21-day Journaling with Collage Challenge

It’s said that it takes 21 days to break an old habit, or better yet, to break in a new one. How about making Contemplation and Creativity YOUR new habit?

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One of My Contemplative Collages, 2013

The above is the inviting line that lured me into signing up for the “21-day Journaling with Collage Challenge” with author and collage artist Dante Jericho. I’ve been a student of Dante’s since 2010 and this particular event enticed me because it’s NEW.

The format is simple. Every morning beginning September 1st, we’ll receive an email with an image as well as a writing prompt to go deeper. Our task is to use the given prompt to do a journal entry or timed writing for that day in whatever format or structure works for you.

So here are a few personal thoughts about the 21-day Journaling with Collage Challenge:

1. Everyone needs a can opener to start new writing. I’m an experienced writer. And even so, I need prompts and visuals to get me going. Otherwise, my writing tends to be unfocused and without purpose.

2. Visuals provide excellent starting points to open both your heart and your voice to put doodles (and words and sentences and phrases and lists) on the page. When I trust my heart, and just write to visuals and prompts, I don’t have to worry about where things go. It’s freewriting, something I talk about ALL the time. Sometimes what turns up is useful for my creative process. Sometimes, it turns into product.

3. Reflections on a collage are personal. They’re part of our inner work and journaling process that may or may not lead to other writings we do.

4. The practice of freewriting increases your confidence as a writer. Opening up to write whatever comes builds your writing muscles. Every time you show up to the page and write, it becomes easier.

5. Practicing writing for 21 days in a non-judgmental way invites the muse in and creates a consistent habit. Sneaking into the flow of writing like this keeps that sweet muse alert to visit you more often too.

6. At the end of the 21 days, you’ll be a stronger writer. At least that’s been my experience. I want to keep on keeping on, and write, write, write some more. I notice that it gets easier, day by day, and at 21 days, I’m eager to put pen to page EVERY day.

So what do you think? I’d love to see your name in the classroom with me, where we can kibitz and share our writing experiences (not what we wrote, but about our experience of the highs and bumps, flaws and all, of having written). I’ve already attracted many writing friends and colleagues who’ve joined the challenge.

If any of the above resonates with you, then say YES to it. Take creative action and check out the fine points and deets here. Cost: $30

About our facilitator: Dante Jericho is a healer, teacher and artist. She has been teaching Contemplative Collage nationally and internationally for the past 15 years. She is the author of “Sacred Changes, Sacred Choices: Meditations from the I Ching.”

The Well of Creativity

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I believe the well of creativity is always full — there for your taking, waiting patiently for you to dip in.  Using writing prompts as mini-assignments gives you the dipper to draw your personal connections from the deep recesses of the well.  If you’re looking for writing inspiration, trust the prompts to trigger fresh possibilities.

Suggested Steps

1.  Read the writing prompts.

2.  Quickly, write down anything that comes to mind for each.  First thoughts… uncensored.  (My recommendation:  a writer’s notebook or journal as a tool you use consistently for recording these first thoughts.  The writer’s journal becomes your personal written archive for more material and personalized writing prompts.)

3.  If one of the prompts spurs you to write more, go for it!  Don’t stall.  The Muse is speaking now!  Don’t let her get away.

4.  Over the next few hours or days, allow the prompts to germinate.  Revisit them daily.  New thoughts may come.  Through your reticular activating system (RAS) the prompts will attract new material for you.  Allow the prompts to inspire your daily writing practice in unforeseen ways.

5.  Find a quiet place (or if you prefer raucous, then turn on the stereo, way up loud).  Practice a combination of:  Breathing – Stillness – Listening.

6.  Move.  Go for a walk.  Practice yoga.  Leave your desk.  Sit in a comfy chair.  Go out on the porch.  Take a drive.  It’s often here where you’ll “hear” fresh ideas too.

7.  Write.  Write.  Write.  Return to the prompts and to your initial thoughts.  Set a mini-goal to write 500 words on a selected prompt.  Then another…  Keep writing as long as you are inspired.

8.  Add to, refine and polish those that seem to have promise for “product pieces.”

9.  Trust the process.

10.  Make writing for practice, for process, or for product a priority for every day.

11.  Enjoy the journey!

Confession Time – Coming Clean

I woke up this morning with a sudden urge to come clean with you.

I’m a procrastinator.
I have a difficult time making decisions.
Ask my sister. She’ll tell you.
And I’m a work in process.
I’m working on it.

It’s never too late to decide.
It’s never too late to decide to do things. Differently.

As a business owner, I must make decisions every day, difficult ones and sometimes easy ones. I like the easy ones, of course. Whether or not to have 1 bite of chocolate after lunch, for example. Easy. Yes. Thank you.

To be completely honest, I have to have helpers who hold me accountable, who ask me the right questions, and who challenge me to get out of my stuckness and keep things moving forward.

That’s why I’ve always worked with a coach. Someone I pay. Someone who let’s me bounce ideas around as part of the process of decision-making. My coach(es) – yes, it takes a village to raise me – and I have created amazing results together. I give them a lot of the credit because they deserve it.

Without coaches, procrastination, stuckness and failure to decide would always stand in the way of my successes. I’m totally convinced of that. So there’s the confession part.

Let’s face it: we all have great intentions. But of course, life gets in the way if we don’t have a structure and a plan. I know this is true because of how I’ve struggled.

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to writing, and getting it done, it’s always helped me to have a safe, supportive environment, accompanied with fellow-writers, writing alongside, sharing the ins and outs of the writing life. I’ve always appreciated having a mentor, a coach or other ally to be my guide along the way too.

My greatest achievements have been accomplished when these things were in place:

  1. I had a plan.
  2. I had a support system.
  3. I had a level of accountability I felt comfortable with.
  4. I had a coach, a mentor, or other creative cohorts to spur me on.

I’ve created a mentoring program that fits all those pieces together. And I invite you into this inner circle to join me and others as we create something extra spectacular together this summer.

It’s never too late to decide to do things differently.

To get notification of the next inner circle session, join my mailing list (and receive 99 Ways To Jumpstart Your Creative Writing) here.

Freewriting – Process vs. Product

 

CoffeePaperPenThe concept of freewriting is to allow your words to flow onto the page, uncensored.  Read a prompt, put pen to page, and write.  Don’t stop to think… just write what comes to mind based on the prompt.  Allow whomever you draw your creativity from (the Universe, your Muse, God) to speak to you.  Use the prompt to conjure up sensory details from all 6 senses (see, smell, touch, hear, taste and “feel” emotional connections). Be spontaneous, expansive, and fluid.  Write first thoughts.  Freudian slips are okay, even welcomed, as they often take us where we really need to go.

Writing Prompts (or Assignments)

Writing prompts are intended to trigger your mental archive.  Use them as a springboard from your personal experience into writing.  All of us carry around images, emotions, and feelings that connect to past experiences, current situations, and future dreams.  Allow the prompt to “inform” your writing, but not “define” it.  The prompt may tell you to write something a certain way, but what comes to mind for you is something different.  Great!  Fine!  Write what your creative spirit tells you to write.  Anything you write is wonderful-neither good nor bad, it just is.

Allow yourself to be surprised.  Use the prompt to draw out your creative spirit and allow her writing to show up on the page in whatever form you choose.  Welcome short bursts-small pieces of 100 words, for example, can always grow into big pieces too.  Just get something, anything, written down.

Prompts as Writing Practice

I believe there are two kinds of writing:  writing for process and writing for product.  While the two go hand in hand, I believe what comes first is writing for process.

Consider:  where do you get the seeds for a new piece of writing?  how do you get from a series of thoughts to a fully polished piece that’s ready to send to a publisher?

In my experience, working with prompts and writing practice is a natural stepping stone on the path to publishable material.  Our first step is to write based on inspiration triggered by a prompt, allowing our writing to flow with personalized intention.

I call this “writing for process.”  You may not be able to see where this piece of writing is going, but what you’re doing is tapping into your mental and experiential archive.  You’re getting thoughts and ideas down on paper.  You’re strengthening your writing muscle.  You’re acknowledging your writing voice and personal style.

I believe as writers we need to collect a good sampling of these “writing for process” pieces.  They are the springboards for larger projects and help point us in directions we may not have seen or acknowledged before.

Once you have a collection of “process pieces” you can then begin to shape for publication the ones that interest you.  Here’s where your “process pieces” turn into “product pieces.”  These “product pieces” become the writings that you actively “work on” and polish.  With the “product pieces,” you begin to look for suitable markets, honing and refining to publisher guidelines.

In order to get your writing practice started, or to stimulate your creativity further, I invite you to get a free copy of my ebook “99 Ways to Jumpstart Your Creative Writing.”

Spring Into Action: 5 Tips to Jumpstart Your Creative Writing

Good news: Signs of spring are showing up almost everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere right now. Spring is a time of renewal and growth. It’s the perfect time to clean up, declutter, and refresh what’s gone stale sitting in a drawer or cupboard.

If you’re serious about your writing (and I know you are!), here are 5 things you can do during the next 5 days to re-jumpstart your writing:

1. Collect all your writings in one place. That might be in one file drawer, in a 3-ring binder, or in one folder on your computer titled “My Creative Writing.” It’s important to know what you have so you know where to begin.

2. Open up 3 of those half-started or almost complete documents and read them again.

3. What does the article, story, chapter, ebook or blog post need? Ask it what it needs. Listen. Then write down on a 3 x 5 card the next 3 steps you’ll take to work on 1 particular article, story, chapter, ebook or blog post. The act of writing down your next steps jumpstarts the process of continuing. When we KNOW what’s next, we attract exactly what we need through synchronicities.

4. Set aside 30 minutes on your calendar for the next 5 days. This is a time you’ll devote to writing. Don’t freak out! You don’t have to actually “write” during this 30 minute window. Depending on what you identified in #3 above, you may use this time for research, reflection, or reading. What matters is that you’re giving attention to your writing again.

5. Notice what you enjoyed about the process of 1-4 above. What was fun? What was difficult? What do you need to add or take away? Make a list. Journal about it.

And let me know what your results are.

Spring forward!!

I’ll be looking for your byline on an article somewhere soon.

 

Video Post – Do You Doodle?

Do you doodle?

Are you a simpleton? A fool? Perhaps you swindle or ridicule? Or maybe you’re a corrupt politician?

Creative genius and visual entrepreneur Sunni Brown shares what it means to doodle in this 6 minute video. What does doodling have to do with writing?

Watch the video, then continue reading below.

What does doodling have to do with writing? As creative artists, writers need to practice “thinking” via various modalities. If a picture is worth 1000 words, then perhaps it’s a visual representation that’s the gateway to the words.

Some ways doodling may lead to heightened creativity:

  • Map out characters in a setting as a way to develop a scene. That will lead you to choreographing character movements as well as setting details.
  • Use doodles to get inside your protagonist’s head; what would he/she draw? and why? That will lead you to their motivations
  • Create a set of doodle icons as you edit your work; for instance, a swirly “G” might mean “check grammar.” A stick man “I” might mean indent or insert more content.
  • Choose doodling over dawdling. When you’re stuck for what’s next, just doodle. As Brown points out, making spontaneous marks helps us think. Doodling could be the answer to what’s right around the corner for your next sentence, paragraph or scene.

For more information on creative doodling, check out Sunni Brown’s book, Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers. And watch for the upcoming release of The Doodle Revolution in 2012.

Great Writers Read Aloud

Writers and bloggers, if you’re not reading your works aloud before publishing or posting them, you’ll never be a great writer.

Your writer eyes are blind to seeing the flaws in whatever you write until you take it away from the computer and read it aloud.

To edit your own work, do this:

1. Always print your works-in-process often. Author Anne Lamott says, “Don’t be afraid to kill a few trees. Just recycle.” (I turn the pages over and put them back through the printer so both sides are used.)

2. Read your writing with fresh eyes. Take it away from the computer. Change seats, go outside in the sun or to the living room couch. Just get away from the desk in order to re-see what you have written with fresh eyes.

3. Grab a highlighter before you go. Why? See #5.

4. Read your writing aloud. Stand up. Face a window or sliding glass door. Imagine the entire world is your audience, out beyond the glass. Read in your big oratory voice as though you’re at the front of a huge audience.

5. Whenever you stumble, tick the words or line with a highlighter. Rework those passages when you return to your writing desk.

6. Allow your writing to grow cold. Leave it alone. Don’t read it for at least a week, longer if possible. Return to it with fresh eyes. Read aloud again, and listen for what needs changed.

During a recent #litchat on Twitter, author Maggie Dana, said it best:

Reading one’s own stuff aloud can really highlight mistakes, not just typos but pace, rhythm, and flow.

Do you read your work aloud?

Please a comment at the bottom of the blog post.