Tag Archives: writing tips

How We Transform Our Writing and Our Lives

Sometimes in order to write, or create any art, it helps to simply get out of our own way— out of our heads, that is -and into our bodies. I recently came from a weekend of teaching at The Sedona Yoga Festival where I spoke before hundreds of people about vulnerability, language, and writing from the body.

This is how we transform our writing AND our lives. Here’s a simple exercise you can try from the comfort of your home:

1. Step away from your writing desk, couch, favorite chair or wherever you usually write and stand up in a quiet place where you won’t be distracted or interrupted.

2. Take your shoes off and simply stand in place with your feet shoulder width apart and let your hands rest easily at your sides. Bend your knees slightly and feel into your center of gravity. Breathe into this center right below your navel.

3. Begin to rise up of your feet and bounce or jump lightly in place while shaking your arms and taking deep quick breaths in through your nose and exhaling vigorously through your mouth. Take ten of these deep breaths and long exhalations while actively shaking and bouncing.

(If you feel at all dizzy during this process simply stop the breathing exercise and sit down slowly.)

4. On the eleventh exhale close your eyes and come to stillness. And then breathe normally, feeling the energy moving through your body.

Go straight into a freewrite or focused writing practice based on the topic you were working on and write without stopping for a minimum of ten minutes. Notice any changes in your over-all energy, insight, or general creativity. Repeat throughout the day to keep your energy, vitality, and creativity flowing.

For more tips on writing, writing from the body, incredible mindfulness practices, and how to dramatically improve your writing, I hope you will join me for an extraordinary weekend workshop OR retreat at the amazing:

(California) ESALEN INSTITUTE June 12-17
(New York) the OMEGA INSTITUTE July 15-17
(Colorado) SHAMBHALA MOUNTAIN August 25-29
(Vancouver, Canada) or HOLLYHOCK Oct 1-2, 2016

Click HERE to register for any of these events.

3 Crucial Ways to Become a Best Selling Author

In more than twenty years of writing, publishing, and teaching there are 3 crucial things I’ve noticed about successful, best selling authors that took them from amateur scribbler to published professional.

1. We get clear on why we are doing this writing thing in the first place. What drives us? What is our purpose for expressing ourselves with words, as opposed to say, photography, painting, dance, or music? How is our passion sparked and sustained? Clarity is essential.

2. We have a different relationship to practice. We practice every day or at the very least, every other day. Our practice is our life; it is what we do. Sure, the voices of doubt, frustration, and fear are there, but they are shoved to the back of the bus. The difference is, we hunker down turn up the volume on our purpose and passion, and write straight through the noise. We are willing to write crap, knowing the brilliant insights lie in the commitment to practice and process over time. NOT so much by “trying to figure it out,” or “think it through” in the moment and then bailing. We have to write through the fears and doubts, hesitancy and judgments into the fresh insights, without thinking. We keep reaching beyond the limits of our abilities, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, word by word.

3. We surround ourselves with greatness, and we study it. In writing this means we read. We read a lot, we read deeply, and diversely outside and inside of our genre. We alternate back and forth between reading practice and writing practice. This means we attend readings and events with successful, best selling authors, staying motivated inspired, and perpetually learning.

SPEAKING OF WHICH. . .We hope YOU will join us for a motivating and inspiring day with legendary American writer, Dave Eggers, for a day-long writing workshop, reading, Q&A, and discussion. May 7, 2016 in Napa California. This is your opportunity to change YOUR relationship to practice! For more details, click here.

Developing Your Writing Process

The brilliant writer Donald Maass said, “Authors who succeed in the twenty first century are not focused on external measures of validation, but rather they value an inward quest for vision, voice, and invented worlds that are more vividly real that reality itself.”

A writing process develops over time. It’s everything from the type of journal you use to your favorite pen. It’s about habit, continuity and completion. Everything from the time of day you sit down to write, to how you find yourself editing is included.

It’s best for process to happen organically over time, but worth starting with the basics of choosing tools that get you to the page. I love writing in hard-back canvas notebooks— blank paper with a Pilot-Precise pen. Even when I’m procrastinating, sometime I’ll draw a terrible little picture with a caption beneath it, just to get the pen moving on the page.

Then there is typing up your work and developing an editing process which should be evolutionary and expansive. The successful writer takes their practice seriously and develops it into a process in order to evolve from amateur scribbler to published author.

Click here to learn more!

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!

Book Titles: How to Title Well

Book Titles: How to Title Well

If you can judge a book by its cover, (and yes you can–which doesn’t mean I’m a proponent of prejudice and snap judgements–it simply means EVERY detail of this author’s process was considered and thought about deeply) then you can certainly judge a book by its title–perhaps even more so. A title should be a mini poem, a gateway, a threshold, into the larger themes, metaphors, and plot of your book. The title is a badge your book will wear, a badge you yourself will wear, especially when it comes to memoir.

I would suggest multiple brain dumps, brain storms, collaborative brain trusts–to come up with your title–sit with your favorites for a few weeks. Present your favorites to you closest inner circle and take a poll. Then open it up to your larger community for their thoughts and ideas. Most of all check in with yourself–what resonates most with your true heart’s desire and what you are trying to communicate with the book. Connect with your intuition–you should feel excited, proud, and motivated by your title.

And what about subtitles? I am of two minds. I love the purity of a simple, poetic title. And yet, these days in order to reach readers it’s very helpful to include a subtitle that speaks to your niche. I chose both. Your title needs to be enigmatically informative but not obscure, catchy but not hokey, original but not overly inscrutable. A great title should propel you the reader into the swelling wave of the book, salt-spraying you with hints of the primary themes and the big why of the book. Given the insane ocean of information we are all swimming in, a good book title has the hard task of leaping out of the sea as a shiny dolphin might, inspiring awe and curiosity and a desire for a second, third, and fourth look. A look that will turn into a stare of wonder and then a surrender to immediate communion with that creature–that creature being the book.

Learn more about marketing your book and taking your writing practice to the next level in the upcoming online course Brilliant Writer: The Master Class for Successful Writers

 

What is writer’s block?

What is writer’s block?

Writer’s block can be a very real issue for some people. What do you do when you feel your creativity has dried up, you have nothing to say, or you feel everything you do say has already been said? Writer’s block can be paralyzing.

The true antidote is silence. This might sound absurd, but really the only way I’ve ever been able to reinvigorate my writing practice and get the vibrant ideas churning again, is to turn off my chattering brain. Sit down and do nothing. Sit in silence. Or walk contemplatively in silence. Focus on the simple fact of your breathing. Entertain, or glom on to no thoughts, just let them stream on through.

If you have a particularly vexing issue or life challenge, try an hour of vigorous exercise first, and then come to a period of silence. If this is difficult for you, try it in short increments at first, 5-10 minutes, and then extend to 20, 30 or 45 minutes. This is a powerful practice that can change your writing practice and your life forever! I would recommend a class on mindfulness or meditation, or hire a coach who has meditation experience. You will be amazed.

Writer’s block is often a case of “monkey mind,” a mind consumed with memories, obsessions, fears, anxieties, and anticipations. Meditation helps calm the mind, settle out the thoughts, and restore the body to a state of peace and openness. With repeat practice over time you will notice more space in your mind for original creative ideas, and a renewed energy to put those ideas to the page with confidence!

For more writing tips, check out the upcoming online course Brilliant Writer: The Master Class for Successful Writers