and pulled together the mood of the book for me.  You might want to play with this idea of creating music for your writing, and notice if there are songs that your writing wants you to create.

(Note:  The House of Verdish is a tree chanting this song, and sometimes I play this music an octave lower, which makes it quite eery, especially with my old piano).

Chant of the House of Verdish

Out to misty fjords alone

Where lonely stars once brightly shone

We sing our song of peace and love

Our strength, our hope

For all above.

For our lady and her lord,

Many a Listener took the sword.

Those our champion of the deep,

Staying awake when most did sleep.

On our spirals they did fly,

The dying stars for them did cry.

The sacred fire in twisted days,

Melted the door of fog and haze.

Travelers old mad mighty deeds,

While lone kind peace planted her seeds.

In places cold where darkness crept,

The crystal guardian above us wept.

Out to misty fjords alone,

Where lonely stars once brightly shone.

We sing our song of peace and love.

Our strength, our hope.

For all above.

It is time to take your place,

To save the road of time and space.

Into your heart we sing our song,

So you may always be strong.

One you cannot see or hear,

Is close to you and oh so near.

Trust in the words of long ago,

Waiting for you we did lie low.

Time has come for you to know,

The true, the humble, guard the glow.

Only when waters blue turn black,

Will we remember what we lack.

Out to misty fjords alone

Where lonely stars once brightly shone

We sing our song of peace and love

Our strength, our hope

For all above.

Course Corrections in the Stories We Write

Yesterday I wrote about the elixirs of a good life that I’m teaching my sons, this year, which are

  1. Blossoming – finding the ability to evolve, and in some sense be reborn every day to the gift of a new day
  2. Cooling – knowing when to cool down and calm our passions and energies
  3. Warming – realizing when we have become too cool and need to warm up
  4. Attracting –  allowing experiences, people and gifts to come to us simply by being ourself
  5. Purifying – letting go
  6. Giving – sharing our life energy, talents and gifts
  7. Receiving – acknowledging all of the good that is coming into our lives from all around us

When it comes to living a good life we want our children and ourselves to master these energetic processes that allow us to make course corrections to our lives.

However, these “elixirs” have a different value when we look at stories we develop as writers.  More than likely your story will include characters who do not make these kind of course corrections, or when they do, something unexpected happens.

Robert McKee, author of Story describes this idea in another way:

The substance of a story is the gap that splits open between what a human being expects to happen when he takes an action and what really does happen; the rift between expectation and result, probability and necessity.

Essentially, we like to read stories where our characters fail to make the right course corrections, because all of us at one time or another know this experience of expecting a certain outcome from our actions and receiving something very different.  There are times in life when we don’t know how to proceed and seeing characters struggling with problems that are similar or worse than our own can be therapeutic and sometimes life changing.

Once again quoting McKee:

The source of all art is the human psyche’s primal, pre-linguistic need for the resolution of stress and discord through beauty and harmony, for the use of creativity to revive a life deadened by routine, for a link to reality through our instinctive, sensory feel for the truth.  Like music and dance, painting and sculpture, poetry and song, story is first, last and always the experience of aesthetic emotion — the simultaneous encounter of thought and feeling . . . Life on its own without art to shape it, leaves you in confusion and chaos, but aesthetic emotion harmonizes what you feel to give you a heightened awareness and a sureness of your place in reality.  In short, a story well told gives you the very thing you cannot get from life: meaningful emotional experience.   In life, experiences become meaningful with reflection in time.  In art, they are meaningful now, at the instant they happen.

That means if we are writing “true” stories, they will necessarily have characters that do not blossom immediately.  Our characters will lose their cool  in ways that hurt them or they won’t show warmth when they know they should.  The characters in our stories may attract the attention or love they desire, but generally there will be obstacles to their desires.  Often a strong plot relies on at least one character resisting letting go of something or someone.   Sometimes this will work out well, at other times it will be tragic. Memorable characters like a Scrooge that doesn’t know how to give or receive love make a story work.

What are the  failed course corrections  that make your main character memorable? Like I’ve written before in this blog, it is often our failure to achieve our desires or live our best life that make us best qualified to write great stories.

Tomorrow, I’d write about how I disagree with Mckee’s when he says it’s only possible to find meaning in our lives retrospectively.  In fact, finding meaning in the moment is one of the best ways to manage our energy, and keep up our writer’s spirit.

What do you think?  Have you ever thought about the course corrections that your characters are making in your stories? Do you agree with McKee’s ideas about story?  His book  Story, Substance, Structure, Style, and The Principles of Screenwriting is a great book for all writers.  I’m not a screenwriter, but I love the way his ideas help me to expand my concept of what it means to write stories.

Recommendation for The Way by Emilio Estevez, Starring Martin Sheen

Click on the picture to see the movie website and preview

Last night while I was looking at Blockbuster for a movie to rent this weekend, I came across an Indie film written and directed by Emilio Estevez called The Way, starring Martin SheenAfter watching it today, I am so glad that I took a chance on this film.

The Way was filmed entirely in France and Spain along the Way of St. James, also known as the “El Camino de Santiago”.  It’s a beautifully filmed movie.

Given that one of the supporting characters is a writer with writer’s block and the spiritual messages of the film, it’s no wonder that I would love the movie.  Being at a point where I need to decide which road to take in certain areas of my life, I found this film to be a profound reminder that the journey matters so much in life, and it’s so easy to get caught up in our lives and miss what truly matters.

My youngest son watched the movie with me, and it almost felt like the two of us were on the journey through France and Spain.   I visited France and Spain while living in Germany for several months in 1989, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been to Europe.  Both of my sons have traveled with me all over America, but we have yet to travel outside of America together. After watching this film, I’m considering taking the two of them with me on a pilgrimage someday to see the places the film so beautifully captures.

If you haven’t seen or heard about the film, I suggest you rent it.

P.S. I was greatly amused by Emilio Estevez’s twitter profile for the movie:

Actor/Writer/Director and Winemaker.  There is no Tiger Blood or Adonis DNA in my body.  However, currently I do have a tapeworm.

Have to love his sense of humor!

Your Most Important Resource as a Writer

'Books' photo (c) 2007, Lasse Havelund - license: would you say is your most important resource as a writer?

We writers come from every type of background imaginable — rich, poor, middle class, rural, urban, suburban, European, American, Chinese, African, Australian, well-loved, disregarded, respected, disrespected, great childhood, horrible childhood, great life experiences, miserable life experiences, leaders, followers, idealists, nihilists.  We’re all uniquely blended.

What do all great writers have in common?

All fascinating writers find a way to share their truth in a compelling way.

That doesn’t mean a personal truth is THE TRUTH.  Unfortunately, words and writing can also cause great harm.

Hitler’s truth in Mein Kampf (or My Struggle) influenced thousands if not millions of people to fan the flames of hatred, discrimination and ultimately created a devastating world war.  Later in the twentieth century, the words of the little red book by Mao Zedong brainwashed millions of Chinese later in the twentieth century.  Many of us don’t realize that people died under persecution from Mao than Hitler.

I read some of Mao’s words from the little red book on Wikipedia today:

A man in China is usually subjected to the domination of three systems of authority [political authority, family authority and religious authority]…. As for women, in addition to being dominated by these three systems of authority, they are also dominated by the men (the authority of the husband). These four authorities – political, family, religious and masculine – are the embodiment of the whole feudal-patriarchal ideology and system, and are the four thick ropes binding the Chinese people, particularly the peasants.

On the surface, these words would seem to liberating words, especially for poor women.  Interestingly, in some ways, the movement away from external authority is precisely what has happened in America since the 1960’s.  However, in China’s case these ideas were used to disrupt the freedom of the Chinese to choose their work, or to practice religious freedom or bond with their family.

My oldest son is currently reading two books, one about Mao and Stalin.  To some extent, he inspired this post.   He asked me the other day if there something was wrong with him because he wanted to read about evil dictators.  I told him that it’s important to read about those who distort the truth. It’s important to read the lies or partial truths that have been used to enslave people in other times so that we can learn discernment in our own day.

It seems that America is in the middle of its own struggle to discern the truth for how to move forward as a country, with different sides painting the other as a villain, and emphasizing lightning rod issues that are primarily used by politicians to cause division, not understanding and ultimately serve special interests.

In storytelling, it’s entertaining to have villains.  In real life, polarized thinking can lead to disaster. So, it’s important how we as writers develop our personal truth.

Writing is a terrible and wonderful way to discover our truth.   It can lead us to face our own darkness so that we can write the truth.  Sometimes we see dark characters in our creative works represent way too well the sides of our own selves that we’d rather not see.  Other times we realize that the light that comes through our writing can inspire others to see a piece of “The Truth” through the lens of our personal stories or experience.

In my view, there is only one way to develop truth as a writer, and that is to consistently practice writing, and sharing it with others.  There are exceptions, but most of us need to refine our truth.  Blogging is a one way of doing this that I wished that I had started sooner.  Blogging every day, with as fresh of an idea about your Writing Your Destiny is stretching my skills as a writer, which is good for me.

Of course, it’s a vulnerable thing to share our truth, because not everyone who reads our words will resonate with them. Be kind to yourself as you take chances with your writing.

Remember that no matter what type of writing you do, you can be a light in the world if you’re aligned with truth.  With so many distortions of the truth in politics, the media and manipulative stories told across the globe, the world needs writers who share the truth, especially the kind of writer that speaks to our common struggles in a way that promotes clarity and peaceful discussion and yes, disagreement.

May we all use our most important resource as a writer to be a voice for truth in our time whether we’re writing a cook book, a poem, a novel, a memoir or a manifesto on a new global economic system.  Our vision of the truth is needed.