The Right to Write: Friendly Reader (book club)

 

image by Lívia Cristina L. C.

image by Lívia Cristina L. C.

Don’t be discouraged, but let’s go another round on this one….Remember the five steps of the writing process. Revise revise revise revise revise.

I stared at the email on my screen. I thought about the editor’s words. And then I smiled.

He had given me some suggestions to make my article better. But he did it in a respectful and caring way—ending with encouragement. I was impressed with the skill with which he gave me feedback. His words were not patronizing or condescending. They made me want to write better.

Isn’t that the point?

Julia Cameron would be pleased.

In this week’s readings of The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life, she tells us we need just such a person to share our work with.

…The very vulnerability required to be open and creative is a vulnerability that puts our creativity at risk. For this reason, meticulous care must be taken to find “safe” readers and people who can be our “before, during, and after” friends to our work.”

But let’s face it. Such a person is hard to find. People have issues—especially writers. From jealousy to insecurity to our own ideas about how writing should be done, often feedback is more about the person giving it than the work itself. This is why, Cameron says, we must qualify our readers the way a bank qualifies an investor.

Why? Because bad criticism is dangerous.

…a writer’s block is often a very healthy self-protective response on the part of our inner creator to a dangerous threat…Gentleness, encouragement, safety—these are the watchwords to be put in place for criticism…I have seen more good writing destroyed by bad criticism than I have ever seen bad writing helped by good criticism…”

Criticism should foster growth–not discourage it.

Cameron says,

…When criticism was an art rather than an adversarial position, critics sought to shape and encourage by their comments. Deeply schooled in literary tradition, familiar with the tall trees of literary talents, they could often recognize promising new work the way a skilled forester might spot valuable seedling growth on the forest floor. Today’s critics are not trained to give or receive this kind of influence…”

 Thus, Cameron says, we must be choosy about who we share our work with. We must protect our creativity. We must choose readers who read with love.

I think I have found just the place for this here in this little online space. But I’ve also participated in local writing groups that have served this purpose.

How about you? Have you ever felt your writing was damaged by harsh criticism?

 Next week: Sound, I Would Love to Write, But…, and Driving. See you on the page!

Week 10: Feed the Horses
Week 9: Honesty’s Shy Younger Sister
Week 8: In Praise of Happiness
Week 7: Writing as Prayer
Week 6: The Letter
Week 5: I Go Alone
Week 4: Witness
Week 3: Invite the Muse to Tea
Week 2: Write from Love
Week 1: Start Where You Are
Introduction: InvitationAbove image by Lívia Cristina L. C., sourced via Flickr, used with permission.

The Right to Write: Honesty’s Shy Younger Sister (book club)

image by Lívia Cristina L. C.

image by Lívia Cristina L. C.

I’ve been blogging for eight years now and the time seems to have passed like a breath. In the beginning, I was more concerned about communicating a message than I was about the craft of writing. Those early entries are simple and true. They make fine reading. But there is one thing missing from my first posts…me.

When I read through those earlier works, there is not one inkling about the woman who created them.

This week in our readings of The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life, Julia Cameron talks about the need for honesty in our writing.

This kind of dissonance, this sound of falseness, is what creeps into our writing when we use it as a place to hide something rather than reveal something. Writing is sheer—like a silk scarf—and the shape of our odd emotional furniture always shows beneath its drapes…

In my early writing, I hid behind the words. Rather than open the messiness of my life up for public consumption, I handled my message with kid gloves—making sure my hands did not get dirty.

Why? Why would I deliberately rob my words of warmth—hollow out any real connection the reader might make?

Cameron calls it honesty’s shy younger sister.

Vulnerability.

Vulnerability in writing is the enemy of grandiosity. It is the enemy of pomposity. It is the enemy of posturing; the enemy of denial…Vulnerability in writing is health…

But it is also really, really scary. Cameron touts writing as the antidote to this fear.

…once I put something on the page I am also rendered a little less vulnerable. I have created for myself a piece of turf on which I am willing to stand.

How about you? Does writing make you feel vulnerable? If so, can you take it to the page? As Cameron says, Vulnerability…is the part of ourselves that renders us capable of great art, art that enters and explores the heart.

Do you think it is worth the risk?

Three more chapters next week: Dailiness, Voice, and Form Versus Formula. See you on the page. The winner of The Girlfriend’s Short Stack is Carol! Yay! Congratulations, Carol. If you’d like a chance to win a piece of Vibella Jewelry, visit this post

Week 8: In Praise of Happiness
Week 7: Writing as Prayer
Week 6: The Letter
Week 5: I Go Alone
Week 4: Witness
Week 3: Invite the Muse to Tea
Week 2: Write from Love
Week 1: Start Where You Are
Introduction: Invitation

Above image by Lívia Cristina L. C., sourced via Flickr, used with permission.

The Right to Write: In Praise of Happiness (book club)

image by Lívia Cristina L. C.

image by Lívia Cristina L. C.

This post is part of my 31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest series. My Wednesday book club series is a part of the journey—a way of exploring creativity during this season. I’m writing in community with the thirty-one dayers. Women all over the world are joining together in the month of October to write every day about something they’re passionate about. Check out some of the other writers here. So much good stuff. To read my first post, with links to all the days, go here.Don’t forget to stop by this post for a chance to win some signed copies of S.D. Smith’s children’s books. 

::

December 10, 1984

Dad called today to tell me that he got married last week. So now she is my stepmom. I can’t believe it. I was so mad when he told me. I wanted to hang up. But there is this: he sounded happy. So now I have to decide. Am I going to go on hating this forever? Or am I going to be happy for him?

I stumbled across these words in an old journal not too long ago.

I’ll never forget the day I learned my father had remarried. I was sixteen years old. It was four years after my parents’ divorce. All of my teenage hopes were crushed that day. I finally had to face the fact that my parents were never going to get back together.

I don’t remember exactly what I felt when I wrote those words, but I do remember that I made a deliberate decision soon after to be kind to my new stepmother. I believe writing about it all helped my young self make that decision.

Julia Cameron does too. In this week’s readings of The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life, Cameron discusses how writing helps us make decisions that lead to happiness.

Just as walking aerobicizes the physical body, producing a flow of endorphins and good feelings, writing seems to alter the chemical balance of the soul itself, restoring balance and equilibrium when we are out of sorts, bringing clarity, a sense of right action, a feeling of purpose to a rudderless day. Furthermore, writing when we are out of happiness can lead us into writing from happiness. We recall happier moments and we recall happiness itself … Writing … is a series of choices that lead to a sense of something made—that something is “sense.” Sense brings to the writer choice and, with choice, a sense of at least the potential for happiness.”

My father and his bride celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary this past December. I have never once regretted my decision to embrace my stepmother. Writing about it helped me see my father’s happiness. And in seeing that, I was able to see at least the potential for happiness for me.

Not only does writing lead us into happiness, says Cameron, but writing from that place of joy is—contrary to common mythology—powerful. And natural.

Two variables seem essential for life to feel beneficent. One variable is stability. The other is change. Writing supplies a sense of both variables. Writing both gives continuity and creates a sense of continuity. Writing both gives change and creates and awareness of change. A writing life is therefore …very often a life with substantial happiness at its core. Writing to find my happiness, I find my happiness—writing.”

The angst-ridden, neurotic writer is a fallacy. A lot of good stuff comes from joy, says Cameron.

Doesn’t that make you happy?

Next week we discuss three more chapters: Making It, Honesty, and Vulnerability. See you on the page!

Week 7: Writing as Prayer
Week 6: The Letter
Week 5: I Go Alone
Week 4: Witness
Week 3: Invite the Muse to Tea
Week 2: Write from Love
Week 1: Start Where You Are
Introduction: Invitation

Above image by Lívia Cristina L. C., sourced via Flickr, used with permission.

Almost Empty

31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest: Memoir

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Writing is a powerful search mechanism, and one of its satisfactions is that it allows you to come to terms with your life narrative.”~William Zinsser, “How to Write Your Memoir.”

“Remember,” she said. “Writing is discovery. You will learn things about yourself you never would have imagined as you put word to page.”

I’ve experienced this truth repeatedly over the years, but my jaded self needed reminded. I was in a workshop on writing memoir, and the leaders were giving us a series of writing prompts. Cat Pleska and Fran Simone are successful memoirists and experienced teachers of the craft, but also, they trust in this process. Writing—putting words to one’s own story—has the power to heal.

“There are many good reasons for writing that have nothing to do with being published,” says William Zinsser in the above-mentioned essay.

Yes.

So we wrote. We read George Ella Lyon’s poem “Where I’m From” and wrote a version of our own. Then we chose a few lines from our poems of origin and wrote some more on the three elements of memoir: scene, summary, and reflection. We listened to the brave ones read their scratchings (I wasn’t one). And then we wrote some more.

A friend once told me I must write my memoir. You have to, she said. And I felt an odd sort of churning inside of me. I will have to wait until a few people I love pass into the next life, I said.

So, when I wrote my poem of origin, I was well aware of those elements of my life that made my friend say, you must.

I am from whispers in the dark,
scratchy kisses—scent of beer; open windows, curtains blowing inside-out, fresh-hoed corn,
and Johnny Cash playing on the stereo …

The leaves are almost at peak color in our little valley and the way they scatter in the breeze feel like a slow, peeling away of all the things we hide behind. This almost-empty nest has me thinking about the nest from which I flew. And I remember: writing is discovery.

This post is part of my 31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest series. I’m writing in community with the thirty-one dayers. Women all over the world are joining together in the month of October to write every day about something they’re passionate about. Check out some of the other writers here. So much good stuff. To read my first post, with links to all the days, go here.

Almost Empty

The Right to Write: Writing as Prayer (book club)

image by Lívia Cristina L. C.

image by Lívia Cristina L. C.

This post is part of my 31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest series. My Wednesday book club series is a part of the journey—a way of exploring creativity during this season. I’m writing in community with the thirty-one dayers. Women all over the world are joining together in the month of October to write every day about something they’re passionate about. Check out some of the other writers here. So much good stuff. To read my first post, with links to all the days, go here.

::

In the mornings, when I pray, I light a candle. When my quiet time is over, I carry the candle from room to room with me as I ready myself for the day. One morning my husband, a great reformer, teased me about my Jesus candle.

Do you really think God needs you to light that candle to come and be with you?

The candle, I told him, is not for God. It’s for me. All I need do is glance at its flickering light and I am reminded that He is here.

Because I tend to forget.

In this week’s book club readings of the Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life, Julia Cameron tells me to perceive writing as channeling spiritual information rather than inventing intellectual information

She reminds me why I write.

Although we seldom talk about it in these terms, writing is a means of prayer. It connects us to the invisible world. It gives us a gate or a conduit for the other world to talk to us whether we call it the subconscious, the unconscious, the superconscious, the imagination, or the Muse. Writing gives us a place to welcome more than the rational. It opens the door to inspiration. It opens the door to God or, if you would, to “Good Orderly Direction.” Writing is a spiritual housekeeper…

I don’t call it the subconscious, the unconscious or the superconscious. I might call it the imagination or the Muse. But I know where these things come from. When I recognize that writing is an extension of my spiritual listening…this is when life takes on a beauty formerly unseen.

Writing is a candle for me—a reminder of the sacred in the mundane. Words flicker on the page and common moments are illuminated.

I notice my life.

What about you? Have you experienced writing as prayer? Have you ever felt God was writing through you? Have you used writing to help connect to and integrate your life?

Three more chapters for next week: Credibility, Place, and Happiness. See you on the page.

Week 6: The Letter
Week 5: I Go Alone
Week 4: Witness
Week 3: Invite the Muse to Tea
Week 2: Write from Love
Week 1: Start Where You Are
Introduction: Invitation

Above image by Lívia Cristina L. C., sourced via Flickr, used with permission.

Almost Empty