Tag Archives: writing practice

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Why You Never Have to Be a Starving Artist

Many writers still have this tired washed-up romantic notion of the starving artist. And yes, it is difficult to sustain one’s self as an artist in our culture, but not impossible and there are infinite ways to help people, make a good living, and devote your life to writing and creativity.

So banish that starving artist notion from your head. Nothing could be less romantic than having no money. In order to nourish your creativity and your life in general it’s nice to have some abundance to help you along. This takes a major mind shift for many of us toward a mindset of prosperity.

Please know that even if you have a more creative mind, your mind is malleable and can change. Also know that when I use the word “prosperity”, I’m not talking just about money, but abundance in relationships, work, community, spirituality, and creativity.

How do we cultivate prosperity as writers? Let’s take a look…

Practice Gratitude

Prosperity is all around us, we just have to look for it. And then we have to be grateful for it. Practicing gratitude can be as simple as enjoying the sound of fresh rain or the feeling of warm sun on your skin. Or practicing gratitude can go a step further by helping others. For when we have abundance in our lives, we can share it to help others become prosperous, too.

A wise man once said, “I’m drinking from a saucer because my cup has overflowed. In this life I have reaped more than I have sowed.”

This may sound like the words of a wealthy man, but in fact this man had been blind for 40 years, had leprosy for 60 years, and was on his death bed. He was poor and had no family, and yet he felt like his life was overflowing with abundance. I think it’s no coincidence that he was also a poet; his gratitude showed up so prominently in his poetry that he received one of the highest poetry awards in his country.

This is just one example of the effects gratitude can have in creating abundance in your life.

Surround Yourself with Prosperous Writers

People who have achieved prosperity are often excellent motivators. I’ve learned this firsthand from teaching alongside and hosting writing workshops with best selling authors like Cheryl Strayed and Elizabeth Gilbert. At the Elizabeth Gilbert writing workshop in California last year, you could feel the whole room “waking up” as Liz shared her writing wisdom. Everyone felt like their cups were overflowing that day; at one point there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

Prosperity is contagious if you surround yourself with the right people. This goes back to practicing gratitude. Oftentimes, people want to share their prosperity with others. So, get out there, network, make friends, and leverage one another so that we’re all living lives full of abundance.

Get to Work

Becoming a prosperous writer is not without putting in some time and effort. No one is going to do the work for you. If you have a story to tell, you need to get it out onto the page and into the world. This requires dedicating yourself to your writing practice and a commitment to improve your writing skills.

Attending writing workshops, writing retreats, learning how to write a novel or how to write a memoir, and taking writing courses (either with an in-person instructor or an online writing course) are all ways you can dedicate yourself to your writing practice while improving your writing skills at the same time.

So, cultivate gratitude to create a feeling of prosperity, surround yourself with successful writers to get motivated to create prosperity, and get to work so that you can truly be a prosperous writer. Now is your time to shine!

If you’d like to learn more, join me this September 2016 for Writing as a Path to Awakening, which is a daylong writing workshop and writing retreat in San Rafael, California. Click here for more details.

Cultivating Passion as a Writer

Once your purpose is clarified and cultivated, passion is right on its heels. Passion is the engine that drives you and your writing forward. An engine needs fuel. Sincere interest and curiosity are that fuel fired up by active reading and exploration both literary and otherwise, by being physically and intellectually engaged with words.

All the successful writers I know have passion for their subjects; they have an unwavering energy about their characters, scenes, subjects, and plots.

Passion is part of the groundwork for establishing a successful writing practice. This principle is essential. It begins with curiosity: What are your interests, desires, hopes, and dreams? What is your energy practice around your writing? Passion is the energy that will allow you to establish longevity with your writing career.

How do you cultivate passion in your writing? This is a two-part answer.

1. Physiologically

The best place to start is with meditation and mindful breathing. In order for you to feel grounded with your passion, your body needs to feel centered and grounded first. Physical exercise builds energy in the body, so it is important to stay active during your day. You can hike, do yoga, dance, play sports, or even simply take a mindful walk.

Psychological or Spiritual

Ask yourself some important questions. What do you see when you look into your heart and ask yourself what you are truly curious about and what you truly want to be and write about? A good way to understand your passion is through journal writing and free writing. Jot down thoughts at the end of the day as a reminder of what keeps you going as a writer.

Cultivating passion as a writer is just one of the many things I touch on in my online writing course The Master Class for Successful Writers. If you’re interested in learning more, CLICK HERE to check out the course!

Reconnect With Your Inner Child to Recharge Your Writing

Reconnect With Your Inner Child to Recharge Your Writing

Guest Post by Jasmine June Cabanaw

When I was a child, I never needed to recharge my writing practice. You’d be lucky if you could pry my notebook from my hands. I would spend hours scribbling away, writing fantastical stories and poems about absolutely everything and anything. In fact, I never thought of having a writing practice at all— writing was simply something I lived to do. It was the way I experienced the world.

But somewhere along the journey to adulthood, my writing practice took a more defined shape and form. I’ve had to fit it into the nooks and crannies of my busy schedule. And oftentimes I’ve been hit with writer’s block or a creative slump. It’s got me pondering why I never had these issues as a child. It wasn’t just that I had no obligations or time constraints as a young writer; the truth runs deeper than that.

The real reason is that children are constantly submersed in creative environments. So it seems to me that the best way to recharge my writing practice as an adult is to mimic the things that sparked my creativity as a child. Below are three activities that have greatly improved my writing practice. Give them a go, reconnect with your inner child, and get writing!

Attend a reading

Think about how many hours you spent being read to during your early years, and all of the ideas those books inspired. Yet it wasn’t just the books that were sparking your creativity, it was also the people reading them to you. While you may not be able to convince someone to read you a bedtime story every night, you can still get out and attend a reading in your community. Connect with other writers, listen to a story being told in someone else’s voice instead of your own, and let the creativity pour in.

Volunteer with children

I absolutely love spending time with other writers, but the people who truly open me up to a sense of wonderment and imagination are kids. Volunteering with children will have a two-fold effect on your writing practice: you’ll gain inspiration and you will cultivate gratitude. Both of these things are perfect tools for overcoming writer’s block and recharging your creative energy. Of course, there is also the added bonus of giving back and making the world a better place, too.

Attend a workshop or retreat

Were you enrolled in classes growing up? Not just regular schooling, but extra-curricular actives, as well? I’m sure most of you probably were. As adults, our jobs take up so much of our time that we often don’t sign up for additional learning. But education is a wonderful way to improve your writing skills and your writing practice. You can either attend shorter workshops or splurge for a retreat (like the recent one we did with best selling author Elizabeth Gilbert in Napa, California. Hint, hint.). Either way, you’ll gain new skills and connect with other writers.

I hope some of these activities help you recharge your writing practice. I know what’s like to hit a creative slump— most of us have been there from time to time. Feel free to reach out and connect with us on social media. We’re always happy to support other writers and meet more of our own!

Discover Daily Mantras To Improve Your Writing

Discover Daily Mantras To Improve Your Writing

When I wake each morning, I start the day with a single thought, “I am alive.” It’s the one mantra I say consistently, every day. I love the sing-song sound of the vowels and the way the “v” vibrates on my bottom lip like a buzzing bee. But more than that, it’s a reminder to be grateful for simply being alive in this world.

A key part of a mantra is its sound, which is why you’ll hear “Om” chanted in yoga and meditation classes. Together, a mantra’s sound and meaning produce a powerful effect that can ripple throughout your day. “I am alive” is my reminder to have gratitude for the simple joy of being, which can get away from me throughout the hustle and bustle of the day if I’m not mindful of it.

Mantras are especially important to me as a writer. Writing requires focus, clarity, and an openness to run with ideas— all of which are qualities that can get blocked by stress, busyness, and distractions. I’ve always been a writer, but I’ve noticed a definite improvement in my writing practice since I incorporated daily mantras into my life.

Below are three benefits daily mantras provide for writers, along with some ideas to get you started.

A little reminder that you are a writer.

While it’s important to write every day, this goal is not always attainable. I’m sure most of you can relate to being swept up in the daily grind of a job that isn’t related to writing. Have you ever experienced a time when you were so caught up in other things that you forgot that you were a writer? It can happen to the best of us and it’s a fast track to derailing your writing practice.

A daily mantra is a wonderful way to remind yourself each and every day that you are first and foremost a writer. If you are a writer, it is essential that you that you experience the world in the best way you know how, through writing. It’s part of who you are, and if it gets away from you, it’s as if you’ve shut down a part of yourself.

The mantra can be as simple as, “I am a writer” or you can embellish your mantra to inspire deeper thoughts, such as “I am a brilliant writer,” or “I am a brilliant writer who has a successful writing practice.” Say it every day, write it on your mirror, jot it down on sticky notes— do whatever you have to in order to affirm that you are a writer and to always embrace that true part of who you are.

Daily mantras as writing prompts

Sometimes the ideas flow and other times they get stoppered up. I often think that if we were to peer inside writers’ brains, we would such a jumble of ideas that they would resemble a cluttered old attic. We need to sweep out the cobwebs from time to time to let our treasures shine.

A fun little writing exercise is to use daily mantras as writing prompts. Build a story around your mantra, or create a character who reflects the message of your mantra. You can also turn your mantra into a poem. Taking even ten minutes to play around with a mantra will get your creativity flowing, help unblock any obstacles with your writing, and reaffirm what your mantra is all about.

A solution to writer’s block

Repeating a mantra is a form of meditation and one of the best ways to cure writer’s block. The practice has a calming and grounding effect, and creates a space for quiet reflection and silence.

Meditation is connected to mental clarity. Repeating a daily mantra will make your thoughts clear and your mind more alert. Engaging in this practice often allows writers to connect with that “aha!” moment in their writing, when all the pieces suddenly come together.

The next time you have writer’s block, take a few deep breaths, think of a mantra, and repeat it slowly a few times. It will help! And at the very least it will connect you with gratitude, which is a powerful reminder that despite any distractions, obstacles, or busyness in your life, you are a writer. And you are alive.

Do you have a daily mantra? Tweet it to us or post in on our Facebook page!

Mindfulness and Writing as a Path to Awakening

Mindfulness and Writing as a Path to Awakening

Mindfulness meditation is perhaps one of the best gems a writer can have in their creative treasure box. Being aware of life and the world around you will shine light onto your ideas and bring insight into your concepts. Great writers tend to think outside the box, but brilliant writers have no box at all. Mindfulness meditation creates conditions for this by providing a space for solitude, self-reflection, and awareness.

Writing itself is a path to awakening. It is a process of utilizing the practice of writing toward further self-awareness, increased emotional intelligence, and overall expansion of consciousness. Writing as a path to awakening is a journey into creativity and exploring one’s sociological, emotional, psychological, and spiritual story for the primary purpose of insight, understanding, further clarifying, and ultimately transcending any limitations it may inspire due to over-identification.

Many of the greatest spiritual teachers from around the world were, and are, writers. From Sappho and Rumi to Pema Chodron, Thomas Merton, Jack Kornfield, and the Dalai Lama — the written word has the power not only to inspire, but also to awaken the very best in the human heart.

There are two easy ways to start incorporating mindfulness and writing as a path to awakening into your daily life. With both of these exercises, get into a space of quiet meditation first by sitting down and taking at least 30 consecutive deep breaths and turning off all distractions.

1. Mindfulness while journaling

Keeping a journal offers many benefits, and one of these is the ability to be mindful on paper about the contents of your daily life. Think about any recent interactions with people and write down the emotions that come up. Jot down descriptive words or any colors that come to mind. Your journal is a space to explore how you felt about a myriad of things, from the argument you had with your spouse that morning to why you like the smell of apples at the farmer’s market.

Being mindful while journaling will allow you to look at aspects of your life from new angles. It will unlock emotions around certain things that you maybe never even knew you even had. Best of all, mindfulness while journaling can help you resolve conflicts and look at situations with renewed gratitude and empathy.

2. Stream of consciousness

Once you have taken your deep breaths and feel as close to having an empty mind as possible, take a pen or pencil and write without stopping for about ten minutes. Don’t pause to think about what you’re writing and don’t take any breaks.

When you’ve finished, look at your writing and underline phrases or words that repeat. Highlight any parts where your handwriting had a dramatic change. Ask yourself what these things represented for you, which themes were present and why, how different parts made you feel, and if any new ideas or insights arose.

You can take this type of writing to the next level by focusing on a mantra or key word or phrase while you are doing the deep breaths before the writing. Try setting an intention and see if that shows up as you jot down your stream of consciousness.

If you’d like to learn more about Writing as a Path to Awakening, there are several workshops throughout the year at different meditation centers. The next one is coming up soon from July 15, 2016 – July 17, 2016. More details here: Writing as a Path to Awakening

In the presence of a master: writing prompts from Cheryl Strayed

I have experienced a lot of amazing things as a writer, teacher, and performer. Years ago I read at Modern Times Book Store in the Mission District of San Francisco with the legendary Beat poet Michael McCluer, who from the back of the room made throat-cutting gestures as I finished my last poem. I was mortified. Was I dragging aimlessly on—cutting into his precious time? He came up to me afterward leaned in casually and said, “I liked the one about the butterflies.” I read poems in Paris with the brilliant New York School poet Alice Notley at a bookstore in the Marais called “The Red Wheelbarrow” after a poem by one of my favorite poets of all time, William Carlos Williams. I was so nervous I thought I’d pass out and have to be carried off in a red wheelbarrow, but Alice put me at ease, being so emotionally astute and radiant in her reading, the whole store was beaming.

When I was sworn in as the very first Poet Laureate of my county, I read an extraordinary  poem by one of our fourth grade CPITS students named Caroline who wrote about Turquoise laughter and whispering in a dragonfly’s ear, about a poet weaving her story on a loom of sawdust. We were floored. In the presence of a true master at age eleven. The Board of Supervisors were on the verge of tears Caroline brought so much joy and peace to an otherwise acrimonious and opinion-grinding county agenda.

And here I am in March of 2015  finding myself in Maui Hawaii teaching with one of America’s truly magnificent, clear-minded, intelligent and generous-of-spirit writers and teachers, Cheryl Strayed. It’s such a pleasure to be in the presence of a creative writer who is so genuine, so authentic, so in touch with the reality of truth with a capital T. Which by the way, comes from being fully committed to your craft, from surrendering to the process again and again. Cheryl Strayed is truly fearless in the face of self doubt, criticism, shame, judgment—never reckless, always clear of heart and mind enough to keep writing. There is a necessary wisdom that shines through in her reading and teaching which emanates as a gift—encouraging, allowing, and even anticipating our own. You get the sense you are on a collaborative journey of discovery together. There’s no sense of superiority no air of her strutting around thinking “I’ve got it and you don’t.”

As I was reviewing some of the writing prompts Cheryl shared with us a couple years ago and some new ones recently in Maui, it became evident to me that writing prompts are fairly dependent on context and presence. Sure you can run with them on your own, pulled from a blog or website, but for them to really inspire, for them to thoroughly bleed into you and push you deep into the page, it helps to actually be there with the teacher. And by there I mean in the presence of a master writer and teacher. So if you’ve been thinking about going to a reading or taking a workshop from a master teacher like Michael, Alice, or Cheryl, do it. Don’t hesitate, no excuses, go for it. Take the plunge, your writing and heart will shine from the experience.

Would you like to join me on my next writing retreat? We’ll be in the presence of another creative writing master, Elizabeth Gilbert. Sign up here: LizGilbertEvent.com

Do You Have A Story To Tell?

By story I simply mean expressive urge to share your experience through words. Be it a poem, a story story, a memoir, an essay, a screen play, a blog post–do you have something to say, a song to sing through words? Why aren’t you writing it? I’ve found in my own experience and with my clients, a consistent writing discipline is the hardest thing to overcome. Our fear and self doubt coupled with the busyness of contemporary life conspire to keep us from the page.

There is a solution. But first you really really need to want to do it. Is that a double affirmative? You almost have to have a nagging obsessive NEED to write. If you are to be successful. And by successful, I mean complete a writing project, be that a collection of poems, short stories, essays, a novel, screen play, whatever–but completed–fully! And edited–professionally! What happens after that is addressed in a future post. For now we want to hit the page. We HAVE to hit the page!

Something is burning within us and it must be set free. Otherwise go weed the garden, or do the dishes, or amble on down to the county fair and ride the Ferris wheel (all things I avoid doing so I can write). There’s lots of other stuff to do in this life. For writers, to write is to breathe forth the words of the soul–to mirror out from the depths of your own unique experience. It’s an exploration and adventure, and at times a tough slog through the muck of resistance.

It’s partly about habits. Changing the listless bedraggled and avoiding neural networks in your brain, for ones that light up when you have a pen in your hand, or are dangling your fingers above the keyboard like an exquisite pianist. They light up anew with that fantastic new idea for what your main character ate for breakfast, and how she held her fork in that funny way with her left hand as if she were going to pound her fist on the table, while in the other she held a pale yellow pencil she kept sliding through the creases in her strawberry braids. Bing. There they go lighting up again! But don’t wait for them to do so. You must MAKE them BLAZE! Practice damnit! Stop thinking about it, shut up and write already!!

Learn more about how to craft and market your story in my upcoming online writing course Brilliant Writer: A Master Class for Successful Writers. Coming soon!

Writers are people who write!

This seems obvious, doesn’t it? But the truth is most of us creative writers, wannabe and newbie writers struggle with the issue of simply putting words to paper consistently. We can talk a good game, we can hem and haw, and dream, babble, blame, hesitate, masticate, pontificate and spool an endless stream of reasons why we didn’t get around to writing today. “Work, work, work, I’m just soooo busy at work.” “A family issue came up.” “I’m too tired.” (try that one consistently in your relationship and see how long it lasts)!

Sorry, your relationship with writing is only slightly different than your relationship with people! My personal favorite “I’m not feeling it, there’s just nothing there right now.” And on it goes driving us further and further away from our dream of seeing our ideas have a positive influence on other people and the world. Please don’t forget writing is a practice, like walking, or riding a bike. Once you finally surrender and start doing it all the time, it doesn’t feel like a thing you have to practice, it just feels like you are engaging with life. You get good by doing, not by fantasizing.

I feel silly repeating what so many have said before me, but maybe I feel I have to since I finally turned a corner in my own writing. I think I must have crossed the 10,000 hour mark. (According to Malcom Gladwell, in order to get proficient at something you have to practice it for 10,000 hours). That’s a lot of hours. I was trying to calculate up all the time I spent writing, editing, and re-writing my recent memoir. Even pushing it, I came up with only about 3,000 hours. That would be 8 hours a day for 365 days. I max out writing at four hours a day four or five days a week. Do the math. Yes it took me four something years. Fortunately I could add in the twelve to fifteen years I have joyfully spent writing poetry. Hard to calculate exactly, but I figure I’m damn close to 10,000 hours.

But whose counting, I mean really, we’re in it for the love of process and imaginative discovery or not at all. There’s lot of other things to do with our time as human beings, but I can’t think of anything more rewarding than sharing one’s take on this exquisitely magical, twisted, gorgeously bumbling, wounded, perpetually healing, world—and how I happen to experience it. I simply have fun seeing what I think, and exploring tweaks of language to make it a bit more yummy and compelling for the reader.

I’m here to help expand consciousness a hair in the right, positive direction. I write to laugh and to cry and to love-out, and truth-out loud on the page. And besides that I write to write, there need not be a reason, but there definitely need be a consistent practice! So get on it friends, write in the face  of fear and resistance and see fear and resistance wither in the presence of your commitment to write!

Take your writing commitment to the next level with my upcoming online course Brilliant Writer: The Master Class for Successful Writers