In my work with writers I give a lot of attention to the writer’s life and the writing experience. When we set up the conditions for a writer’s life, we will write. When we write, our writing will naturally improve. Our voices will emerge from the words; our ideas will move along the page; we will discover ourselves, our stories and what is meaningful to us. When we cultivate a writer’s life, –– blogs, articles, poems, and books will emerge from our busy lives.
We will flourish as writers.
Creating the conditions and cultivating the writer’s life means to give writing internal and external spaces to emerge. I am down to 113 emails in my in-box. This is down from nearly 1,000. I am determined to get down to 20 and have no more than 20 a day in my in-box that need my attention. The stress and distraction of so many emails restrict my writing time and energy. Creating the conditions for a writer’s life means to declutter and simplify our life so that we can, with more ease, write. Creating the conditions includes gathering together with other writers, setting aside time to write, having a place to write, and reading. What else? What cultivates the writer’s life for you? Do you need to drink less alcohol, or watch less television (or tweet less)?
Last night someone shared that when they mention they are a writer, or are writing a book, others' eyes glaze over. Who isn’t writing a book, there look suggests. I recommend that we get more specific in our spoken and written word. So, when you mention you are a writer – name specifically what you are writing about! Say for example, I am writing a memoir on all the men I have left, versus, I am writing a book. In the written word, instead of mentioning a tree – identify what kind of tree. She sat by a tree. She rested against a Willow tree. Be descriptive with details. This cultivates a more disciplined writing and an invitation for your friends and readers to come closer in to you and your writing. An invitation to a party is one thing; an invitation to a pig roast is another.
A disciplined approach to writing emerges from cultivating a writer’s life. Through our discoveries and results of creating conditions of a writer’s life a discipline naturally emerges. This discipline is quite different than our forcing ourselves to write. A simple analogy is gardening – we have to create the conditions for our vegetables and flowers to grow. We have to weed the garden enough to allow the space for our vegetables and flowers to flourish. We want to enjoy the fruits of our labor, so the discipline comes natural to us. The plants do the rest without much effort on our part. The discipline comes in making room for your creative life.
I promise that if you cultivate the conditions of a writer’s life, you will write. This will take some soul searching and likely, cleaning out your in-box.
JOIN ME in these opportunities:
JOIN me and other writers for November’s FREE WRITING RETREAT on FRIDAY NOVEMBER 30th 10 until 4:00. Please email me with an intention to attend. We gather to write, share in a lunch, write some more, then in closing we hold a sharing circle.
EVERY FRIDAY MORNINGfrom 10 till 2:00 I will be writing at Sjolinds in Mount Horeb.
Let me help you share your stories––8 Weeks with Your Memoir. Begins this MAY 2nd and goes through June 20th. Thursday evenings, from 5:30 till 8:30!! Limited to 6 dedicated writers. Process includes writing prompts, instruction, guidance, consultation, and support. Once the series is completed, you can send me up to 20 pages of your work for in-depth critique (by August 1st). Email me for more details and to register! email@example.com
“You can’t just come out and say what you have to say. That’s what people do on airplanes, when a man plops down next to you in the aisle seat of your flight to New York, spills peanuts all over the place (back when the cheapskate airlines at least gave you peanuts), and tells you about what his boss did to him the day before. You know how your eyes glaze over when you hear a story like that? That’s because of the way he’s telling his story. You need a good way to tell your story.”
― Adair Lara, Naked, Drunk and Writing
8 Weeks with Your Memoir will be invigorating and personal. You will leave with the tools to transform your writing into something good and meaningful to your readers. Good memoir reads like a novel you can’t put down. Only better because the story is true. I will be working close-in with your stories to help you develop your narrative and to bring out your unique voice. Your investment is $375.00.
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better. “~Anne Lamott
“Memoir isn’t the summary of a life; it’s a window into a life, very much like a photograph in its selective composition. It may look like a casual and even random calling up of bygone events. It’s not; it’s a deliberate construction. “~William Zinsser
“There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal." –Toni Morrison in her mobilizing manifesto on the writer’s task in troubled times. And these are troubled times. Fortunately, whatever arises in our life can be material to work with. Everything can be used for healing, transformation, and connection.
We can accept that the world is chaotic, troubled and often overwhelming with causes but we must not give into its malevolence. As I have written before, there are always a multitude of possibilities in any given situation. We just have to look up and get off our deck chairs. It’s hard not to be stuck in this sense of it doesn’t matter what I do. Little ole me.
It does matter.
We can get paralyzed by the amount of pain and suffering that needs our attention.
Don’t be. Every little action matters. Every word makes a full sentence.
You must write. Find a way. The distractions and detours are ever-increasing in this busy, high tech world. The division among us pronounced at this critical time in our collective lives.
Write about that. Or, write from that.
This is not the time to be perfectionistic, silent, still, or isolated.
Focus your energy on engagement rather than resistance. Don't be distracted from your writing.
This is the time to write it down, get it out (even if only to one other human being); to write and live forward, to gather together with others as much as you can. This is the time to TAKE NOTES, write that poem, send that card, make that yard sign.
Take more notes.
As writers, life is constantly giving us raw material, like wet clay. We must work the clay while it is still raw and wet, molding it into a story, letter or article.
“We do language.”
Gather with me and other writers. Starting NOVEMBER 9th I will be writing every FRIDAY MORNING at Sjolinds Chocolate House in Mount Horeb from 10:00 till 2:00. Come write and visit. Bring your writerly questions. They have great coffee, hot chocolate and lunches. I will be there, writing.
“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he (or she) does not become a monster.” Friedrich Nietzsche
The monsters, villains, antagonists, and antiheroes are here for one purpose and one purpose only: to awaken the hero. In each of us. The Trouble Makers, as it turns out, are a great asset to us both individually and collectively. Just as there is no good story without a villain, there is no life without them either.
They’re here. Sometimes they are hidden behind the scenes, sometimes they are out in the open.
In my Buddhist practice we approach our Trouble Makers as our teachers. If not for them we may get all lazy and complacent. We may not see the true value of applying our principles and ethics. We may even forget our dreams and intentions. They also bring us to our practice. We are less likely to practice when our life is all puppies and rainbows. And your readers are not going to identify with a protagonist who isn’t fighting a villain. Boring. Sleepy land.
In nature, everything must break apart, be destroyed for creation to happen. The seed must be destroyed if the stem is to break through the dirt and reach the light. Natural fires allow for a balanced ecosystem. You know: you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. The old typically has to fall apart to make room for the new.
There’s now a monster in the White House. And if our collective story unfolds as it can (and often does), he and his cronies will bring out the Best in each of us. Getting lazy may be an option but only at the demise of our democracy and personal and collective integrity.
So, put pen to paper. Help fight the monsters.
My writing circles for this round are filled up. But I will be offering retreats and classes, some through the UW, Madison at Writers’ Institute and Write-By-The-Lake.
I do have openings in my RED THREAD Circle that starts up in November: Monthly Spiritual Circle: Taking Hold of the Red Thread: Touching Reality in our Everyday Lives. Gather together with others who are the heroes in their own story.
In one of my writing circles Someone said “I’m in,” after she checked in. Most of us tend to say, “I’m done.” This idea of being “in” rather than “done” took hold and now several people when finished with their check-ins say, “I’m in.”
Acknowledging that we are in demonstrates the difference between saying we are friends and being in a friendship. Being married or being in a marriage. We may have lots of friends on Facebook but only a few can claim a true friendship. In, is active, means you are engaged and showing up for yourself and others. I’m in is a commitment and acknowledgment of willing participation.
In writing you want to be all in. It’s one thing to say you’re a writer and another to be in your writing. “I’m in” shows up on the page for the reader because an engaged writer narrates better than one that is forcing some process or isn’t all in. An “I’m in” writer lets the writing take us where it will.
2018–2019 Consultation Circle for Writers: Work with an established Author & Instructor Starts in OCTOBER, 2018
Starting in OCTOBER of 2018 I will begin my next Year-long Writing Consultation Circle. We meet the first Wednesday of the month for a year
The cost is $35 a month and includes my critiquing up to 4 pages, writing partnership with other writers, monthly guidance, writing prompts and tools, instruction and support.
IF YOU ARE WORKING ON A BOOK or book idea this circle is for you! It helps a great deal to be part of such a circle, even if it means only meeting once a month and exchanging a few pages with your writing partner and with me. Most successful writers rely on support from others who have written and are living the writer’s life.
Write Meaningful Nonfiction: Turn Your Personal Experiences, Knowledge, and Journaling into an Inspiring Book, Blogs, or Other Writing
Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat
Some time in June, 2018
9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. each day
Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St., Madison
Write meaningful nonfiction based on your personal experiences and knowledge.
Write a book based on just an idea or theme.
Write on a subject that has captivated your attention.
Write a book taken from your blogs.
Write a book, blog or article based from your field notebooks.
Write transformational nonfiction based on journal entries or letters.
Write a book based on your travels, spiritual experience, encounters or views.
It’s not about trying to fit into our clothes, rather, having clothes that fit. Every scene in our life holds the potential for presence and connection. Vulnerability is our best protection. A little yoga goes a long way. If a sentence, job, scene, or relationship doesn’t work stop trying to force things along. There are no secrets. We have nothing to prove to anyone (and everything to learn). We are here to discover. Grief takes as long as it takes. A divided life is exhausting. (If you are living a divided life you are likely exhausted). Practice meeting everyone and …
I tend to write more from my life than about my life. Journal writing is a way to be in conversation with all that is going on around us and inside of us. That’s one reason I don’t leave home without a field notebook. Often my blogs (as you have likely come to realize) are about what is happening right now, what I’m figuring out or encountering at this time. This is how I’ve written most of my books and now how I am approaching my novel.
I have developed what I call a Conversational Arc that helps writers explore a question and theme. Because life at its core is conversational, anything that keeps us engaged in this conversation helps us achieve our creative intentions. (I have an upcoming retreat/writeshop on Staying In The Conversations: A Transformational Writers’ Writeshop FRIDAY, January 11th.)
After seven months away from writing my novel, I re-joined Julie’s monthly writing circle ready to begin again. I’d finally finished the first draft on Christmas Eve, 2015. The next step was clear: spend the next year writing the second draft.
Julie uses the analogy of climbing a mountain to frame our approach to our writing and writing circle. We were at the base camp, about to begin our climb. What’s our intentions as we begin this journey? What keeps us going? What do we need to complete the climb?
Buddhist teachings reveal how distraction from the moment, and the reality of the moment, leads to confusion, apathy and misinterpretation of reality. But too many pasttimes are just that – built in to distract us.
One of the great distractions is television, now extended to the screens of our computers and phones. Advertisements brag how we can watch our favorite shows any where, any time. Why wait in line in silence, or in conversation with those around you, when you can watch the little screen on your phone? I remember when going on a road trip meant we shared in conversation and games as the scenes and landscape changed.
And our landscape is changing, right now.
About the Author
Julie lives near Madison WI where she walks her dog on Military Trail, & attends Yoga at Bliss Flow Yoga. She is author of The Zero Point Agreement & 10 other books.