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Archive for the ‘Writer's Thoughts’ Category

There is a particularly inspiring passage in David Allen’s book Getting Things Done:

“In karate there is an image that’s used to define the position of perfect readiness: “mind like water.” Imagine throwing a pebble into a still pond. How does the water respond? The answer is, totally appropriately to the force and mass of the input; then it returns to calm. It doesn’t overreact or underreact…Anything that causes you to overreact or underreact can control you, and often does. Responding inappropriately to your e-mail, your staff, your projects, your unread magazines, your thoughts about what you need to do, your children, or your boss will lead to less effective results than you’d like. Most people give either more or less attention to things than they deserve, simply because they don’t operate with a “mind like water.– David Allen

What a great idea to aspire to. The ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ of life are both physically and emotionally draining, and in the end, they sap your energy and leave you feeling less capable of handling the issues on your plate. Now imagine if you could handle things that come along on an even keel. Like water.

All of this is easier said than done.  I have spent  much of my life being an inward-exploder. When ‘things’ happen,  my home life gets complicated, my work life gets stressful,  and everything that seemed normal yesterday is way too much to handle today.

So every day, I strive to be more like water. Imagine…If we could all learn to have a ‘mind like water’, think of how much calmer our personal lives and professional lives would be. Think of how much more energy we could devote to what really matters. And think of how happy and productive we could all be.

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In my class discussion last week, a thread was started about how our pets (cats, dogs, etc.) affect our lives, and specifically (in our case) the way we work or write.  I found it interesting to see how many writers have cats. I am one such writer. Many of you who read my blog know I used to have two little muses… recently, that number is down to one. But he is always there. And helpful, of course. Always helpful.

I find it curious that many great inventors, writers, and artists were cat lovers, including:

  • Sir Isaac Newton
  • Mark Twain
  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • Robert Heinlein

I even learned a new word for those of us with a propensity towards cats: we are Ailurophiles.

ai·lu·ro·phile

-noun
a person who likes cats; cat fancier.

So this all begs the question, what is it about cats? I find cats fascinating. They almost always seem content,  but they never seem to lose their affinity for exploration, sometimes sniffing the same corner of the room that they just checked out a moment ago. They can amuse themselves for hours with something as simple as a toy mouse or a piece of string, and yet, their sophistication knows no bounds when it comes to putting on a look that says “Duh. I knew that”.

Most importantly, my cat is trying to teach me the ability to settle with enough as enough. Jack does not have any inclination towards excess. He is content to explore the house, cuddle on a lap, or look out the window at the world around him. He doesn’t get bored and isn’t always looking for ‘the next thing’. He can just be. For hours. I admire that. As Jules Renard said “ the idea of calm exists in a sitting cat”.

Perhaps it is this trait which leads writers to have cats. I find the best inspiration for my writing come when I just sit and let it be. I look at the page onto which I’m going to compose, and just sit. And wait. And then… I write. When I need to force something, the quality is not the same. But when I can just let it be and let it come… it’s almost like magic.

So, does owning a cat make you a writer? Or if you are a writer, you must have  a cat? I would lean towards the second as I don’t believe it’s possible for us to ‘own’ cats…

“dogs have owners, cats have staff.” ~ Anonymous.

Anyone with a cat knows this to be true. But no matter. We can still have a propensity towards them.

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When I started my blog, I was very apprehensive about what to write, how to write, and when to write. I was concerned that I’d have to make my words be perfect every time.  It turns out I was wrong.

I think it’s important that a blog isn’t perfect; in fact, it should be anything but.  A blog is a social medium for communicating thoughts and ideas, and it should be thought-provoking, fun, and maybe a bit controversial at times. But it does not need to be perfect; the imperfections make it unique.

My life, like my blog, is also imperfect. I am very much a ‘work in progress’ (to borrow a term from a friend of mine); but I’m slowly figuring out who I am along the way. As long as I’m learning and growing as I go,  I’m doing O.K. My life is blessed, challenging, and sometimes I make waves. But that’s ok. My imperfections make me who I am.

Life is; as a Blog. It does not need to be perfect.

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I’ve been reading a lot of books about writing in the last few months. Many have a similar fundamental rule- keep things eloquently crisp but without verbal clutter.

I believe that Twitter helps a writer learn and apply this principle. The application forces users to say what they want to say in 140 characters or less, including punctuation, etc.  This means that while you cannot say:

“It might interest my devoted readers to be aware of the fact that I have recently published yet another attempted entry meant to fascinate you.”

you CAN say

“New today – the art of clarity without clutter. I hope you enjoy the post.” – This statement, while retaining the meaning as the one above, is clearer, more direct, and comes complete with grammatical accuracy (and 66 characters to spare)!

The bottom line is this: do not write for quantity. This will help you in many ways, most notably:

1. Your readers will be hooked more quickly and more permanently.

2. The less you write, the less you must edit!

Write for quality. Suppose you write a 30 page document. During the 1st revision, pare it down to 20. And before the final submission, make sure it is no more than 15.

So strive to be a clear, clean writer.  And let Twitter help you be a better writer, one Tweet at a time.

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A Renewed Education

I have recently decided to return (part-time) to the life of academia.  And while I am the most excited I have been for many things in recent memory, I am also slightly terrified. It has been 6 years since I was a student. It almost seems like a different lifetime…

I asked myself what it was that drove me to pursue additional education. And it occurred to me that it is my desire to continue to learn, evolve, and grow, not only as a writer, but as a person. I believe that while you can learn many things in life simply by ‘doing’, there are some things that are best taught in a classroom.

1.Theory. Deadly, I am well aware. But necessary, I believe, for a strong foundation. To paraphrase another, “You cannot build a strong house if you do not frame the walls”.

2. Practice. Nowhere else can you practice, endlessly, and learn from it. In a workplace environment, you may find yourself left to ‘practice’, but at the expense of salary, or even your position. In a school environment, you can practice what you are learning/have learnt, and continue to learn from that practice.

3. How to get ‘er done. Having certifications, diplomas and degrees attached to your name, while sometimes regarded as presumptuous, egotistical, and unnecessary, will take you far. You have proved that not only are you certified in your trade of choice, but that you had the gumption to take and complete academic classes.

And so I’m off,  to the land of the textbooks, highlighters, class assignments and late nights. I have no doubt the toll this will place on all aspects of my life; personally, professionally and otherwise.

But I am excited at the prospect of a renewed education; and along the way; a refreshed (and maybe somewhat new) me.

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I love writing. I’ve said that before and I’ll say it again. And I am fortunate enough to do what I love, every day. But some days I feel like I’m missing something.

In my work, I am fortunate enough to wear several hats,  including video post-production, audio and voiceovers, research, editing, and of course, writing. This past week, there was less writing (actual writing; lots of everything else) and I was feeling blue.  I was wondering why, as I sat and worked on my blog posts in the evening. Soon enough, I began to feel more myself. The light comes on!

I am a writer. I love to write. I live to write. But some days, composition doesn’t get the time it desires as other projects and to-do’s get in the way. Luckily, there is an easy solution. Sit down, and put something on paper. Take a few minutes and unleash a pen on paper, or your fingers on a keyboard. Put some words down, no matter what they are or how they flow. Just write. Just DO what you DO.

That is when writing, for a writer, is rewarding – when we actually write. Granted, we should all be so lucky to do what we love every minute of every day… but alas. Like the hockey player who watches video footage all day but didn’t get to take any shots, or the musician who worked on theory all day but never got to play a single note, sometimes other things must come first. But that doesn’t mean that writing doesn’t come at all.

Take a few minutes, and just write. You will feel rewarded.

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I read an article today about  how there is no such thing as writer’s block. And I got to thinking how true that concept really is.

Think about it – there is no “block” that stops you from singing in the shower, dancing around the house, or scribbling on the margins of a notebook. Why not? Because you don’t care how it ends up. It’s just for fun. It’s freeing. It’s creative. And it doesn’t matter.

So why is there writer’s block? Because writers, as a general rule, are perfectionists. We only want to write best sellers. The words need to be perfect. The rhythm needs to be fluid. The grammar needs to be divine. Otherwise – it’s worthless.

NOT TRUE – and it’s time break the cycle.

Ever heard of a mind map, or a brain storm? Well, your writing should work the same way. Write what you are thinking or feeling. It might turn into something and it might not. It might be the next best seller, or it might be nothing more than scrap paper used to start a new idea a month from now. But it shouldn’t matter. So stop trying to do and DO. Just write. You never know where it might take you.

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