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?

Reading to Improve Writing and Life

stephen king on writingFor the last several months, I’ve been reading, writing and coaching a lot more, but sadly blogging a lot less.

So, I wanted to share some insights from some of the books that I was reading.  Today, I’d like to discuss the insights I received from On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King.

This an older book, and a somewhat odd book for me to read.  I don’t like the horror genre much.  I tried to read The Stand and it scared me too much.  However, I very much felt inspired by King’s book on writing.

If you’re looking for a book to encourage you to take a long view of your writing career, this is a good one.  He also gives some recommendations on how to get started and perhaps to get an agent. I also liked that Stephen King doesn’t use outlines.  I probably need outlines, but I somehow like that Stephen King proves that you don’t need to use an outline to write best-selling novels.

The funny thing about this book is that the way it helped the most, was that it inspired me to start exercising every day.

Not only does King write and read every day, at least according to this book he walks 4 miles every day.  I decided to try a 4 mile plan.  I’ve been walking or cycling 4 miles a day for a month and I have so much more energy for writing and the rest of my life.

Daily Contemplation:

Have you read any books lately that have helped you with your writing or life?

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?

Going from Failure to Failure Without Losing your Enthusiasm

Prime Minister Winston Churchill gives the &qu...
Prime Minister Winston Churchill gives the “Victory” sign to crowds in London on Victory in Europe Day. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many writers, including myself, have our ups and downs in terms of our livelihood and craft.  I’ve found that often our greatest growth happens during times when our efforts may appear to be faltering to everyone including ourselves.

Earlier this year, on the occasion of my birthday, my brother sent a lovely letter to support my path as a writer.

It occurred to me that some of what he wrote to me might apply to many of you as well, so here is an excerpt of a pep talk from my younger brother to me, reframed for you my fellow writers.

Dear fellow writer:

You are capable of great things and I wish you all the success in your endeavors, even if I don’t entirely understand them. 

I have been reading a book entitled “First Thing Every Morning, Turn Your Life Around One Day at a Time” to give me ideas and inspiration.  One quote I read reminded me of you and your present work:

“As long as we are persistent in our pursuit of our deepest destiny, we will continue to grow.  We cannot choose the day or time when we will fully bloom.  It happens in its own time.”

– Denis Waitley

Winston Churchill said, “Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm”.  Ben Franklin said, “If you want to be remembered when you’re dead, write something worth reading or do something worth writing about.”

Writing has always been your greatest gift so use it well.  I know you can write great things and, regardless of the compensation, be entirely fulfilled.  I wish you great fulfillment, great friends, a loving spirit and God’s peaceful assurance that you are on the right path.  Forget much, treasure the moment and forgive freely, not so much for others as for yourself.

We all need someone who supports us when times are challenging, and I appreciate these words of encouragement from my brother.

May you find deep support for your writing and great fulfillment in all your work!

Daily Contemplation:

Do you have anyone in your life who supports your writing? If so, what might they tell you now to keep you encouraged?

Have you ever had to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm?

How do you stay on the “right” path with your writing?

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Beginnings in Writing and Life

The way a book begins matters.  It’s the same for a journey of any sort.

The first lines of a novel give us a sense of the style of the author, the storyline of the plot and often the genre we will be reading.

In the same way that a writer works diligently at creating and revising to create a great beginning of a work or story, we ought to spend some time making the beginnings of our journeys something special.

Daily contemplation:

If you are starting a trip, a project, a family or any other beginning in life, have you put as much attention to the beginning of your journey as you are to the final destination?

This is part of the Enchanted Journey series written back in July and August 2012.  

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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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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.