Eleven must-haves in my writer toolkit

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I’ll bet you don’t even remember the days when a computer was the newest thing in writing gadgetry. With the plethora of apps and add-ons that has bombarded us over the last years,  these days it’s almost a full-time job to keep up with the latest.

I don’t think I have. But I do have some favorites and frankly don’t know how I’d get along without them. Here are eleven tools I use every day.

TextEdot ocpmTextEdit – I use this simple word-processing software that came with my iMac and MacBook to draft all my blog posts. If I ever need to strip something of html coding, TextEdit works well for that too. (Just click on “Plain text” in the program’s Preferences.)

Scrivener logoScrivener –  This powerful program is helpful for putting together most things from articles to books. I even use it to store my poem collection. Its keyword function, ability to collect links, mark each post with icons etc. make it very adaptable to almost anything you want to do with it.

Evernote iconEvernote – I use this program to collect information when I’m researching. I love how I can copy snippets to it when I’m browsing web pages. When I use it to take lecture notes I sometimes activate its recording ability.  I have it installed on three devices so now use the paid version (it’s free for two devices).

Pocket app - logoPocket – This app collects the URLs of articles I want to read later. Pocket is also installed on both my computers and my iPad so I can access the same list from three places.

Blogger icon Wordpress logoBlogger.com and WordPress.com  – I blog on both these platforms and love both. I have connected two of my blogs to domain names so have dropped “blogger” and “wordpress” in the url without the expense of self-hosting (called “domain mapping”).

Facebook iconFacebook private profile and Author Page.  Facebook keeps me connected with family and writing friends and lets me spread encouragement, kudos, and information about good books, resources etc. I have my website blog connected to my Facebook Author page so new posts automatically show up there.

Twitter iconTwitter – I use Twitter to connect with friends, colleagues, do a little marketing, and find interesting links and information. My blogs are connected to Twitter so whenever I post to them, a tweet goes out automatically.

 

FeedlyFeedly – This RSS reader, installed on both computers and my iPad, provides me with a wonderfully efficient way to read blogs.

 

SpotifySpotify – Using this digital music service I can listen to my favourite artists while doing office busy-work, or stream wordless classical, jazz, or pop as a background to writing.

 

TimerA Timer – Finally, I wouldn’t be without my iPad timer. I work best when I know I’m committed to write for a set amount of time. (It’s amazing, too, how inspiration rises when you know you’re stuck there—no ifs, ands or buts). A good amount of time for me is an 90 minutes. I set my timer for 30 minutes and take it in segments.

Maybe you noticed, a lot of these tools help with connectivity—me staying connected to myself as I work on different devices. What writing tools could you not live without? What makes a new one attractive to you? I’m always open to ‘new and improved’!

(This is an updated post that was first published on January 27, 2014. This post was my contribution  [2 of 6] to a writers’ BLOG HOP.  Read about what tools other writers are using HERE.)

Abundant Rain Journal (Review)

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Abundant Rain Journal: A Devotional Journal for Writers of FaithAbundant Rain Journal: A Devotional Journal for Writers of Faith by Marcia Lee Laycock
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Marcia Laycock’s Abundant Rain Journal is a devotional journal that will be of special interest to Christian writers. Each of the 30 one-page meditations deals with some aspect of the writer’s life.

Laycock’s own experience as a writer makes her very aware of the discouragement, creative paralysis, tendency to procrastinate, and feelings of “what’s the use?” that can easily overtake those who work with words and ideas. She has used that knowledge to create a book of readings that will give Christian writers everywhere an inspirational shot in the arm.

Each devotion is paired with a short question and a blank ruled page inviting the reader to interact with the ideas just read.

As a writer myself I found many of the entries both a challenge and an encouragement. I like how Laycock uses typical writerly experiences like waiting for a shipment of books to arrive, or getting a rejection as illustrations. From her experience of writing in a variety of genres, she is able to relate to the writer of fiction, non-fiction and poetry alike. Though I read the book quickly the first time around, I plan to go back and respond to many of the journal prompts. Some of my favorite quotes:

“The gift of language is God’s instrument in our hands” – p. 46.

“As writers, we have all been given a spur–the gift of communication–to use for the sake of others and for the sake of our most faithful God” – p. 50.

“We borrow language, words, images, the stuff of writing. It’s up to us to acknowledge the original owner, to offer back to Him what we have done with what we have borrowed” – p. 54.

If you’re a Christian writer who is looking for a devotional that is sympathetic to your avocation, you’ve found it in this volume. For those seeking to establish a habit of  writing regularly, the journal question that accompanies each meditation could function as a writing prompt. As well, I think this book would make an excellent devotional component for Christian writing groups.

I received a gift copy of Abundant Rain Journal from the author for the purpose of writing a review.

View all my reviews

The gift of people

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HACwithCinnamonCoverSOne of the things I love about writing is having pieces accepted for publication. One of the things that I don’t love is the publicizing and marketing that’s needed when those publications are books. But I know I need to do my part. So when the newest Hot Apple Cider anthology (Hot Apple Cider with Cinnamon) came out this fall with two of my poems in it, I decided to suck up my angst and pull my share of the marketing weight. After all, there are 61 of us and if we all do a little…

A virtual launch on Facebook was stretching! Each of us authors who signed up hosted a half hour—probably the most hectic half hour I’ve ever spent on Facebook as I tried to keep the conversation ball rolling even as I introduced a contest and answered questions. Let’s just say the refresh button of my browser got quite the workout.

Then one of the local anthology contributors scheduled an actual bookstore launch  for last Saturday.

My biggest fear for both of these book events was that no one would show up. That I’d be talking to myself on Facebook and the three of us authors would end up as our only audience at the bookstore.

I did all I could to publicize it—invited local Facebook friends and sent emails to family not on Facebook. And prayed!

Saturday came and hubby and I arrived at the store a good 15 minutes early to find the bookstore cafe, where we were to read, full of diners and nothing set up. (Maybe this would turn out even worse than I dreaded!) So we sat down and had a coffee along with everyone else. What else was there to do?

But the store person was on it. Eventually a table appeared. We got our books set up. A cousin I had contacted was there and she said more were coming. Several friends from my poetry society showed up.

When we were finally ready to introduce the book and do some reading from it, a healthy crowd had assembled. The hour and a half of the launch passed before we knew it—a success because family and friends did come out.

House of James book launch with Rose Seiler Scott and Bill Bonikowsky.

House of James book launch with Rose Seiler Scott and Bill Bonikowsky (Photos by Bill B.)

And so today I celebrate the gift of people in my life—my husband who’s game to go on these bookish escapades with me, my friends, especially the ones who know what goes into making books and appreciated the importance of a launch, and extended family who supported me by coming out and doing a little Christmas shopping too!

Plus I thank the Lord. I can just imagine Him, smiling indulgently down on me after one of these high maintenance episodes and murmuring: “O ye of little faith.”

Join us at Reading, Learning, Writing

Join us at Reading, Learning, Writing

This post is linked to Spiritual Journey Thursday hosted by Holly Mueller at Reading, Teaching, Learning

Freelance Writer’s Almanac – March 2014

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Freelance Writer's Almanac icon - violetnesdoly.com

Today is the first day of March. The word “March comes form the Roman ‘Martius.’ According to this site, it was originally the first month of the year (Roman calendar) named after Mars the god of war.

The flower of the month of March is the Daffodil or Jonquil.

Daffodil

Daffodil – the flower of March

March’s stone is Aquamarine  / Bloodstone (modern) and Jasper / Bloodstone  (traditional) – meaning: COURAGE.

Aquamarine

Aquamarine – modern birthstone for March

Bloodstone - birthstone for March

Bloodstone – modern & traditional birthstone for March

Jasper - birthstone for March

Jasper – traditional birthstone for March

Here’s a rhyme for March’s Bloodstone:

Who in this world of ours their eyes
In March first open shall be wise;
In days of peril firm and brave,
And wear a Bloodstone to their grave.
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Some  sayings associated with March’s weather:

“When March comes in like a lion it goes out like a lamb.”

“As it rains in March so it rains in June.”

“March winds and April showers
Bring forth May flower.”

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  • March 1-16 – Dogsled race, the  Iditarod.
  • New moon

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  • Alexander Graham Bell was born on this day in 1847 in Edinburgh Scotland. He went on to invent the telephone (The Christian Almanac [T.C.A.] p. 141).

pancakes4

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  • On this day in 1953 Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin (creator of the Iron Curtain) died at the age of 73 years.  (TCA p. 145. )
Michelangelo - self-portrait

Michelangelo – self-portrait

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  • Silly putty was invented on this day in 1950 (TCA p. 147).

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  • World Day of prayer (always first Friday)

Wind in the Willows - cover8

  • On this day in 1859 Kenneth Grahame, creator of The Wind in the Willows was born in Edinburgh Scotland. Parts of the book were written as letters to his young son (TCA p. 151).

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  • Daylight Savings Time begins
  • First Sunday in LentLITURGY

    1966 Ford Mustant

    1966 Ford Mustang (photo from Wikipedia)

  • The Mustang is 50! The Ford Motor Co. produced the first Ford Mustang on this day in 1964. It became an instant classic (TCA p. 153).

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  • Salvation Army Day

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  • Organize your home office day

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  • James Taylor (singer) was born on this day in 1948.

earmuffs13

  • Earmuffs, patented as “Champion Ear Protector” by Greenwood, were introduced on this day in 1877.

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Hamentaschen & Purim rattle

Hamentaschen & Purim rattle

  • Today is the Jewish holiday of Purim
  • Second Sunday in Lent – LITURGY
  • Full Moon

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  • Kate Greenaway, English artist and book illustrator was born on this day in 1846 in London. Her illustrated books like Mother Goose created a revolution in book illustration (TCA P. 169).

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  • David Livingstone – physician and explorer was born on this day in 1813.

Robin20

  • World Storytelling Day– On World Storytelling Day, as many people as possible tell and listen to stories in as many languages and at as many places as possible, during the same day and night.
  • Brian Mulroney, former Canadian Prime Minister  turns 75 today (born in 1939).

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water droplets22

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  • Feast of the Annunciation – LITURGY

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  • Robert Frost was born on this day in 1874. (He’d be 140 today.)
Robert Frost

Robert Frost

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  • Coca Cola was introduced on this day in 1886

Vincent Van Gogh - self-portrait30

  • The painter Vincent Van Gogh was born on this day in 1853.
  • It is also the birthday of Canadian singer Celine Dion (1968).
  • Fourth Sunday in Lent – LITURGY
  • New Moon

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  • The English poet John Donne  died on this day in 1631 at the age of 59.

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Lots of other days celebrated in March found at Brownielocks
http://www.brownielocks.com/march.html

August prompt: rain

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Rain on roses in June

Raindrops on roses – in June

Here in the Lower Mainland of B.C. we haven’t had a drop of rain for all of July. This is a record for the first calendar month ever without any rain recorded at the Vancouver weather station!

By now lawns that aren’t watered are looking brown and thirsty. Forest fires are a very real threat due to the tinder-dry conditions. Still most local weather forecasters echo the bias of sun-lovers saying, when predicting showers, “Our luck has run out,” or “Not a great forecast,” even after such a long dry spell! That’s testimony, I guess, to how rain is no novelty   around here.

The Bible’s first mention of rain is not a happy one. The forty-day rain that  flooded the earth resulted in mass destruction of land and people. Only Noah and his family survived that flood – Genesis 7 & 8.

Noah's Ark - artist unknown

Noah’s Ark – Artist unknown

Most of the time, though, Bible writers view rain as a blessing. No doubt their views were influenced by rain’s scarcity in the Middle East. And so its coming is usually reason for celebration.

God is generally credited with sending rain (Job 5:10; Psalm 65:10; Amos 5:8). And He sends it indiscriminately on good and bad alike (Matthew 5:45).

Moses, when talking about Canaan describes it as “…a land … which drinks water from the rain of heaven” (Deuteronomy 11:11) and calls rain one of God’s “good treasures” (Deuteronomy 28:12).

Rain is also used as a symbol in the Bible.

  • Isaiah describes the way the rain and snow fall from heaven and water the earth as a picture of the way God’s word goes across the world accomplishing spiritual purposes (Isaiah 55:10,11).
House of Sand - Gutenberg project

House Built On Sand – Gutenberg project

  • The prophet Joel equates the predictability of the rainy season with how faithful God will be to restore His people from waywardness and spiritual drought when they repent and return to Him (Joel 2:23).
  • In one of Jesus’ stories rain serves as a test to show the foundational integrity of two houses—one built on sand, the other on rock. It’s a parable that pictures how important it is to build our lives on truth (Matthew 7:24-28).

What does the mention of rain conjure in your mind? Perhaps you experienced the spring floods in western Canada this year and rain has become a symbol of terror and destruction. Or maybe your experience is of a dry climate where rain is welcomed with dancing and celebration.

This month, I invite you to write about rain.

You might want to create a fictional piece where where rain plays a haunting part in the setting (like W. Somerset Maugham did in the short story “Rain”).

Maybe you’ll write about your feelings for or against rain, or what rain symbolizes to you physically, emotionally, or spiritually in a poem.

Or you might want to write about a true life experience when rain saved—or wrecked—the day.

pit, pit, pit, pat, pat, pit, pat…

No, that’s not rain. It’s the sound of my fingers on the keyboard, dancing up some literary rain!

Write! Canada 2013 – 2

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In my last post, I talked about Write! Canada, describing the continuing class I took as well as the three workshops I attended. There was more!

Keynotes

We had three Keynotes, with a different speaker for each:

Stained glass windows from Church of St. John Evangelist - Elora, ON

Stained glass windows from Church of St. John Evangelist – Elora, ON

Keynote 1 – singer, songwriter Ali Matthews

Matthews spoke of inspiration. She said:

  • Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. Own it. Own the gift. God will not anoint who you want to be but who you already are.
  • You don’t need to apologize for the gifts you’ve been given, only apologize for not using them.
  • When you humbly and intentionally reach out with your gift, you are glorifying God.
  • Our calling is to be an inspiration, to be life and breath, salt and light.

Keynote 2 –  Carolyn Weber (professor and author of the memoir Surprised by Oxford)  

Here are a few snippets of her wisdom, shared before she read a segment of her writing.

  • There is nothing naive about cultivating an innocent heart.
  • The only real success is faithfulness.
  • Once you’ve heard the gospel, you can never unhear it.
  • Five golden rules for memoir writing:

1. Pay attention to your life. Look at its intricacies. Cultivate discipline about journaling.

2. Treat others as you would want to be treated.

3. Never write from anger or unresolved issues. Write through the deep feelings to the other side but no one ever has to see that draft.

4. Put the first draft into a golden chest. It’s a cathartic draft that takes you to a place of grace about others.

5. With a spiritual memoir, ask for five distinct points of view: two professionals (formal editor, professor, fellow writer etc.) to look at theology, references, actual function of the writing; three personal—including someone from your family for feedback, to ensure that you have written with respect, to corroborate details;  a spouse or close friend;  and an unbelieving friend or spouse to know how the work resounds beyond the faith community.

Keynote 3 – Dennis Hassel (playwright and actor of Dennis Hassel Productions)

Dennis delivered the final keynote–the last event of the conference. He was in fine dramatic form, taking on the persona of various characters and their viewpoints. He said:

  • Art should teach us.
  • There is message and theme in good fiction.
  • Bits from life are quilted into a realistic design, warm and able to keep people in stitches. Live your ordinary life fully and at the same time see it as material.
  • It’s impossible to know what of your experience will become part of your story. What are you breathing in? What literature are you reading?
  • All you have to decide is “What are you going to do with the time that is left you?”
  • It’s easier to talk about prayer than to pray… easier to talk about writing than to write.
  • A writer is not called to successfulness but faithfulness

Friends

Of course the lectures, workshops, and keynotes were only a part of the rich conference experience. A another highlight was meeting friends in the flesh that I have only ever met online. Whoever I talked to, there was an immediate common bond. “What do you write?” was bound to start a stimulating conversation.

"Birds of a Feather" - Sculpture by various artists - Elora On.

“Birds of a Feather” – Sculpture by various artists – Elora ON

I am truly thankful for The Word Guild and the knowledge that there is a network of writers, editors, and publishers across Canada who are Christian. The conference organizers and army of volunteers deserve huge kudos for again putting together a chock-full and worthwhile weekend.

Now to get back to the work of writing (even though it sometimes feels like building castles in the air)!

Aerial shot of earth & clouds.

Scene from my window on the flight home

Permission to write: Write!Vancouver – 3

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Permission to Write was a panel discussion that was part of Write! Vancouver (May 25). The panel was moderated by Lesley Bentley. On the panel were K. C. Dyer (author), Marc Cote (Publisher, Cormorant Books), Ken Shigematsu (Pastor), and Ron Reed (Playwright, Actor & Creative Director of Pacific Theatre).

Permission to Write panelists - Write! Vancouver conference 2013

Lesley Bentley, K.C. Dyer, Marc Cote, Ken Shigematsu, Ron Reed – panelists. (Photo © 2013 by V. Nesdoly)

Why I chose this workshop:

I would be lying if I said that I don’t sometimes think of quitting. A lot of things play into this: the amount of work it takes to not only write but then find a paying home for that writing, the long road to book publication and after publication, publicizing, marketing, and selling the books; the volume of words already out there these days—and the feeling that my words are just adding to the noise; and physical weariness. Writing may seem like a cushy job. But brain activity is exhausting, at least for me.

Permission to Write – Highlights from my notes:

Lesley Bentley invited the panelists to talk about what permission to write meant for them.

Ron Reed:

All kinds of things can interfere—things that are essential. We ask ourselves, how will the world even know if I don’t write. You have to assertively make that room.

He feels that God has given him permission but he has to give himself room, take seriously that permission to write.

He also has to separate that permission to write from the need to achieve, be good, be published. The play-writing process is essential to him. It’s a continuum of the kid in the sandbox (play) in the need to communicate. “To avoid writer’s block, which has to do with permission to write, you have to block out the need to get published.”

Ken Shigematsu: God In My Everything by Ken Shigematsu

Seeds of permission for him to write were sown by Leighton Ford 15 years ago. When Shigematsu said he wouldn’t be able to write like Philip Yancey, Ford said to him, ‘No one will be able to write like you.’

Ten years ago he started writing about adapted monastic rhythms. Interest sparked and he wrote some more. The writing was a reward in itself. (His book God In My Everything: How An Ancient Rhythm Helps Busy People Enjoy God is scheduled to be released by Zondervan in August).

K. C. Dyer:

Find time in the middle of other things. You have to get your butt in the chair, words on the paper. Speak it into your phone. It’s like any other job: if you’re a writer, it’s a job. If this is who you are, be true to yourself and do it. 500 words a day leads to a 150,000 word book after a year.

Marc Cote:

The only person who can give you permission to write is yourself. Don’t wait for it to come from outside. Don’t wait for someone to give you permission, but take it. Go from there.

“People who have to write, don’t think about permission too much.” (Don’t remember who said this but I liked it)

Marc Cote:

Writing to express oneself is not writing but journaling. Journaling is like the 5-finger exercise in piano. People write to communicate. Put your running shoes on first before you dream of the glories of winning a marathon.

Lesley Bentley:

How do you square the results you can see in measure with permission based on the premise that it doesn’t count without an evangelistic, or money result.

Ken Shigematsu:

Listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

K. C. Dyer:

There will always be roadblocks in the way. People put arts last in their lives. Sometimes we throw caution to the winds. We need to set aside the million balls in the air and work on it (our writing). Clear enough space in your head. Find your own place of peace where the ideas come to you. Fifteen minutes a day can become your time.

Ron Reed:

It is worth writing. We wouldn’t be in the room if we didn’t think it’s so. It’s worth doing it whether I win or not–for the doing of it. (“Im at the extreme end of intrinsic rewards type of guy.”) Whatever the reason it takes to get the fingers moving–do it. “I get demotivated when it has to be good enough for people. Permission to write has to do with motivation. Print the poster.” When you’re writing it, you can’t know what’s really great or not. Just type – it might be better than you think. Don’t get stuck on your first play.

Lesley Bentley:

Let’s explore the statement that permission to write has to do with motivation.

Matadora by Elizabeth RuthMarc Cote:

Told the story of an agent who sent him a manuscript from a writer he respected, but he didn’t feel he could publish it. He eventually was asked to explain to the author what didn’t work for him.

The author ended up turning down another offer on her book to take several more years to rework her story keeping in mind his suggestions. Coromorant Books recently published her book, it has been garnering good reviews and that day  (Saturday, May 25th) it (Matadora by Elizabeth Ruth) had a glowing review in the Globe and Mail (Cote waved the paper before us as proof))

Concerning motivation: “She carved out the time (years) to write the book that was inside her all the time.”

K. C. Dyer:

It’s like runner’s high. That moment when you know you’ve nailed it.

Marc Cote:

Part of the joy of it all is in the doing. It’s not going to come easy. When do runners experience a runner’s high? After a long run.

Ron Reed:

It’s worth doing. We’ve heard fifteen ‘worth it’s.’ We are highly encouraged to consume; we are not encouraged to create. God said it’s okay – Genesis 1-3: “It is good.” We are in His image and likeness: He makes stuff and enjoys it. It’s coded into us.

K. C. Dyer:

It’s very important that you read. Every writer comes to writing from being a reader first. Reading is significant to growth and ability as a creator. Always be learning. You can have this career for the long haul. Keep trying to get better. Read widely, often, and much.

Ron Reed:

Playwrights need to watch plays. You intuitively produce what you take in. If you want to write a literary book, you might be best not watching TV.

K. C. Dyer:

“It’s remarkable what you learn from reading poor writing.”

Marc Cote:

If your time for reading is limited, only read good things.

Ron Reed: 

Narrow your reading – not for your whole life but for the time you’re writing a certain play or certain thing.

Someone asked a question leading to a discussion on how to recharge when your writing (not necessarily creative things, but writing emails, and other assigned writing) makes you feel weary and like you’ve run out of words:

Ron Reed:

Finds photography a good reset button.

K. C. Dyer:

Writes by hand in her journal, vs. at the computer on a keyboard.

There was a question about permission to write what might offend someone. How do you get permission to write what you want to?

Some suggestions:

  • Pretend people are dead.
  • Leave the country.

K. C. Dyer:

Books are a safe place for your brain and ideas to meet. Pretend that no one is ever going to read it.

Ron Reed:

You can write with similar rawness to how you would write a journal.

“Get a tough enough skin. I didn’t write a role model. I wrote that play so other people could think about certain issues. It takes a certain brashness to put some things out there.”

Closing challenge was by Reed, who kept reminding us to keep putting words on paper/the screen He told the story of how he had begun a novel, quit and put it aside. Years later he came across it again and is now using ideas and snippets of it in a different project.

“Write stuff, and later you might find out what its purpose was. The words are what you’re going to carve something else out of. One thing can become another thing, and another thing. It can be a play, an email, a poem, part of a lecture etc.”

*************

My takeaway:

– I felt reassured by the advice to enjoy and revel in my urge to create; it’s God-given.

– I loved Leighton Ford’s advice to Ken Shigematsu: “No one will be able to write like you.”

– I could so well relate to the discussion around the fact that writing is a self-motivating job. As Reed said: “… all kinds of things can interfere–things that are essential. We ask ourselves, how will the world even know if I don’t write. You have to assertively make that room.”

– Another thought that I really liked was that we don’t always know, when we’re writing something, what it’s end-up purpose will be. We may journal and forget entirely about what we’ve written, only to reread it at some later time and find it is the perfect illustration for a talk, or the germ of a poem, story or essay.

I hope my recap of this discussion will help you find permission to write as listening to it firsthand did for me! What resonated with you?