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Writing In FlowMy morning routine includes reading a chapter of a book about writing and then writing my “morning pages” (as coined by Julia Cameron). I am currently reading “Writing in Flow: keys to enhanced creativity” by Susan K Perry, PhD. According to Ms. Perry, Key One is to Have a Reason to Write. In the questions at the end of the chapter she suggests that the reader examine his/her motivations for writing. She knows that her readers will find many. (I certainly did.) Her theory is that when you clear away the peripheral ones, you will get to the heart of the matter and learn a lot about how to foster flow in your writing.

It has always been easy to tell when I’m “inspired” in my writing vs. when I am not. It is as if I am a completely different person. When entering college I was required to write an essay to see whether I could opt-out of Freshman English. Unfortunately the topic was something I knew nothing about and had no interest in…so it was Freshman English for me. Once in class, we were able to choose our own subject as long as we followed the assigned format: comparison essay, descriptive essay, argumentative essay, etc.  Lo and behold, by the time I got to the third paper, my professor had written “A+” and a note that said, “Do you really belong in this class? See me.” Ah, the power of writing about something that interests me!

But I don’t want to depend on being “inspired” to write well, that’s why I am reading the book. So…what is my motivation for writing? I have loved books from the time I was a small child. Consequently I have always admired writers; it was always a club I longed to join. Also, one strong aspect of my personality is that I am a “communicator,” someone who is constantly trying to make sense of my world and interpret what I see, to create relationships between people and things that may not appear to be related (i.e., creating metaphors, the source of my poetic bent). And I want to connect with others, gain their respect, and have them appreciate what I have to say. But although I found many of my reasons have to do with connecting with others, I have written so much that no one has read: endless journals and poems that I haven’t shared. I’m thinking getting to know myself and being comfortable with myself is also an important reason that I write; it may be the bare bones reason, because even if no one reads what I have written but me, I still feel compelled to do it.

One of the most important things I learned from this exercise, though, had to do with a motivation that wasn’t there: making a living with writing. I’ve always struggled with that: making money by editing is one thing, doing it by writing is another. I have often felt conflicted, at times guilty, envious of others, and angry at myself for being a “failure” at making my writing “pay off.”  I often beat myself up about this “failure” and think that “I should” be making money. This exercise helped me work through some of those feelings. I simply don’t have the motivation for it. I am not a “failure” as a writer because I’m not making money at it. If I really wanted to make money at it, I would approach it differently. I would be writing what I think others are interested in; I would be doing research and treating it as a profession. I have to recognize that I am “choosing” not to make it a living at it.

I’ve got a long way to go with this book. I’m interested in what else I will learn about myself and where it will take me. My readers, have you ever REALLY explored your motivations for your passion?



{March 6, 2013}   A Writer’s Sense of Service

Julia Cameron's booksI have recently been rereading Julia Cameron‘s books to give my creativity a boost, but it’s also been making me think about being a writer with a “sense of service” or an “attitude of gratitude.” I decided that what I really like about Julia’s books is her teacher’s sensibility and her nurturing attitude. I’m not naive enough not to recognize that she’s trying to sell books, but I see some sincerity there. I think she truly believes in writing as the salvation and glorious gift it can be and wants others to experience that feeling. It lead me to thinking about being “of service” as a writer and what that means.

One of my coworkers writes poems for her church in her spare time. Her church publishes them in their program and sometimes they read them as a congregation. I think this is a wonderful use of her gift. This is her third Easter performing this service and if you think it is easy to keep seeing a topic in a new way and creating fresh material, then you haven’t tried to do it.

For myself, it has been most gratifying to me when I have been able to write a poem for a friend going through some kind of worry or difficulty: a death in the family or a sibling serving overseas. This is one way I can be “of service” as a writer.

How else can we be of service as writers? The most important way is to encourage and nurture other writers; this is what I feel Julia does very successfully. This type of service could be as small and simple as “liking” someone’s work on Facebook or a blog, or attending a poetry reading. If you feel confident and can take an interest, critique their work in a positive and constructive way. If you have extra money, you could purchase their book. Give them the kudos they need and deserve for completing such an undertaking.

Funny thing, though, I think a lot of writers, once they start to have a following forget what it was like to need that support. They forget what it was like to be someone struggling to find their voice, struggling to feel that what they have to say is relevant. Many writers write because they have a need to be heard. If they don’t feel heard, they give up, and I believe the world loses something important. We let jealousy stand in the way of being of service as writers. (See the video where Julia addresses this topic.)

I believe every writer, famous or not, has a duty to encourage other writers; they are performing a very important service if they do. So…you bloggers reading this…go out and like someone’s blog, comment on someone’s poem…do your part to keep the world writing!




I make resolutions every year — or to put it another way — I set goals every year, as most people do with varying degrees of success. I believe the motivation behind the resolution or goal is the key to its success: why do you want to do it? Because you think you should? Because someone else wants you to? Because you feel like circumstances are forcing you to?

As I got ready to set my goals for 2013, and as I hand-wrote a rough draft of this blog in a notebook with aching hands, I pondered my writing habits. I’m thinking the time may have come when I have to change them. I don’t know what is wrong with my hands (tendonitis…arthritis?), but it has already been a few weeks and the pain is not only not subsiding, it seems to be escalating. I could use this as an excuse not to write, but I can’t allow it. Should I get an ergonomic pen? Speak into a dictaphone (which I actually have; I can’t afford Dragon)? Would typing be better?

My current morning pages notebook

My current morning pages notebook

Although I’m a decent typist (having worked as a secretary right after college) I still prefer hand-writing in a spiral-bound notebook with ruled pages. Friends over the years have gifted me with some lovely journals, which sit there like “good china,” waiting for the special occasion, that SOMEDAY when I will feel like I am finally the writer I want to be, when everything I write will be brilliant and worthwhile, clothed between luxuriant covers. SIGH…

My new beautiful journal

My new beautiful journal

I’ve always been like this: saving the “good jewelry” for special occasions that never seem to happen; saving the “good poems” for special publications that I never get up the courage to submit to. When I was a young art major, one of the best drawings I ever created was done on newsprint paper. My art teacher asked me why I did that. There was no creative reason; it wasn’t elemental to the concept or an essential factor in the art produced. My answer: “I didn’t think it was going to come out that good and I didn’t want to waste good paper.” I have to ask myself, “why don’t I think I’m good enough to use good paper or good journals?”

Just change your habits you say; it is simple, just go ahead and write in the good journals. I have tried that a few times. My closet contains some lovely leather-covered journals with a couple of entries, abandoned because their beauty did not inspire me to new heights; their outsides did not elevate what was inside.  Morning pages are just morning pages whether they are written in a cheap cardboard-covered notebook or a leather-bound book with handcrafted paper.

What are “Morning Pages” you might ask, if you have not read Julia Cameron’s books. I have turned to the “Artist’s Way” every year with the best of intentions. This time I’m reading “Finding Water” for a change of pace. Same author, same principles: sit down and hand-write 3 pages as soon as you get up. Get rid of all the random negative thoughts you may have as you start your day. Get in touch with your feelings and your “small still voice” inside. In Julia’s words (from page 14 of  “Finding Water”):

Be trivial, be petty, whine, grump, groan, and complain. Morning Pages siphon off a haze of negativity through which we normally face our day. The negativity goes onto the page instead of just wafting around us as we make our way through our daily lives. “These pages are boring,” you might complain. Write them anyway.

Julia recommends doing it for twelve weeks to make it a habit you will stick with; I never seem to be able to do that. I ultimately fall off to a couple of days a week, and that is the never-ending story of my “journaling” activities. But a funny thing happened as I read the next paragraph, sitting down to write my morning pages. I understood why I prefer to write in the spiral-bound notebooks!

Julia goes on to say: Sometimes we try too hard to have something to say. We feel desperate but we don’t want to act desperate. We want to pose a little–even on the page. Posing gets us nowhere. We do better to just come clean. It can take getting used to, this nakedness on the page…We want to pretend we have momentous things to say when the truth may be that we yearn to say something but we don’t know what.

I think when I write in the beautiful journals I feel like I’m posing. I’m putting pressure on myself; I’m not allowing myself to be “naked” on the page.

I started this post to write about the tendonitis or arthritis I’m having in my hands that is making it difficult for me to write right now, but the actual writing has revealed that this is just the latest excuse. (How can I write in these beautiful journals when my writing is cramped and nearly illegible?)

Breaking the habits seems difficult in itself, but facing the reasons behind those habits is more difficult still, and that confrontation may be the only way new habits can be created after all. Morning pages are worth their weight in gold, even if they are clothed in cardboard covers.



et cetera
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