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NaNoWriMo – 10 lessons on the value of writing each day

November 14, 2017

We now structure our hours not to flee from fear, but to confront it and overcome it. We plan our activities in order to accomplish an aim. And we bring our will to bear so that we stick to this resolution.

Steven Pressfield, Turning Pro

I’m doing NaNoWriMo and committing to writing 50,000 words in one month. Here are some lessons on the value of writing each day.

This year I’m doing NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – and committing to writing 50,000 words in one month. I’m writing a non-fiction book rather than a novel because I want to write that first up. It’s the practice, accountability and discipline that this activity is all about. I’m finally stepping up into doing the writing I’ve wanted to do for so long.

And it’s working a treat. It’s day 13 as I write this post and I’ve written 22,937 words so far this month, an average of 1,764 words a day. I’ve written 36,736 words in total now on the first draft of my book. Who’s counting? Me – and with great enthusiasm!

The working title of my book is ‘Wholehearted’ and it’s about wholehearted self-leadership for women in transition. Sound familiar? Yes, there’s certainly an element of memoir and personal narrative in there. I know from my experiences with leadership, self-leadership and learning as a Life Coach and Jung/Myers-Briggs Personality Type practitioner and intuitive tarot reader, that I have a lot to share. And as I write my draft, I realise just how much. Like any writing, my message and learning deepens as I write and I’m discovering more about what I know.

The biggest discovery – creativity over the long-haul

I feel like I sort of tricked myself into NaNoWriMo this year. You see, I wasn’t planning to do it this year except vaguely. In other years, I made it a big thing in my head and then didn’t make much progress. But, this year was different. And I realise, in truth, there has been plenty of creativity, planning and preparing going on for the longest time, so I shouldn’t sell myself short.

Not making a big deal out of it up front helped immensely to take the pressure off and just focus on getting to work. But it turns out I was in a great position to do the writing because of all the time invested in preparation and long-haul creativity. When I stop and reflect, I realise these strategies have been comprehensive, intuitive and practical.

Here’s a list of some of these strategies – and then I’ll take you through my learnings from this to inform your own writing and self-leadership plans.

Strategies for making NaNoWriMo part of a longer creative plan

NaNoWriMo is a focus for one month of the year. It’s a fabulous learning experience and community. Most importantly, it’s a way of focusing our attention on getting writing done and what it feels like. And this is priceless for the breakthrough value.

But it doesn’t exist in a vacuum, nor is it the only time of the year you can write like this. So a real discovery for me this year as I’m working on NaNoWriMo is that I’ve been building this opportunity for a long time.

Here are some of the strategies I’ve worked on in the past year to prepare the ground:

  • Working with a writing coach, Caroline Donahue aka The Book Dr, to work out where my writing sat in relation to my evolving coaching business. I realised it is central, the raison d’être of Quiet Writing and if I didn’t do it, I wouldn’t be feeling authentic!
  • Preparing an outline for the book which I did in February 2017 and worked on over time on paper and then put into the writing software, Scrivener, adding to it as I went.
  • Having the structure set up in Scrivener so I can write wherever I feel drawn to write but knowing the overall plan (as an INTJ Jung/Myers-Briggs type – I need to see the big picture!)
  • Making a start so I had 10K words written in my draft when I started NaNoWriMo.
  • Working with Dr Ezzie Spencer through her Book Whispering Project on getting my book written in simple and practical terms. This was based on her own experience of writing her book, ‘An Abundant Life‘ in a joyous, clear and productive approach, clear on her whys and attracting abundance into her life and writing, including getting published.
  • Writing my free ebook 36 Books that Shaped my Story: Reading as Creative Influence. This helped me limber up, work out the practicalities, feel like a writer and also understand my literacy lineage and the way I really wanted to write and tell my story
  • Becoming a Life Coach and Jung/Myers-Briggs Personality Type practitioner and learning the intuitive art of tarot – three key learning goals in my transition journey over the past year
  • Reading tarot each day in my Tarot Narrative journey and sharing it through social media.
  • Reading the key books I needed to read to support my transition journey from teacher and leader in a government organisation to successful Writer, Life Coach and Personality Type practitioner and creative entrepreneur.
  • Connecting with my writing mentor, Sage Cohen, via her book Fierce on the Page. Sage is also doing NaNoWriMo this year and put out a shout out for anyone else doing it so we could support each other on Facebook each day as we write.

Showing up and doing the writing

So yes, I sort of tricked myself by starting without fanfare, but I’ve really been creating a wholehearted plan for self-leadership of my writing for some time. This has made it possible to do the writing.

And through this, I’ve learnt how to show up each day as a priority. This is another thing I’ve been working towards. As I wrote in this piece on showing up, it becomes a practice all of its own. As Steven Pressfield exhorts us in his books, The War of Art and Turning Pro, we have to counter our resistance and make a start. In the end, you just have to turn the corner, change your mindset and put it into practice.

With writing, you can work up to it as I have done by writing each day in other ways. I got back to a practice of Morning Pages this year and it’s made the world of difference to start the day with writing each day. And I committed to my Tarot Narrative practice of reading tarot and oracle and working intuitively and then sharing it. This act of writing and organising myself to tell a story of insight each day based on an intuitive reading has been so powerful. It’s given me the confidence and self-belief to trust my story and intuition. Moreover, it’s been a keystone of my self-leadership. And weaving this into books and quotes has helped to connect with my literary legacy, creative influences and remind me of key thoughts. Sometimes, it’s become the message of the day’s NaNoWriMo writing, intuitively delivered.

In fact, the whole weave of these practices is making the book drafting process possible and real. It’s not something I could have done and realised without the act of writing to realise it.

So here are 10 learnings I’ve gathered from my experiences of writing each day via NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo

10 lessons from NaNoWriMo and writing each day

1 It takes a village

The first thought about what I’ve learned from NaNoWriMo is ‘it takes a village’. You might feel like you are sitting there writing all by yourself and you are at the moment of writing. But behind you and around you, there are all of your influences: your family, friends, experiences, coaches, mentors, all the books you’ve read that helped you, the people who cheer you on, the friends who’ve read your work and given feedback, the ones you could call on at the last minute to say, “help!”. And the people that support you and give you the space and peace to write each day now. Then there are all the podcasts you’ve listened to about how to write and self-publish there supporting you too. For me, for example, this is just about all of the 347 Creative Penn podcasts with the fabulous and inspiring Joanna Penn. I’ve been connecting and building my knowledge and creative community and skills over time through others. It’s true, writing can be a lonely trek. But when you are feeling alone writing, remember the village and community and all the mentors that helped you get there and whose spirit is helping you to write now.

2 Prepare the ground

NaNoWriMo happens in November each year. For me, the trick was to prepare the ground in many ways so it was a natural thing to write steadily each day for this month. This means knowing your topic and focus and the shape of your work. I’ve tried NaNoWriMo before and started with a novel but I had a lot of trouble. I don’t think it was the right piece for me at that time. Prepare the ground by knowing what you are writing and why. Some preliminary research will help to make the most of your writing time invested. And know it doesn’t have to be a novel. Whilst NaNoWriMo does focus on getting novels written and this is great, you can still use the framework and sense of urgency to make progress on other works. These might be memoir, personal narrative and non-fiction. I hope to write a novel next time around from these learnings.

3 Make a plan and have an outline

You could dive in cold without a plan and that might work best as a preference for some. There’s always that dichotomy between plotters and pantsers (who fly by the seat of same). But I think for most people some form of planning helps. I knew what I was going to write and where I was going this month.  I’ve had an outline for this piece of work for a while, adding to it as I thought of new angles and connections. I had an outline on paper in a mind map form and knew the main chapters and key points I wanted to cover. It was easy to transfer that outline to Scrivener as pieces of the plan to focus on. Having worked with Scrivener for my ’36 Books’ work, I had a basic working knowledge of how to make a plan that used this software to its potential.

4 Structure and the big picture helps you be flexible

Having that outline and the big picture helps me know the overall map and where I’m going. With it all there in Scrivener as a detailed plan of content, I can write whichever part feels right to me for that day. Each part is a chunk of approximately 1667 words I write whenever it feels right. I can draw on books I’m reading and my intuitive tarot work, podcasts I’m listening to, what’s in my head and feelings, to focus in on the piece that is calling my heart today. And you could do this with fiction or non-fiction. The structure and process help you be flexible and write according to your heart rather than having to be linear in your approach.

NaNoWriMo

5 Work with your intuition and its tools 

Whilst structure is great, working with your intuition is fabulous too. So a balance between yin and yang, between flowing and structuring works very well. In my work with tarot and oracle each morning, I am tapping intuitively into the guidance beneath the surface of my attention. This can help me with zeroing in on where to write.

For example, yesterday’s Tarot Narrative was about structure and order but being non-attached to outcomes. I was drawn to a quote from Danielle LaPorte in ‘White Hot Truth’:

Desire. Let go. Expect. Trust. All in, and unattached. It’s the paradox of manifestation.

As a result, my writing for yesterday for my book and NaNoWriMo then focused on being nonattached to outcomes in our work in self-leadership. So going with the flow of our intuition, with whatever tools we use, can be valuable inspiration pointing the way.

6 Connect with mentors and coaches

A key part of my strategy for preparing the ground was seeking out coaches and mentors. This helps you with your writing and also working out its place and processes. For example, as part of my Beautiful You certification as a Life Coach, I needed to undergo coaching myself with a certified Beautiful You Life Coach. So I chose to work with a Life Coach who specialises in getting writing done, Caroline Donahue. Caroline is also a Life Coach and Writer, so this was really valuable for working out where these pieces fit and how they guide each other. I reaffirmed that writing is the authentic heart of my business. This earlier connection with a coach helped lay the foundation for my work now. Plus I’ve built up my connection with writing mentors and coaches over time through reading, podcasts, ecourses and online linkage. (see #1 the village!)

7 Skill up via self-learning (find out what you need to know and do it)

As well as coaching, I’ve identified the skills I need to be the writer I want to be. This list of skills is always evolving but I know right now getting my book written and out there is key. And keeping it simple. So I signed up to work with Dr Ezzie Spencer in The Book Whispering Project. This has been pivotal in gaining focus and clarity on my book project. Over the longer term, I’ve worked on my Scrivener skills for a few years now via Learn Scrivener Fast and through practice. Over time and every week, I’ve invested too in learning about writing, creativity, technical aspects of creation, sales and self-publishing via podcasts and books including audiobooks. I’ve been building a knowledge base over time I can put into practice now and into the future.

8 Keep it clear, practical and simple using metrics 

Through NaNoWriMo, I’ve learned the value of keeping things simple, and using tools like daily metrics and graphs to keep on track. I now know I can write 1667 words in under an hour direct into Scrivener. This makes it seem so much more attainable – just finding one hour a day to write. If the day is busy, it’s manageable to see it as two half-hour spots to find somewhere. I use the Pomodoro Tide App to keep time and help me focus. I love this App! Most days I can get the 1667 minimum words down in under two Pomodoro 25 minute cycles. This metric keeps me focused and it feels doable. After I’ve finished writing, I back up my files and add the day’s count to my NaNoWriMo graph so I can feel like I’ve achieved. There are badges to help me celebrate progress and I can record my achievement in practical terms. I can see that this focus on metrics is a practice you can use all year round to write much more regularly.

 

NaNoWriMo

9 Connect with supporters and be accountable

Working with The Book Whispering Project also emphasised accountability. I was encouraged to be clear about what I was doing and why and how many words I planned to do by when. One of my fellow learners was also planning to do NaNoWriMo so we’ve linked up and had quiet email chats on the way through. And at the same time my long time writing mentor, Sage Cohen, put out a call for anyone in her community wanting to jump off the NanoWriMo bridge together for support. That has been so awesome for encouragement and connection with other NaNoWriMo writers via a private Facebook book. Plus NaNoWriMo has its own accountability and support processes. Connecting with others on the same road has been an excellent way to share and celebrate process and progress. Being accountable in both public and private ways helps boost our commitment to getting the work done.

10 I am so grateful

And a central piece in all of this is that I am so grateful. I might be a woman who loves writing, sitting there on my own writing quietly. But I am surrounded by the love, support, friendship, influence and wisdom of all my teachers, mentors, coaches, friends, fellow creatives and supporters. For this, I am extremely grateful and I look forward to sharing my learning and writing shaped from all of these experiences. The book I am writing is about self-leadership. A key component of this is acknowledging our influences and being grateful for them. Taking our influences forward in wholehearted ways is a spiralling adventure we can all engage in to help others.

So thank you to everyone reading for your support – I am so grateful. I hope these insights have been useful for you in making your voice heard in the world. I’ll let you know how I can get on for the rest of the month but I’m feeling positive. Remember too that these practices can be part of your practice any day or month of the year. The learnings from NaNoWriMo can be instructive for writing all year round. And I hope to write that novel next. So let’s spiral up in our creativity together!

When you start creating for and in honor of those that have made a difference to you, your work changes.

Seth Godin, Dedicating the merit

 

NaNoWriMo

Thought pieces

Here are some links to key influences mentioned in this piece and some great NaNo inspiration:

NatNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – there’s plenty of inspiration and resources – and you can follow my word count here

Dr Ezzie Spencer – The Book Whispering Project

Caroline Donahue, Life Coach  – Secret Library podcast episode – Crushing NaNoWriMo

Joanna Penn – Want to win NaNoWriMo this year? 7 Tips on Writing and Productivity – some excellent tips on NaNo from Joanna who went from one month of writing her novel in 2009 via NaNoWriMo to having 15 novels and many other books published. Plus there’s a great writing bundle available for this month.

Feature image of me is via David Kennedy Photography and the map and computer images are from pexels.com. All used with permission and thanks.

Keep in touch & free ebook on the ’36 Books that Shaped my Story’

You can download my free ebook on the 36 Books that Shaped my Storyjust sign up with your email address in the box to the right or below You will also receive updates from Quiet Writing and its passions. This includes personality type, coaching, creativity, writing, tarot and other connections to help express your unique voice in the world.

Quiet Writing is on Facebook and Instagram – keep in touch and interact with the growing Quiet Writing community.

If you enjoyed this post, please share via your preferred social media channel – links are below.

You might also enjoy:

Practical tools to increase writing productivity

Creative and connected #12 – The courage to show up

20 practical ways of showing up and being brave (and helpful)

Intuition, writing and work – eight ways intuition can guide your creativity

inspiration & influence writing

Honor Your Lineage by Sage Cohen – from Fierce on the Page

October 19, 2017

This guest post, Honor Your Lineage, by Sage Cohen, is from her book Fierce on the Page which helps you become the writer you were meant to be. I am indebted to Sage for this piece that led to the creation of my free ebook, 36 Books that Shaped my Story: Reading as Creative Influence. I’m so grateful to Sage for being able to share this inspirational essay in full here. Sage is a writing mentor and support to me and many aspiring and practicing writers. Fierce on the Page and Writing the Life Poetic feature in my 36 influential books. Enjoy reading and I hope this piece inspires rich reflections on your literary lineage, as it has done for me.

Fierce on the Page

I have always been magnetically drawn to the books I need as teachers. Recently I cleared a shelf and, with great reverence, placed on it the books I most love—the ones that have shaped me in the way that water shapes stones, almost imperceptibly over time.

Whenever I scan their proud spines all lined up in a row, I think of how this shelf reflects my literary lineage. These are the poets and writers whose work whispers directly into my ear to penetrate my being and reveal what I need to know about being a person and a writer. These are my literary ancestors and immediate family.

I consider each book with gratitude: Sharon Olds’s The Dead and the Living, the dog-eared, tear-stained poetry collection that I have been returning to since my early twenties when I so desperately wanted to write a collection of its caliber that I considered giving up poetry altogether; Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Chronology of Water: A Memoir, which sings through me as if its narrative were a plucked string of the sitar calling forth my own story in accompaniment; Kim Rosen’s Saved By a Poem, affirming my lifelong practice of poetry as sacred medicine; When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chódrón, which has instructed me how to make the crossing from resistance to acceptance in my darkest moments.

This small literary collection, along with the rest of the books on my “lineage shelf” is a funhouse mirror reflection of who I am, what I love, and from where I have come. I imagine the little serif font letters swimming through my cells. The words that come through me now have breathed the amniotic suspended dreams of every word I have admired, allowed in, and sent back into the world. These titles are a bouquet harvested of my desire to enter the universal human experience through poem and story.

Here, in the authority and stability of its literary family, the title of my next project presents itself. It is shy, wobbly, unsure of whether to trust my hand. We sit together, and I listen. Take a few notes. A large fluff of dandelion seed drifts by my open window as the peas in the garden bed below nod in the wind.

By taking the time to name and appreciate my literary lineage, the next step on my path reveals itself to me. I wonder if that’s really all our writing asks of us: to know what we love, to listen, and to give ourselves over to what presents itself.

Be Fierce

I invite you to honor the books you love most by giving them their own shelf (or even their own pile). Then sit with them and appreciate how they have informed your vision, your craft, or your sense of direction in your writing life. Is something inside you lingering on the peripheries, wanting to come through? What work of yours belongs on this shelf, in this company? What knowledge have you gained from these books that now informs your own literary legacy?

* * * * *

Sage Cohen

 

 

Sage Cohen is the author of Fierce on the Page from Writer’s Digest Books and three other books. Her agency Sage Cohen Global crafts communication, education, and empowerment solutions that help people and businesses change the conversation. She serves writers at sagecohen.com and divorcing parents at radicaldivorce.com.

 

 

 

Read about the 36 books that shaped my story

This essay inspired a fabulous journey of revisiting the books that influenced my writing and life story. You can download my free ebook on my literary lineage and the 36 books that have shaped my story just sign up with your email address in the box to the right or below You will also receive updates from Quiet Writing and its passions. This includes personality type developments, coaching, creativity, writing, tarot and other connections to help express your unique voice in the world.

Quiet Writing is on Facebook and Instagram – keep in touch and interact with the growing Quiet Writing community.

If you enjoyed this post, please share via your preferred social media channel – links are below.

You might also enjoy:

Being ‘Fierce on the Page’ – a book review

36 Books that Shaped my Story: Reading as Creative Influence

How to know and honour your special creative influences

Feature and author image via FierceonthePage.com and used with permission and thanks.

planning & productivity writing

Doing the work: 21 valuable quotes to help you show up

September 26, 2017

doing the work

As I was working on my post, 20 Practical Ways of Showing Up and Being Brave (and Helpful), I went back to my collection of quotes to consider different angles of showing up and doing the work. This was such a valuable exercise in itself, so I thought I’d share the quotes that popped up.

They tell a story about the different dimensions of doing your work. As a collection, they highlight values such as courage, action, uncertainty, mindfulness, prioritising, soulfulness, mystery and trust. I flag these many dimensions of doing your work here too to inspire you from all these angles.

Which one resonates with you the most right now?

1 INFLUENCE

Don’t underestimate the extraordinary effect you have every single time you show up to a situation with an open, loving heart.

Scott Stabile, in Big Love: The Power of Living with a Wide-Open Heart

2 MINDFULNESS

Let’s pay attention only to where we are.
There’s only enough beauty in being here and not somewhere else.

Fernando Pessoa, in A Little Larger than the Entire Universe: Selected Poems

3 COURAGE

So this, I believe, is the central question upon which all creative living hinges: Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?

Elizabeth Gilbert, in Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

4 ACTION SPEAKS

You are what you’ll do, not what you’ll say you’ll do.

Carl Jung

5 UNIQUENESS

The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.

Neil Gaiman, Make Good Art – Inspirational Commencement Speech at the University of the Arts

6 BE YOURSELF

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

7 FOCUS ON ESSENTIALS

I can’t think of anything else necessary to a writer except a story and the will and ability to tell it.

John Steinbeck, Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters

8 LISTEN WITHIN

Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.

Steve Jobs, 2005 Stanford University Commencement Address

9 HARD WORK

Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.

Stephen King, from an interview in the London Independent (March 10, 1996)

10 SOULFULNESS

The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind.

Caroline Myss

11 UNPLUG

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.

Anne Lamott, TED Talk

12 BE SEEN

Courage starts by showing up and letting ourselves be seen.

Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way we Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

13 DO IT NOW

Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right’. Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.

Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich

14 PRIORITISE

What’s important is the work. That’s the game I have to suit up for. That’s the field on which I have to leave everything I’ve got.

Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

15 CONSISTENCY

I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.

Somerset Maugham (as quoted in The War of Art – see #16).

16 FACE RESISTANCE

In terms of Resistance, Maugham was saying, “I despise Resistance; I will not let it faze me; I will sit down and do my work.”

Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

17 TRUST MYSTERY

The professional trusts the mystery, He knows that the Muse always delivers. She may surprise us. She may give us something we never expected.

Steve Pressfield, Turning Pro

18 INTENTION

…that practice must be focused. It must possess intention. Our intention as artists is to get better, go deeper, to work closer and closer to the bone.

Steve Pressfield, Turning Pro

19 DO THE BASICS

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcuts.

Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

20 UNCERTAINTY

Embrace uncertainty. Some of the most beautiful chapters in our lives won’t have a title until much later.

Bob Goff

21 PRACTICE

Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.

Martha Graham

Which quote sings to you? Or share your own special quote!

I’d love to know which words sing to you the loudest right now!

Or share your own special quotes that motivate you in showing up and doing the work, day in and day out.

Let’s create a whole army of inspiration to help us (or make us) do the work.

Share your story in the comments below or on Instagram or Facebook!

Feature image from pexels.com

Below pic features my desk inspiration with card #42 The Word Wants to be Written from the Sacred Rebels Oracle Deck.

Note also: the nearly empty bottle of ink – work has been done!!

doing the work

Keep in touch

Sign up + get your free ebook 36 Books that Shaped my Story: Reading as Creative Influence

Just pop your email in the box to the right and ’36 Books’ will be with you soon! It’s a 94-page reflection on the creative influence of what we read. It takes you on a journey through my own influences. Find out which 36 books influenced me and why!

You will also receive updates and opportunities from Quiet Writing and its passions. This includes coaching, writing, creativity, and other connections to help you show up and express your unique voice in the world.

If you enjoyed this post, please share via your preferred social media channel – links are below.

You might also enjoy:

20 practical ways of showing up and being brave (and helpful)

Creative and connected #12 – the courage to show up

Intuition, writing and work: eight ways intuition can guide your creativity

Creative and Connected #5 – being accountable to ourselves and others

blogging planning & productivity writing

How to write a blog post when you have almost no time

August 14, 2017

blog post

One of the challenges of blogging is keeping up the commitment over time. You need to be organised with your planning and also productive in actually getting the work done. I’ve certainly found it to be a challenge but one I get better at over time.

Today’s article is from content marketing expert, blogger and writer, Benjamin Brandall, and covers seven ways to get your blog posts written more efficiently and productively.

Seven tips to help you write a stellar blog post

Time is precious, and writing (especially when you’re starting out) can take a lot of it. If you’re juggling other responsibilities like a full-time job, family commitments, and capping it all off with keeping up a personal blog, the strain can quickly seem like too much.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

You don’t need to be an expert to write quickly, and you don’t need several hours to write your blog posts. I’ve learned seven tips in particular over the past two and a half years of blogging and guest posting that you can use to help you quickly write a stellar blog post, even when you don’t think you have the time to do it.

I’ll be covering why you need to:

  • Let everyone know when you’re writing
  • Make writing a part of your regular routine
  • Plan your points before writing
  • Write with tools that won’t distract you
  • Write in one sitting (when possible)
  • Have separate writing and editing times
  • Try using dictation software

Let’s get started.

blog post

Let everyone know when you’re writing

Writing a full blog post after a full day of work or family commitments can be daunting, especially if you don’t have a quiet place where you can work without distractions. Thankfully, if you let everyone know when you’d like to be left to your own devices, this can solve many of your problems.

In my two years of writing for various sites like TechCrunch, Fast Company, and (mostly) Process Street, I’ve learned that one of the worst things you can do is interrupt your workflow. To write anything quickly you need to be able to sit down and get into a flow of writing, and every time you stop to answer a family member’s question or have a quick chat you’ll have to waste time getting back up to speed.

It’s not always possible to completely stop people from distracting you from writing, but by letting them know when you’d like to be left to work you can take some of the pressure off your own mind.

Make writing part of your regular routine

Habits are incredibly powerful. By making something part of your daily routine you can take the effort out of starting it – eventually your body runs on autopilot. Not to mention the fact that even 15-20 minutes of something every day can quickly add up to hours of practice a week.

It might not be possible for you to write for an hour every day, and some days you might not have time to write at all. That’s fine.

Just make sure that you fit a regular writing slot into your current routine, whether that means writing for a half hour after work or after most of your household have gone to bed. Don’t go crazy and slot in writing to the point where you’re dropping from exhaustion, but instead go for a regular routine which you can settle into and easily replicate.

Practice makes perfect after all, and if you can fit a half hour or more of writing at least every two days you’ll be well on your way to writing fantastic posts in a flash.

Plan your points before writing

I used to absolutely despise planning my work before I wrote it. It seemed silly to me to plan out my ideas beforehand when my posts usually evolved as I wrote, and especially so to waste time planning when I could instead be making progress on the meat of the post.

Unfortunately for me, writing without a plan is the biggest way to get tangled up in your own train of thought and waste hours when it comes to editing your content.

If you want to be able to write a post quickly (or just to efficiently use whatever spare time you have), you need to be planning your posts before you actually write them. At the very least you should have a set of headings, sections, or topics you’re going to cover, the points you’re going to make, and some research to back those points up.

I know that seems like a lot of work, but all you’re doing is changing the order of how you write a post. You’re spending exactly the same amount of time researching your content as you would be without the plan, and while you’re writing for maybe an extra five or ten minutes before truly starting, you’ll save that time tenfold later on.

If you don’t plan, you’re handing your work up to the whims of your mood and environment. If you get distracted or have to stop writing before you’re finished, it’ll be incredibly difficult to find your train of thought again, which can leave your post reading in a very disjointed way.

The only way to solve this would be to heavily edit the post and rewrite at least a couple of paragraphs to segway into your new argument better.

Don’t waste that time. Spend five minutes or so jotting out a quick outline so that you have something to aim for when it comes to actually writing your content.

blog post

Write with tools that won’t distract you

It’s hard enough to stay focused on writing when you have everything going your way, so why let your writing tools be another thing to stop you?

We all write best in different ways, and above all else you should use the tool that suits you. Whether you’re a pen-and-paper person, write on a computer or tablet, or even dictate your work (more on that later), you should use whatever best encourages you to get into that all-important workflow.

However, if you haven’t already, I’d recommend trying Quip, Dropbox Paper, and Google Docs. These are the best productivity apps I know when it comes to writing, for the simple reason that they provide a way to write while limiting the distractions on your screen as much as possible.

Quip is the best writing app I’ve found for purely writing with minimal distractions. While it doesn’t quite match up to the other two in terms of sharing and collaborating, the app is boring to the point where the most interesting thing you can do is keep writing. With little to catch your eye (and even a full screen mode if your browser itself proves distracting), you’re free to pick up the pace.

Google Docs is like an online (and much more useful) version of Microsoft Word. Not only can you store all of your documents automatically in Google Drive (keeping your computer clear and letting you access them from any device with an internet connection), but you can easily share the document with anyone else who might need access.

So, if you have a proofreader, editor, or team that you want to work with, you can just send them a link to the document and then work on it together in real time.

Finally, Dropbox Paper is sort of a cross between the two. It’s got the shareability of Google Docs with the minimal design of Quip, even if it does both of these worse than the other two. Essentially, if you already have a Dropbox account then you can use Dropbox Paper to avoid any hassle with setting up a new cloud storage system.

Write in one sitting (when possible)

Now, I know that I said you should be planning out your posts in case you have to stop writing them part way through. That’s still true. However, there will be times when you have the time to sit down and write your entire post in one go, and you should absolutely aim to do that as often as possible.

Even if you plan everything out in full, there will still be a disconnect in the tone of your writing if you take a break halfway through. Meanwhile, if you write everything from start to finish in one sitting it will give you a much more coherent argument, and can even let you develop your points more fully as you go along.

I don’t mean that you have to write everything perfectly in one sitting or that you should double back on yourself or edit as you write. All of these practices will slow you down and ultimately force you to rush the later sections of your writing.

Instead, quickly check over your plan to make sure that you know where you’re aiming for and what points you’re going to make next, and then don’t stop writing until you have your first draft.

Don’t stop for spelling, grammar, or even formatting errors. All of these can be fixed in the edit. Focus solely on getting the initial writing done – you’ll find that you work much faster if you do this.

blog post

Have separate writing and editing times

Following on from the last point, you should never (and I mean never) edit your content before you’ve finished writing. It’s almost difficult to describe the full extent of the damage this can do to your writing productivity, but I’ll list off a few reasons quickly.

First, it stops you writing. Anything that stops you writing is taking time that you can be spending on getting further into your post. If you’d rather have extra time to focus on other things (spending time with family, promoting your blog, creating other content, etc) rather than stressing about fitting in an extra writing session for the same post, you need to just keep going.

Second, it takes you out of your writing workflow. I’ve mentioned this already, but anything that interrupts your workflow doesn’t just ruin your productivity by stopping you from writing. It takes around 25 minutes to get back to full speed after a distraction, meaning that even on can be devastating if you have a limited amount of time to work on your writing.

Third, writing and editing require completely different mindsets, meaning you’ll have to spend even more time adapting to the skills and style of thinking that the tasks require. This isn’t a problem if you only edit your work after writing the whole thing, but if you’re regularly flitting between the two then you’ll likely never work at your full speed.

Personally, I’d recommend separating your writing and editing into slots on completely different days if possible. That way you have a set barrier between your tasks to encourage you to stick to one or the other, and you also have a decent break between each session. This gives your mind time to process everything you’ve written (even subconsciously), which will make you more effective when it eventually comes time to edit.

Also, try setting up an editing checklist to run through to give yourself a consistent method. You’re spending a little time in the short term to set up the checklist in return for a massive payoff further down the line, as you won’t have to worry about forgetting a step or waste time worrying about what to do next.

Try using dictation software

So far I’ve given fairly standard advice – you may have even heard these points before in many different forms. However, one thing that many (myself) don’t consider is that you don’t have to type a single word in order to write a post. You don’t even need to have your hand free at all.

Instead, you can speak your post and let dictation software write it for you.

If you’re using a computer, both Mac and Windows have native dictation software which you can use to both navigate your computer and type directly into apps. The problem, however, is that these aren’t accurate or responsive enough to warrant using them for long-form writing (you’ll have to spend an extra chunk of time editing).

Alternatively, if you want to make a professional habit of dictating your text, you can invest in software like Dragon. It’s a little pricey at $75 for the Home edition, but Dragon learns your accent, dialect, and slang as you talk, meaning the more you use it, the more accurate it becomes.

Finally, if you’re out and about, you can install Dragon’s Dictation app (or a similar voice assistant from the app store) for free, which will allow you to dictate text to then either send in an email or as a text message. You can also edit the text using a touch keyboard and copy it to paste in another app.

In other words, you can write in a digital format when you’re out and about, without even needing to type with your hands. If that’s not a great way to fit in some extra writing time, I don’t know what is.

How do you fit writing into your day?

Whether you’re writing for fun or trying to build up a personal brand, the time it takes to create a successful post can be daunting. However, with a little practice and ingenuity, you can fit your writing habits into your regular routine without having to sacrifice anything else.

You don’t have to have endless free hours to write your posts – try using the tips above to make your time work for you, rather than the other way around. I’d also really love to hear how you fit writing into your busy schedules in the comments below!

Benjamin Brandall

 

Benjamin Brandall is the Head of Content Marketing at Process Street and runs his own blog on the side. He also writes at TechCrunchThe Next Web and Fast Company. You can find him on Twitter at @benjbrandall 

 

 

Keep in touch

Subscribe via email (see the link at the top and below) to make sure you receive updates from Quiet Writing and its passions in 2017. This includes personality type assessment developments, coaching, creativity and other connections to help express your unique voice in the world. My free e-book on the books that have shaped my story is coming soon for subscribers only – so sign up to be the first to receive it!

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If you enjoyed this post, please share via your preferred social media channel – links are below.

You might also enjoy:

Practical tools to increase writing productivity

How to read for more creativity, pleasure and productivity

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creativity inspiration & influence personality and story writing

How knowing your authentic heart can make you shine

July 18, 2017

authentic heart

Knowing the authentic heart of you, the centrepiece, helps you to focus, prioritise and combine your unique threads so you can shine.

There are some central components of you that come together that are pivotal to how you want to work and shine. And there’s often that one piece that lights up the others from within and makes sense of them all.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the authentic heart lately, this unique core that coalesces all the others. It seems the energy is right for getting clear on what really matters: the piece that spins and drives all the others. The one that makes you shine and polishes everything else into a shiny constellation of stars and planets.

Sometimes it takes a little searching and reflecting.

The journey back 

About a year ago, I began a journey of transition back to a life that more fully reflects me. Work had taken over and important pieces of me were missing in action. I’m reading David Whyte’s Crossing the Unknown Sea right now. These words I read last night described how I felt when that time hit:

When you get to the bottom, you’ll find everything you’ve disowned and thrown away from yourself lying around on the ground. (P126)

I’ve talked about wholehearted and how this means so much to me. It’s about being whole and finding our meaning, whether it be in work or other contexts. For me, this time was the opposite. You could call it stress or burnout, but I reached a point where the person I was, day in, day out, was not what I wanted to be.

So I began the search to gather back the pieces that were missing.

Beacons of light and stepping stones

In the solitude spaces of my busy days, I searched for the authentic parts that were missing in action. My long commute became the kernel of the way back.

I listened to podcasts that kept my writing ambitions alive especially The Creative Penn. I’ve enjoyed this podcast for years as a beacon for the life I want. Its host, Joanna Penn is the role model who shows me it’s possible. I know I can achieve this – living a writing life, having a self-sustaining creative lifestyle. So when unable to do this immediately, I learned about this way of being and writing as much as I could, every day on my way to work. It was a practical way of keeping the dream alive.

Elizabeth Gilbert, her Big Magic book and Magic Lessons podcast were also lighthouses that helped me find my way. Driving through the national park where I live, heading to the train, I had moments of realisation that kept the trail bright. In one episode, there was a conversation about being on the runway for a long time which hit straight to my heart. I felt like I’ve been preparing forever. The reminder that ‘the action is here’ was poignant. I realised that the time for creativity is now.

My friend, Victoria Smith kept me going through this period via her course Softly Wild. It helped me connect pieces I had lost and discover new ones. I also reached out to Victoria for help with life coaching through a coaching series. It was time to identify the transition path back to my wholehearted self. Victoria had been through similar experiences. With her experience and skill, she could help light the way and hold my hand on the journey.

authentic heart

The authentic heart of me

I identified a path back about nine months ago. It involved transitioning to a self-sustaining creative lifestyle. It had as its core tenets: writing, life coaching, personality/Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification and intuition skills via tarot.

I identified the key elements of learning as:

  • Beautiful You Life Coaching Academy course
  • Certification in personality type assessment (MBTI) via the Majors Personality Type Inventory based on Jung/Myers-Briggs theory
  • A deep dive into the intuitive art of tarot (via daily practice, study and Susannah Conway’s 78 Mirrors e-course)

And the central element and authentic heart of it all was writing. Quiet writing: my practice, my discipline and the sharing of this; the ability to produce books, blog posts and other pieces that reflected my heart. Writing as quiet influence, as voice, creating my story and sharing it.

In recent weeks, I’ve been circling back to writing as the authentic heart as I finish my Beautiful You Life Coaching course and refine my business focus. And coaching has helped me to define this. As part of completing our Beautiful You certification requirements, I chose to work with writing coach Caroline Donahue to make sure this authentic heart of Quiet Writing was not lost in transition.

Writing daily as my creative practice and working on larger creative non-fiction pieces and writing a novel is central to my business. If I’m not authentically and creatively me – writing day in and day out, showing up, making time for the longer pieces I have outlined or the ones there in my heart, it’s not genuine. I am only able to help others with their creative lives and careers through my own writing and coaching practice of living this every day.

Writing as creative practice

So as I further craft my coaching and writing business, its brand and focus, I know that writing is the authentic heart. It’s why my business name and website is Quiet Writing. The twin hemispheres of writing and coaching, joined by the thread of creativity, are at the centre. But writing is the heartbeat and leader. It’s about the process of becoming, of artistry, of being more wholehearted in the every day, crafting and creating ourselves and our lives. And if I am not doing that myself through my own creative practice, it’s a hollow story.

I’m always writing in my life in some way but recently, I’ve started showing up to writing more. I start the day with journaling via Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages now. It’s been calling to me for a while and I knew it was what I had to do. It’s a kind of first principle – the first lesson in Susan M. Tiberghien’s One Year to a Writing Life.

The first step towards a writing life – and its foundation – is journal writing. To write well takes practice….Your daily life calls you in a thousand directions; journal writing centers you.

It seems so obvious and so simple. And as Julia Cameron explains, it is:

Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.

The power of writing these three pages before doing anything else is immense. I’m connecting deeply, I’m resolving things, I’m writing poetry which I haven’t done for a while and I’m freeing myself up for other writing.

I’ve committed to Tarot Narratives each day on Instagram. This is writing centred around tarot and oracle and crafting a creative, intuitive message linked to a book or other influence. It’s a practice I was doing anyway each day so it made sense to share it to inspire others’ creativity. The synchronicity and creative connection have been amazing. It’s now a deep part of my creative practice, linking intuition and writing.

I’m writing two blog posts a week here and I’m working on guest blog posts as well. This practice of showing up here at Quiet Writing in a committed, deep way is helping creative flow. I feel I am hitting my writing stride more comfortably now. I’ve struggled with this: is it better to wait till inspiration strikes or commit to two days a week? Well, I’m doing both and seems to be working well for me right now. I am a writer so I need to be writing!

Working on guest blog posts is another way of honing my voice in areas close to my heart: personality, leadership, introvert strengths, intuition, self-leadership, creativity and being wholehearted. Writing for different audiences and contexts is stretching my writing muscles. I’m studying my readability, the headlines I choose and watching my tendency to overuse the passive voice so I can get my message across more clearly.

And in a big shift last week, I’ve realised I have to make my longer creative projects a higher priority. For example, there’s the book I’ve nearly finished for Quiet Writing subscribers on the books that have influenced me; the novel that I want to write that was actually the genesis of all this; and the signature pieces for Quiet Writing that I have outlined, ready to be written and created. Through listening to this podcast and working with my writing coach, Caroline, I’ve committed to making the longer pieces a priority, like an appointment in my calendar.

So writing is my creative practice and I’m finally finding a place for it in my days as a priority.

authentic heart

Discovering our authentic centrepiece

There’s a lot of messages around right now about finding your authentic centrepiece. This week’s post from Nicole Cody is about reclaiming your dreams:

Inside, our dreams continue to burn. Ideas flicker, waiting for a breeze to fan the flame. Our long-neglected interests and hobbies need only a ray of sunshine and a little fresh air to spring back into being.

This week those dreams and longings begin to come back into focus. A little more of ourselves is restored. Our courage grows.

That’s exactly what it feels like for me as I refocus on writing as my centrepiece.

No matter what it is, keeping that light of you burning brightly as your authentic heart will help make sense of so much.

There are so many ways we can discover – or rediscover – our compass or centre around which everything else pivots.

Practical strategies for finding your authentic heart

Here are some practical strategies for finding that centrepiece and authentic heart:

1 Journaling, morning pages, dialoguing with the self

Make time for journaling, morning pages, dialoguing with yourself or any other form of writing to tap into your inner voice. That ability to hear your voice on the page and settle yourself is the source of so much wisdom. The solitude afforded is in itself is a valuable teacher.

2 Working with a Life Coach

As you can see from my story above, working with a Life Coach is such a valuable way to be supported in hearing your inner voice. A coach holds space for you, asks questions to enable reflection and suggests resources and options to explore to help make change. This is a gift of personal investment to enable powerful discovery and behaviour change in line with your goals.

3 Reflecting on the threads that reoccur in your body of work

Identifying the threads that reappear in your life’s work across its manifestations is a valuable way to reflect on your journey and story. As Pamela Slim defines in Body of Work:

Your body of work is everything you create, contribute, affect, and impact.

Taking this broader view of all your contributions and creations enable you to step back and see the passions that drive you. You can identify the common connections and from this, gain a new perspective on life, career and creativity options.

4 Thinking about your shadow career

As Steven Pressfield explains in Turning Pro, sometimes when we’re afraid of our real calling, we’ll follow a shadow career instead. This might mean living the writer’s lifestyle without actually writing or writing in a corporate context when you really want to be writing a novel. My work life in recent years has featured strategic policy writing, speech writing and writing for the media. I enjoyed this writing but it wasn’t the work I really wanted to be doing or the writing of my heart.

As Pressfield says:

If you’re dissatisfied with your current life, ask yourself what your current life is a metaphor for. That metaphor will point you to your true calling. (P13)

5 Thinking about the books you love as clues and evidence 

Think about the books you love as a form of evidence. Look at your bookshelves. What’s the predominant story and style? What’s the genre? Has it been lost along the way? What ignites your heart?

6 Brainstorming and visual maps to find the common threads

Mind-mapping, journaling, vision boards, Pinterest, brainstorming and writing lists are all valuable tools to get to the common threads of your work. Some are more right-brained and some are more left-brained. So mix it up so you can access different angles and see your work from a number of views to uncover the golden threads that connect.

7 Intuitive work such as tarot or oracle to tap into your inner voice

Tarot and oracle are great intuitive tools to tap into your wisdom and listen to your inner voice. Intuitive writing or any other stream of consciousness approach is another way to access your intuition. Regularly making time for the practice of intuition in whatever works for you helps tune into the heart of your creative energies.

8 Writing down what your ideal day looks and feels like

Writing what your ideal day looks like is excellent for insight into what you really want. I’ve done this a few times over the years and the core threads are pretty similar over time. Find out how you really want to spend your time. This helps you recognise it when you start to get glimpses or finally achieve a measure of success. You might have already achieved your ideal day in some respects that you can build on.

9 Tuning into what others are saying about you and your gifts

We get a lot of clues from what people say about us but often we are not fully listening or keeping track. What are others saying they appreciate about you? Your calmness, your ability to listen, your creativity, how they relate to your writing, your use of colour? Pay attention to feedback, keep a record and notice what is being reflected back as insight into your gifts and purpose.

What’s your authentic heart?

So what’s your authentic heart? The practice, the creative work, the combining principle, the thread that ties it all together?

That sense of cut-through to the new idea or recurring touchstone that will help shape everything. It may have already arrived or might be in the process of evolving. It might be an awareness, a piece around self-belief, maybe a forgotten love, that’s become buried in the busy layers of your day.

It’s about finding our passion, our fire and being open to it. It’s true all this integration can be a little tiring, so take a rest when you need to. Just stepping away and resting or exercising, can be clarifying and help the central narrative or missing piece fall into place in a practical way.

So I’d love to hear:

Where are you keeping a light in your heart?

What are the beacons in your day showing the way back to?

What are the shadows showing up and highlighting?

What’s the authentic heart and centrepiece for you?

Keep in touch

Subscribe via email (see the link at the top and below) to make sure you receive updates from Quiet Writing and whole-hearted self-leadership. This includes personality skills, Jung/Myers-Briggs personality type developments, coaching, creativity, writing and other connections to help express your unique voice in the world. You will also receive my free 95-page ebook 36 Books that Shaped my Story with thoughts on creative influence – so sign up now to receive it!

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If you were moved by this post, please share via your preferred social media channel – links are below.

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Intuition, writing and work: eight ways intuition can guide your creativity

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Feature image via pexels.com and used with permission and thanks.

inspiration & influence writing

Sharing spirit of place to connect

December 10, 2016

spirit of place

I spent a lot of time away from home last year. Being home this year has focused my attention on the spirit of this place where I live. It’s a source of inspiration, grounding and strength. I love to walk to soak up this energy.

These walks develop a narrative of their own if I am listening. Every walk has its own realisations through the rhythm of my thoughts as I step on the sand, into the edge of the sea and commune with the elements of the day. The clouds, conditions, tides and the configuration of the beach combine to craft a unique train of thought.

And the shells and stones I notice and want to pick up on any particular day are also signposts. I am not always sure which way they are pointing or why I am drawn to them, but there’s a synergy I recognise. As M-L Von Franz says in Carl Jung’s Man and his Symbols:

Perhaps crystals and stones are especially apt symbols of the Self because of the “just-so-ness” of their nature. Many people cannot refrain from picking up stones of a slightly unusual colour or shape and keeping them, without knowing why they do this. It is as if the stones held a living mystery that fascinates them.

I am one of these people, gathering the distinctive shells and stones of the moment, as if holding onto them can help me to understand the language of that specific day.

beauty of place shell

The narrative of this particular walk is that I want to share this place and the stories that come from its energy. Surrounded by beaches on one side and bush on the other, it’s an oasis and a sanctuary. It’s the lungs of the city, the breathing space for many. On this particular day, it’s a time of easing away from the world of work and shifting into a different life. The weather is sublime. I feel like I’m in heaven as I begin cutting the tie from work, catching up with myself and breathing in and out with awareness. I look for those shells I recognise at the water’s edge, talismans of salty wisdom to hold onto.

I think about the quiet radiance of this place, how its water caresses me, how walking on its sand grounds me and how its rocks solidify my intentions. It’s a place where time is told by ferry crossings, where tides shape your passage and where dreams come true in an incremental way you hardly realise.

beauty-of-this-place-4

I know that part of my work is sharing the treasure that is the spirit of this place, the solitude and sanctuary it represents and how this might be a positive influence for others. It’s through words and images and the narratives of these walks that reflections are generated. These ideas are then reworked and massaged with new associations that I sometimes share and through that, connect with others.

It’s so important in our work to co-create with each other, including sharing spirit of place, the sources of our wisdom and the connection it provides. As Colette Baron-Reid says in Uncharted: The Journey Through Uncertainty to Infinite Possibility:

None of us is meant to be an island, isolating and hoarding resources. When we share our wisdom and support and resources with others, we immediately dispel the illusion of scarcity. We remember that the matrix of connection sustains us regardless of what we want to create or what form our creativity takes.

So I’d like to share this landscape with you. If I could just take a taste of this day and put it on your tongue, it’s an elixir that would sparkle your being with the essence of calm. I offer it in words and images here to connect with your heart. And there’s so much I want to offer and co-create with you.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh says in Gift from the Sea:

The waves echo behind me. Patience – Faith – Openness, is what the sea has to teach. Simplicity – Solitude – Intermittency…..But there are other beaches to explore. There are more shells to find. This is only a beginning.

It’s true, there are new narratives each day and this is only a beginning. I head home, settling this unique day’s story into my being and shifting into a quieter, wiser place. And I share these thoughts and feelings with you. I’d love to hear about your spirit of place and what narratives it inspires in you.

beauty of this place 1

creativity writing

Weaving spirit into words

November 22, 2016

There’s spirit to be woven into words and creativity to be channelled naturally. It’s time to listen, feel and write.

natural creativity

I’ve realised recently that my writing and creativity practice is a natural one, weaving spirit into words. It came to my attention via the gorgeous ‘natural creativity’ card (above) from the Plant Ally Cards deck created by Lisa McLoughlin. I’d long been wanting this deck. When Lisa put out a call recently to say there were only a few precious ones left, I made the leap. And so did this card, jumping out and calling out for my attention with my first touch of the deck.

With its plant connection being Hogweed (or heracleum), the message of this card is:

Living in the moment allows the gift for personal expression and exploration.

Take the time to manifest your own natural creative path.

These words and thoughts are so welcome and calming at this time. I especially love the encouragement to live in the moment and to take time.

The concept of ‘natural creativity’  has made me realise afresh just how organic this work really is.

It’s about weaving spirit into words. It’s intuitive and poetic, a textual knitting of thoughts and influences into something I can wear into the world. It’s listening to lines that arrive in the night and nudge me. It’s hearing gentle voices narrating an auditory headline as I walk by the ocean. It’s sitting and staring out under a tree, my feet in the sand, writing down what comes like I’m channelling something as natural as the breeze. It’s knowing that my practice of drawing an oracle or tarot card and reflecting on it is a way of tapping into something higher to guide me. Even though it still feels like a strange thing to do sometimes.

Working intuitively with the symbolism of cards has become core and is surprisingly natural to me. I’m finding that my daily cards link to become a narrative that supports me in my associative way of looking at the world. And it’s also helping to anchor me as I process my changing identity and roles when they were so completely different only a few months ago. One of the few consistent variables in all this is my natural creativity and it’s a touchstone in a swirling time of uncertainty.

Uniqueness of voice and vision are critical for me and something of a personal battleground at present. With so many influences, it’s sometimes hard to see your own vision and hear your own voice.

I need to find my footing, my grounded sense of creativity, my own song and weaving of influences. I need to not pine for the past, for what I haven’t done creatively. I need to do what I can, here and now in the flow of the moment and ink on the page.

The sense is also not to rush, just to take the time to listen, to be instinctive and intuitive, manifesting my voice and path in the way that only I can.

The other words that also landed the same day and in the same way as ‘natural creativity’ from the Sacred Rebels Oracle deck were:

What you want, wants you.

There’s an aligning of symbols I need to notice more. There’s energy to be conducted like a lightning rod connected between earth and sky. There’s spirit to be woven into words and creativity to be channelled naturally. It’s time to listen, feel and write.

what-you-want-wants-you

Thought pieces

Plant Ally Cards – At the time of writing, there are still a few of these fabulous decks left at Lisa McLoughlin’s Etsy shop Whimsy of Nature. My thanks to Lisa for creating such an inspiring resource for connecting with nature and creativity.

Daily Divine e-course – I recommend Victoria Smith’s The Daily Divine e-course  if you are interested in developing knowledge of oracle cards and your intuitive practice. This course on oracle cards was a great complement to my burgeoning knowledge of tarot cards. It set me off on an adventure of connecting with intuition more deeply via oracle and tarot. It has especially encouraged what has become a daily practice of reflection and journalling based on card wisdom.

Natural creativity quote – from current read, The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of Soul in Corporate America by David Whyte:

The sudden and intuitive capacity to feel deep emotion, what the romantic poets called sensibility, is the power of appreciation for things as they are.

 

weaving spirit into words

 

creativity writing

Creativity and connection via Instagram

November 9, 2016

stretch-marks-soul

Instagram is an excellent source of creativity, inspiration and connection with kindred community. One of the key ways people link up is via daily prompts. The beauty and benefits of such prompt journeys are myriad but the main ones are creativity and connection.

Stretching your creativity

Firstly, creativity: you are given a word or phrase to make with what you will. It can be just noticing details in your everyday routine or remembering something from a past time. It can encourage you to dig out material that you wish to refocus on. You can recognise new patterns as the word triggers associations that relate to current experiences. And you can also bounce off others for your own creative boost enjoying their related journeys.

As Instagram is primarily a visual medium, you have the challenge of representing the word associations visually. Or you can start with an image and connect the word, visual and thoughts together. Each day is different.

Practically, I keep an eye on next day’s prompt or at least check on it early in the day. I sometimes respond quickly if there’s something immediate that comes to mind. Other times, it’s a slow touchpoint I come back to, thinking of it as I go about my day.

On some occasions, there’s a bit more brain racking and research. The prompt ‘unicorn’ from Susannah Conway’s August Break this year had me going through cupboards and pulling books off the shelves looking for unicorns. The prompts that resulted were fantastic and sometimes hilarious as people found or rediscovered unicorns in their environment.(I eventually uncovered them in ‘The Book of Symbols’ – I knew they were around somewhere!) People also improvised, including the memorable ‘be your own unicorn’ from the fabulous Kylie McDonnell.

And some prompts lead to a deep reflection and engagement. Experience October 2016 led by Rae Ritchie inspired my last post, connecting the word for the day, ‘sapphire’, with a poem I wrote many years ago and finally put out there into the light. Navigating through November led by India Ross aka @ofearthandstars has inspired new thoughts via the prompt, ‘stretch’ and I share the writing from this below: ‘Stretch marks on the soul.’

Fostering connection and community

Many in my Instagram sphere have connected over time via Susannah Conway’s brilliant community prompt initiatives The August Break and April Love. Clearly there is a need for continuing connection in this way. It takes people to step up, lead and put in the work to create online communities whether it be for the long or the short term. And it takes a creative community to keep the momentum going.

The current round of prompts mentioned above builds on links from these initiatives. Another key one has been #taleswithfriends, led by the wonderful Tori, ‘curatrix of the everyday’ aka @unfoldtheday.  I have been a keen and appreciative participant of these various initiatives and help to spread the word and build connection.

The kindred creative connection established via Instagram, and these prompt quests especially, runs very deep. As an INTJ, with an emphasis on the introvert and writing and reading as my ways to engage with the world, the camaraderie and connection of my IG friends has become core to my day and world. Last year, I was away from home working for eight months and on my own most of the time. My IG buddies kept me connected, inspired and supported each day, alongside my family, friends and local networks. And this continues. There’s support there when you are feeling low or on your own and also when there’s good news to share. There’s cheering, encouragement and practical suggestions like what to read and how to ignite joy and celebrate life in the every day.

And you can enjoy the balance of day and night and the seasons as they inversely change across the hemispheres. It’s been lovely watching the first snow elsewhere in the world as our days warm up and we have our first swims of the season here.

The thread of creativity helps me to get up and walk and take photographs, to really notice the flowers in the gardens around me and to share what I am reading and thinking about. Likewise the celebration of quiet and the beautiful place where I live has been a mainstay of my IG experiences. Seeing it through others’ eyes has made me remember just how special it is. You can forget this at times, being so close.

A word, a rock, a thought

So in the end ~ a word, a rock, a thought ~ are what it took to create the piece below. That and walking and sitting down to connect it together whilst at the beach feeling it all. I share that creative connection with you here. And I thank those who support this journey via IG and other valued creative communities. We are all in this together: noticing, witnessing, sharing and quietly writing.

Stretch marks on the soul

Look back on your life and you find times when the universe expanded you. Maybe there was violence, maybe love, maybe conflict, disagreement, passion, disappointment, blood, elation, surprise.

Sometimes these are large public events, traumas witnessed, flowers sent, cards received, phone calls made, heads bowed. 

Other times, these are silent events, perhaps recorded in journals as cries for help, little cuts of disappointment, pieces of our hopes and souls shredded. Sometimes no one else even knows.

If you stopped and thought, you could perhaps count the stretch marks on your soul, the events that changed you forever – the birth, the rejection, the letter, the phone call, the knock on the door, the ring, the travel to be with someone, the news on the television, the sudden something that lurched you out of the everyday or changed your dreams. Or made ordinary life extraordinary or a twilight zone for a while.

You can feel as you remember: the stares at a wall seeking answers; the hair falling from your head into your fingers; the look on a loved one’s face as they arrive to tell you the terrible news you don’t as yet know; the peace of sleep after the journey of giving birth through the night.

The beautiful or agonising stretch marks on your soul. 

You can just witness them, know they are there but mostly ignore them. Or you can tend them, rub oil in, to promote healing so those stretch marks blend a little more into your being, your body and mind absorbing them.

These marks are signs of birth, and sadly also sometimes scars from the death of things longed for: love, connection, family, people to stay alive longer or forever, something to not stop or wanting that so desired and cherished thing to just finally happen.

These stigmata, these talismans, these shields, these signs: I bear them with grace, bending to their lessons, looking skyward through the leaves of spring for answers. I wrap their wisdom round me as I head for home.

fig-leaves

You can connect with me on Instagram as @writingquietly

reading notes writing

Being ‘Fierce on the Page’ – a book review

October 9, 2016

Fierce on the Page: Become the writer you were meant to be and succeed on your own terms’ by Sage Cohen, Writer’s Digest Books

Fierce on the Page - book cover

I first came across Sage Cohen through her book Writing the Life Poetic which focuses on building poetic voice and putting poetry back into our everyday lives. I also had the opportunity of working on my poetry through Sage’s online classes a few years back. From these experiences, I come to Sage’s works on writing with high expectations of both a pleasurable reading experience and wise, practical advice.

And I am never disappointed. ‘Fierce on the Page’ is a rare and rich read, structured as a series of 75 reflective essays that offer strategies, perspectives and practices to encourage ferocity in writing and in life.

Sage defines ferocity and the fierce writer in her introduction:

The fierce writer ensures that the time and energy she invests in her craft pays dividends of insight and evolution. The fierce writer discovers how to come into his alignment with his authority, leverage his interests, and honour his rhythms, to become the truest instrument of his craft.

From page one of the first essay, ‘You Are Your Best Expert’, I was lulled by Sage’s reassuring voice telling me stories and building on these to make connections. The essays provide a path to navigate the way into writing and into progressing through many aspects of its craft and life.

Each contemplative essay is so thought-provoking. My copy is now full of underlining, connections and possible creations sparked by the reading experience. Sage’s practical business writing background is also woven through the pages. There is a blend of wisdom honed from writing experience of all kinds, along with a grounded sense of what works to bring forward new possibilities and how productivity can be enhanced.

Some of the key strengths of ‘Fierce on the Page’ for me are:

  1. Its associative approach: There is an energy of association underlying each essay. An anecdote or story is told or an experience recounted. These reflections then form the basis of the essay. It’s an evocative reading experience as you are folded into each idea and its applications evolve. This associative approach lends a wise felt experience that makes it easy to engage on a very deep level.
  2. The structure of each essay: Each essay builds from its opening to a realisation or discovery and then a practical application. From there, we are given suggested strategies to apply and questions to dive into to enable us to ‘be fierce’ in our writing endeavours. Woven into this are quotes and references from other creatives that provide prompts and shifts to our perspective.
  3. The poetic language of discovery: As each essay reaches moments where the connections and realisations are crystallised, the language likewise reaches a quiet crescendo of feeling. The learning is expressed sensitively and enacted directly, as with the language of poetry. The images and associations created from this narrative approach make the reading experience lived and heartfelt.

For example, in ‘Write Your Manifesto’, essay #55:

I have come to accept that the writing life is expansive enough to hold my many refractions, and that these add up to the whole of what I have to give.”

In ‘A Bug’s Life, A Writer’s Life’, essay #58:

When you are at an impasse of transition, and your next steps are unclear, follow the words. Trust the words. Trust the cliffs, the canyons, the face flowers. Trust your disorientation and your sense of direction. Trust what you find and don’t find. The shadow gives shape to light. These are your stories. The dance of interdependence is a hum of words.

In ‘Get to the Place of Grace’, essay #63:

Whatever it means to you in your life and your writing, be on the lookout for that lift-off in your words and that landing in your being. Hone your attention to the place of grace where you can feel, know and trust that you and your piece of writing have completed your journey.

Sage’s reminds us that: ‘You have everything you need—and you are everything you need—to do the writing you want to do’. These words provide the gentle encouragement many of us need to begin, to continue or to start up where we left off.

I encourage you to seek out the wisdom and practicality of ‘Fierce on the Page’ as a support in engaging in quiet, resilient writing and in succeeding in where you want to be in your writing. Sage’s books are always on my desk as talismans of encouragement and practice. This special book will stay close at hand, gaining more comments and underlining over the years, as I seek to apply its messages and be fierce with my own writing and life.

Master the Margins

Thought pieces:

You can visit Sage Cohen’s Fierce on the Page website for more information including a community page to share thoughts from the practical exercises in the book.

The interview Mantu Joshi on Writing and Living Fierce is an inspiring example and shows the power and outcomes that can come from living out fierce and committed writing strategies. In this case, it resulted in a book on resilient parenting, written two hours a week over two years.

Other books on writing by Sage Cohen that I recommend are:

Writing the Life Poetic – an invitation to read and write poetry; fabulous for re-engaging with the spirit of poetry in your life.

The Productive Writer – practical strategies and thought processes to increase your productivity and move from ideas to action and outcomes in your writing life. I’ve written a book review of The Productive Writer which you can find here.

creativity writing

The subtle art of not writing

September 27, 2016

pexels-photo_writing

It’s a subtle art, the art of not writing. I have not written now through many years, filling and part-filling many journals and notebooks, drafting hundreds of poems and compiling numerous blog posts over more than six years. I’ve not written in the workplace for over 30 years – including writing for and editing publications, writing a handbook of research and influencing many business outcomes with my writing skills. I’ve not written my way to publication in a few cases, so much so that the Australian National Library, a number of literary journals and the AustLit database of Australian literature know about me. And there’s so much not writing paraphernalia around me here as I sit, that I can hardly move.

It seems I am a master of not writing, spinning a myth about myself over the years that to this day can see me looking achingly at writing texts and courses as the cure to this ailment. It’s true, their balms and solutions may help me to move through this impasse. But to allow them to make me feel that I am a complete novice in this art and space, with no track record or prior experience, is all my own work.

It seems that just as I have tricked myself into the subtle art of not writing, I could just as easily trick myself into the art of writing. They seem to be transferable, almost the same skills, that could be shifted in focus. Perhaps I need to chunk it more, break it down into parts I can think of as projects, to make it easier to manage. Calling one focus something like ‘The Poetry Project’ would help make the work all the more tangible and achievable. Now I come to think of it, this blog is a little like that.

With a wry smile and a sense of humour, and by some gentle stealth, I could set a time-limited practice and tease a set number of pages or words from each day to get started and call it part of the subtle art of not writing.

I could get the best poems I have written over the years and put them into a small volume that is not really a publication, but just a collection of pieces of my heart in language I have shaped, uniquely my voice. I could craft these small multi-faceted jewels over time and work out how they can best be worn and integrated into a personal style I can step out in.

And I could turn this desire to write into something real that heartens each day, a deft trick of time that makes the minutes count. I could further inscribe the journey already started through miles of lines of ink into artefacts that might light the way ahead, little by little, much as novelist E L Doctorow reminds us:

Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

That delicious journey, and then actually sitting down to (not) write.

Thought pieces:

Writing this piece made me think a whole raft of things: resistance, getting out of our own way, making things manageable, shifting our contexts, small tweaks, tricking ourselves, recognising our body of work over time and self-belief.

In related thoughts and connections:

Courteney E Martin’s article, Writing the Stepping Stone: why you haven’t written your book yet, has some excellent practical suggestions for getting your book written including: recognising that it might not actually be a book but something else; dealing with distractions such as the internet; and realising that the work you are doing actually might be a stepping stone. I love these final words about, yes, getting out of our own way:

If you have a book inside of you dying to come out, close this browser. Close this computer, or turn off this phone. Sit down with a piece of paper and a pen and write a letter to someone you know personally about the topic. The directness of the form will get you out of your own way and on your way to doing what you are meant to do.

How to Write a Novel in Thirty Minutes per day has many strategies for: getting into the habit of writing; controlling or removing interferences and distractions like the internet (including ‘put your mobile on aeroplane mode’ – there’s a thought!); building accountability; and promoting good practice planning, productivity and resilience. It’s a great roadmap for ‘driving at night in the fog’.

Sage Cohen in the wonderful Fierce on the Page (book review coming up here soon!) has a few tips on little shifts in attitude for overcoming resistance. In the chapter, ‘Change your context to regain your appetite’. Sage prompts us:

What if you found a new way to approach an old struggle or stuck place? How could you come at it sideways to find a new perspective? What if you were to make a small shift in attitude or practice – and then another – until you felt a bit more space or ease or fun?

And so many of Elizabeth’s Gilbert’s Magic Lessons podcast interviews touch on this theme of getting out of our own way with our creative ventures, realising we are actually already doing the work, not being so hard on ourselves and just getting on with it. Dive into any of these podcast pleasures but I have a special soft spot for the one with poets Cecilia and Mark Nepo, Who Gets to Decide Whether You’re a Legitimate Artist? It’s about who gets to decide who is a good poet and the value and legacy of poetry. Listening to this one was life changing for me!

Share your thought pieces:

I’d love to hear how you are breaking through any resistance with tricks or shifts in attitude. How are you getting out of your own way or valuing your creative work?