What Does a Writing Coach Do, Anyway?

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The recent news that my novel has been accepted for publication has inspired me.  As I mentioned in a post last week, it was the getting of clarity that I consider a key factor in this acceptance.  Last fall, I got crystal clear in my thinking about my goals and realized that I wanted to focus on writing books and blogging. 

And, of course, coaching.  I love working with writers and get really excited when I have the chance to coach. So last week I took a fresh look at my coaching packages and felt my heart drop. (I know, cliche, but I swear, I felt it thud.) Because they did not, in any way reflect the excitement I feel about coaching writers.  They looked dull and boring and I wondered why anyone would want to hire me.

And then I realized the problem:  I was designing my coaching around what I thought I should do and who I thought I should be rather than what I wanted to do and what I wanted to be.  I did the same thing last year around other aspects of my career. And it was time to apply the same clarity of vision that I used on other aspects of my career to my coaching.

So I designed two new coaching packages (with more to come no doubt) that reflect who I am and what I want to share with the world.  Check them out by visiting my new coaching page.

But, here's the deal.  Many people don't really understand what, exactly a writing coach does.  There are writing coaches, and writing teachers, and writing mentors.  So what's what?  And what does a writing coach do?  Perhaps a bit of explaining is in order.

I'm going to being by talking about the role of traditional writing teachers.  The old tried and true path for a writer was to get an MFA and then teach at a university.  This kind of teacher traditionally presides over classes that are given on-site, ones that meet several times a week, taking you away from your home and writing, but giving you lots of time to absorb good information on craft.  You might also take these kinds of classes at a community college, or some kind of community or private writing center.   Before a few years ago, if you wanted to get your MFA in writing, your only choice was to attend an in-person program at a university.

Next, let's consider the role of a writing mentor.  The writing mentor works with students one-on-one, generally offering lessons on craft and reviewing the student's writing.  The main difference is that the mentoring is done through email or snail mail, with occasional phone calls, and the student spends her time writing at home rather than sitting in classrooms.  One on one mentoring is one of the main hallmarks of the relatively new brief-residency MFA programs (I'm a graduate of one of these), which have become a common way to earn this degree.

Which brings us to the writing coach.  In order to investigate what they do, let's ponder the profession of life coaching.  Unlike therapists, who traditionally delve into your past in order to make a better future, coaches start from where you are, right now, assisting with goals, problems, obstacles, whatever  you need to help you lead a better life.  Thus, a writing coach focuses on problems and obstacles that might prevent you from creating your best writing life.

So which route do I follow?  In my role as a teacher at the Writer's Loft in Tennessee, I mentor students, as explained above, focusing mostly on the actual reading of the work. My writing coaching is a hybrid creature.  As a writing coach, I coach you to create a writing life that you'll love, assisting you with finding time and motivation to write and helping you to overcome the obstacles along the way.  And I also teach you craft and review your work.  So you get the best of both worlds, as far as I'm concerned.

For some people, attending traditional classes is the best way to go.  Others will desire the personal care that a coaching relationship offers.  I urge you to ponder all the options and decide which one works for you.  And of course, if you are ready to hire a coach, I'd love to talk to you.


Save a Bunch on Services and Classes: Announcing a Thanksgiving Sale!

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NOTE: The sale is over, but you can still access all these classes and services on their individual pages.

Give the gift of creativity this Christmas, either to yourself or someone else.

In the United States, Thursday is Thanksgiving, when we eat turkey and count our blessings.   I'm grateful for you--my loyal readers.

In honor of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday shopping madness, I'm holding a weekend sale on select services and classes.   Time's up to get these deals on Monday at 5 PM Pacific time, so act fast. 

Buy something for yourself.

Buy something for someone else.

Buy something for yourself and then give it to someone to give to you.  (My favorite.)

Here are the deals:

Get Your Writing in Gear Session for $50

I offered this deal over Labor Day and sold a bunch.  Then I raised the price immediately.  Okay, listen up: I'm not going to offer this price on these sessions ever again.  Ever.  So buy now.  You can use them any time.  And you can buy as many of them as you want.  But only until Monday at 5 PM.  Click here for more info.

Just $50.

  

$50 Off Make Money Writing Class

I'm so excited about this class I could spit.  Except that would be un-lady-like so I won't.  Instead, I'll tell you a bit about it.  The class begins in January, and runs five sessions.  It is a teleclass, so you can listen to it anywhere (and I'll have juicy handouts, too).  I'm going to be revealing all the different ways I make money writing--and how you can, too.  Oh, if you hurry, you'll nab yourself a free coaching session with me when you sign up.  Check it out here.

Only $197!

 

$100 off One Month of Coaching

This includes 4 30-minute plus phone sessions, plus I'll read up to 30 pages of your work.  And I can state with great conviction that I'm going to be raising prices at some point next year.  My coaches already tell me I don't charge enough.  One of the things I love most besides writing is helping people to put words on the page and it would be my honor to assist you.  Again, use these sessions any time, buy it for yourself, or for someone else.  I'm easy.  Except when I'm coaching you. 

Just $297

 

I'm so excited to share these Thanksgiving specials with you!  And I send you blessings for the happiest of holidays.

 

Photo by Hey Paul.


Should You Hire A Ghostwriter or Write It Yourself?

Of all the things that I do, ghostwriting seems to garner the most interest.  Recently, Twitter and blogging buddy Patrick Ross mentioned in a comment that he'd like to hear more about it.  (He also passed along the Stylish Blogger award.  Thanks, Patrick!) So here you go.

In this post, I'm going to look at the difference between hiring a ghostwriter or writing the book yourself, perhaps with some coaching along the way.  In general, I'm a huge fan of writing the book yourself. Dcist_ghost_halloween_391239_l

Why do I believe this?

Because even though it is a ghostwriter's job to enter the head of the client and write like he or she would, the most authentic voices still come from the client himself.   But sometimes writing it yourself just isn't possible.  So let's consider when you might want to hire a ghostwriter:

  • When you don't have time to write it yourself
  • When you don't have the inclination to write it yourself
  • When you know you hate writing
  • When you realize that your time could better be spent on other aspects of your business
  • When the subject you want to write about is way out of your area of expertise

Most political books are ghostwritten.  (Do you really think Sarah Palin or Al Gore has the time to write a book?  I actually have a passing acquaintance with the guy who helped Al with his book, help being a euphenism for doing all the work.) Some self-help books are ghostwritten.  (Again, can you picture Dr. Phil sitting down to write his very own little book?) And even some novels are ghostwritten.  (It was widely rumored that Margaret Truman's mysteries were ghostwritten.  And then you you have authors like what's his name, um....the guy who write the Alex Cross mysteries--Jame Patterson!  He has a whole stable of writers who churn out crap books for him.)

But you, my dear friend or client, are different.  You have a passionate idea inside you that your long to express into the world for a variety of reasons.  Perhaps you have a business you want to promote, or you desire to begin a speaking career.  Perhaps you are looking for a career change, or in loftier ambitions, have an idea that will change the world.  So have a book inside you that needs to come out.

And while it may be tempting to hire a ghostwriter, I believe that you have the chops to do it yourself.  Consider this:

  • Ghostwriting is labor-intensive and so it is expensive. 
  • There is nothing more satisfying than seeing your name on the cover of a book--and knowing you wrote it yourself.
  • Writing a book probably isn't nearly as difficult as you've made it out to be in that fertile brain of yours.

For some lucky reason, I think that book-writing is not only fun, but easy.  I think this harks back to my days in elementary school, when there was nothing I loved better than getting assigned a school report on a country, or a planet, or even something as simple as a bird.  I couldn't wait to find out what topic I'd be assigned, and once I found out, I sprinted to the library to start researching.  Love writing those reports.  And today I love writing books.

But I believe you can write your book yourself.  And that you can actually enjoy doing it.  I know, I know.  But trust me, it is possible.  

Because this post went in a slightly different direction than I first intended, and got long at the same time, I think I'll do another post on the same topic, slightly different focus, looking at ghostwriting more from the writer's side of things.

In the meantime, if I've convinced you to write the book yourself, I am offering a telelclass on Book Proposals That Succeed, and the early-bird pricing ends this Friday.  Check it out here.

 Photograph by katmere from Everystockphoto.com


When Something Isn't Working

When something isn't working, there's a reason.   Doll_head_snow_264063_l

I know.

Duh.

But how many times have you sat at your computer, beating your head against your desk, trying to make something work that isn't working?  Trying to force a character to do something she doesn't want to do, or writing a scene in a location that just doesn't resonate with you, or creating a plot point that seems forced and unnatural?

I've done this a million times, doggedly writing even when the nagging voice inside of me informs me that something is wrong.  Something isn't working.

And often it takes quite awhile before I listen.

It happened again earlier this week.  I've been diligently getting up to work on my novel first thing every morning.  I love, love, love the idea for the plot of the novel.  But I've not been able to wrap my brain around the protagonist.  No matter what I did, I couldn't bond with her.  Couldn't feel her voice inside me or get it onto the page.  But I kept writing, telling myself that the voice would come.  Except finally, one morning, I realized that what I was writing was so dull and lifeless that nobody, even me, would want to write it.

Now, I know full well that it is not a good thing to listen to such voices when you are writing. Except for when it is.  

When you are writing and writing and begin to feel like your driving a car on snow and you can't get any traction, it is maybe time to take a wee break and ponder. Which is what I did.  Luckily, on the day I decided it was time to hit the brakes and quit spinning my wheels, I had an appointment with my coach.  We discussed the problem in detail and I finally realized that I was trying to force myself to write about a character in a profession I knew nothing about and didn't care to learn.  So that gave me the freedom and the courage to start over--not with the plot, but with the character.

But, here's the deal.  If I hadn't been writing, I wouldn't have figured out that it wasn't going to work.  If I had sat around thinking about it, I'd still be sitting around thinking about it.  I wouldn't have discovered that there was a reason for my writing paralysis.  And so, even though in some ways I've gone backwards, today I'm a happy camper. 

Because knowing what's wrong lights a path to change it.  And, figuring out that there is something wrong in the first place is sometimes the most illuminating moment of all.

What about you?  How do you figure out when something is wrong?


Make Work

"Make work" is my all-purpose notation to myself that I use for both notes and on manuscripts.   It is Office_business_desk_237992_l shorthand for "Make it work," and a very handy two words.

If I'm writing notes, and they are a bit sketchy, I add, "make work," because I know in my brain what I mean, I just might not want to take the time to write it all out--these are notes, not the full manuscript, after all.

If I'm editing a manuscript and something needs fleshing out, I'll write the notation, "Make work."

"Make work" can apply to fleshing out a character, dealing with a plot issue, adding in more description, anything.  It is a sign to myself that something isn't working.  Something needs to be dealt with or looked at more deeply.

This week what I needed to make work was a whole lot deeper than most.  It involved re-thinking an entire project, about which I will write more tomorrow or next week.  The experience has also got me re-thinking various aspects of my life.  To wit:

  • What do I need to make work better?
  • What things am I holding onto, trying to make work, that I should instead let go of?
  • What else needs a make work notation in my life--where are things too sketchy?
  • What ideas in my brain need a make work note to bring them to life in the real world?
How about you?  What do you need to make work in your life or writing?


Give It All Up, Get It All Back

Yesterday I had jury duty.Justice

I resisted, mightily.

Perhaps it is because I'm called to serve on jury duty more than anybody else on this planet.  This was my third time, and I've gotten excused from service several times before, when my children were little.  I know people who have never gotten a summons, ever. So I was a bit taken aback when I was called yet again.

I told myself that I was too busy.  I had a trip to Nashville planned.  I'm self-employed and can't afford to take a day off.  Yada, yada, yada.  I called the number on the summons and was told I could reschedule, so I did.  Then called again and rescheduled once more.

Finally, the day came.  I had to be in the jury room by 8 AM and if there's one thing I hate, it is having my morning routine of writing and introspection interrupted.  But off I went to the courthouse,clutching  my bag full of manuscripts to read and work to catch up on.

The county really makes jury duty as painless as possible.  You only have to serve for one day, or one trial, whichever is longest.  And there's a large room full of chairs to hang out in, with big-screen TVs, vending machines, books, newspapers, and magazines galore.  I always head straight to the back, where there are tables and chairs.  I found me a good spot and staked my claim to it.

It is tradition for one of the judges to come down and talk to the jurors, and she did, reminding us that the founding fathers of this country thought so highly of the right to a jury trial that they died for it.  This made me feel highly virtuous for a few moments.  Then she talked about how for women, jury duty is the only compulsory service we must give to our country.  By then I was preening, so proud was I.  But when she finished her talk and pressed the button for the cheesy video, I was deflated once again.  I gave up my precious writing time to watch a bunch of yahoos talk about how great it is to be on jury duty?

Once the video was finished, we were left to our own devices until such time as a jury pool would be convened.   I looked around at all the people who had brought their laptops and wondered why on earth I hadn't brought mine.  Even when I remembered that I had made a conscious decision to use this day to get reading done and stay away from my computer, I pouted.  I wanted my computer, wanted to write a blog post, work on my novel, tweet away the day (which I did from my Iphone anyway, but never mind).

I pulled out the manuscripts I had to read, but soon was interrupted by a loud burp.  A plump gray-haired woman in a polka-dot blouse was drinking Coke and apparently it made her gaseous.   It also didn't do much to keep her awake, because soon she was curled at one end of the couch beside me, feet propped on a chair from my table, snoring loudly.  Which was a festive counterpart to the counter-culture type (orange shirt, hair in a pony-tail) who sat at the other end of the couch, head thrown back, mouth open, snoring even louder than the woman.

I muttered under my breath and pondered dark thoughts, like I wouldn't want either of them to serve on my trial, as I tried to read.  Then I looked around at all the people with their computers and started feeling bad about that again.  I needed my computer desperately.  What was I thinking, leaving it at home?  I could be getting so much done.

I started obsessing about what would happen if I got on a trial.  I thought about my Friday, the plans I had for finishing projects, the appointment I had.  I started figuring out options for making sure I wasn't chosen for a trial.  My daughter told me to tell them I loved guns.  A friend on Twitter told me to tell the judge I had diarrhea.  Another friend told me just to say I'm a writer, that that gets them every time--attorneys don't want free thinkers.  So I pondered all this and then my brain looped back to how horrible, how utterly awful it would be if I had to serve on a trial and take another one of my precious days. Because, you know, I am important.  I am a writer with things to do, brilliant words to commit to the page.

And then, something happened.  Either I got sick of listening to this endless drivel in my brain, or my brain got tired of providing it to me.  I sat back and realized that no matter what, it would all be okay.  If I got called for a trial, I'd work late, or work on the weekends to get things done.  I'd rearrange my appointment.  All would be well.  This was only a very short time out of my life and it was just fine.

Ah, the sweet release of letting go.  I went back to my reading and finished two manuscripts in rapid time--for such is the power of focus.  I had a thought about a new novel I'm fooling around with and wrote three pages on the legal pad I'd brought.  I was so wrapped up in my work that it was a surprise when I looked up from it to see the gray-haired burping lady gazing at me.

"Have they called anybody yet?"

"No, they haven't," I answered.  And I realized that it was nearly 10:30, and every other time I'd been on jury duty, several groups of potential jurors had been called by then. 

A few minutes later, the jury clerk addressed us from the podium at the head of the room.  All eight trials slated for that day had been resolved in one way or another, she said.  They wouldn't be needing any jurors that day.  We were free to go.

The stunned silence that ensued was quickly followed by a rush to the door, as if everyone was thinking the same thing--let's get out of here before they change their minds.

And so I was home by noon, and I had time to go grocery shopping, get some writing done, write a blog post, take a walk.  And as I walked and thought about my day, the thing that stood out in my mind was the moment of letting go.  The minute I quit resisting and accepted the situation as it was, I got everything I wanted--the chance to focus on my work, the opportunity to leave early and go home. 

Give it all up, get it all back.  I first heard that in a book written by Alan Cohen, and I often quote it in my Writing Abundance workshops.  And yet, every time I am shown the power of letting go, I marvel anew at what an amazing tool it is.

The same rules hold true in writing: put it all on the page every time you go to it.  Don't hold back.  Give it all up. 

I promise, you'll get it all back, and then some. 


Photo by navets, found on everystockphoto, used under Creative Commons 2.5 license.


The Benefits of Writing Daily

I've been working, the last few days, on writing the workshop I'll be giving in Nashville next weekend.  I base this workshop on my Writing Abundance: Seven Practices of the Prolific and Prosperous Writer system.  Each one I do focuses on several different practices, so I always end up going back over the whole thing.  One of the practices I'll be focusing on this time is the practice of Creating, and in the process I wrote about why writing every day is so good for you.  I probably don't even have room for this in the workshop--I've got way more content than time--so I thought I'd share it here. 

Writing every day, for me, is like having a nutritional IV drip.Casino_play_loser_222035_l

Have you ever been to a casino where they have plastic cards you can charge up with money and then wear around your neck on a mini-bungee cord?  And then people sit with their cards in the machine while it is still hanging from the bungee cord around their neck and it looks like they are on life support. 

This is what writing every day does for me. It feeds me.  Here are some other benefits:

  • It keeps you constantly connected to the work.  As you go about your day, your mind will drift back to the scene you were working on that morning.  This is good, as it allows your subconscious to go to work on it.
  • It establishes momentum.  You get carried forward when you work every day.  You don’t have to reinvent the wheel over and over again.  You don’t have to reread to familiarize yourself with where you were when last you wrote.
  • It teaches you fluency.  The more you write, the easier the words are to put on the page.
  • Writing every day reminds you of who you are and what is important to you.  It's the writing, smarty.
  • It gives you a sense of accomplishment—you made a commitment to do the most important thing in your life, and you accomplished it.  This patina of success will polish your whole day.
  • Let's face it, writing every day makes you feel good.  We need us more of that.
  • Because it reminds you that you are having a great experience—living life—and that living life, in and of itself, is worthy of writing about.

Now for some people, not writing every day is better.  I’m all for finding what works for you.  But for me, if I don’t write at least something I slough off.  And pretty soon days have gone by without me getting anything done….at least on my novel.  But for those of you who absolutely insist, tomorrow's post will be about the benefits of not writing every day.


Journaling, Part Four: Morning Pages

 
Yesterday, in Part Three* of my series on journaling, I wrote about four types of journal writing that I findGlasses_sheet_paper_260712_l useful.  There are an infinite number of techniques you can use for effective journaling, and I may well write about others in the future.  But for now, I've chosen to discuss the ones I use most often and find most beneficial.

Morning Pages.  First off, we have Morning Pages, developed and popularized by Julia Cameron in her seminal book, The Artist's Way.  You've probably read about or heard of Morning Pages, or MPs, as I like to call them, one way or another.  Morning Pages are simple--you get up, head to your journal, and write three pages, no more, no less.

Your first reaction to this idea may be similar to mine--horror at the idea that you're supposed to get up and write first thing.  I think this springs from the notion that writing is hard, and it takes thought, and if your brain is not yet awake you won't be able to think and thus write. 

But that is also the point--that you bypass the conscious, critical brain and just let the words flow onto the page. This is good for a number of reasons:

1.  Because it gets you used to just letting the words rip.  Getting into the flow of putting words on the page is excellent training for writers.  And, like any other profession, writers need to train.  The way the writing process works is this: first you glump all the words out onto the page in one glorious brain dump.  Then you rewrite.  And rewrite again.  And rewrite again.  And...well, you get the idea.  But if you are hesitant and shy with your words, you'll never get the wonder of rough draft onto the page and thus never have anything to work with.  So, you can consider Morning Pages to be part of your training.

2.  Because it familiarizes you with your subconscious.  And what a trip that is.  By writing Morning Pages, you will learn all kinds of things about yourself, perhaps that what you really want to do is study classical music or kayak around the world.  Or whatever.  Why is this important?  Because, here's the deal: the number one, most important thing for a writer is to be yourself on the page.  That's what voice is about, people.  But being yourself on the page is nearly impossible is you don't know yourself.  So write MPs.  You may astound yourself with your brilliance.  And even if you don't, you are engaging in a valuable activity, in and of itself.

3.  Because fascinating trends emerge when you aren't looking.  You know how John Lennon said, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans?" So too with MPs.  It may never have occurred to you that kayaking was something you wanted to do, until you find yourself writing about being on water--again.  You may never have thought you wanted to write poetry--until it begins to emerge in your MPs.  And so on and so forth. 

4.  Because MPs allow ideas to pop like crazy.  I've written outlines for whole novels while scribbling MPs and groggily reaching for my coffee cup.  I've had ideas for blog posts, characters, scenes in projects I'm working on, you name it.  Things emerge when you are half asleep and your conscious mind is not yet engaged.

So give them a try.  The rules for MPs are very similar to the rules for free writing.  Just write, don't worry about sentence structure, grammar, or whether you are making sense.  Just write, write, write.  Three pages, no more, no less.  Go for it.  And let me know how they work out for you.

Anybody have any experiences with Morning Pages they would like to share?

  1. *FYI, you can read Part One here, and Part Two here.  And please, please, please also go here and sign up for the free coaching sessions I'm offering.  I've added new times for the first week in January.

All The Wonderful Forms of Journal Writing

The day has gotten away from me. 

First there was the small matter of waking up just the tiniest bit hungover, thanks to an evening out with Mayanna at Bernie's Southern Bistro.  Everyone who lives in the city of Portland and many who don't have been to Bernie's, but I had never been until last night.  The food was grand, and so was the barfly company.  Fun night.  But not conducive to being at my sharpest this morning.

Then I had to run to the grocery store for ingredients to make gooey banana bread with chocolate chips and coconut in it for my writing group's Christmas party tonight.  Then I had to have lunch with my son at Cadillac Cafe.  Then I had to come home and actually make the banana bread. And now it is after four, getting dark enough to turn the outside Christmas lights on, and I've not written my promised blog post.

So, here's the deal: today I'm going to write briefly about the four kinds of journal writing I like to practice, as a sort of preview and then go into them more throughly in the next couple of posts.  Okay?  Okay.  Here we go:

  • Morning Pages.  Popularized by Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way, morning pages are just that--3 pages of writing, done first thing in the morning. 
  • Whiny Emotional Outbursts.  Often occurring in morning pages, whiny emotional outbursts are why I don't have therapy bills--because it all goes on the page.
  • Day Planning.  Obsessing on paper about all the things I need to get done, and figuring out a plan to accomplish them.
  • Chronology.  My current favorite, the chronology is actually writing about what happened in my life the day before.  The kind of things that people used to write letters about, when we wrote letters.

So there you have it, a wee preview of what I'm going to be writing about again soon.  Maybe even tomorrow, but I'm not promising anything, as I do have another social event at which wine will be served tonight.

If you want to read the first two posts on journal writing, here they are:

Part One, Journaling: One Path to Writing Abundance

Part Two, Practical Considerations for Journal Writing

And, if you haven't yet signed up for the free coaching sessions, what are you waiting for?  Go here to learn more.


Practical Considerations for Journal Writing, Second in Series

Yesterday, in a post titled, Journaling, One Path to Writing Abundance, I began a series about, you Notebook_agenda_schedule_260757_l guessed it, journaling.  I wrote a bit about why I think journaling is valuable for a writing practice and how indispensable my journal is to me.

Today, before we go any further in this series, I want to talk about some journaling practicalities.

Don't let that word, "practicality," scare you, because this is actually the fun stuff, all about choosing the correct journal and pen with which to write.   You might, at this point, be balking just as much over the word, "correct," as you did over the word, "practicality." All of us creative types hate concepts like correct, and structure, and organization.

But in this case, I mean the correct journal for you.  The correct journal is the one that you fall in love with on the shelves of the store.  It is the one that makes you feel good every time you pick it up.  The journal it makes you happy to open.  The one that you love so much you will actually fill it with words.  

What works for me might not work for you at all.  What I love in a journal may be what you hate, or vice versa.  So take some time and try some different options out and see what you like best.  If you've tried journaling in the past and not taken to it, there's a chance that you weren't using the correct journal.  Honestly, it is that important.  Besides, whiling away the afternoon in an office supply store is almost as good as whiling away the afternoon at a bookstore.  Or, you could do both and pretend you are Christmas shopping.**

Here are my guidelines, the qualities that work for me:

  1. Lined paper.  I don't know, maybe I like structure more than I think.  The unlined pages are almost overwhelming to me.  Plus, they make me feel like I should be adding delicate sketches or artful doodles and I'm just not good at that.  So my journals are lined.
  2.  Spiral or soft binding.  I carry my journal with me everywhere and could as easily be perched by a stream (okay I made that up, because I'm not generally that outdoorsy) writing as near a table.  I need a journal I can balance on my knee and still write on easily.  Up until recently, I was an adamant defender of the cause that all journals should be spiral bound.  But then I became the last person on the planet to discover the Moleskine journal.  Its soft cover doubles back on itself easily and works fine to write on in various situations.  Another type of notebook that falls into this category is the good old composition book you can buy cheaply at any office supply store or stationery department.  They'll have lots of good spirals, too.  I still love me those spirals.
  3.  Size does matter.  I prefer the 5 by 8ish size, which is easy to stash in my purse or carry along.  Some of you may prefer a pocket size, which I find a bit confining, or the big desk size.  It is all about what works for you.
  4.  Um, I guess I don't have a fourth guideline.  Except to repeat what I said earlier: find what works best for you.  Experiment, play with the process.  Find a journal that makes you long to stop everything, open it up, and write!

Besides the journal itself, there is the matter of the pen, which is nearly as important.  Again, while some may prefer a bold tip, others may always go for the fine.  I went through a long phase of preferring a medium point but am not back to an obsession with the fine point.  Then there's color...while I have a long-standing preference for blue, it is harder to find than black.  Plus these days there are all those great sets of multi-colored pens you can buy.  When you find a pen you fall in love with, stock up on it immediately because, A. manufacturers stop making them for no reason I can tell, and B. pens are like socks and Legos, they disappear.

So that's it for journaling practicality.  Feel free to share what your favorite journal and pen are in the comments.  And stay tuned for the next installment (which, with luck, will be tomorrow) on journaling.

**Speaking of Christmas shopping, don't forget my free holiday gift to you this season--I'm giving away coaching sessions!  Totally and completely free, they are, with no strings of any kind attached.  Head on over here and check out the details.


Journaling: One Path to Writing Abundance

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I'm an inveterate journaler.  As a matter of fact, I'm certain the reason I'm a writer today is because of the fake red leather diary, complete with lock and key, that I got for Christmas when I was 8 or 9.  Unlatching it was so enticing--all those lined pages to be filled with words!  I've been journaling off and on ever since.

When, as a young adult I decided I wanted to be a writer, it was to my journal that I turned.  There, I scribbled notes for stories I didn't have time to write, accounts of the events and activities of my life, and entries about the joys and frustrations of being a mother.  Gradually, the time I spent writing lengthened out, and the journal expanded to personal essays and short stories.  Eventually, I returned to school to get my MFA, and now I make my living as a writer.   I'm fairly sure none of this would have happened without my trusty journal always at my side. 

So as you might guess, I'm a big fan of using journaling as part of a regular writing routine.  I've been thinking a lot about journaling the past few days, maybe because on these cold late-autumn days, curling up by a fire and writing away in my Moleskine feels like just the right thing to do.  I've also been thinking about it because journaling is an important aspect of the practice of creating, one of the seven practices of the prolific and prosperous writer. I'm writing about these practices for the Writing Abundance E-book I'm working on, and I also talk about them in my live workshops (the next one of which I'll be presenting in Nashville in January.  Go here for more info.)  So I decided I'd share some of my thoughts on journaling here.  And then I realized that I had way more material than would fit in one blog post.  So stay tuned for an ongoing series, which I'll post over the next few days.  (Um, that is, with a little bit of luck.  It is Christmas, after all, and I've barely begun my shopping.)

Let me start by listing  a few reasons why I think journaling is good for your writing:

  • Flow.  First and foremost, because committing to writing in a journal regularly keeps your flow going.  It teaches you to let loose and just write about your day, your dreams, or anything at all.
  • Momentum.  Writing in a journal regularly gives you a sense of momentum, and the realization that yes, you can do this thing called writing.
  • Ease.  Journaling teaches you to be facile with words.  The knowledge that you can put one word after another boosts your confidence.  And this skill is transferable to other projects.

I use my journal in many different ways and you'll literally always find me with it open by my side.  I use it for:

  • Lists
  • Notes on Projects
  • First Drafts
  • To-Do Lists
  • As a life chronology
  • Notes
  • Ideas
  • Things I've Overheard

As you can see, my journal is pretty much a mish-mash of collected words and uses, which is why its so valuable to me.  It contains my life in one location.  But nearly every day I also find time to write some sort of journal entry in it, and it is this practice that I find so valuable and what I want to talk about further.

In tomorrow's post I'll talk about the various kinds of journal entries I've identified: Morning Pages, The Whiney Emotional Outburst, Day Planning, and my favorite, all the variations on the Chronology.  See you then.

Free Coaching Sessions!

Oh, and don't forget that I'm offering free coaching sessions for writers.  Yes, free!  Honest!  Why not start 2010 right and get clear on your most important writing goals and what might be holding you back from them?  Step right up and claim your writing life.  Hop on over here and read all about it.  And email me for an appointment!


The Writing Life: Walking the Labyrinth

Writers are always looking for ways to boost their creative practice.  I know I am.  I collect writing exercises and creativity activities nearly as obsessively as I collect books.  Today I want to write about another excellent practice I've recently discovered: walking the labyrinth.

In a recent post, I mentioned my stint as the "book doctor" at Room to Write, a writing retreat held in Nashville. The retreat was held at the Scarritt-Bennett center.800px-Labyrinth_at_Chartres_Cathedral Rabbi Rami Shapiro, the organizer and guiding light of the retreat, talked to us about the history of the labyrinth one very cold morning, and afterward guided us on a labyrinth walk.  I'd like to share a bit of that experience with you here. 

Most people hear the word labyrinth and think maze.  But a maze is a very different beast from a labyrinth.  Navigating a maze, your left brain is activated.  At each puzzling juncture, you are forced to make a choice or a decision as to which path to take to reach the center.  It is a problem-solving activity.

Conversely, there's only one choice to be made with the labyrinth: whether to enter or not.  (Isn't this a great metaphor for writing already?)  Because once you do make the choice to enter the labyrinth, there is only one way to go and your only job is to follow it.  Once you are on the writing path, you’ll need to trust that you are exactly where you need to be.  You need to allow yourself to succumb to the process of writing.

Once you set foot on the labyrinth, the way in is the way out.  Walking the labyrinth is a metaphor for the journey to your deepest self and returning again to the world with a more profound understanding of yourself—and the words to share it.  This is the very process that the writer repeats day by day, one word at a time onto the page.  The labyrinth encourages a deep trust in the process, that surrendering to it is not only okay, but desirable—something we often forget in our organized, logical world.

A labyrinth is also a symbolic form of pilgrimage, and as writers we make pilgrimages to our deepest selves every day.  The labyrinth is an ancient form, with the first labyrinths being mentioned in Pliny's Natural History as being located in Crete, Egypt, and Italy.  Later adopted by Christians, they fell out of favor for many centuries but have recently been resurrected as a tool for spiritual, contemplative, transformational and creative paths.  Not surprisingly, they are incredibly useful for solving writing problems.

On that cold morning last week, as we walked the labyrinth at Scarritt-Bennett, Rami encouraged us to repeat a problem with our writing (or life) on the way in, pause in the center, and then ponder a possible answer on the way out.  Or, he said, you can just repeat a word such as peace or love or home.  I was quite taken with labyrinth walking and how useful it was to shaking free ideas.

One of the most famous labyrinths is at Chartres Cathedral in France, and many labyrinths are modeled in this style, including the one at Scarritt-Bennett.   Because of a recent surge in popularity, you’ll find labyrinths in many public places, including parks and churches, most of which are open to the public.  A quick internet search will find you a labyrinth in your area.    If you absolutely can’t find a labyrinth to walk, you can find finger labyrinths for sale on the internet, or perhaps at your new age bookstore.

I highly recommend it as a creative tool, to say nothing of a profound spiritual experience.  I've already scoped out a few labyrinths here in Portland, and plan to visit them as soon as possible.   Do any of you have experience walking the labyrinth?  Feel free to share.

PS.  Don't forget to sign up for my free coaching sessions for writers!  You can find out more about this offer here.  Please sign up!  I really want to talk to you!


Free It's Time To Get Off Your Duff and Write Sessions

Yes, you read that headline correctly.  Organizer_notepad_object_266796_l

I am offering a limited number of free It's Time You Got Off Your Duff and Write sessions, otherwise known as life coaching for writers. 

Because, honestly?  It is time.

  • Time for you to write that novel you've always dreamed about...
  • Time for you to write the book that will promote your career and get you speaking engagements...
  • Time to start journaling for self-improvement, time to begin that memoir, time to write the articles for your job or copy for your website.

These days, we all have writing to do.  And lots of us are not getting it done.  I know, because I read about the struggle to find time to write in the comments, and I hear about how difficult it is from students and clients.

The thing is, writing echoes life and life echoes writing.  And a funny thing happens when you decide to really commit to your writing and get to it.  As you begin putting words to the page, over and over again, your life suddenly looks brighter.  All of a sudden you are in love with the world, experiencing that glorious feeling that delving deeply into your creativity gives you.  And when you are in love with the world, magical things happen.  Your diet and exercise resolutions are easier to stick to.  Your relationships improve (after all, once you're in an intimate conversation with yourself, it is easier to be intimate with another).  Your life opens up in a million new directions.

Do I promise that all these things will happen if you commit (or recommit) to your writing?  No, of course not.  But I can promise that all these things have happened to me as a result of writing and I've seen it occur for countless others, too.   So let's find out what might happen for you.

What might you want to discuss in one of these sessions?  Here's a few suggestions:

  • Your new year's resolution for writing.
  • Fitting time for writing into your life.
  • Getting unblocked.
  • Establishing a connection to the universe to help the words flow.
  • Ways to generate ideas.
  • How a book benefits your business.
  • The writing process.
  • And anything else you can think of having to do with writing and life...

And now you might be wondering why I am doing this?  Besides the fact that I'm a nice person and my favorite thing to do besides write is to help other writers,the main reason I'm doing this is that I want to coach more writers next year.  I want to do less manuscript reading and more coaching and this is one way I can introduce you to my coaching practice.

In case you were wondering, I've got me some credentials for this coaching, yes, I do.  Here ya go:

  • MFA, creative writing, Spalding University
  • Certified Action Coach, American Seminar Leader's Association
  • Reference Point Therapy, through Level Two workshop
  • Theta Healing, through Advanced workshop
  • Director, Writer's Loft at MTSU
  • Years of writing and mentoring others

So now that you've come this far with me, you are no doubt asking what the specifics of the free sessions are.  I'm offering them on certain upcoming dates over the next few weeks, which I'll list below.  Choose a first and second choice for date and time and email me at wordstrumpet@gmail.com.  (Please put "Free Coaching Session" in the subject line.)  I'll email you back with the time, a wee little homework assignment,  and the number to call.  Remember, I'm on the west coast, so all times will be Pacific time.  Each session is 15 minutes.

Tuesday, December 15th, morning

Wednesday, December 16th, evening

Thursday, December 17th, afternoon

Monday, December 28th, afternoon

Tuesday, December 29th, evening

Wednesday, December 30th, morning

***Update: I'm Adding Timeslots!

Several of you have suggested that adding session the first week of January would be helpful, so here you go:

Tuesday, January 5th, morning

Wednesday, January 6th, evening

Thursday, January 7th, afternoon

I can't wait to talk to you!