Category Archives: Writing Well

Writing Tip: Wielding Perseverance

Writing, like most things in life is up and down.  Some days it flows easily and gracefully.  But the next it turns laborious.  You may be flying high that everyone loves what you’ve written. Other times you may not be able to find a soul (not even you) to tell you your writing’s any good.  It can go like this – you show up to the desk or paper and your head is bursting with ideas.  You’ve finally figured out how to say it!  Out it comes.  Ahh . . .  Done. Feeling good. The next day, you sit there at the same keyboard or pad and nothing comes. Your mind is completely blank.  Oh yeah, you forgot to put the wash into the dryer. . . .  Isn’t that a pretty bird out there?

Many people who go through the monstrous job of completing a book-length manuscript find themselves exhausted from the process.  It might feel like nothing will ever come again.

I’m not one who believes in writer’s block.  Writer’s stuck?  Sure thing.  But not a block.  (Unless, of course, something very traumatic happens in your life to staunch the flow.)  Barring any catastrophic incidents, there is always a way out.

Perhaps you’ve done a project for a client and it is not accepted the way you wanted it to be.  You feel defeated.

So, what do you do in these cases?  Persevere.  As an everyday writer, we need this in our tool box. We use perseverance to get us through the book. The very same skills  get you to complete any writing assignment, especially the tough ones. You have it, you just have to work it a little harder at times.

The first step in the process of perseverance is acceptance.  Perseverance will get you out of being stuck and keep you going when you’re spent.  But it cannot work without acceptance. Once you say, okay, I’m stuck, then you can do something about it. Only then can you persevere and say I’m not done!

A sure-fire way to persevere is to write. Get back on the horse as they say.  Put the pen to paper and write. Write about what you’re feeling. Sketch out a devilish plan to get back at the person who dissed you. Whatever you can to get the muscles working again. You might try Natalie Goldberg’s writing practice.  10 minutes on a topic.  Go!  Before you know it, flow will return and you can pick up where you left off.

Perseverance is like courage.  It is something you must wield through daily (sometimes moment-by-moment) conscious choice. Remember perseverance never ends. Completing a manuscript is only the beginning if you are going to publish. There is still a lot of work ahead.  And another project waiting to begin, the next assignment to undertake.

Stay with it.  Don’t stop. Decide to persevere another day.

A wonderful resource for getting to know perseverance is Julia Cameron’s “Finding Water.”

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Absorbing Criticism

As everyday writers, the minute we put our writing into someone else’s hands, we open ourselves to criticism. When asked recently what she would advise her younger self, Hillary Clinton said, “Take criticism seriously but not personally.” This is sound advise.  Especially for writers.

To me, taking it “seriously” does not mean to use everything everyone says to you. You’ll drive yourself crazy! Some criticism is not worth the time. General critical comments are often not helpful at all.  It can get sticky in fiction, too.  I had someone tell me young accountants never went out for drinks!  Or that they never give out that kind of money in the music business. (I, having worked there, against the criticizer who knew nothing about it.)  I’m not sure where these kind of comments come from.  Simply note the source.

Editors, people who have been successful in the publishing industry or the industry you’re writing about, fellow writers, and others you think worthy should be accorded the respect of taking what they say seriously. That means seriously considering it.  Listening to it. Being open to it.

To accept any criticism it must first be filtered through your own knowing.  You are the author and therefore it is imperative that whatever you write stays true to your story, characters or subject.  What you need to say is the most important factor.  As the writer, it is up to you to stand up and protect what you’ve written.  But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seriously consider criticism. Criticism dismissed because it hurts is unnecessary and a sad waste. There is so much wealth to be found in another’s point of view!

Recently, a fellow writer made some strong comments about my submission to our critique group.  To be helpful, she also made suggestions of how I might correct the problem.  Her ideas did not feel right for my characters or where I want to go with the story.

The first thought my ego tossed out was that she was wrong, she didn’t understand and I had to explain why I hadn’t gone that way.  In the process, it all began to shift and I was able to see it from her vantage point. Suddenly it made sense.  I was able to seriously consider what she was saying.  Maybe I had been just turned off by her suggestions of how to fix it, or perhaps it was the extra work involved. I may well have felt hurt that she didn’t like what I’d written.  As soon as I got enough distance, I could see exactly how to fix it. In the end, I did the work and it was so much better for it.

I believe Madame Secretary had it backwards.  You need to step out of the way of criticism first. When you can disconnect from the comments you have a much better chance to fully absorb it. When you take the “personally” part away, what seems so solid isn’t anymore.  The criticism can be viewed as about the writing, not the writer. From that perspective you can truly hear what the person is trying to tell you.  And incredibly valuable information may be revealed.

We can use this in life, too, whenever we face difficult or hurtful situations. If we find a way to move back, to step out of the gooey personal stuff, we can see what’s really going on.  From there, we can take it seriously, absorb the lesson and find our own way through.

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Writing Tip: Ask Questions

The act of asking questions is a very old and sacred one that can make great things happen.  It is no less powerful in the hands of a writer.

As writers, we need to continually ask questions.  The more questions asked, the better the piece. You can develop a series of regular questions if you like, but be sure that you ask  questions wherever you can.

The first question you might venture to ask is, what am I going to write about?    A better variation might be: What do I want to say about this?  The difference between a topic, say “The Rings of Saturn,” and an angle like how they are, in fact, made up of little particles.  Play with your questions to get to them right.

Probably not on your first draft, but definitely on subsequent drafts, question the words you’re using.  Is this precisely or exactly the word I want here?  There are so many variations in words.  Just look at a Thesaurus.  I found over 70 words that could stand in for Special all with different shades of meaning!  It is the writer’s job to ask questions until the word that rings most true appears.  It’s helpful to take a step further and ask if the word assures understanding or clouds it?

All through the writing process, it’s imperative to ask questions.  Does this follow logically from what I’ve just said? Are my paragraphs holding a single theme?  Too often writers jump around within one paragraph.  We learn in fiction that the action has to flow from one paragraph to another.  If you’re going to change places you have to let your readers know.  Following a path makes it easer to keep attention rolling along.  How is my path to walk?

Question sentences too. Do I have too many short sentences?  Can I combine them?  Do I have too many long, run on sentences, that, perhaps, have too many thoughts, too many directions, too many clauses?  I like to question the last sentence of the paragraph, particularly.  You might ask yourself, what is the thought (and the word) that will linger in the reader’s mind?

And of course, when is the right time to end?  Have I said all I needed to say? Before you conclude ask, Does this say what I really wanted to say? If it doesn’t, you may need to ask another set of questions. Asking if what you’ve written is true to what you wanted to convey could be the most important question of all.

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Writing Tip: Learn to Use Criticism

Let’s just get this clear, right from the start: if you are writing and putting your writing in front of others, you will encounter criticism. Just the way it is. Doesn’t matter how good you are, how much money you make, how many contests you’ve won. When you expose your writing to anyone else, you are asking for comments. Like most of the arts, it’s largely a matter of taste and opinion.  And everyone, if I may say so, has at least one.

Can you really be said to be writing if no one else reads it?  If a tree falls in the woods and there’s no one to read what it wrote, did it make a noise? Getting criticized means you’ve delivered what you’ve written. What you’re supposed to do.  As long as you do, there will be comments and feedback, especially if someone is paying for your words.

Criticism is a blessing to an act as subjective as writing.  Most of the time it’s me and my words.  A writer’s perception of what’s written can become fuzzy and familiar.  An outside source provides a sharpening of the lense.  When delivered properly, criticism shines a light on information which can make your writing better.

The other truth here is that, at our core, we are all sensitive beings.  Some criticism is more difficult to hear than others. General comments are often more hurtful and generally less helpful. How damaged we are by it depends on who is delivering and the stage of feedback receptivity we are in at the moment. Criticism is not easy to take.

The wrong criticism, given by the wrong person can send us out of the room screaming, cause an adult to crawl up into a ball, weeping, frozen on the tracks.  It might even, dare I say it, make a writer give up!  Fear of criticism is often the reason why novels sit in the back of a drawer, unread. Every writer must construct methods for conjuring a protective barrier. Some of us couldn’t earn our living without some way of handling it, no matter how it is delivered.

It may be possible to let the hurt inspire you and move you forward, but I don’t think that’s a long-lasting solution.  It can works well, though, as fuel to get you started. Tending to your wounds can help you get back on your feet again, but it is not enough to fix the problem.

To be more successful, it has to be an internal change.  Remembering that it means we are really writing can sometimes ease the pain. Disassociating yourself is another good ploy.  When we write, it often feels like we’re putting a piece of ourselves on the paper.  In many ways, we are.  But we can keep in mind that it is only ONE piece.  If there is something wrong with the writing, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with the writer.

Someone once said, no person or group of persons defines our worth. One cross word (or 5) from others doesn’t add up to who you are as a writer. What’s helped me is to say, some people like my writing, and some don’t. Inevitably there will be people who simply don’t like how I write. Thank goodness, there are also some who do!

If you can, ask the person for more information.  Getting clearer on what they’re really trying to say you might find: a) what they’re saying is not really as hurtful as you thought, b) it is just what you needed to hear, or  c) their criticism is incorrect.

Keep in mind that not all criticism is valid.  Just because someone says it, doesn’t make it true.  Consider whether it’s general or specific.  Who is saying it?   See how it feels to you. Would the change make your writing better?  If it doesn’t feel right, thank them for their thoughts and keep doing it the way you’ve been doing it. (However, it might pay to stay alert for any other such comments from other sources.)

The more criticism you can take without dramatic repercussions, the easier it is to  use it.  When you can skip the angst and go straight to asking questions – Do I understand what this person is saying?  How could I use this to improve my writing?  Is it true? – then you will open yourself to the data that can really improve your work. The fodder for honing your craft.  Learn to process it without hurt and you can do some wonderful things for your writing!

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Writing Tip: Appreciate the Computer

The computer allows us to combine our left and right brain. What would Dostoyevsky have to say about the two-handed writing we do today at the keyboard?

I can take a piece I created by hand and put in into the computer. From there I can work magic, easily cutting, pasting, moving in and out as I please. I keep a separate pitch file for those darlings that I feel have to be killed. Then, I have a file of material can use elsewhere. This simple step, thanks to the computer, makes it a whole lot easier to cut when necessary.

The computer is forgiving. The word left out, the missed capital, whatever I do, it can be fixed in a trice! And without having to retype, I have a perfectly clean copy.

How we have been set free by the computer! I can write almost everywhere I like, even in the most unlikely places. I carry my pieces and tools with me wherever I may roam. I can store and retrieve previous versions in an instant. With the Internet or a smart phone I have access to my very own “research department.”

I have to admit, previous versions haunt me. I have desperately clung to a lot of paper from long-term book projects. But the computer can help with that neurosis, too. How can I possibly find that scene by the window when the sun was setting and he professed his love for her, in all those boxes of paper? On the computer I can keep as much as I want, without any more space than a thumb drive. And when I want that scene, I have a good chance of finding it.

Though we can’t put our complete faith in it, “Spell Check” can save a lot of time and sometimes embarrassment. It’s easy to get to writing too fast and misspell or misplace words. The computer will try to catch that for us.

Files can be shared with others. “Track Changes” can keep a record of the changes each make. People on opposite ends of the world, as long as they agree on the language, can work together with ease.

I have heard there is software which guides plotting. I have never used one myself, but it’s an intriguing idea. Maybe, like the Thesaurus, it would help me to pick the right plot. Perhaps it takes the place of my antiquated system of making index cards to watch the plot move ahead. I don’t know much about it. I may try one and report on it. In the meantime, the computer has made it even easier to construct a story.

The computer allows us to work anywhere, including home-based. Add Skype and phone and you are connected to the entire world. Let’s not forget that the computer is our delivery system. Free and fast!

Thank you computer for all you do for writers! I wish to remember how much I depend on my constant companion, before the next time it glitches or crashes.

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Writing Tip: Use the Mirror of a Critique Group

I have written before about how much I love my Critique Group. I stand by my statement that it just might be the best thing I’ve ever done for my writing.

The reactions of the readers are so valuable in the writing process. The group provides a mirror that shows lazy habits. We all have them – a specific turn of phrase that’s bouncing around in our heads as we write. We might have a system of using commas that’s not quite correct. Or a pattern of using the word “that” where it’s not needed. The mirror of the group shows transitions or information that’s missing. Writing is a solitary endeavor. A Critique Group brings it out into the open with much needed reflection.

After repeated sessions with the same people I get to know their style of critiquing. While writing, I think of what they might say and can make the necessary adjustments while the page is still fresh. Knowing that someone is going to read what I’m writing shines a brighter light on it, too. It makes me more sharp-eyed for the things I know they will catch. It’s made me a better, more careful writer.

In our process, we send pages ahead of our meeting, giving each reader the time to read carefully and make notes. This past month, I had a little time left over in my reading session and had my submission there, so I read it. I used the same sense of scrutiny and deep attention that I gave to their pieces. I found so many things that my cursory read before sending didn’t reveal. It showed me, once again, how valuable the critiquing process is in my writing.

The group also keeps me writing. I write for a living and to fill my Blogs. So it’s unlikely I would find the time to write for fun. I write fiction for my group and every month I must produce my pages.

It is also true that a Critique Group can be a safe place to share what you’ve written and receive plenty of encouragement. There is no one better to read your work (especially before it’s complete) than another writer. We are sensitive to putting down another’s work.  Nine times out of ten, if another writer is at all uncomfortable with what I’ve written, I know there is a problem, even if they don’t give me outright criticism. I can’t tell you how many times someone in the group has been able to get to the heart of what I was trying to say, where I was struggling. Given me the exact word I was searching for or help me find my way to saying it myself. We are the most forgiving, but also have the sharpest pencils, tuned up for this kind of reading. With a finer view and a sympathetic heart, another writer can find what we often miss in our own writing.

The Critique Group never tries to rewrite my work. They simply put up the mirror and ask questions like, “Is that really what you mean?” You can learn (and practice ) new ways to refine your work from this. It will never take the place of the perspective and choices of the author, but rather it acts as an enhancement.

Writers, unlike non-writers are less likely to tell you what you should say or write about. There is an understanding and respect for the fact that there are many ways a character or a story can express itself. We uphold another writer’s right to say it the way he or she wants to. We may suggest other ways, but never push. It’s just not done.

Another thing that’s NOT done is stealing. If you have any hesitation about sharing your work with others, don’t. Anyone who might try to pass your work off as theirs will not get far. They can’t repeat it if they didn’t write it in the first place. Borrowing techniques, on the other hand, is part of the exchange process.

A Critique Group is well worth the time invested. It can show you things about your writing you never knew. It teaches new methods of editing your work as well. And provides a much-needed support team before you make it to the big time, and a place to keep you humble when you do.

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Putting Energy Into It

Recently, I’ve upscaled my daily writing quota to fill my five Blogs. As I’ve said, some of it was written or figured out long ago. But each piece has needed my attention in some volume of time. Many are just snippets or ideas that need to be developed.

I have put in a lot of time with this over the past . . . Has it been 6 weeks? I have to say, it’s been really wonderful. Easier than I thought it would be and has stirred up some good reaction.

I said awhile back, and I maintain that nothing breeds writing like writing. If you want to write, the only thing you have to do is sit down and write. It’s as simple as that.

We are creatures of energy. Where we put our energy has effect in the world. It has impact.  It makes perfect practical sense. If I am interested in gems, for instance, I will likely read a lot about them, spend time looking at them, maybe attend gem shows or frequent stores where they are sold. Consequently, there are likely to be gems in my life. Is it physics?

It is how so many writers are able to write a novel in a weekend or in a month for National Novel Writing Month. The more you write, the more ideas come up, inspiring you to write more. The physical act of writing (and the mental activity along with it) builds energy.

Natalie Goldberg speaks about getting pen to paper (or fingers to keys) and just writing anything at all. Even if you write, “I don’t know what to write,” it will get you going. Speaking of Natalie she has some great starters like “swimming, the stars, green places, physical endurance. . .”  Google Writing Prompts and see what you can get!

The point is, if you want to write (or play tennis or score an opera or be a better dad) you have to put energy into it.

It piles up. Sharon Salzberg, a gifted spiritual writer, talks of the Buddhist concept of drops of water in a bucket. Eventually the bucket will fill. She is talking about moments of awareness, but it works just the same for writing. It’s how a mother can get a novel written in the hour she has each morning before her baby wakes. The more you write, the more energy will sustain you. Writing breeds more writing. It can only be stopped by your decision to put your energy elsewhere.

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Writing Tip: The Beauty of Journalling

I don’t know if there is any more important tip I can offer than this. It has been nothing short of pivotal in my evolution as a writer.

Every day, for nearly 20 years, I have written in my journal. I say every day and that’s not much of an exaggeration. There have been only a handful of times in all these years that I have not been able to write three pages. On vacation, during an emergency situation or when I can’t get the alone time I need, I might get in one or two pages. I rarely have missed more than two days in a row. On those occasions when I have not been able to make to the journal, I have felt it palpably. So I don’t let that feeling happen if I can help it. Perhaps one might say I’m addicted to journalling. If you are around me when I have missed a day, you will likely ask me what’s wrong.

Taught by two of my favorite writing teachers, Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron, I think it’s a safe addiction. Natalie sees it as writing practice, Julia calls them morning pages. Natalie’s are more directly for writers, whereas Julia’s cover artists of every stripe.

Natalie’s instructions are just to fill up a notebook a month with anything. She explains her process, “In my notebooks I don’t bother with the side margin or the one at the top. I fill the whole page. I am not writing anymore for a teacher or for school. I am writing for myself first and don’t have to stay within my limits, not even margins. This gives me a psychological freedom and permission. And when my writing is on and I’m really cooking, I usually forget about punctuation, spelling, etc. I also notice that my handwriting changes. It becomes larger and looser.”

Julia’s description is thus, “Put simply, the morning pages are three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of consciousness. They might also, more ingloriously, be called brain drain, since that is one of their main functions.” She goes on to say, “There is no wrong way to do morning pages. These daily meanderings are not meant be art. Or even writing . . . Pages are meant to be, simply the act of moving the hand across the page and writing down whatever comes to mind. Nothing is too petty, too silly, too stupid, or too weird to be included.”

Here’s my take on it – Find a quiet space and time to sit down and write, by hand, as Julia prescribes, 3 full pages every day. As per Natalie’s instructions, I use cheap coil bound notebooks (usually around a dollar a piece). You can write anything at all. I have given you some starters below. Just whatever is traipsing through your mind at the time. Remember that there are no limits.

I need a good 45 minutes to properly do it. Tea is incorporated in my routine. I will add a half a page of gratitudes (or fill in for my three, if need be.) I am willing to get up earlier to have that time. But for most people, a good ½ hour should do it.

Choose a regular time that fits into your schedule. I believe both teachers prefer that they be done in the morning, first thing. That’s worked for me. But I think the discipline is more important than the time. If it’s easy for you to do, you’ll be more likely to do it. Stick to that assigned time for as many days as you can. Experts often advise three weeks to develop a new habit. If you miss a day, take it up again the next. Once it’s habit, you’ll be into it like I am. You won’t want to miss a day.

I find a good way to begin is to talk about how you feel. If you struggle with emotions, you can try the twitch in your knee or the tension in your arm. Best-selling author Cheryl Richardson offers some questions to get you going: (I keep this list with my pens so I have it if I get stuck.)
This morning I feel –
I’m always (or I have been) daydreaming about –
My nagging inner voice keeps telling me –
The thoughts that roll around in my heard are –
My soul longs to –
What I’m most afraid of is –
What I’m most grateful for is –
My inner critic tells me –
You can make up your own.  If you prefer, go for something more practical like three things I wish to do today, or three ways I’d like to improve or change how I feel, maybe three things I’d like to give away today.

The daily practice of journalling has created a ballast in my life. No matter where my life takes me, how many hours I work, how much money I have, how I feel, I always have my journal (or some paper) and a pen with me. I take it on vacation and get up a little earlier so I have quiet time with the journal. I am always happier for it and feel it keeps me grounded.

Journalling helped me find my voice ~ whether my writing works or not, touches you or not, I strive to make it true to My Voice. (My voice, maybe, on its best behavior.) That came from journalling endlessly in any voice, with any words in whatever order.

Oh how I love using the journal for fleshing out and experimenting with dialog and scenes! I have had to copy many pages out of my journal where I just got into it and it flowed so well, I had to lift the whole thing. Journalling is also a fine venue for getting to know characters and playing out scenes with different endings.

In journalling there is no one looking over your shoulder, no one waiting to judge it. You can try on ideas about why you do things or how you could do them better. It’s a wide open playground.

Journalling has provided an amazing mirror for me. It is where I can examine all my thoughts – good and bad. To muse on how I feel and what I think about this and that, provides a wonderful outlet. I can have a fight with my best friend for whatever it was she did to me. I can yell and scream and ask, how could she do such a thing! All without upsetting a hair on her head. And truthfully, when I’m done spewing in the journal,  I’m rarely left with those negative feelings. Very often, being able to release  all the nasties, I come around to understanding and forgiveness. I see things from a fresh perspective.

In Conversations with God, which I like to quote heavily, God tells us that the purpose of life is to remember who you are and discover who you choose to be. In the journal, as you write day after day, you come to know who you are. It becomes a wide open field to stretch your mind around who you’d like to be. The journal provides a safe haven to be as honest as you can.

You can have amazing discoveries when you journal. You never know what might happen. People you haven’t thought about in years can pop up. Or a poem will spring out on the page in front of you. You don’t have to stop and wonder if it’s good enough. You’re just journalling. And what a forum for dreaming it is! In the journal you can imagine how things could be.  If only ~  and a few sentences allowed to flow in this direction might reveal untapped hopes and desires. There is much to find in this treasure chest!

If you can, read them back. Julia Cameron advises this. Give it eight weeks, she says and then take a look at what you wrote. I admit, I’m not good at that. But when I  stop to do it, I find all kinds of things: insightful passages, incredible ideas, and illustrative narrative. If I were to mine them more often, I’d have a lot of material I could use elsewhere.

Journalling is worth the time. It can add up quickly. (I have so many coil notebooks I could build a separate dwelling!) It is seriously good writing practice. When you journal regularly you can develop writing chops, sharpen critical thinking, build descriptive skills, and open new vistas . . . and find yourself at the same time!

I believe the more you know yourself, the truer and more honest your writing will be.

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Writing Tip: Try Different Story-Telling Devices

In this week’s Rants and Raves post, I talked about a movie called 2 Days in the Valley. They used a device I’d call “Swirling Spheres.” It’s kind of a spin-off of the merry band, like in the Hobbit stories. Instead it develops several disparate groups.

In the movie, they began telling the story of the first group of people, the pivotal characters and jumped into the action. And then the scene switched to someone else who appeared to be totally unrelated to the first story.  Scene change and onto another story. Paths crossed, revealing connections and eventually all the characters came crashing together. Big things happen when you combine all the threads. Explosions, romance, murder or fun!

Try this:
Come up with a random selection of characters – from fiction, history, your life, characters you’ve created, people you’ve interviewed, or would like to, even people involved in a situation. Try for 6 or 8 that you know something about (or think you do). Do a brief sketch of each one and figure out how they’re all related. Then toss them together and experiment with what might happen! As if Charlie Chan or Sherlock Holmes had gathered all the suspects in the same room and invited them to share their stories. See what they have to say. You could get some insights for a fresh angle on a story or the first draft of a new one.

If you’re lost for ideas, try combining a few topics and see what comes out. Watch 2 Days in the Valley or Big Trouble. I hear Robert Altman uses this device in many of his movies, too. I’m sure there are plenty of examples in literature.

You might try simply combining two two things that don’t usually go together like ducks and the Empire State Building. What about Steely Dan and a coffee shop? This can give you a story-telling vehicle, as well as an angle.

Keep your eyes open when reading or watching for the structure, the bones of the story. How did they tell it? There are many options out there.  Use them liberally. One of my favorite devices is when you start at one point, go hither and yon and end up in the same place, bringing the story back around. The television Lovejoy stories were often like that.

There’s also the device I used this week of taking the concept from the movie for a review and working it into a writing post. I also shook it out as a means of combining social networking connections for On Business. And talked about the wonderful things that can come from bringing energies together On the Path.

Collect your own favorites.

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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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