Category Archives: Spirit

The Magic of Words

Words can make magic.  They can bring good news and cheer you up when you’re sad.  Words can heal wounds and offer forgiveness. They can express love and wow can they tell a story!  Like magic!

Sometimes, though, words can go awry and bounce off the wrong surface and cause hurt or destruction. They can sting or erupt in wars.  But we know this about magic – some is good, some not so good.

Words are, in essence, just an illusion.  They can only illustrate things and feelings, they aren’t real. Words are just a facade.  A trick of magic.

We can’t forget, though, how powerful they are.  Words can create pictures in your head. Those images can take root. You may not remember where you heard it, or even the exact words. But thanks to the magic of words, you can recreate the picture or the emotion.

As stewards of words, we need to be wary of the words we use.  Not just on the page or screen.  But also in how we talk to the real characters of our lives.

Stay open for ways that you can use words to help and heal others.  Wield words to make others feel better about themselves or encourage them to do more.  There’s so much we can do with our words!  What an amazing and magical gift we have to be able to say what we need to say.

Remember the power of words.  And watch how you use their magic.

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Organizing Peace Out of Chaos

As every day writers we often, especially with bigger projects, find ourselves surrounded by tons of notes, research, and drafts. It is our job to make sense of it. We need good organizational skills to wrangle it into some kind of order.

Sometimes that may require spreading out the materials to see it at all once. Surveying the lay of the land. One organizational strategy we might use is to see what matches with what.

Traditional writing lessons tell us that each paragraph must have a theme and that it should be stated up front. In the first sentence, if possible. Under it can then be filed all the material that’s related, that supports the theme. You make a bold statement, you need to be able to back it up.

As writers we get to pull apart a subject. As we answer the questions what are we trying to say, where does that go, how do I want this to flow, we come to see how  different pieces relate to each other.

Organizing brings peace to chaos, wherever it hides. Whether that’s a complicated procedure, the contents of a drawer, or how we feel about most anything we might have a care about.

When we find ourselves in a snarl, where our needs are getting tangled up in others,  pens become increasingly hard to find, or papers (or emails) threaten to take over, we can bring those same skills to bear.

Laying out the components of the problem (as well as everything in the drawer) shows what goes with what. With the pieces sorted we can make decisions about how we’d prefer it to be. This is important information. It creates a map for finding our way out of chaos.

We can break down the issue into smaller pieces, like a paragraph. What are the points we want to make? What are the various pieces of whatever has us feeling out of control?

Tame wild thoughts by spilling them out. Then organize them. As you see the relationships, you will be better able to see where the pieces fit together. And soon a story will appear. One you can make sense of.

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Sketching Life

I use sketching as an important part of my writing process. I need the feel of pen to paper. Natalie Goldberg said that it connects you more directly to your heart. I find it also makes for a good link between me and my thoughts.

I sketch out on paper what I want to write about. I compose as I go, but I am free to leave notes to myself. In random order, I write as it comes to me, easy and without pressure. In essence this is a way of gathering my thoughts on the piece I want to write.

When faced with a decision or conflict, this technique can also be handy. Spilling out my thoughts on the various parts of the issue can be quite revealing. This exercise provides a venue for personal growth by defining what you feel and believe. To spread it out raw, in front of you, you can get a better view of what’s going on. And how it needs to be re-arranged.

In both cases, it makes for material that is more authentic.

You can start by describing whatever is before you. The order matters little. Maybe talk about how you feel about it. What are the emotions dancing around in side you? If it’s a decision you can sketch out both sides to see what may be found down each path. You might discover a fear is holding you back. Anything that you’re thinking or feeling about it will be helpful. The finished product shines a fresh light on the situation and can bring new perspective. Along with accompanying insights.

For a piece of writing, it can unearth a refreshing take on your topic.

In the end, perhaps sketching can soften how we look at our writing and our lives. It’s an easy step, with no pressure. Your investigations might reveal a long forgotten ache that can now be realized or forgiven. Maybe you will see a more loving take on how to proceed. An answer. A decision. A direction.

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Playing with Words

As an every day writer, we have the distinct joy of being able to play with words. We know and relish the subtle differences between words like unique, distinctive, and singular.

Words make a difference, no matter what you’re writing. The words you choose, the alliteration you decide to decant, the combinations you mix or leave out, all set a tone and a mood.

The words you use regularly say something about you. In writing they can be seen as lazy patterns of speech. From a certain point of view, on occasion, for instance, the key is . . . we all have our repetitive phrases and it can add flavor to writing, and reveal something of the author. But we need to be careful that we don’t overuse them as if we were talking. It may be time to whip out the Thesaurus and play with different words to find another way to say it. Choose your words more carefully and tweak them until they say just what you are truly after. Don’t rely on the same old words.

The words you choose to talk about your life can have a profound affect on how you feel. We can play with those words, too. You don’t have to deny the situation to tell it using slightly different words. Think about how you describe your life. Which words are you choosing?

Instead of always saying you’re so busy, see if you can vary that to, “I’m doing a lot of what I enjoy.” Or maybe “My days are filled with lots of great activity!” Words can change a mind from confused to befuddled, making things feel a little more manageable. You can add  more zest to any situation. It was great! Instead of it was fine. Or be more specific: It was mind-bendingly boring, instead of “yeah, it was okay.”  Pay attention to the words you use when talking and play with them.  See how you can change the shades of your life.

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Where Do you Slant?

Recently, I saw a documentary called “GasLand,” about the effects of natural gas extraction. In fact, I wrote about it this week in Rants and Raves. I believe what I heard and it shook me. It had the desired effect on me. In large part due to the slant it took.

With the lack of response from the people responsible, the slant of GasLand naturally fell to the people who are suffering to tell the story. There are other ways it could’ve been told, both in context and content. It could have come from the angle of a message: Did we not learn from the experience of the Dust Bowl? Mess with the Earth and she will strike back. We may emotionally tell how fracking has impacted our own life. It could’ve been an in depth, scientific study of how hydraulic fracturing works. Or, told from the perspective of the oil and natural gas companies, we would have seen a very different film. Same story, told in different ways.

As writers, we can decide where we stand as we tell our stories. A slant allows you to narrow your vision into a specific topic or angle. (It’s all about light, isn’t it?) When you choose a slant for whatever you’re writing, you make a choice about where you stand and from what perspective you will write. This helps focus your work. So you know before you start where you are going. It gives you a homing signal to aim for as you write. This can help your odds of delivering the right message and your piece having the desired effect.

In life, we can use this slant to choose how we will view the changing situations in front of us. To get clearer on what it is we believe about something. Decide where we stand. How we see things can have a huge impact on our enjoyment of life. We can choose to see things as bleak or as hopeful.

Now might be a good time to define the positive slant. It is a way of seeing the best in any given circumstance. Not always easy to do. I seem to naturally topple into a much darker point of view. It takes effort to change my position. Taking the positive slant does not deny the facts on the ground, nor is it strictly putting a positive spin on what is not. It’s merely slanting it, using a loving filter, shining a softer light. Seeing all the refractions and finding how it can be used to move forward, to help do things in a more positive, life-affirming way.

In writing, the slant can be every which way. But it is up to the writer to figure where the piece will be written from. If you start seeing it from the left side and then jump to the right you will confuse your readers. Make sure it is your perspective and not the one you think you should have. If it’s authentic and consistent, in the end you will write a tighter piece.

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Revising Your Stories

As every day writers we have a lot of power.  We regularly make things come out the way we want them to. Especially in fiction, but also in non.  Whatever you write, you decide what it will say.  It is your call what the piece of writing will accomplish and how you wish to get there.

We can, no matter what our skill or experience as a storyteller, re tell our own stories.  Make them come out the way we want them to.

Say you have submitted your work to a publisher or agent (client or employer).  We all know how this can turn out: you either hear nothing or that they are “not interested at this time.”

At this point, there is a choice we can make about the story we wish to tell about this.  Sure, you can march on about how your work stinks and no one will ever want to read it.  Or sit staring with a dazed expression, asking why.  Maybe they even told you why which might have hurt even more, left you feeling more confused.

As an every day writer, however, you can see that there are different ways this story can be told.  The facts of the matter are what they are. It would be fun to write the story where the publisher says, “Your book is wonderful!  We can’t wait to have it.”  But there’s no need to deny reality.  You can start from where you are, with the truth of the situation.

What if you decided to change the next chapter to read about how you feel inspired because you wouldn’t really be a writer if you didn’t go through rejection?  You might go on to explain that’s just one person’s opinion.  There are many other people in the world.  You can still believe in what you’ve written.  You can finish the story of how the next publisher took you on and your publishing career was launched!

So get busy and rewrite your stories.  As an every day writer, you can do this 15 minute  exercise easily. Sit with your first reaction to the situation (whatever it may be).   And then see if you can change the scene.  Write, “How else could I see this?  Is there another way to describe this?”  True, it is about finding the positive slant.  But why not?  Doesn’t it feel better?

This works for all kinds of situations.  A lover leaving, an opportunity missed, or the food you ordered not being as good as you expected, the show being cancelled.  Give yourself a few minutes to write through your anger or disappointment and come out with a fresher perspective.

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