Writing Goals: Welcome the Unknown

o-NEW-YEARS-RESOLUTIONS-facebookGreetings at the start of a new year, this is Adair Heitmann. During this season of resolutions and new beginnings, I’m going to play a different drum beat, and then march to it.

But first . . .

Walk Slowly
It only takes a reminder to breathe,
a moment to be still, and just like that,
something in me settles, softens, makes
space for imperfection. The harsh voice
of judgment drops to a whisper and I
remember again that life isn’t a relay
race; that we will all cross the finish
line: that waking up to life is what we
were born for. As many times as I
forget, catch myself charging forward
without even knowing where I’m going,
that many times I can make the choice
to stop, to breathe, and be, and walk
slowly into the mystery.

– Danna Faulds

Instead of linearly thinking about your New Year’s writing goals I invite you to walk in the mystery instead. Consider that allowing yourself time and space to be in unknown territory might take your writing to new levels. As a meditator for over 40 years, and as a consultant in the health and wellness field, I’ve experienced and studied the power of letting go and being present in the moment. There’s inspiration and discovery to be found when you don’t know what’s around the bend.

Complete the following exercise and let me know how it works out. Close your eyes after you’ve read the upcoming question and permit whatever pops up to be the right answer, without edits or judgment. Question, “Where might being in the mystery of my writing lead me?” Go ahead, indulge in something new, it only takes a few seconds. Trust what comes up, then write it down.

Having already done the exercise I’m looking forward to letting the nuances from it guide my work this year. I’m excited about the possibilities and breakthroughs this attitude will bring. I’m not viewing my writing goals as a task list to accomplish and check off, rather I’m embracing unknown possibilities instead.

Until next time, keep the flow of words going.

About the poet: Danna Faulds is a long-time practitioner and teacher of Kripalu Yoga who incorporated writing into her spiritual practice years ago. She is a former librarian who worked in law school, college and public libraries before turning to full-time writing.

 

 

 

Calling all Writers: Volunteer!

j0439384-600x564Hello writers, this is Adair Heitmann penning my post to you. Let’s talk today about a topic we rarely discuss. The forbidden word is volunteer.

“Oh no,” you exclaim, “not that, I don’t have time. Don’t make me!” Well, I won’t make you, but I’ll share a story with you.

Back in 2008 during the economy downturn, I wanted to increase my writer’s platform. I also wanted to become a member of a writer’s critique group. My name was on the wait list of Fairfield Public Library’s Writing Critique Groups. They were full. One year passes. I inquire again, the groups are still full, but I was asked if I’d like to volunteer to start and lead a new group. “Oh no, ” said I, “I am too busy!”

Time passes, I inquire again, and am extended the same invitation, basically, “If you start it they will come.” Wanting to join a local group so badly, I succumbed. Fast forward to 2014, I’m still leading a fabulous writing group and I’m co-authoring this blog. I’ve gone on to lead creative writing workshops, how to build an author’s platform, and social media programs at other libraries. I’ve even landed a full-time job at a library . . . and it all started by volunteering.

But enough about me. I know other writers who volunteer on Fairfield’s One Book One Town committee, and others who chair author talk committees. What better way to learn how to improve as a writer than to attend author talks and hear first-hand other writer’s successes and challenges? How else can you learn about publicity departments at publishing houses than to be in contact with them on behalf of your volunteer position for a local library? You aren’t tooting your own horn, you’re doing a good service.

Other writers I know volunteer every few years at big book festivals. It’s a win-win situation. Writers give back to the community, expand their professional networks, are seen in the marketplace, and build their author platforms, all while doing something they love and for a cause they believe in.

“Volunteers are the only human beings on the face of the earth who reflect this nation’s compassion, unselfish caring, patience, and just plain loving one another. ” ~Erma Bombeck

During this season of gratitude we are grateful for all the volunteers who help make literary connections happen, and for you, who spend time with us here online. Happy Thanksgiving.

Until next time, keep on writing.

Poetry: A Gift that Keeps on Giving

Simple-GiftHello writers, this is Adair Heitmann writing to you during this holiday season. I’m writing about a little known American poet, Grace Noll Crowell, (October 31, 1877 – March 31, 1969). Her work walked into my life last month, when I attended a discussion group about the topic, “enough.” I read one of her passages and saved it to share with you here.

What’s interesting is that Crowell wrote her first poem at age 8, but her otherwise loving family laughed at it. Humiliated, she didn’t write again for decades. Crowell went on to have a  happy marriage and three children, but she fell gravely ill in 1906. While resigned to spending life as an invalid, she had no desire to be a burden to her family. She turned her emptiness into plenty, and was determined to become a writer. Crowell’s first poem, The Marshland, was written and published while she was recovering from her illness. She started to write as a way to inspire others not to give up hope. She became the  author of 36 books of inspirational verse and 5,000 poems. Her work appeared in hundreds of magazines and newspapers. She wrote books of poetry, stories for children, and poem and prose devotions.

Crowell was so popular it was necessary for her husband, who was a bank teller by day and a writer himself at night,  to quit his job to manage her writing career. Thousands of pieces of correspondence from grateful readers needed to be answered and hundreds of visitors from all parts of the United States and Europe who visited her at her Dallas home needed to be received. She died at age 91.

As 2013 comes to a close and we anticipate the new, I’ll share Crowell’s words with you.

I Have Found Such Joy
I have found such joy in simple things:
A plain, clean room, a nut-brown loaf of bread
A cup of milk, a kettle as it sings,
The shelter of a roof above my head,
And in a leaf-laced square along the floor,
Where yellow sunlight glimmers through a door.

I have found such joy in things that fill
My quiet days: a curtain’s blowing grace,
A potted plant upon my window sill,
A rose, fresh-cut and placed within a vase;
A table cleared, a lamp beside a chair,
And books I long have loved beside me there.

Oh, I have found such joys I wish I might
Tell everyone who goes seeking far
For some elusive, feverish delight,
That very close to home the great joys are:
The elemental things — old as the race,
Yet never, through the ages, commonplace.
-Grace Noll Crowell

Until next time, keep on writing.

Inspiration for Writers

light bulbs inspirationGood morning Fairfield writers! This is Adair Heitmann writing to you on this sunny and warm October morn. In the real life of work, family responsibilities, and community volunteering, not to mention exercising, seeing friends, and possibly pursuing a hobby, writing time for many of us is at a premium. That’s why I like to keep short quotes by other authors around me. These inspiring tidbits help me through my creative day. Today’s encouraging words follow:

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” – Anton Chekhov

Until next time, keep on writing!

Published in: on October 2, 2013 at 1:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Writing: Grab Your Ideas Fast

WompenPre-Memorial Day wishes to all you writers out there. This is Adair Heitmann scribing this post from chilly Connecticut. A proverbial writing question is “Where do ideas come from?” Well, they come from your mind, heart, and soul. Ideas come from your observations, reflections, and experiences. They arrive from conflict, loss, despair, joy and ecstasy. Plots, plays, and poems bubble up from an instant connection that percolated its clarity to you in a heartbeat. As clear as a sparkling blue glacier-fed lake, those are the ideas to grab.

Keeping pen and paper notebooks handy in your car, purse or pocket helps. Jotting down ideas in your mobile device using Evernote makes writers on the go even more organized. Writers can snap photos, take notes, and even record videos and voice memos. The content syncs to all of your desktop or mobile devices.

For Android users, you can use an app called Colornote Notepad. Colornote is a simple, color-coded note taking app that uses sticky note style homescreen widgets to give you quick access to your note from your homescreen. You take your notes on a stylized notepad, and can organize them by color and category so they stand out easily. Red for immediate! Or blue for, need to sleep on this one.

While brushing my teeth, I’ve been known to open and flatten a cardboard toothpaste box, just to have something to write on. I also have what’s called a tickler file. It’s a three-ring notebook with pockets. I scribble the idea on whatever scrap of paper is at hand, date the concept and add it to binder. That way I never lose the inspired moment.  My seeds are kept safe and dry until planted. Until yesterday, when I didn’t follow my own advice.

I took the day off from work. I was opening an antique washstand in my living room, by twisting an old-fashioned key into the lock. The washstand was from the farm my mother grew up on in Virginia. I keep votive candles and tablecloths in the washstand. As I retrieved what I was looking for I had a Maxwell House moment. A crystal clear idea for a play rose to the top of my mind. A play! I’ve never written one! The idea had to do with a totally different perspective on Memorial Day. One I’d never heard of or read about. The idea was so strong and so good and so complete I didn’t jot it down. Today the idea is a wisp in my memory.

So fellow writers, do as I say, not as I do. Grab those creative ideas, and jot them down anywhere, anytime. Don’t falter.

Until next time, keep on writing.

In Praise of Poetry

poetryHello writers, this is Adair Heitmann writing to you on this cold morning in January. This week’s presidential inauguration reminded me of the power of poetry. American poet and teacher, Richard Blanco, was the inaugural poet, reading his poem, “One Today.” I didn’t hear him recite it, but I read it online later in the day. His reflections were powerful, simple, and thoughtful.

Poetry has always touched me deeply, it reaches places in my psyche that prose never can.

To see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion all in one. -John Ruskin

The poet doesn’t invent. He listens. -Jean Cocteau

Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history. -Plato

Until next time, keep on writing, and if a poem tumbles from your soul today, cradle it.

Writing w/o Distractions

As Hurricane Sandy hits the east coast, this is Adair Heitmann chiming in, writing to you about staying focused on your writing.

Of all professions, it seems like writers are the ones who always have the most excuses not to write. Today, as the wind howls outside, my family and I are in the home of friends. I thought distractions would be a good topic for today’s blog. Here’s my list of hints and observations:

1. Only you are in charge of your focus, be ruthless in carving out your mental space.
2. Like rubbing a knife on a whetstone, look for ways in your everyday life to sharpen your writing skills. Those exercises help you down the road.
3. Writing for social media trains your mind to cut to the chase. Condensing a topic to 140 characters or less on Twitter is a good way to hone your writer’s brain.
4. If you have to write captions for your job, like I do, that can sharpen your communication skills.
5. When you write, write, don’t edit.
6. Set aside time just to write. Don’t pick up the phone, do laundry, or check your Facebook account.
7. Make sure your tools are up to date before you start writing. Check the ink in your pen before you sit down. Make sure you have a full toner cartridge in your printer.
8. If you are stumped on what to write, set a timer for 20 minutes. Write nonstop, don’t edit or ponder. Write stream of consciousness, when the timer goes off, stop.

Enough of my ideas, what are your favorite suggestions?

Until next time, stay safe out there, and keep on writing!

Humor and Mystery = Fun

It’s my turn for the blog. This is Adair Heitmann writing to you about the Author Talk I recently attended at the Fairfield Public Library. Susan Santangelo, who is the author of the humorous Baby Boomer Mysteries: Retirement Can Be Murder, Moving Can be Murder and Marriage Can Be Murder spoke to a crowd of writers and non-writers alike. The photo I took of her (l) and a happy reader (r) shows the connections this author makes with her fans.

The author’s writing process starts each book with a dead body, but it sometimes takes her six months or more than five chapters later, to figure out who it is. “The characters tell you what they want you to do,” she says. Santangelo added that for a mystery to be good, “it’s very important for it to be logical.”

She wrote book one and was rejected by three major literary agencies. Two agencies told her that they loved the book but there wasn’t a market for it. The third wanted such a major re-write that Santangelo gave it a try for a month then realized as a reader, she wouldn’t read the book the agency wanted her to write. So, she and her husband started their own publishing company on Cape Cod, Baby Boomer Mysteries.

After self-publishing her first book (and including her email address in the back), she heard, via emails from around the world, “You are writing about my life.” This encouraged her to write more books. Santangelo’s writing and public speaking style are like sitting down with her over a cup of coffee in her kitchen. Her quick wit comes across in speaking, and her real life experiences inspire her fictional works.

She noted “inspiration is everywhere, especially among the clothing aisles of stores when women are talking on their cell phones.” This author writes what she knows and her fans gobble it up. She is working on book four, a mystery about a high school reunion. Santangelo ended the lecture by saying, “Once the book hits Kindle, the sales skyrocket.”

Susan Santangelo is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Cape Cod Writers Center, and also reviews mysteries for Suspense magazine. As Santangelo stated in the comment section of this blog last month, she is obsessed with writing murder mysteries. From the look on her fans’ faces, they are thrilled with her obsession too.

Until next time, keep on writing!

The Versatile Blogger Award Winner: Thank You!

Hello to all you writers out there, this is Adair Heitmann writing to you on this steamy summer day. Did you hear the bells and whistles? The Fairfield Writer’s Blog just received The Versatile Blogger Award! This is awarded to blogs that are considered helpful and excellent. Aw shucks. Both my colleague and fellow writing workshop leader, Alex McNab, and I currently keep The Fairfield Writer’s Blog going (along with our invited guest authors). We strive to be informative and always bring the blog back to its core mission of “literary connections.”

As writers we constantly hear about building our writing platforms. Part of building your platform includes creating and maintaining an online presence. Blogs are a great way to do that, and commenting on other people’s blogs can be invaluable. (See more about this in the list below.)

The Versatile Blogger Award was a connection that came put of the blue, thanks to blog reader Brooke Ryter.  Part of being nominated for the award is to select and share 15 blogs/bloggers that have been recently discovered or that we follow regularly. Here’s Alex and my edited and combined list, sorry we couldn’t put every blogger we know on it. The list is in no particular order, but we attempted to include blogs that are good resources for writers. Please check them out.

http://howtoplanwriteanddevelopabook.blogspot.com/
Mary Carroll Moore writes all about the book writing and creative writing process.

http://janefriedman.com/
Jane Friedman – Being human at electric speed: Exploring what it means to be a writer in the digital age.

http://ollinmorales.wordpress.com/
Ollin Morales Courage 2 Create inspires writers to do just that . . . write!

http://artistsroad.wordpress.com/
Patrick Ross: Travels of a MFA student and prolific writer.

http://writeconnexion.wordpress.com/
Gabi Coatsworth: writing about a writer’s life in Fairfield County, CT.

http://kimscraftblog.blogspot.com/
Kim Craft Fiction, Memoir, Creative Writing (from Top Ten Blogs for Writers list)

http://christinakatz.com/
Christina Katz: The Prosperous Writer. Her handle sums up her niche.

http://anneksmith.wordpress.com/blog/
Anne Kathryn Smith, writer at large. She recently commented on The Fairfield Writer’s Blog and I was drawn to a helpful link to her blog.

storyfix.com
Larry Brooks is one of many storytelling gurus online. He revisits the basics of structure from time to time in helpful ways.

the millions.com
Publishing news, author Q&As, plus a lot of links to pieces of interest on other sites.

mediabistro.com/galleycat/
Galleycat is a publishing news place. On the parent media bistro site, there are periodic interviews with authors and editors, under the heading What Do You Do?

plotwhisperer
The focus here is on plotting your story.

bloodredpencil.blogspot.com
A rotating group of book editors has something new up every weekday. There are a lot of helpful gems back in the archives.

dystel.com
Dystel & Goderich Literary Management posts essays and links from its agents. Again, lots of good stuff in the archives.

jenniferweiner.blogspot.com
She spoke at the Library a few years ago, and is currently doing the mega media circuit.

Thank you again to The Versatile Blogger Award for helping us here at The Fairfield Writer’s Blog continue to be a valuable resource to writers everywhere.

Until next time, stay cool, and keep on writing!

A Cure for Writer’s Block

I have writer’s block, oh my!
I’m going to sit in a tree, up high.
Where I will look down at my toes,
Wiggle my nose
And think up some prose.
Why can’t I feel flighty
Up here in my nightie?
Maybe a cuppa Earl Grey
Sipped here my tree
Will go with my warm scone and me.
Then onto writing with all my might
As I wave my silver sword in delight
On passion, on vixen, onto my mission
Will I finish in time for my next contest submission?

Hello writers, this is Adair Heitmann here writing to you today about the dreaded disease called writer’s block. All of us have had it at one point in our journeys as writers. Recently, after I developed a creative writing prompt for a writing critique group I lead, I was inspired to write the preceding poem.

The prompt for my writing workshop was: You have “writer’s block.” What is your cure? It cannot be practical or logical in any way. Describe it using all your senses.

The exercise was like a vitamin shot in the arm. The prompt reminded me of the invigorating power of being impractical. Often we approach problems with a like-for-like solution, only to feel drained and more dissatisfied. The next time you are at a loss for words, break out of your routine, do something illogical. You’ll be surprised what you find up there in your inspiration tree.

What are your favorite dazzling cures for writer’s block? Share them in the comments below.

Until next time, keep on writing!