Your Writing Practice in 2016

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Life was not always a trip to the beach in 2015, but we did visit several of them last summer!

If there’s one thing that was reinforced in 2015 for me, it is that life is very short, and frankly that writing is NOT everything.

Love is more important than writing. Friendship is more important than writing. World peace is more important than writing.

However, in my opinion, writing is one of the best practices for bringing enchantment into our  life and the lives of others in a lasting way.

We can share beautiful ideas that live long after we’re gone.

People who we will never meet, can read our creations for long after we’ve left this plane of existence.

Some people literally save lives with their writing.  Human and earth creatures.

So, we want to make sure that what we write has a positive impact.

Except sometimes we don’t write what we should.

In my case, I have written some things that I regret.  Scathing letters to people who annoyed me.  Articles that were perhaps too cliché or trite.  Or marketing brochures that were not all that clever. My writing skills need a lot of improvement in order to be able to write the novels I want to finish this year.

This year, I want to focus on improving my writing, mostly my creative writing.  I’m hoping some of you will come with me on this adventure during 2016.

Today’s question to ponder:

What part of your writing practice do you want to improve this year, if any?

Reading Vs. Writing Vs. Living

Hildegard reading and writing
Hildegard reading and writing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time balancing my love of reading and writing with the art of living well.  I have always loved to read. I prefer reading to writing, though I can’t live without writing either.  Unfortunately, I’m not quite as blessed as Hildegard of Bingen as shown to the right receiving holy guidance as only a saint can.  

To this day, years after beginning my journey as a writer, I feel so lucky that I have found ways to make a living as a writer, and live a life of imagination. At the same time, I have often felt a bit guilty about working with thoughts and ideas as a business. I tend to admire farmers, construction workers, marine biologists, athletes and anyone who spends a lot of time immersed in the “real” world as people doing real work.  I sometimes wonder if it’s indulgent to be a writer when so many people in the world have to do mind-numbingly difficult physical labor.  It almost seems wrong that I can garden for fun and take yearly road trips to beautiful places.

But fortunately, I have been reading some great books lately, that remind of why we need writers in the world.   Through the writing of others, we get to inhabit other worlds and get a sense of what it is/was like to live in other places and other times either through reading or writing. I enjoy reading the blogs of so many of you — all with your unique perspectives on life, and your contribution to making the world a better place.

As I considered how to approach Writing Your Destiny this year, I decided to pick a theme for the year that seems important to so many of us – Integration

To find a way to live a life we love, we must integrate all our disparate parts.

One way I am going to integrate this year is to write more about other authors, and the importance of writing our truth.  There are a few books that I just finished reading that I am eager to share with you in the next few days and weeks.

Here’s to integrating your passions into the most meaningful life you can create this year!

Daily Contemplation:

Are you struggling with integrating the disparate parts of your life?

What needs integration in your life?

How do you integrate reading and writing into your life?

Reading Your Destiny

Dune, by Frank Herbert
Dune, by Frank Herbert (Photo credit: elycefeliz)

Though I don’t discuss this often, “reading your destiny” may be just as important as writing your destiny for some of us.  In one of her recent posts, Jenni Corrigan of News of the Times, asked the question what are your five favorite books.  That’s one of those questions most writers have been asked at one time or another in their life.

Another question that I remember being asked on college and graduate school applications has been what books influenced you the most and why. These have always been tough questions for me because I love to read so many different kinds of books.

You can tell I’m a little uptight about our upcoming move to a new home, because I was up from midnight to 2pm trying to answer this question of my favorite books.

Cover of "The Prophet"
Cover of The Prophet

It seems so arbitrary to choose only 5 books, though there were three books that I kept coming back to — The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran and the Tao Te Ching and the Bible.  Spiritual wisdom has always been compelling to me.

Yet, there are so many other kinds of books that I have loved at different periods of my life everything from Dune by Frank Herbert in high school to Introduction to Quantum Physics in college to Candide by Voltaire in my thirties and more recently Eaarth by Bill McKibben.

So, having insomnia last night, I started writing lists of all the books that I’ve ever loved, and creating all kinds of ways to narrow the books down to only the top five.  I still ended up failing to find only five favorites.  Still, it ended up being a great exercise that I would recommend to you, especially if you’re having trouble going to sleep.

Daily Contemplation:

What are your favorite books?

Why do they mean so much to you?

Exercise:

If you have some time, enjoy this exercise as a path to self-appreciation for the literary road you have travelled.

Look at the most important/influential books in the different decades or periods of your life.

Alternatively, or in addition, choose books by categories of interest.  In my case, my favorite categories of books are Spiritual wisdom, Magical novels (not necessarily pure fantasy), Classics (a broad category for me that ranges from Les Miserables to Middlesex), Questing Books, Philosophy and Earth-Loving.

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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Writer Your Destiny in the Way of Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius, emperor over the last generat...
Marcus Aurelius, emperor over the last generation of classicists and himself a classicist. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most of us have heard of Marcus Aurelius, the famous ruler of the Roman Empire, who is also one of the most well known philosophers of all time.

He is renowned as a wise philosopher king and for being the author of a book of Meditations written from the mid 160’s to his death in 180 AD.  I could probably spend the next couple years quoting him  every day and there would always be something fresh to say about his observations.

I hadn’t really thought much about how Meditations came to be until I read a biography,  Marcus Aurelius by Frank McLynn.  In this lengthy and well-researched biography,  I was most fascinated with the idea that the Meditations are believed to have been written as something of a spiritual practice.

Apparently, it was a common practice in the ancient world to write personal notes on a daily basis as an aid for self-improvement or spiritual progress.  These notes were NOT intended to have been read by anyone but the person writing them.

Interestingly, Marcus Aurelius wrote his notes in Greek, the philosopher’s language, rather than Latin which would require discipline on his part.  McLynn cites Socrates, Heraclitus, Diogenes and Epictetus as his main influences for the Meditations.

This is a sampling of Marcus Aurelius quotes from www.brainyquote.com:

Anything in any way beautiful derives its beauty from itself and asks nothing beyond itself. Praise is no part of it, for nothing is made worse or better by praise.
Because a thing seems difficult for you, do not think it impossible for anyone to accomplish.
Adapt yourself to the things among which your lot has been cast and love sincerely the fellow creatures with whom destiny has ordained that you shall live.
A noble man compares and estimates himself by an idea which is higher than himself; and a mean man, by one lower than himself. The one produces aspiration; the other ambition, which is the way in which a vulgar man aspires.

When I read this idea, I thought this is different from trying to write something for publication or journaling.  It’s writing encouraging ideas for your eyes only.

To some extent I have been doing this for many years, but had never thought that this as an ancient spiritual practice.

In a way, any of us who practice this type of practice are writing our destiny in the tradition of Marcus Aurelius.  Rather fascinating lineage of writing, isn’t it?

If you were to write these types of meditations, who would your main influences be for your personal philosophy on life?

Asking for Help and Ray Bradbury

Photo of Ray Bradbury.
Photo of Ray Bradbury. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is the second post in a series on creating quantum leaps.  I can’t help combining worldly news with these posts.   Sadly, today, we heard of Ray Bradbury’s passing.

My original goal for today’s post was to write about how important it is to pray and ask for help.

With Ray Bradbury’s death, may he rest in peace, I decided to get some help today myself and flipped open to one of my favorite books on writing: Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury.

With what I believe was divine guidance, this is what I opened to:

So again, the three signs.  Put them together any way you wish.  WORK RELAXATION DON’T THINK Once separated out.  Now, all three together in a process.  For if one works, one finally relaxes and stops thinking.  True creation occurs then and only then.

But work, without right thinking, is almost useless.  I repeat myself, but, the writer who wants to tap the larger truth in himself must reject the temptations of Joyce or Camus or Tennessee Williams, as exhibited in literary reviews.  He must forget the money waiting for him in mass circulation.  He must ask himself, “What do I really think of this world, what do I love, fear, hate?” and begin to pour this on paper.

Then, through the emotions, working steadily, over a long period of time, his writing will clarify; he will relax because he thinks right and he will think even righter because he relaxes.  The two will become interchangeable. At last he will begin to see himself.  At night, the very phosphorescence of his insides will throw shadows on the wall.  At last the surge, the agreeable blending of work, not thinking and relaxation will be like the blood in one’s body, flowing, because it has to flow, moving because it has to move.

What are we trying to uncover in this flow? The one person irreplaceable to the world, of which there is no duplicate. You. As there was only one Shakespeare, Moliere, Dr. Johnson, so you are that precious commodity, the individual man, the man we all democratically proclaim, but who, so often, gets lost, or loses himself in the shuffle.

How does one get lost?

Through incorrect aims, as I have said.  Through wanting literary fame too quickly.  From wanting money too quickly.  If only we would remember,  fame and money are gifts given only after we have gifted the world with our best, our lonely, our individual truths.  Now we must build a better mousetrap, heedless if a path is beaten to our door.

This may seem like the wrong kind of advice for producing quantum leaps in writing.  In our society, we generally equate quantum leaps with fame and money. If you’re deeply honest are any of your truest dreams about money and fame? Don’t they usually involve living and expressing your personal truth?

Perhaps, this is the perfect summer to take Ray’s advice for following any of your truest dreams:

  • WORK
  • RELAX
  • DON’T THINK

Might you produce a quantum leap in your life if you applied this approach in your life?

Thanks Ray for your help today!

Where is Your Writing Taking You?

Shell Spiral
Shell Spiral (Photo credit: Theen …)

There are many places that our writing can take us:

  • New worlds (fantasy or real)
  • New work – assignments and projects we might not have been able to imagine
  • Discovering we have a tribe of followers of our ideas
  • Discovering no one resonates with our ideas
  • Deeper into our soul, whether anyone reads our writing or not
  • Into despair even though we have many readers
  • Closer to God
  • Farther away from God
  • Stuck in our mind
  • More deeply into the heart of our life
  • Into our own world that keeps us separated from others
  • Into a shared world that brings us closer together with others

And more . . .

Our writing destination is both a choice and an unplanned spiral journey expanding us and often bringing us back to a focal point defined by the greater part of our soul.

Where is your writing taking you now?

Where would you like your writing to take you?

Do you have a choice?

Celebrate where you are going, even if it’s not obvious to you in this moment.