Writing Tip: Tool Box Shake Up

Here’s another tip I use when I am suffering from writer’s block, or blandness of the imagination.  Use different tools!  Instead of typing on my laptop, I might work at my desktop computer, or vice-versa.  I’ll write in a room I don’t use very often. (I’ve had some interesting results from the guest bedroom.)  I can change the font, the font size, or the font color. If the case is severe, I might write long-hand for a while. (If I start to whine about how hard it is to write longhand, I remember that Shakespeare always wrote that way. The whines subside.)  In longhand, I can use different pens, especially different colors. Using a purple pen nearly always gives me a jolt. Fountain pens make me feel expansive, as if I am wandering in a large field full of surprises like rabbit holes and cowpats. (Fountain pens sometimes leak.) I might use lined paper or unlined paper, or spiral notebooks, or sticky pads.

Different tools yield different results. Shake up that tool box and have some fun. Writing is fun, you know.

Technorati Tags: writing tip, laptop, desktop computer, change font, longhand, colors, paper

Compost: What’s Next?

The older I get, the more I wonder about Death.  Many people – maybe most people – tell themselves pretty stories about what comes next.  Some of the religious folks say that it’s Heaven for the good guys, and Hell for the bad. Other religions say eventually I might reach Nirvana, but not until I’ve been reincarnated many times. Even some of the most secular people wonder about the “force” or “energy” that may survive after death. And you can find people who believe in ghosts in both religious and non-religious communities.  Even the scientists studying “near-death experiences” that seem to suggest something is happening after death, cannot prove anything is.  And the atheists say that there’s nothing happening after death – when you’re gone, you’re gone, and that’s it.

Really, these are all just guesses. The truth is that nobody knows what happens after we die, if anything. We just have to sit tight and wait to find out. The problem is, most of us are not very good at waiting. We’re an impatient species.  We want to know right now.

Tough.

Technorati Tags: death, heaven, hell, reincarnation, force, energy, ghosts, near-death experiences, nothing, impatience

Writing Tip: Don’t Be Nice

Remember when your mom told you: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”?  (Maybe you remember you saying this, to your own children.)  Well, this is good social advice, designed to keep the cocktail party chat running smoothly.  But it’s awful advice if you are writing.

When you are writing your first draft, don’t worry about being appropriate. You don’t have to care if you are nice.  Your first draft is the place to let it rip.  Write about what you were always afraid to say.  Write what is politically incorrect, if that is what you really think. Write what you never had the courage to say. You don’t have to read it aloud; you don’t even have to keep it. And you can always edit it later.  Courtesy and tact are important virtues, but if you invite them to have free reign while you are writing, they can paralyze you.

Go ahead, break a taboo today. Don’t be nice.

Technorati Tags: nice, writing advice, write anything, afraid to say, first draft, edit later, don't be nice

Compost: Those Wondrous Vomity-Poopers

Babysitting an infant refreshes your soul. To them everything is new, exciting, wondrous.  Now, not everyone feels like this. Some people want to barf if they have to change a full diaper.

I don’t like changing full diapers either, but one of the most wondrous things about babies is that they can poop and barf all over you and still manage to look cute when they’re done and have that look on their face that says, “Wow! Look what I can do!”  In fact, the other day my grandson (the infant who inspired the first two sentences in this post) threw up all over my shirt, and since I didn’t have another one with me, I spent the entire day smelling like regurgitated rice cereal.

Maybe you have to be a grandma in order to see vomity-poopers as wondrous.  There are many benefits to grandparenthood, and one of them is a rosy-tinted alteration in your perception. 

Technorati Tags: babysitting, vomit, poop, infant, inspiration, perception

Writing Tip: Feedback

Feedback is enormously valuable to the writer or storyteller, and at the same time it is often quite difficult to hear. It’s valuable because it validates my communication, and reminds me that I do affect others. It’s difficult because I learn that what is obvious to me may not be so to others. It means I have more work to do.

I became much better at receiving feedback on my work when I learned how to give it. Feedback does not mean advice. Instead, it just means you get to give the writer clues to how their writing makes you feel – which words or phrases did the writer use that had the most energy for you? Where do you think they showed up in their writing?

To be valuable, feedback must be encouraging. Criticism often causes people to stop listening, get defensive, or feel guilty, and has no place in giving feedback. I have developed four “rules” on giving feedback, which are:

1. Do not withhold admiration. Look for something in the writer’s piece that you find enjoyable, interesting, or moving – and be determined to find it. When you do, say so. Always praise, never condemn.

2. Be honest. Your appreciation cannot be phony. We all know when people are trying to “butter us up” or giving us empty praise. If you are really listening, you will find something that you honestly admire.

3. Ask questions to clarify understanding. When listening to the storyteller or reading the piece, ask yourself if you can see, hear, smell, or touch what is happening in the story. If you can’t get a “sense” of the story, ask a question. As tellers of our own stories, we are so close to the action that we often forget to give color and detail. Feedback questions can help the storyteller “flesh out” their stories and make them more alive.

4. Tell the storyteller what the story meant to you. We all long for meaning in our lives. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” When we live consciously, when we pay attention to our lives, we are aware that what we do, say, think and feel has consequences not only for ourselves and our families, but for every creature on the earth. Even for the Earth itself. Search for the meaning in the stories you read or hear by asking yourself interpretation questions: Where do I see a connection? Do many people act or feel this way? Do I? Where is there a lesson in this story? Did I learn something? Is there a timeless or universal teaching present in this story? Did this story inspire me? Did it change my opinions? Is there a hero in the story? Do I want to emulate them? Did it give me courage to undertake something difficult? Did it enable me to forgive someone’s actions? Did I feel complete, or peaceful, when I heard this story? Give feedback in this form, as in “I think the lesson in this story was …” or “I was inspired by your account of …” or “I think this is a story of connection because …” or “This was a healing story for me because …” This is the most non-judgmental yet meaningful way to give feedback. It increases the depth, texture and emotional richness of the stories you tell and hear.

Sharing your stories with each other leads to powerful insights. You will probably recognize yourself in another’s story, as they will recognize themselves in yours. You will be taught, and you will teach. Your story might help another to grow, or their stories may

change you. You will laugh together, and you might even cry.

You will see that the actions, thoughts and feelings of everyone matter.

Technorati Tags: feedback, valuable, encouragaing, criticism, admiration, honest, clarify, meaning, story

Sharing My Stories: First Cars

I like telling my own stories, and I equally like hearing other people’s stories. Sometimes on Twitter (http://twitter.com/storykim) or my Facebook status (http://profile.to/kimpearson) I  ask a question, inviting people to share their experiences. I love what I get back!

One of my tweets said “I bought my first car from my grandmother for $200. Even though an old-lady car, it was liberation. What was your first car?”

People remember their first car, they really do. One woman wrote about an orange Gremlin that seemed to have a death wish; another wrote of her lime-green Maverick which she called an Easter Egg on Wheels; another of her Fiat Spider which made all the boys jealous but she never let them drive it; another of her 1966 Karman Ghia convertible that was so spectacular it literally stopped traffic; another of her 1963 Corvair Monza which proved that Ralph Nader was right – it had a habit of flipping over; and my favorite story of an M&M green 1975 Rabbit named Thumper, but which the boys called “Humper” behind her back.

I got to wax eloquent over my first car too, which was a 1957 Buick Roadmaster, 2-toned blue and white with push-button windows and velour upholstery – very high-tech for its time. Huge fins, felt like driving a tank. Even though it was 12 years old when I bought it from my grandmother, it only had 26,000 miles on it. It had a bad habit of overheating, but I think that's because I always forgot to put water in the radiator. I also never thought to change the oil, but what can I say, I was a teenager. I sold it in order to pay for airline tickets to visit my first true love, who went to college in New York (I was in Seattle), for his homecoming weekend. Girls in love have little sense of proportion. And to my everlasting regret, I have no pictures of the Roadmaster. I do have pictures of the boyfriend, who although he turned out to be less than he promised, had a real cute bod. He too overheated regularly.

I’d love to hear more stories – will you share?

Technorati Tags: stories, twitter, facebook, first car, share

Compost: All That Big Stuff

I’d like to know the answers to those big questions, like “where did we come from?” or “what’s the meaning of life?” — but I’m comfortable with knowing that I never will.  Those answers are too big for still-evolving creatures like humans.  It’s probably a waste of time to hunt for them.

But wait – is it?  It’s human to ask questions. We’re full of curiosity. Asking questions and trying to find the elusive answers is fun. It’s how we amuse ourselves.

And it’s not only the big questions like the meaning of life that I think about, but the smaller ones that sometimes seem nearly as difficult, like “Why do we have wars?” or “Do trees feel pain?” or “What are the real differences between men and women, and do they matter?” And a lot more.

You know what happens when we start asking questions? We become more aware.  When we are aware, we can change things that need changing. We can start with the small questions, the ones we have a chance at answering. Maybe if we could answer those, we’d creep closer to the answers for the big ones.

 

Technorati Tags: questions, answers, curiosity, asking, aware