Thank You, and Goodnight

Applause.

It isn’t something a writer seeks. Or, at least, it isn’t something a sane writer anticipates. Ours is, most often, a very solitary craft. Few of us will ever stand in front of a throbbing throng of rabid fans and accept, graciously I hope, their thunderous applause.

But, occasionally, some of us stand in a small room or a bookstore or, perhaps, a quarter-filled auditorium where we receive some feedback for our work.

Similarly, when I teach, I do not anticipate an ovation at the end of a class, even in a class where the students have chosen to be there and are happy to be so.

Today, though, I received a warm ovation from the students in my Reading as a Writer class. We had spent Fridays together for the last eight weeks, studying Graham Greene’s classic, The End of the Affair. As class ended today—ten or fifteen minutes late, as usual, because I have been unable to limit myself to the allotted class time—I wished the students well, told them I hoped they had enjoyed our time together, and reiterated just how much fun I had had leading the class.

And, they applauded.

It is a nice feeling. I understand, a little, of why actors and athletes and performing artists do what they do.

Applause is a different kind of feedback than the writer gets used to. There is always something wrong with a written work, so sending even a very strong story or novel to our trusted first-readers is a risk. We have to gird our loins, so to speak, and wait for the hammer blows. Sending stories to editors for consideration most-often ends with a form letter rejection. When we get a personal rejection, most of us do a happy little dance that we can’t explain to non-writers. (“Yes, I’m shaking my groove thing because someone said ‘no’ to me in a kinder, more considerate way than most people reject me!”) Even when my stories are published, I rarely hear any positive feedback, and certainly no one has ever made an audio recording of themselves applauding my work.

I appreciate the feedback I received today from those kind and gracious students.

After they had all left, I stayed in the classroom and erased the whiteboard and gathered my things and sat, for just a moment, in the now-empty room, almost as one does when leaving a long-time home for the final time. It is silly, I know.

Later today, a dear friend asked me, “Do you miss it already?” She knew I had really enjoyed teaching this particular class, and she already knew the answer before she asked it. As, good reader, do you.

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The Feel of the World In Your Hands

Occasionally, a story, or poem, or song will move me beyond what it reasonably should.

This heart of mine is tuned to a strange frequency, but sometimes I find just the right point of resonance in an unexpected place.

I’m a big fan of Tift Merritt’s music. I enjoy all of her albums. I got to see her, along with Simone Dinnerstein, in Tampa last year.  But there is something about this song, The Feel of the World, that consistently tugs at my sentimental soul. Especially when she sings, “I picture you now, you are beautiful, you are golden, Just like you were when you thought no one was looking. Time will take care of you, love. Time will take care of you…”

I thought I would share it with you.

The lyrics are below. You can buy the mp3 of the original album version or the version recorded with Simone Dinnerstein. (Or, buy both of the albums…)

Listen here: 

The Feel of the World
Tift Merritt, See You On The Moon

I’ll tell you what I will miss –
California and horses,
Down by the sailboats where we waded in,
The feel of the world in my hands, in my hands,
The feel of the world in my hands.

And still so many ways that I love the wind –
From a storm in the sails to the breath on your lips,
It’s such a little thing, then again, then again,
The feel of the world in your hands, in your hands,
The feel of the world in your hands, in your hands.

Just like the Sunday we drove out from Houston,
Out to the edge of the world, out where the sky starts to bend,
After awhile in the sun, you’ll be sleeping, sleeping.

I picture you now – you are beautiful, you are golden,
Just like you were when you thought no one was looking.
Time will take care of you, love. Time will take care of you, love.
I will take care of you, love, again, again,
The feel of the world in my hands, in my hands,
The feel of the world in my hands, in my hands.

Hey, writers…

This is a quick post. A sort of poll question, if you will…

What service or resource have you tried to find to help you with your writing, but have been unable to find, either on-line or in person? Or, another way to ask: What is something you’ve said, “If only I could find _x_ it would help me be a better writer!” but have been unable to find?

If something comes to mind, feel free to post it below, or send me an email. Ask other writer friends to chime in. I’m curious to hear…

There are no wrong answers. 🙂

Don’t Forget…

My website, Words Matter Creative Writing Instruction, has information about my publications and creative writing teaching and coaching services.

My website, Words Matter Creative Writing Instruction, has information about my publications and creative writing teaching and coaching services.

Hey, I know it’s not cool to over-promote one’s self on his or her own blog, but I do, from time to time, like to remind people that I have a website which features not only links and information about some of my publications, but is also packed with info about my creative writing teaching and coaching services.

I always enjoy meeting new writing students and clients. Working with other writers, and helping them along the path to their own creative vision, is always a learning experience for me. Whether it is Legacy (personal history, non-fiction) writers or fiction writers, there is always something new I learn about the world, and my place in it.

So, I hope you’ll forgive this little moment of shameless self-promotion. And maybe, if you haven’t stopped by my website in a while, you’ll want to take a minute to do so, or to pass my information along to a friend.

Have a great week, folks.

Happy Writing!!

Twelve Weeks to Me, Part One: Scheduling

When I started thinking about how I would make some changes in my personal and creative life, I started with the first necessary component: scheduling. I knew several things, up front, and I began to plan accordingly.

First, making changes in our lives that have measurable, positive effects almost never happen accidentally. Once I came to a point of saying, “Something’s gotta give,” then I needed to be INTENTIONAL about my actions. Further, those actions have to be a part of a PROCESS. Change is rarely a “magic wand” moment. It takes time, effort, and patience. (And, to fuel the commitment to see the process through, I have to believe in both the process and the intended outcomes.) Finally, I knew my intentions, and the resulting practices, had to be HOLISTIC. The plan I was coming up with needed to address the whole me: mind, body, and spirit.

As the public school year came to a close, and as we settled into our new living space, it seemed like a good time to hit the “reset” button and try something new. So, here’s the three-part method I used to come to terms with scheduling (or planning, or facilitating) my program. (Pick whichever word doesn’t ruffle your creative feathers…)

Identifying needs, establishing priorities, and writing it down: these are the steps I use to schedule active change and progress.

Identifying needs, establishing priorities, and writing it down: these are the steps I use to schedule active change and progress.

1. Identification – The first thing I needed to do was identify what I perceived as the deficiencies in my current plan, the ways I could remedy those deficiencies, and decide on some measurable ways to keep track of progress. For me, I knew there were some very specific areas I needed to address: creativity, time on task with writing, spiritual and psychological well-being, and physical health. I made a list of each of these areas (along with a brief description of what the “ideal” would look like) and then, within each area, a sub-list of specific actions I could take to address the identified needs. This was a brainstorm list, not just a list of things I had already decided to do.

2. Set Goals – You can call them “priorities” if the word “goal” makes you nervous. I took things from the list (such as “Daily Journal” or “Regular time for prayer and meditation” or “Go to one new place each week”) and began to quantify the frequency I wanted them to happen. For example, I wanted to finish at least one new book a week, and wanted to have a quiet time of meditation and prayer every day. It was during this phase that I also decided to commit to a twelve week plan: once I set the goals and made up a schedule for meeting the goals, I was going to stick with it for twelve weeks. (Why twelve? It’s divisible into three 4-week phases of implementation…mostly.)

3. I wrote it all down – First, by making a listing of the specific things I wanted to accomplish, and the frequency I wished to accomplish them. I wrote them out, then, I came up with a daily “ideal” calendar which would allow me time on task for each area. (Otherwise, I’m just “hoping” it happens, not making it happen.) And then, I developed tracking sheets to measure my progress.

And, that’s where I will resume this discussion, next time…

Until then, Happy Writing.

photo credit: candrews via photopin cc

Change Your Actions, Change Your Results

As I mentioned early in the week, I hit a creative wall in the second quarter of 2013. Things weren’t happening, for me, and as the transition into Summer came around, I knew it was time to re-charge the process.

We all know, on some level, that if we keep doing things the same way we’ve been doing them, we’ll continue to get the same results. When things are going really well, that’s a good thing. Keep plugging along. Keep drawing on those reserves until they give out.

Continue reading

Other Pursuits

Instagram reawakened my interest in photography.

Instagram reawakened my interest in photography.

I often talk to other writers about having other artistic outlets. For some of us it may be painting, or dance, or theater, or music. Maybe it is wood working, landscape or garden design, or perhaps cooking. For some of us, we have a whole host of creative things we enjoy, even if we aren’t particularly good at them. These other areas of creativity feed into our writing rhythm and help propel our subconscious mind forward with our writing work, even if we don’t quite realize that is what’s happening.

Photography is one of the things I’ve always enjoyed. In recent years, I’ve allowed that interest to wane. It wasn’t that I was no longer interested in photography, but I did allow myself to drift away from it.

That changed last year, when I began posting photos to Instagram. I had been taking photos with my iPhone to document the little moments of beauty and grace that happen in my day-to-day life, but most of those photos were never shared, and rarely seen anywhere besides the small screen of my smart phone. Instagram gave me a way to manipulate the pictures (through filters) and present them to a wider audience. If you are interested in seeing some of my Instagram photos, you can click here.

Now, I share photos quite often via Instagram, and that act of sharing photos and receiving some little positive reinforcement has reawakened my photographic tendencies, even though the photos I share there are taken almost exclusively with my iPhone. Taking those photos started the ball rolling.

I’ve taken my “real” camera (a Nikon 3100 DSLR) out and about more often recently, and not just for snapshot photos. I’ve returned to a place where I can really consider the composition and content of the photos I’m taking. This “slowing down” and drinking in the details is something that serves me well as a fiction writer, and I’m glad I’ve been able to return to my photographic roots.

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The pursuit of other creative activities can give the writing life a boost.

The pursuit of other creative activities can give the writing life a boost.

I know a few of my regular readers are also interested in photography, so I’m going to post some links below to SnapKnot and a contest they are having to give away either a Cannon 5D Mark III or a Nikon D800. (If I win, I’m picking the Nikon…) SnapKnot is a wedding photographer directory where soon-to-be-wed couples can search for the perfect photographer for their big day. They are taking entries online and will give away the camera later in the year. Whether you are a Cannon fan or a Nikon fan, this would be a great camera to own. Big thanks to the SnapKnot wedding photography directory for offering this great camera giveaway!