How do We Keep Improving our Writing Practice?

Writing Your Destiny picI spent over a decade of my life as a professional business writer. Add to that my years as a Sustainability Director at a non-profit in Chicago, which required that I do a lot of grant writing and create many types of marketing collateral,  I did a lot of writing.  Even during my years as a product engineer, writing was a big part of what I did to make money.  And during all these years, I appreciated editors.

I never had much problem in receiving criticism on ways my business writing could be improved.  It wasn’t difficult to keep a distance from my writing.

Creative writing is different for me, but probably shouldn’t be so much.

Many years ago, I took a few classes where my creative writing was critiqued in workshops, and I mostly hated the process.  I can’t really imagine getting a MFA where my creative writing would be workshopped and made to fit some mold.

Yet, I have to admit that I will need an editor for my novels.

I have been refining and editing drafts of my novels for years.

This year, I will finish the first novel, because my attitude about writing the novel is beginning to feel like it did when I was writing professionally for someone else.

I have stopped thinking of my creative writing as needing to be perfect or precious.  I want it to be beautiful, which I believe is a different focus.

Thought for today:  How do you view your writing as less precious, so that it can be edited and refined to be the best it could be?

Harnessing the Transformative Power of a Writer’s Retreat

Deutsch: Retreat
Deutsch: Retreat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you read or listen to many coaches for authors, you might notice them saying the same thing.

The first purpose of inspirational writing is to change yourself.

You may or may not agree with that idea, but you probably have noticed that often when we teach something to someone else, we are the ones who learn the most.  Personally, I have always found any kind of writing to be transformational.  Even writing computer user guides can teach you something about writing.

The process of organizing our thoughts or simply writing them, at the very least lets us know what our thoughts are.  Sometimes when we’re lucky, our writing creates beauty and wisdom and inspiration for others.

Most of all, writing is a form of self-expression.  What else could we be put upon this earth to do, if it is not to share our best self?  If writing calls to you, why not see where yours will take you this summer in an even more concentrated way and take part in a writer’s retreat?

You may already be planning on attending a writer’s retreat or creating your own.  Whether your retreat is 15 minutes or the whole summer, give yourself the chance to learn, grow and explore your unique self that you’re expressing.

In the next few posts, I’m going to offer some ideas on how to increase the expression of your self in a self-driven writer’s retreat. You deserve something that goes beyond your typical routine with writing and you can do that on your own.  However, if you want to include other writers, that’s great too!

Had you planned on giving yourself the gift of a writer’s retreat this season or this year?

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Do Others Discover Themselves Through Your Words?

The Perfume Maker, by Rodolphe Ernst
The Perfume Maker, by Rodolphe Ernst (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the spirit of this week’s focus on attraction, I’d like to share a story from my work with a socially responsible business owner.

Today I was working with an amazingly talented client who is a perfumer.  We’ve been working on expanding what I call his sustaining story.   As part of that work with me, he is collecting testimonials from people who have used his hand-made custom perfumes since he began selling them in 1998.  I have been so impressed with the many letters he has received.

This is an excerpt from one of my favorites that he shared with me today:

I believe I discovered your fragrance in San Francisco. . . I have been using it ever since. 

People say it smells like me : )

I cannot smell it on me anymore, I’m so used to it but everyone I know, knows it’s me.

I was at a party a few months back and an old friend of mine who I had not seen in years, said he knew I was there because he could smell me… so he sought me out to say hello, and I was in fact there! 

I often wonder what I will do if you and your perfume ever go away. I don’t ever want to be without it.  It’s become a part of me.

Thanks so much! You are quite simply brilliant.

Perfume urn in the Caron shop in Paris, France.
Perfume urn in the Caron shop in Paris, France. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He has many more letters like this from the people he says naturally appreciate what he creates.  One of his clients swears the scent attracted his future wife to him.  Another client smelled one of his perfumes on a passerby in Paris and followed the women until she told her how to get the perfume.

My impression is that his inspired fragrances help people to become and see more of themselves.

That’s the same effect that great writing has too.

It’s almost as if we wear the words of a great writer on our soul.

Aren’t there certain lines from poems, quotes and certain imaginary vistas that feel like they are ours as much as the author who wrote them?

Have you ever had the experience of someone finding themselves through the words you have written?

I have a strong intuition that your words just may be a perfume or elixir for the soul for your readers, regardless of whether you ever know it or not!

Do You Create Vision Boards? They Might HelpYour Writing

I’ve been sharing some fairly esoteric posts about energy, strengths, weaknesses and treasure recently.  I’m feeling an urge to shift gears just a bit and talk about something a little less lofty.  So, today, I’m writing about the connections between our closets and clothes, and editing our writing.

Let me start by saying that I’m a big fan of vision boards.  I’ve been doing them for years. There so much fun to make.  I have not tried Pinterest yet for fear of addiction. With that said, I also often find that vision boards don’t usually work for me in the way that I originally intended. They almost never help me with money, relationships, getting thinner or any of the big dreams that I add to the boards.  I wish they did. However, vision boards have a wonderful way of highlighting my desires as well as the inner resources that I think I need from the outer world, but already have within me.

For instance, in the last two weeks, I’ve been buying the spring fashion magazines and cutting out pictures of clothes to put on my fashion vision board.   When I pulled together my latest fashion vision board, it was full of beautiful, bright pink, orange and lime green edgy and eclectic clothes as well as some earthy feminine pieces.  The board looked so cute, and I was so proud of myself for pulling it together. Despite all the money I don’t have, I dreamt of making my fashion vision board into a reality as soon as possible.

Then, a series of wise observations occurred to me.

First, I noticed that I had a whole bunch of bright, eclectic, edgy and earthy clothes that I wasn’t wearing. Looking even more closely, I decided that part of my problem was that my clothes weren’t grouped together well.  I also had many clothes I didn’t wear.  The closet edits of Gail King in the latest edition of O Magazine also inspired me to make some changes.

You might be wondering if this is a post on the benefits of cleaning closets.   Please humor me, I’m going somewhere with this. The process of looking at my existing resources for living my fashion vision, helped me to notice that my novel’s problems correlated very closely with my formerly unwieldy closet:

  • I had never taken the time to organize all the pieces in my novel strategically.
  • I didn’t allow myself to gratefully acknowledge what pieces, scenes, characters I loved about my novel.
  • I hadn’t grouped scenes together in a way that made the story flow better.
  • I was afraid to throw anything out because I was too worried about my word count, and wondered if I’d have any story left after editing.

My new vision board for my novel looks quite a bit like a conventional storyboard, with the difference that it’s focused on what I really love about my own book. Focusing on what I love about my novel has helped me immensely to respect it more. Organizing a writing vision board is also very good preparation for an upcoming writer’s conference that I’m going to attend one in Madison in mid-April where I need to know pivotal scenes in the novel, the climax of the story, and a synopsis that is clean and easy to understand.

My “love your novel” vision board process is not a guarantee that a novel will be any good, but it is a much more interesting way to make the process of fine tuning and editing the novel fun.   It’s also taught me that we should look at our other dreams and visions for clues about our creativity.  My fashion vision board reflected back to me that I want to create a boldly colorful, eclectic and slightly edgy, earthy and feminine fantasy novel that expresses my true personal style, and that I have existing resources to do this.

Don’t know if you do vision boards, but you might take a look at any you have created recently or in the past and see if they tell you anything new about what your writing wants to express through you.

When You’re Bored, Embarassed and Uncomfortable – Write!

Spending  three days at a basketball tournament with a bunch of junior high boys and their parents is not my idea of a great time.  For some people this is a precious time to be treasured forever.  For me, being a sports mom is part of the marathon/sprint that is modern parenting that I probably would avoid if I could.  Yet, this weekend has been one of those occasions where I had unexpected opportunities to open my mind and improve my writing, that at first didn’t feel like moments to be celebrated.

By nature, we all tend to stay in our comfort zones unless we allow ourselves to try new situations.  Of course, as writers, there are times that we need to shake up our view of the world.  

This weekend I was reminded how boring, embarassing, and uncomfortable situations can strengthen our writing.  Here are some ideas that can transform these kinds of situations for you as a writer:

  1. Write down the details of some situation that you hate, and imagine if that situation would never end.  While I was listening to way too many kids running and screaming in a swimming pool that sounded like an echo chamber, I got the idea for adding a situation where people are tortured by never being able to turn off the noise.  I may or may not use this idea in my novel, but it made an annoying situation into a more amusing experience. 
  2. Talk to people you wouldn’t think to talk to and listen to their story.  Today, I met a young woman who is about to graduate college with a degree in Spanish and Political Science.  It turned out that she’s also a lifelong writer and poet.  We ended up sharing the stories of our novels and creative work. As I told her the story of my novel, she suggested that I listen to a Uriah Heep song – Tales.  It was one of those moments that I felt she was telling me something I was meant to hear.  You never know where you will meet a “wizard” who can give you a key to growing your creative work!
  3. Leave behind expectations of which people to connect with and those you can’t.  Sometimes we have to be patient so that we can gain the trust of those around us.  Just showing up counts.  This weekend, I heard stories of struggle and heartbreak that reinforced what I already know but sometimes forget that essentially we are all people just doing our best to live well.  

Sometimes, in today’s polarized world we have so much trouble seeing past politics and even lifestyle to see the common struggles we share.  Take the chance to be one of those writers who can’t be easily labeled. If you’re bored, embarassed or uncomfortable with a situation or experience in your life– congratulations, you have golden material for your writing.