Thursday, November 14, 2013

Rediscover Your Love of Writing -- Let's Get Real and Forgive

Hello writing friends!

How's it going?

You may be wondering where the heck I went for the past few days.  I mean, everything was going so well!  You were getting your daily writing inspiration.  I was writing daily (maybe not 1500 words, but I was writing every day).  Then what happened?

I thought about telling you all that I got sick, or that my dog did, or something else like that.  But then I realized that I didn't want to do that.  When I looked deeper into my motivations for not attempting to save my reputation, I remembered something that had come to me during a journal writing experience while I was away:

When you write, you cannot ignore the truth of yourself.  When you're not writing, is what you are trying to avoid actually the truth of yourself?

 There is something inherently connected between the act of writing, and truth.  When I'm writing, I'm more in tune with parts of myself than I am at any other time.

But then there are those times when it seems that life gets shaken up and shifts about in ways that seem bent on keeping me from writing.  Like this week.  My partner and I were fighting.  My household has decided to leave our residence of four years and move to Alameda.  I was teaching on Monday night, and had to prep for class.  All sorts of things that seemed to be evidence that the world has it out for my writing goals.

When I think about it, though, that doesn't make any sense at all -- not when I consider what the universe has told me about itself in my most quiet moments.  Life wants us to write, to connect with ourselves and wider, more expansive truths, to evolve and leave this planet more beautiful and expressed than before we came here.  So if it isn't that life is obstructing me from my writing, it only stands to reason that I am obstructing myself -- and using life with all of its myriad fascinating distractions as an excuse.

Today I went to yoga for the first time in months.  My body felt so darn good afterwards, it hardly felt like the same arms and legs and back as those that walked into the studio.  As I walking out of the studio, feeling clear in my body and easy in my mind, it dawned on me how stressed out I had been over the past few days (the ones where you good people had all experienced a profound radio silence from me).  And then I realized why I had been avoiding writing -- avoiding the truth of myself -- for the past couple of days.  I didn't want to slow down and feel that pain.  I knew that if I did, it would force me to shift the patterns that I was playing out, in theory because I wanted to get certain things accomplished.  I would be forced to ask myself hard questions that I didn't want to ask.  So, rather than do that, I avoided writing.

Well, I'm done with that.  I'm getting real with you right here and right now, updating my writer's mission, and radically embracing truth.  Here are a couple of tidbits around that:

1. I don't want to write a novel right now.  I've tried and tried, and it just isn't where my heart is.  Sorry, Nanowrimo.  We've missed each other again.  I do, however, really want to reconnect with the short story class I'm taking and get back on board with it (especially as I'm paying good money for it), possibly working towards an anthology of shorts instead.

2.  I'm getting some great leads in writing for internet publication, and that's exciting!  To further that momentum, I'm going to write another article for Tikkun, MindBodyGreen, and Rebelle Society by the end of this month.  I'm also going to review some of the things that were rejected by those very same publications in the last two or three months, edit them, and see if I can submit them elsewhere.

3.  I'm formally going to forgive myself for not having written 1500 words a day over the past four days, and let them go.  Not try to make them up.  Not make it mean I stink.  Nothing.  Just letting it go and moving forward, back into my writing.

So, where are you in this journey?  Does it feel far away now, or are you right on track?  If you're like me, in a stumbling phase, I recommend you let go of what hasn't been done or wasn't done perfectly, and give yourself full loving permission to start again.  If you're doing awesome, well, then, awesome!  Congrats and keep up the good work.

Either way, drop us a note in the comments below or in the Facebook Group and let us know!

Back in the writer's trenches with you,

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Rediscover Your Love of Writing: How to Write While Traveling

Hello writers!

I'm writing to you right now from the desk in the fancy hotel where the conference on Transformational Coaching that starts  tomorrow is being held.  Thinking about you all, and how you're doing on the writing challenge.  I've been surprised at how much harder it is than I had guessed, to fulfill my daily writer's missions, and how much catching up I have to do.  Et tu, fair friend?  How's it going out there?  You know I totally dig getting love letters (of all types, even the frustrated ones about how it's not going well at all), so let me know.

Although it might seem like this trip would set me back even more, the truth is, I love writing while traveling.  It's one of the times that I find I'm most productive, and really able to focus well.  I know, possibly not the first conclusion you'd jump to, all things considering. But for me, stepping out of my life and into a different flow really gets that monkey mind of mine to quiet down and open up to my intuition and imagination in a very potent way.

As I know that quite a few of us will be traveling at some time during the month, and maybe still in the process of making travel plans, I thought I'd pass on my best hints about how to write while traveling:  

Redraft your Writer's Mission to be more seaworthy.
Your trip might be the perfect time to work on your novel, if its about family and you'll be going home for the holidays.  But if you're at a conference, like I am, you might find yourself overflowing with ideas about blog posts and new career thoroughfares.  If you're abroad spending time on a sunny beach with a beloved, perhaps working on a series of short stories about unexpected romance in a tropical locales will feel perfect, or a letter to a future child about how you and your honey met.  

Bring the right equipment for the job.
For me, this is definitely essential.  I need the write stuff.   For example, for this trip, I brought a notebook and favorite pen for the beginning of the plane ride when you aren't allowed to use electronic devices, and any other time when handwriting is the most perfect way for me to express myself, which is usually the case for me when I'm using my writing for inner soul-searching and self-discovery.  I also brought an iPad with an itty bitty keyboard that fits neatly into my bag, so I can have it at the ready each and every moment that I might want to take notes or write (also, the iPad has a crazy long battery life).  However, the iPad, with it's limited memory, would have been a terrible choice if I were trying to do a video and photojournalism piece about street activism.   You can never be truly ready for every possible scenario while traveling, but it still makes sense to spend some time thinking about what you're average day might include, how much you want to carry around with you, and what you'll feel safe brining along.

Think about your book, when you book.  
What's the most important thing to you about your accommodations for you to thrive as a writer while traveling?  Do you need quiet and privacy?  A reliable internet connection 24 hours a day?  To be immersed in beauty?  Obviously, there are a lot of factors to consider when you're working out where to stay, but how your surroundings will affect your work should at least be in the mix.   When in the throws of compromise with other interested parties (such as co-travelers and family that hasn't seen you in three years) or other compromising factors like the price, pick the number one thing on your list that will empower you to have a fulfilling experience as a writer on your journeys and refuse to budge on that one.  For me, it's usually cleanliness.  If I'm in a disorganized or dirty space, I can't get a single word down.

Put your writing in your itinerary.
I find that scheduling devoted 2-3 hour chunks works really well for me.  Less, and I spend the whole time getting caught up on email and reading facebook; more, and I end up feeling like I'm missing out or my travel companions start getting ornery with me (more on that in a bit).  Sometimes, if I'm on a role during my 2-hour block with nothing scheduled afterwards, I'll take a little break and do another 1-2 hours.  If that's not a good option, I'll make an effort to finish up before bed.  There are also generally many "dead" times while traveling that are great for writing: waiting at the airport for your flight, on the plane itself, in the morning while you're waiting for people who's sleep schedules more perfectly fit the local time zone, etc.

Warn your traveling companions, hosts, and other pertinent parties that you will be spending some of the trip writing.
I can't say enough about how important this is -- and the sooner, the better.  Talk to your girlfriend, children, grandfather, the person hosting you from, and strategize together on ways you can make it work for you.  Most likely, these wonderful people really want to support your writing life, but they need to know how, and they also need for you not to be locked away in your guest room for days at a time.  Figure out what times and activities are important to do together, and what are the things that these other folks would be happy doing without you.  If you're lucky, your travel companion is also interested in spending quality time in relative peace and quiet, for work, rest, reading, or even writing.  

 When I go visit my stepchildren in Indiana, which is about every two or three months, my husband and I make a plan to spend time working during the day while the kids at school.  That works for us.  On the other hand, I've learned that trying to write while everyone is in the living room watching TV does not.  My in-laws can't seem to help themselves -- they absolutely must talk to me about what I'm doing, if I'd rather we were watching something other than Fox News (um, yes), and they definitely notice and seem to feel slighted if I hide in my room instead.  So that doesn't work.  Check.    

Consider how you can utilize the marvels of technology.
One quick example: my phone has Dragon Dictation on it, which allows me to "write" while standing in line to buy a train ticket or tamale, take notes in a jiffy, and draft e-mails while driving.  It's my secret weapon.  What's yours?  It might take a little thinking outside the box, but really, there are lots of technological assets just waiting to help further your writing endeavors if you explore a little.

Find the best cafes on your route and frequent them.
Cafes are not just places for delicious frothy beverages and internet access -- they are also great for people-watching, getting a sense of the daily life of the people who live where you are visiting (whether or not you think you might already know all about it... yes, maybe you are going home for the holidays, but how long has it been since you were last there?  Both you and them may have changed considerably).  I love checking out the bulletin boards wherever I go just to take the pulse of the area and get a sense of what's going on.  I grab a news weekly for the same reason.

Alright, that's it from me for now.  Do you have ideas that I didn't mention here?   Leave a comment on the Wild Serenity Page and share!

Yours always,

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Rediscover Your Love of Writing -- How to Love What You Write

Word count for yesterday: 909
(906 for the blog, 3 novel - AGH!) 

Hello everyone!

How's the writing going?  Made your goal yesterday?

Not me.  Oh wow, did I ever fall behind.  I wrote my post to you all (900 words or so) but then was pulled in by the Day of the Dead festivities and didn't get anything done on my poor novel.  It was such an amazing evening, filled with altars and candlelit processions and a delicious dinner at the Black Cat house in San Francisco.  But, it didn't get me any closer to my writer's goal for the day or the week.

I did, however, get to sit down with one my favorite authors and dear friends, Starhawk.  I asked her about writing her novel The 5th Sacred Thing -- which is kind of amazing, to think I've known her this long and never asked her about it -- and she gave me the counsel she gave to her brother when he was writing his book this year, which she said is one of the most important things to know if you want to write.

"The hardest thing about writing," she said, "is dealing with your own feelings, which the writing brings up."

It was like she voiced something that had been floating around in my mind for years, without knowing it.  Anyway, I totally agree with her-- and see the emotional component of writing, in all its highs and lows, as one of the best reasons to write.

Synchronistically, this morning in my inbox I got an email from fellow writer and coach, Jackie Joh.  It was too perfectly timed not to pass it on.

Today I'm going to lock myself away to work on the novel... I'll let you go how it's going tomorrow.

Tell us how you're doing!  We have nearly 50 people in this writing challenge now, and it would be great to begin hearing some of your thoughts and struggles.  You can post them below!

Happy writing today!


writing brings us closer to love.jpg
All writers get to a point when we look at what we have been creating and no longer see it's worth. We don't feel like moving forward because we feel our work is not good enough or it was not at all what we originally wanted it to be.  
This is a normal part of the writing practice. The good news is there are ways to get back into the place of being excited about our writing. 
This article is geared to help you move from the place of hating your writing to loving it. 

Finish the project. 
When we look down at the page and realize we don't like anything we have written it is so tempting to quit and move on to the next project or idea. However, doing so tells our psyche that we are not committed and that decision makes it so we will be more likely to end up with a pile of unfinished projects. 

Reaching the point of not wanting to go on is part of the writing process.

We must finish what we are working on--push though the discomfort and finish it anyway. What happens when we do this is we are able to see our work with more perspective. We will also have the sense of accomplishment that comes from finishing it. 

We can see the work as a whole rather than parts we don't like and we will be able to more easily identify what is working. 

Notice your trigger words. 
When you come to a section you hate, reread and find the moment when you start criticizing your work. This will be a word, a few words.

Take a piece of paper and write these down. Explore your associations, your feelings, your felt-senses that come up and reflect on what it is that makes you cringe. Maybe it is a worry, a memory, a negative association that puts your ego mind on full alert.

Now that you have explored your associations and internal triggers identify a positive association that fits the words or identify a potential that the word represents. Be kind to yourself here, take a deep breath and recognize this as just a trigger rather than your writing being less that you hoped for.  

Tap into your body's wisdom
 . If we are struggling with language--either it is not coming easily or we dislike how it is coming forward--we can turn our focus to our bodies for a second opinion. Our bodies hold great wisdom and knowledge.

Reread your writing but instead of focusing on the words, have your inward eye focused on your body's reactions to the work. Maybe your breath quickens at certain points. Maybe your chest contracts or expands. Maybe you are tapping your leg anxiously at another point. This is all important information.

Take note that your writing does have power and you are experiencing that first hand. Notice where you contract--is this what you want or where you could bring in some of the language of the expansive sections here? If you are feeling anxious or contracted ask yourself--is this my "stuff" meaning my own psychology reacting, or is this feeling intended for the reader. Separating the two will make it easier to like the writing you are working on because it will become less emotionally charged.

Turn off the Internet.
 Find the airport button on your computer and turn it off. Put your phone in a drawer, on silent. Set a time frame that you are going to only focus on writing.
When we are feeling unsure about our writing it is often because our mind is being pulled in various directions. For example, when writing all of a sudden we write a word which reminds us to look something up online. Before we know it an hour has passed and we haven't been writing.
When we don't like our writing, or our process, we are not giving it enough care and attention. We need to nurture our writing. If we are flighty with our attention our writing will be flighty as well. Put your love and focus into your work, then explore the web. 

Talk it out
 . Magic happens when we engage in conversation about an idea--things click for us, ideas fall into place, we may get jumbled but often what we are trying to figure out get's resolved.
If you are struggling to like your writing, talk with a friend about what this is like for you. Talk into a voice recorder, talk to your dog. When we move into our voice the voice on paper can become clearer.
Give yourself permission to play with the conversation--no pressure trust what comes up for you, allow the ideas to turn over and take new form. You will then be able to write with more vibrancy and pleasure.

 . Similar to talking,  journaling can lead to new insights and perspective. It can help us clear through muddy spots, or places we are not comfortable emotionally and with our work.
When I write I often have a journal on hand to jot down ideas, thoughts reflections while I am working on something else. Doing so allows me to shift gears for a moment, while still writing, to re approach the project with new clarity and acceptance. 

Envision the potential of what you are attempting to write.   What got you started writing in the first place? What are your favorite words, ideas or phrases?

Put a heart, a star, a mark of some kind next to the sections of your writing that you do like.
Take rereading one word at a time rather than thinking about not liking the project as a whole. Remind yourself that you are writing for a purpose, that there is a part of you that is so strong and dedicated to your ideas that you started writing in the first place. Holding this perspective will make it easier to like what you are working towards and the progress you have already made. 


Writing is not always easy and it is even easier to doubt ourselves. Writing can trigger comparing ourselves to others, or a perfectionism streak we may have. It can trigger our own self-limiting beliefs such as not being good enough, not creating worth-while work.

However, when we realize that these thoughts just manifestations of fear bubbling up because writing is actually bringing us closer to love--to our true selves--we can learn to love our selves and work more. Our writing will become more expansive and lovely to ourselves and others.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Rediscover Your Love of Writing: How to Choose What to Write About

What I’m about to say about this is likely very different from the ten thousand things you may have run across on the internet about choosing what to focus on and finding inspiration for your work.  Not that those other things aren’t cool – they are.  I’ve gotten a lot out of writing prompts, and Nanowrimo’s Adopt a Plot forum, and blogs about find topics about writing blogs.

But if I’m working on something bigger – a novel, the copy on my website that’s supposed to be an authentic representation of the kind of work I want to do to change the world, or a magazine article to submit to a publication that goes out to tens or even hundreds of thousands of people – my heart has to be in it, one hundred percent.  It has to be the work’s beginning, and it’s end.

Tell me if this sounds familiar: you have a feeling that there is something within you that wants to come out, if you could just put your finger on it.  Maybe it’s an idea for a whole new project, or maybe it’s finding the next step in something that you’re already working on.   It’s the perfect thing.  It feels beautiful, powerful, like a spark of fire inside of you.

But it’s also a slippery little devil.  And you can’t think of exactly what it is.  And then the monkey mind starts to have it’s fun.

One of the favorites tricks my monkey mind likes to play is search and search and search for a good idea, and when I come up with one, to tell me that it’s clichĂ©, or rote, and that I’ll put tons of time into something that my friends will read and think less of me for, because it’s so trivial.  So then I try to think up something that will be new and fresh and unusual, which monkey mind will respond is pretentious. 

There’s just no winning in that game.  The key is getting out of the game entirely. 

We need to source our writing ideas from someplace else, other than the intensity of our analytical prowess.  It can still be from within our minds – after all, our minds include the beautiful powers of visioning and imagination.  And we can use the powers of our linear capabilities in service to our imagination and our hearts, when we are developing plot or synching up a series of blog posts to create a series, for example.

But when trying to decide what to write, or anytime you’re really stuck, it’s the heart that will guide you through.

To do that, here’s what I invite you to do:

1) Find yourself someplace lovely, and private, to be.  That could be a cafĂ©, if your home is too busy for you to be undisturbed there.  It can be Tilden Park, or Bernal Hill.  It can be the shower.

2) Do something to get your mind to be quiet, and to set the judgement-and-expectation-demons at bay for a little while.  That could be some kind of breathing or meditation technique, but it also could be listening to your favorite music, or stretching and moving your body for a little while.

3) Ask yourself, “What do I want to write about?  What is pulling me right now?  What would I really like?”  Then be quiet and let your Self answer, in all of the more subtle ways that it does.  Give Self a little time to pontificate without asking it the hard questions about how, why, or for whom.  Just see what floats up.  You could also do this as an automatic writing exercise by setting a timer for five minutes, putting your pen to the page or fingers to the keypad, and letting loose until the buzzer goes off. 

4) After you have a couple of possible ideas or bare-glimpses-of-ideas (two to four is a good number), do something to shake out the energy.  That could be literally shaking, standing up to stretch, or changing the music on Pandora. 

5) Now go back to your conversation with Self.  Ask, “What’s important about this?” for each of the ideas that you came up with.  Notice that we are not asking ourselves what stinks about it or is unrealistic or is has poor marketing potential.  Just, what’s important about it, or “what will writing about this do (or mean) for me?”  You could set the old timer again if doing this as an automatic writing exercise works for you.

6) Shake out the energy again, and ask yourself, again for each idea, “How would I know that this piece of writing was successful?  What would the language be like, the tone, and how would I feel reading it, and writing it?”

7) Go take a short walk. 

8) Come back, look at what you’ve written, and make a decision based on that.  Or sleep on it, and make your decision the next day – unless, of course, you’ve committed to writing 1500 words a day and already 855 words behind, like I am.

9) Tell us all how it went and what else works for you when you’re trying to figure out what to write about in the comments below.

In the writer’s trenches with you,

Words for yesterday: 1845 (1200 for the blog, 645 novel) 

Rediscover Your Love of Writing: Finding Your Writer's Mission

Step 1: Figure out what your Writer’s Mission is for today, and for the week, and for the month.  Just don’t spend three hours on it when you should be writing.

Your Writer’s Mission for the day (and week, and month) is your intention.

Think about all of those amazing fantasy movies you’ve seen about wizards and witches who need to learn to cast powerful spells.  Whether it’s Tolkien’s Middle Earth or Hogwarts or Percy Jackson, when someone wants to learn how to use magic, they always begin with gathering their thoughts and focusing on what they want – a fireball, someone to fall in love, or fall asleep – and then putting their will and lifeforce into it.  That’s what makes the magic happen.  Without the heart, and then the drive, the spell won’t work.

You probably already know that writing is magic.  But we all could use a little reminder, sometimes. 

So we begin with our intention.  Our Writer’s Mission.

I bootlegged the term “Writer’s Mission” from Roy Peter Clark’s book, Help! for Writers, which I think is pretty fabulous in many ways.   He dislikes the word goal as much as I do.  Here's what he says about why the word 'Mission' is better than other words, say, "goal" or "task-list:"

The word goal comes t us from Old English, where it meant ‘barrier,’ and Middle English, where it meant ‘boundary.’  It suggests something to hurdle.  Mission, on the other hand, comes from the Latin verb ‘to send.  I like that better.  I am sent to accomplish something important; I’m a missionary of the word.

For those of us who are doing the Nanowrimo thing of a novel-in-a-month, our Writers’ Missions might already seem spelled out for us: 1500 words a day.  Fin.  But what about if you are working on a webpage, or a collection of short stories, or… you have a life, and that life doesn’t allow you to write 1500 words every single day?

I think deciding on a writer’s mission for your day, your week, and your month should help you stretch out of your comfort zone, and be exhilarating and stimulating – but it shouldn’t burden you down with dread or disempower you by setting you up for failure.  We all have our triggers, for good and for bad.  If you know that you already feel completely overwhelmed by the thought of writing your bio or your first chapter, what’s the point of telling yourself you need to write the entire “about me” section or the whole first act before next Tuesday?  Is that really going to help you get to your ultimate goal?

So, start with what you can do, and add about 10-20% on top of that.  For me, I’m going to let this blog post count towards my 1500 words today – but, I’m also going to devote extra time this weekend to my novel, so that I feel good about where I’m at.  Will I be done with 4500 words by Sunday night?  That’s my Writer’s Mission.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

It’s already late afternoon.  Have you done any writing yet today?  If yes, awesome!  Kuddos!  Bravo and bravissimo.  If not, that’s totally okay.  Like, really, truly, totally okay.  What can you today, to set yourself up for a great weekend of writing?  Maybe you can do 250 words, and also spend a little time outlining the next two or three sections of your work, so they’re easier to write when you come to them.  You can set yourself up for success this weekend by blocking out chunks of time for writing, and maybe even calling up a writing buddy to work with you and provide some accountability (we’ll get more into setting up the conditions for inevitable success later). 

Finally, know that Writer’s Missions change.  They are subject to our moods, our bodies, heavy winds, the weightiness of living in a reality of traffic jams and children with runny noses and beautiful evenings with friends that run over.  Let this be a process where you learn about yourself, as a writer, while also pushing yourself that extra little bit.  Says our friend Clark:

A mission statement of any kind must be expressed in strategies and tactics.  It cannot be frozen in time.  It will change.  Expect it to melt and flow into something else…. And please don’t wait until the end of a project to celebrate.  You need more moments of joy than that, rewards scattered across the span of a writing projet like gorgeous shells on a long sandy beach.

I’m looking forward to hearing how it’s going from you.  And please do let me know if there’s anything I can do to help by leaving me a comment below!

In the writer’s trenches with you,