TAKING NOTE WHEN THE CHORD STRIKES

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Journaling—about events, daily minutiae, thoughts, memories, snippets of conversation, pictures, quotes, actually anything you come across that strikes a chord within—increases and expands your awareness of the messages life is putting in your path for you to discover, savor, muse over, and perhaps even act upon.

 

Acting on Impression

On March 26, my granddaughter insisted on watching The Iron Giant (1999). Its theme is first conveyed by beatnik Dean McCoppin. Commenting on nine-year-old Hogarth’s story of being bullied by other kids, Dean tells him, “Who cares what these creeps think, you know? They don’t decide who you are. You do. You are who you choose to be. . .” This same wisdom is passed on by Hogarth when he tells the Iron Giant, “You are what you choose to be. You choose. Choose.” Impressive. That evening, I took my husband’s Iron Giant figurine, snapped a photo of it, and stuck it on my blank journal cover.

Recording Messages

Two days later, I came across and recorded in my journal:

  • “Write about what really interests you, whether or not it is real things or imaginary things, and nothing else.” —C. S. Lewis, author

Great quote, I thought, tucking it away for future use with clients. Then this came across my path:

  • “I’m constantly jumping off cliffs and developing wings on the way down. . . . You are who you choose to be.” —Shia LaBeouf, actor/director (emphasis added)

Well, that’s freaky, I thought to myself. That was The Iron Giant theme. But what’s its connection to the C. S. Lewis quote? Prompted by my intuition, I journaled The Iron Giant dialogue about choosing.

Noting Recurring Chords

That afternoon, another “chord” struck—bong!:

  • “I believe God embedded the miraculous in the ordinary and it is our task to discover it and celebrate it.” —Kent Nerburn, author

Isn’t that the truth, I thought, my pen whisking across the pages of my journal. Yet what are these quotes, which are miraculously coming across my path, trying to tell me? What do they mean to me specifically?

Soon afterward, my phone beeped to notify me that someone had just accepted my invitation on LinkedIn. That’s when I noticed the following statement on the bottom of the acceptance:

  • “We periodically sync and store your contacts to help you and others connect. You choose who to connect to and who to invite.” —LinkedIn (emphasis added)

Bong! Surging with excitement, I journaled the LinkedIn note. About thirty minutes later—bong!—I recorded this from a course I was in the midst of taking:

  • “Things may not always go our way, but we can choose how we see our world and make it a better place because of who we choose to be.”—Shawn Achor, author and speaker (emphasis added)

Probing Connections

Coincidence? Perhaps. Some might even call it serendipity. But to me, the culmination of these quotes that came across my path verifies the idea that we’re given messages throughout our days, our lives, in a myriad of ways. And journaling is an essential tool in not only becoming aware of these messages but, in our recording of them, probing their connection and identifying their pattern, observing their power (in recurrence), and perhaps uncovering their meaning—to us as individuals and perhaps to the world at large.
 

Receiving the Message: You Choose

The message I received on March 28, 2016, and that I’m passing on to you is this: You have the power to choose—who and what you will be, with whom will you connect, and what you will write, regardless of the inner and outer critics or bullies. After all, “Who cares what these creeps think of you [or of what you write], you know? They don’t decide who you are. You do. You are who you choose to be.”

Choose to be a listener, a recorder of the ordinary, and, in the process, a discoverer of the miraculous. Take note of those recurring themes. Allow them to guide you, to lead you to discover what really interests you, what is calling you to pick up your pen. What is that one thing you’re passionate about writing—regardless of inner and outer critics or bullies? What next cliff will you leap off of as you develop new writing wings on the way down?

All these messages, if paid attention to, if examined, if heeded, will lead you. It will begin slowly, at first. But the more you open your eyes and ears, the more you journal, the more you will become aware. And the more you’ll discover the miraculous in the ordinary, begin celebrating the revelations brought to the fore, and find the power to fuel your passion and purpose, not only in writing, but in every area of your life.

A Writer's Constant Companion and Compass

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I’m an avid journaler. For the past thirty years, my notebook has been my constant companion and compass. I’d be lost without it. For journaling within its pages allows me to “HEAR” THE VOICES—inner and outer, past and present—speaking into my life, to determine if their words help, heal, or hinder me. It allows me to slow down, rest, consider, become aware, find my true path, rhythm, and peace.

 

Stuck on Mute

I didn’t used to be that way. While growing up, I’d buy a one-year diary with a colorful cartoonish character on its cover, and begin filling the page on January 1. But after the first few weeks of penciled chronicling, my entries became sporadic at best. And soon fell away altogether.

As I matured, grew in knowledge and experience, as my life became more involved in those of others, and in the world at large, I found myself becoming TOTALLY DEAF to my own voice. Muted by the minutiae of life, silenced by the hurly-burly of meeting everyday needs, lost in the deafening din of Internet information, the words of my life were passing me by and the clues they revealed, unread and untended.

 

Finding the Still Small Voice

To find direction, awareness, and clarity, to reconnect with that “still small voice” that speaks to us at our deepest level, I took up a journal once again. I began writing in spurts and starts, sometimes missing days on end. But always I came back to its blank pages, my hand itching to wield a pen. For journaling allowed me to take up the pieces of my life—my thoughts, my knowledge, my experiences—spill them onto the page, and meld those once disjointed parts into a creative whole, into something good. It allowed me to differentiate my own voice from the fearful, false voices that no longer served me, to bring out the one true voice that bespoke of courage and meaning. And through the process of allowing my eyes to see, my ears to hear, and my heart to trust, my MOUTH OPENED. I began sharing my stories with others in an attempt to help them sort through the minutiae and voices in their own lives.

 

Call to the Journey

I invite you to join me on this journey of awakening. To make your journal your constant companion and compass. And to do it the old-fashioned way. To move away from the draining and befuddling digital-blue light of electronic devices and step into the energizing and clarifying physical-white light of a simple paper-filled notebook.

To many a journaler, pen and paper are preferable because each person’s handwriting is like a fingerprint, unique to that individual, and yet changes from day to day, from mood to mood, giving one clues as to what is happening within and without. But for now, don’t worry about your handwriting. The point is TO WRITE. To open up your eyes, ears, and heart so that your mouth is given the words to the story you were born to tell.

The journal you choose is totally up to you. There’s a great selection out there. And you may go through several different notebooks before you find the one that really fits you. But no matter what size, shape, or color you select, the idea is to have it always by your side.

In A Book of One’s Own, Thomas Mallon writes about Henry David Thoreau’s journaling: “Since thought begets thought so quickly in him, and since to defer recording an insight can be to let it expire like a dream we forget the next morning, the journal’s immediate and constant availability is its greatest attribute.”     

So, go. Find a notebook and pen that fit you. And take them everywhere. (Personally, I use Mead’s Cambridge Business Notebooks, college-ruled, 7 x 4 3/8 inches with a thick cardboard back, which allows me the convenience of taking it wherever I go and writing wherever I am. Its cover sports a personal cell-phone photo. My pen of choice is a blue Pilot Precise Rolling Ball—like a fountain pen without the mess.)

 

Follow the Clue

Fellow journeyers, TAKE HOLD of your life, voice, thoughts, purpose, dreams, path, notebook, and pen. Take time to journal. And “trust that out of that will come the pattern, the clue that can be followed” (Jean Rhys, novelist).

See you next time for one writer’s progress. Until then, share your comments below—including, if you are so moved, your experiences with journaling or the specs of what journal and pen fit you. Write on!   

A WRITER'S GUIDE TO GRASPING THAT "SOMETHING MORE"

Here you are, going along in life, minding your own business, when all of a sudden you feel dissatisfied. You grow restless because something within is telling you there is SOMETHING MORE. The idea that you have something to say, to share, enters in. And once that seed takes root, you realize you will never be satisfied until you explore that inner utterance.

The Quandary

Yet there is so much noise in the world today. Between the ears and beyond, there is a constant chatter. So how does a person, a writer—for everyone who composes a text, blog, or email is a writer—learn to:

  • listen to his or her own unique life
  • awaken to intuition
  • hone in on calling
  • hear the outer voices and the inner (in the mind, body, spirit, and soul)
  • follow the path that has the most energy around it
  • overcome the obstacles along the way
  • cope with aligning inner and outer worlds as writing becomes, in an ethereal way, inseparable from the life journey?

You Are Not Alone

The first thing to do is to rest in the knowledge that you are not alone. Millions have gone before you and left clues to help you navigate the journey. And, up close and personal, you have a fellow traveler with you, a companion. One who has trod this way before—and is still treading the path. You have me—an author, an editor, a coach, and a writer continually in progress. In the blogs that follow every two weeks, I will share with you my own obstacles, knowledge, life lessons, intuitive hits, and energy boosters as you embark with me upon a Writer’s Progress. 

Yet Take Heed

But please keep one thing in mind: Each writer’s path and progress are as unique as a fingerprint. What works for me may not work for you. Or it may work one day, but not another. So do whatever catches your fancy. Yet whatever you do. . .

Be open. Be curious. Play with ideas. Try new things. 

Let's Explore

Let’s begin here and now. You are ready to explore. You are seeking to write. But you’re not exactly sure what to say, how to begin, what your main message may be, what your inner voice is prompting you to share. 

So let’s start by developing an ear. Let’s talk about listening. Really listening. And listening always begins with silence.

A New World

When we learn how to cultivate silence, which writer Thomas Carlyle describes as “the element in which great things fashion themselves,” we begin to hear God speak, and the otherworldly re-creative act begins.

And when we enter into this silence, we find ourselves in a whole new world. In The Savage and Beautiful Country, Alan McGlashan writes:

Delight is a secret. And the secret is this: to grow quiet and listen; to stop thinking, stop moving, almost stop breathing; to create an inner stillness in which, like mice in a deserted house, capacities and awareness too wayward and fugitive for everyday use may delicately emerge. Oh, welcome them! For these are the long-lost children of the human mind. Give them close and loving attention, for they are weakened by centuries of neglect. In return, they will open your eyes to a new world within the known world, they will take your hand, as children do, and bring you where life is always nascent, day always dawning.

Enter In

To cultivate the land of creative silence, go to the fertile ground of a quiet place. Use your phone timer, setting an alarm with a soothing ring tone that will, at some point (perhaps begin with five minutes), bring you back to “reality.” Next, to aid in centering yourself, close your eyes and begin the 4-7-8 relaxing breath (for a description of this technique, go to http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART00521/three-breathing-exercises.html). Then, allow yourself to just rest in the inner stillness. And listen.

 When your soothing timer goes off, pick up pen and paper, and write down any thoughts that have positive energy behind them, that peak your curiosity. If you have time, see where each thought leads. Be sure to write SOMETHING, even if it’s only one word. Each day or week, increase the amount of time you spend in the realm of silence. See what grows, what dawns, what writes itself.

Next Steps

Once you've tried exploring this creative silence, share your thoughts in the comments section below. Then, fellow writer, join me again here in two weeks to discover another intriguing step in a Writer’s Progress.

 

The Messages That Seek Us

The Messages That Seek Us

Messages are constantly beckoning to us as we walk along our life path, begging us to gather them up and heed their call, to follow our intuition, pull them into our awareness, and partake of their lesson.

                One summer morning, I set out upon my daily walk. Along the way down Green Street, I noticed a nice bit of rock on the sidewalk. I picked it up, held it in my hand. Looks like shale. Good specimen. On impulse, I slipped the rock into the right front pocket of my frayed-at-the-hem jumper, then continued on my way.

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3 Tips to Become a Better Writer Through Journaling

3 Tips to Become a Better Writer Through Journaling

If you want to become a better writer, it is crucial that you keep a journal – especially if you are new to the craft. Journaling empowers you to hone your voice and style by giving you space to practice writing without the fear of being judged; where you can openly share your most private moments, fears, thoughts and mistakes in a place where no one else can go.

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How to Unlock Your Creativity and Get Your Brilliant Ideas Flowing

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As a writer, I have faced the insufferable writer’s block more frequently than you can imagine. I have probably stared at thousands of white computer screens and blank pages.  I know as well as anyone how excruciating it can be to get that first coherent thought out on paper. Luckily for you, all of my experience in this arena means that I have become somewhat of an expert at effectively overcoming writer’s block, unlocking energizing creativity and getting brilliant ideas flowing.

I have a handful of go-to techniques for battling writer’s block.  One of my favorites is a little exercise I call “The Alphabet Game.” To try it on your own, open your journal and list each letter of the alphabet, A through Z. Then, write anything that comes to mind that begins with each letter. For example, it can be one word like, “Avalon,” or it can be an entire sentence like, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” If your creativity sparks from one of the letters, follow it and see where it leads. If you get stuck and the letter only produces a lonely word like “Apple,” move on to the next one.

As you work through this exercise, be aware of what you are writing and how it makes you feel. Look for patterns in what you’ve produced. Look for what excites you. Look for the story within.

3 Tips to Overcome Writer’s Block

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When it’s you against a menacing blank screen, your brain has turned against you, and all you can think about is the mindless tick-tock of the clock on the wall, it is time to power down the computer, put away your journal and step away from writing – just for a little while. Now, what you do during your time away is going to impact what you write when you get back, so don’t just sit down to watch TV or waste time on Twitter of Facebook. Instead, try one of the following three activities to get your creative juices flowing and ensure that when you return to your computer, you are armed with a plethora of fresh, exciting ideas:

#1: Take a walk.

Throw on a light jacket and some comfortable shoes and leave your house. If your usual walks take you left, go right instead. Look for something new and unique in your familiar old neighborhood or walk so far you end up in a completely new area of town, with houses you’ve never taken in and gardens you’ve never stopped to admire. Don’t think about your writing during this walk; just take in the life that surrounds you and allow inspiration to strike when it is ready.

#2:  Listen to music.

Put on your favorite tunes and straighten up the house, get out in the garden or dance around a bit. The lyrics, the melodies, the lead singer’s voice – it can all spark something within you that just may lead to a brilliant sentence, page or maybe more…

#3: Read a book by an author you love.

Have you ever noticed how inspired you feel after reading a book by your favorite author? The next time you are battling the dreaded writer’s block, pick up a book by an author you love, curl up in your favorite old chair and read a few pages. Sit with the book for a while and allow the weight of what you’ve read to settle into your being and stir up some of the energizing creativity you have been searching for.