Tag Archives | Natalie Goldberg

Otherwhere: Grateful It’s Over

LT on chairYeah, so I know I wrote a whole post about being grateful and I am, truly and all.  But today, two days after I wore myself out cooking for 14 people and a baby, I have one more thing to be grateful about–and that is that Thanksgiving is over.  At about noon on Thursday, after being up since 5:30 working in the kitchen, I said, to nobody in particular, “I’m done.  Not doing this again.”

I’ll let you know how that works out next year at this time.

The thing is, turkey day has totally messed with my NaNoWriMo word count.  Last week, on which exact day I can’t remember because my brain is fogged, I figured I had about 10,000 words to go.  At my usual rate of 2,000 words a day, that seemed like a breeze to accomplish. EXCEPT I FAILED TO FACTOR IN COOKING FOR 14 PEOPLE ON THANKSGIVING.  And also, at least in my world, there’s not only cooking but cleaning, and lots of it, as well. So now, all these days later, I still have 10,000 words to go and oh, let’s see, three days to finish.  So I’m not going to make it.  But I’ll probably finish with about 42,000 words.  And that’s 42K more than I had on October 31.  And I wasn’t really doing it anyway, since I already had around 17,000 words.

Okay, enough about me.  Let’s head out and see what happened in other places on the internet this week.  It’s a short-ish list because lots of what was happening on the internet this week was Black Friday related.  But here we go:

How Long Should Your Legs Be?  A funny title but a good post from novelist Eleanor Brown.  I’ll let you figure out what she means.

Why I Left My Agent.  A guest post on Jane Friedman’s site, I read this one with avid interest.  Because, I love my agent and I love feeling like I have someone in my corner to help me with my career.  But, as we know, there’s a lot of changes in the publishing world these days and so I’m interested in all viewpoints.  You probably should be, too.

Why You Should Commit to Continuous Practice. I follow the author of this post, Saundra Goldman, on Instagram, and often like her snapshots of her writing practice.  Finally it occurred to me to go check out her website. Turns out she teaches with Natalie Goldberg and has a cool site.  Check it out.

A Literary Gift Guide: Top 15 Paris Books.  Because, Paris.  Always and forever.

Say No to Say Yes.  From Barbara O’Neal, one of my favorite writers.

Okay, that’s it for me.  That’s all I got.  I’m going to go eat leftover turkey and maybe sneak in a piece of pie for dessert.  How about you? How was your Thanksgiving?  (Or if you live overseas, what lovely non-turkey related things did you do this week?)

(Photo of my cat sleeping on my office chair, since I wasn’t using it.)

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Techniques for Writing Flow

The Big, Scary Beast and the Ancient, Frail Feline are both asleep (in separate rooms, I might add) and so I have a moment to ponder techniques to keep access to the muse alive and well.  This is on my mind because at the recent Loft orientation, my fellow mentor and old friend Betsy Woods gave me the details on a new-to-me technique.

It is called a Weather Journal, and its a bit like writing morning pages, only more so.  With Morning Pages, you write down a stream of consciousness account of anything and everything, just to get it out on the page.  A Weather Journal is more crafted, more reactive, more of the moment.  With the Weather Journal, you start from where you are at the moment you sit down, and you write about that place, every blessed bit of it, starting with the things you are experiencing through your senses.

This invariably leads to more writing, perhaps an account of something that happened to you the day before, or an inquiry into an emotional upset.  The Weather Journal is very Zen in that it starts in the present moment and assumes that the entire universe exists in that moment.  And, well, every writer knows that its all in the details.   Keeping a Weather Journal is an excellent way to begin noting the details.  I've noticed this magical effect of the Weather Journal, which is that when you start by noting the details of the present moment, it is much easier to put on the page details of the scene that happened to you the day before when you were at the coffee shop and the barista with the red hair gave you a Frappucino with whipped cream on it instead of your usual grande latte.

While I'm at it, I'm going to run down a list of my Top Techniques for Writing Flow.  So here goes:

1.  Weather Journal–see above.  And let me know if you come up with a better name for it, would you please?

2.  Morning Pages–I did these faithfully for years.  They are the brainchild of Julia Cameron, who advocates their use in her book, The Artist's Way.  To do Morning Pages, often called MPs by devotees, you get up, grab your coffee or tea, and sit down with paper and pen in hand.  And then you write three pages, no more, no less, and get your ya-yas out so you can get on with the real business of life.  MPs are also a great way to track the desires of your true self.  So, if over the course of a month you realize you've written, I want to move to Africa and be a missionary, 5 times, it might be time to start checking airfare to Rwanda.  My problem with MPs is that they tend to devolve into a laundry list of things to do, and thus they end up feeding an obsessive thinking trait I'm trying to end.

3.  Free Writing--Sit down with your journal, set a timer for 20 minutes, choose a prompt and write until the timer goes off.  No lifting the pen from the page, no stopping, even if you are writing I hate free writing over and over again.  There is no shortage of books chock-full of prompts for free writing.  Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones,is probably the most famous advocate of this type of journaling.  The problem with free writing is that it is easy to get lost in it and end up with a bunch of useless writing that goes nowhere.  One way to get around this is to take prompts from your own current writing project.  This can be a great technique for solving thorny plot or character issues.

4. Lists--The lazy writer's way to keep a journal.  Not surprisingly, I love this one.  Say you find yourself on vacation in the Yucatan in Mexico and everything is exotic and different.  But you're on vacation and you end up spending most of it on the beach, drinking Pina Coladas from the beach-side bar.  Who has time to write in their journal in such a situation?  Especially when there are silly floor shows to attend every night?  And more Pina Coladas? Should you find yourself in such a jam, remember the benefits of writing a list.  It can be words or phrases, or whatever you want it to be, related or unrelated.  The key is to just get down descriptive words that you can later go back to and write from.  (And can I just say that I'm glad I visited Chichen Itza, back in the day, not so long ago, when you could still climb to the top of the ruins, even if I did only get halfway up before my fear or heights kicked in.)

That's it.  That's all I got on techniques for writing flow, and I think you'll find all of them useful in different situations.  If anybody has any other good ones, leave a comment so we can all steal it and use it!

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