Writers’ Wednesday: Birth

This seems a fitting piece of verse for today, dedicated to writers everywhere.

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Reading in any amount is good therapy

“And when I read, and really I do not read so much, only a few authors, – a few men that I discovered by accident – I do this because they look at things in a broader, milder and more affectionate way than I do, and because they know life better, so that I can learn from them.”
― Vincent van Gogh

Who of us couldn’t use more of this perspective? Well said, Vincent; well said. Rest in peace, brother.

Writers’ Wednesday

Madeleine L’Engle on Writing

One of my long-time favorite authors–going back four decades now!–and writing mentor (via her written words) always has such sage advice for writers. In fact an article titled “Words of Wisdom” in the June 2002 edition of The Writer was information collected and reprinted from the book I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog–Madeleine L’Engle: Herself–Reflections on a Writing Life (published the previous year). Here is a small excerpt of her advice to writers taken from that article. I think it is timeless and spot on. Not that I always follow it, but it’s great to aim for!

Three Recommendations

Read at least an hour a day. I try to read something I feel I ought to read for most of the time and then for a little bit of the time I read something just for sheer fun. [I do just the opposite these days, although for a long time it was the reverse.] Fun reading is important, and I think we underestimate reading for fun…

Part of your technique of writing is built by writing, and with this you should also have fun. I do think that keeping an honest, unpublishable journal is helpful. Include what you are thinking, what you are feeling, what you are responding to. Include what you are angry about that you heard on the news. Don’t talk about the news in terms of politics but in terms of your own life. What does this mean to you?

Write every day.

 

 

Writers’ Wednesday

Long day. Late night. Tired brain. But you, tireless reader, shall not be left without something to peruse since I have committed to providing you with grist for your writing mill. I’ll keep it short and sweet. It’s my three all-time favorite books about writing.

Madeleine L’Engle: Herself—Reflections on a Writing Life, compiled by Carole F. Chase

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott

Freeing Your Creativity: A Writer’s Guide—How to write more and better than you ever thought you could, Marshall J. Cook

These gems are time tested classics for me and were instrumental in pushing me past thinking about writing (although I did journal, naturally) to actually writing. I hope at least one of them will be both inspirational and instructive in helping you take the next step in your unique writing journey.

Writers’ Wednesday

Are you a writer? If you journal, blog, write poems, lyrics, short stories, fan fiction, columns in your weekly parish bulletin, organization newsletter, or maybe even in your area magazine–if you do any of these things then you are a writer. You don’t have to have published novels, short stories, non-fiction books and magazine or periodical pieces (although if you have, you can mentor the rest of us.) Having said that, I want to encourage my fellow writers–and you know who you are!–to do whatever it takes to write more and see where it takes them. Maybe you’ll be motivated to start a blog. Or perhaps you’ll keep a private notebook of your creative outpouring. Writing, for some of us, is like a love-hate relationship. We love it when we’re writing. We hate it when we have writer’s block. Wherever you find yourself today, or sometime this week, do one small thing to nudge along your writing practice.

Here’s my example. I had another post written yesterday to put up today but then my computer ate it so instead of breaking into sobs and giving up (after all, it was close to bedtime and I do my best writing in the mornings) I just started over with something completely different and this is what came out. Hopefully someone finds it takes them to the next level in using their creativity. After all, if you’re not using it you could be depriving the world of something it needs and very well will make a difference in someone else’s life. I get that we’re all busy and sometimes feel too tired or uninspired to write. Just don’t let life pass you by without sharing your gift with the rest of us because we need to hear from you.

Writers’ Wednesday

I’d like to try featuring some regular posts about writing, writers, and perhaps even my own experience with working on crawling out from under my shell as a writer. So today is my first plunge into this venture. Join me as we explore together something that, I hope, will be of interest to those of us who are newer to this craft. Those of you who are more experienced are encouraged to fill the com box with your own inspiration, tips, resources, etc. Since there is so much written about writing I know I could just share favorite authors on writing, websites, and writing services but what I’d like to do is go beyond that, although I’m sure I’ll include a fair share of them along the way. Here we go!

I’d like to start with sharing a post from a wonderful author, blogger, and generally amazing online influence on me who has been an enormous inspiration to me long before I began blogging but was longing to do some kind of writing other than journaling. It didn’t hurt that during the years I homeschooled our approach to learning was so similar. I always wished she lived near me so I could meet her in person—still do!—because I felt we had so much in common. The versatile woman I speak of is none other than Karen Edmisten, a convert to Christianity (eventually Roman Catholic) from atheism, who has multiple book credits, has written for magazines, and maintains a unique online presence–plus she loves naps, as do I (an added bonus, in my opinion).

The story of how she came to find her own writing vocation can be found here:

http://karenedmisten.blogspot.com/2008/09/vocation-surrender-and-writing.html

I’ve reread it multiple times since first seeing it and printing it out for my own personal motivation to push past my fears about pursuing writing. But although I set up a blog domain, it took me until 2011 to overcome my anxiety about writing for anyone’s eyes other than my journal’s, even though I had published an article in a small magazine for the homeschool community in 1995, despite not yet having any children (the article being on infertility). In the intervening years, my chronic anxiety levels had become amped up and it wasn’t until the past few years or so that I was diagnosed with mood disorders, which explained, in part, the difficulty I was having with my writing (or lack of it, other than in fits and starts).

In my case, I think the biggest problem was I always secretly wanted to write fiction but never felt I was creative enough to do so, so much so that even when I would get something down on paper it started to overwhelm me almost instantly and I gave it up almost as soon as I started. Non-fiction is another matter. I can gab on my blog almost as easily as I can rant (my son’s favorite term for when I speak at length about any topic). Then one day it finally occurred to me: why am I trying to mentally think of myself only as a writer if: a) I write fiction, and b) I get published? I owe my release from that self-prison to Marshall J. Cook, author of Freeing Your Creativity: A Writer’s Guide—How to write more and better than you ever thought you could.

http://www.amazon.com/Freeing-Your-Creativity-PAPERBACK-PRINTING/dp/0898796644/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1423692014&sr=8-2&keywords=freeing+your+creativity

 

This quote of his from that very book is what finally liberated me:

“Not all writing has a large audience—or any audience at all. We write because we want to, because we need to, even because we have to. We write for what the process of writing can do for us and to us. For some of us, writing is as much a part of life—and as necessary—as breathing.”

Now I just try and follow the old adage, “Write what you know.”

For what it’s worth, the “Coach” (Marshall’s nickname) maintains a fun, contributor-friendly monthly newsletter for writers. I have found it a refreshingly unstuffy e-zine that always leaves me pondering both serious matters as well as usually laughing so hard it results in some level of inconvenience; a small price to pay for inspiration. You can find it here, including back issues:

http://continuingstudies.wisc.edu/writing/extra-innings/

So, if you also are a writer—and if you write then you are, whether or not it’s for anyone else’s eyes—what is holding you back from taking the next step in developing your craft? Or if you’ve already done that, it would be great to hear what helped you get over that hump.

Until next time…fellow writing nerds, keep writing if you want to keep breathing (not really, but it sounded cool!).

Ten Advents

Today is the first Monday in the first week of Advent. It also marks the tenth anniversary of having an Advent wreath and special family prayers. Individually I’ve pursued a variety of readings but have almost always spent Advent with Fr. Groeschel’s book for this liturgical season, and for very good reason, as I think as his words always seem fresh and tailored to that particular year’s needs. For example, here’s an excerpt for this day:

“I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12)

Advent must remind us of that possibility [the world with God’s grace and the promise of salvation]. I could cry when I think of all the decent people who live without hope. Christians must pray for these people, that they would experience Advent—literally the time of His coming in their own lives. [emphasis mine]

Behold, He Comes: Meditations On the Incarnation: Daily Reading from Advent to Epiphany, Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R.

This year also marks a change from our traditional wreath with tapers to an antiqued bronze wrought iron votive holder (minus the glass holders or votives, of course) that I found at a thrift store. I have no idea if it was ever intended to be a wall hanging Advent candle holder but decided it went well with our first Advent minus a coffee table, as using the dining table in the past was always cramped–and besides, we eat more meals in the living room than at the dining table (not that I’m proud of that, but it is what it is…). This more stark and yet beautiful in its own unique way holder of our Advent candles reminds me once again that our Savior really did come to save the whole world–in all its diversity–and how sad it must make Him when those who’ve been given a good introduction to Him turn–or perhaps just drift–away. Thankfully, He’s always just a prayer away.

P.S. A very blessed Advent to Fr. Groeschel, R.I.P., as this year he now spends it in the best possible place!

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