Tag: Kripalu


Why I Love Writing Prompts

 I was traveling last week in an area with little connectivity when Alexia posed the question of the week to the Miss Demeanors about whether they use writing prompts. I’m usually very good about completing my homework on time, but didn’t manage to make the deadline. So here’s my answer in a full blog.            I love writing prompts. When I was still afraid to admit how much I love to write and that I desperately wanted to be a writer, my son Patrick, gave me an amazing gift as thanks for letting him move back home while he pursued his studies. He handed me a catalogue from Kripalu, the world famous yoga retreat that also features creative workshops of all kinds. “Pick the weekend of your choice, Mom.”            I thumbed through the catalogue and found that on my birthday weekend, Nancy Slonim Aronie, NPR commentator and author of Writing from the Heart: Tapping the Power of Your Inner Voice, was having a writing workshop. I signed up for a weekend that was to change my life.            There were about thirty of us who sat in a circle on the floor with Nancy where we got to know each other through gentle conversation. Soon we were given writing prompts, encouraged to just let the words pour out without worrying how they looked or sounded. Just write. From the heart. I confess I thought it was silly.            My skepticism quickly disappeared. I still have the handwritten responses I wrote that weekend. I marveled at what was coming out of me as if I were writing in tongues. I was a lawyer who wrote lawyerly legal documents, for crying out loud. What was this stuff pouring out of me? The prompt I remember most was, “My mother never told me…” I was surprised to learn I was harboring more than a bit of resentment a decade after I had lost her.            I learned from another prompt how much my Uncle Buddy, who was in his eighties, brain- injured, and in my care, had taught me. I wrote with a tenderness that had been masked by the fatigue that comes with the drudgery of caretaking. I realized how much I loved my Uncle Buddy.            Here I was, a wannabe mystery writer who writes about murder, punching out words and phrases that brought tears to my own eyes. I’d written but not published a mystery I called “Who Killed the Board of Selectmen,” which was inspired after I had been scarred by a stretch on my local planning board during a building boom. I didn’t want to write memoir. I wondered if I had chosen the wrong weekend.            I surrendered my resistance and let myself get swept away by every prompt Nancy delivered. She’s very good at creating prompts and encouraging people to respond without judgment. You can check her blog where she posts prompts at www.chilmarkingwritingworkshop.com. Her own response to “I want to be someone…” is written in list form.              I want to be someone who has read the Odyssey            I want to be someone who drinks tea in the afternoon            I want to be someone who meditates for the full 60 minutes            I want to be someone who doesn’t care what people think of her               Writing prompts taught me how to crack open my heart. How to dig deep, press down, and reach into myself when I am writing. How can my characters feel real if I am unable to go beneath the surface? When my characters start to feel like cardboard robots, I know it’s time for me to take a break and find a writing prompt that will remind me writing is not mechanical. There are lots of books that spell out the do’s and don’ts and the how to’s, but writing that doesn’t come from the heart will never reach the heart of the reader.                

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I'm a Writer

 Debut author Edwin Hill’s recent post https://careerauthors.com/how-to-call-yourself-a-writer/ on Career Authors about his 39-year excursion before he could finally say, “I’m a writer” touched me. What writer hasn’t felt trepidation when saying those words for fear she might be challenged. “Really? How dare you say you’re a writer?”             Those three little words, “I’m a writer,” are as terrifying as crossing the line from, “I like you,” to “I love you” in a relationship. Both connote declaration and commitment and put the declarant at risk for rejection. That’s why knowing when you were ready to say to the world, “I’m a writer” is pivotal to being a writer.             When I was a child, I wondered about the people who put the magical words on the books I read over and over, but it didn’t occur to me I could become one of them until I had already joined two other professions. After a contentious term on my local planning board, where I witnessed greed, anger, and exploitation, I decided to purge the toxicity I had experienced by penning my first mystery. I sent Who Killed the Board of Selectmen to five agents and editors in the early nineties. I had a kind letter from editor Michael Seidman, who said it was promising but he wasn’t accepting mysteries at the time. When the other four rejected or ignored me, I put the manuscript in a drawer for the next decade.             But it gnawed at me, this urge to write and tell stories. When my son gave me a special gift for Mother’s Day one year after I had allowed the rotating door at our home to rotate once more, I caught fire. He gave me a catalogue for Kripalu, the world-renowned yoga center in western Massachusetts, which offered weekend programs in various creative areas while doing yoga. Bliss. I chose to attend Nancy Aronie’s Writing from the Heart on the weekend when my birthday occurred. There, I met a woman who lived in a town near me who was starting a writing group. I was on fire.           I wrote three novels over the next several years. But was I a writer yet? I didn’t dare say so. Even when I got my first agent, who shopped one of the books unsuccessfully, I was uncomfortable saying I was a writer. Perhaps it was because I still had a busy law/mediation practice, which seemed more legitimate. I had a license to practice law, but what did I have to show I was a writer?            Even when I began hanging around other writers, I held back. I was an attorney with a creative pastime, writing, not a writer. The truth is I was terrified to fail. I wanted to write more than I ever wanted to be in a courtroom. I felt a kinship with my fellow writers I never experienced with my legal colleagues.            What did I have to do to be able to call myself a writer? I think I had to have some external sign that I was a competent writer. When I brought down the house the year I attended a Book Passage conference after reading a humorous contest entry I’d written, I felt a little bit like a writer.            When I was a finalist, not once, but three times in St. Martin’s Malice Domestic contest, I was encourage to believe I was a writer. But being a runner-up three times conversely made me wonder, was I good enough to call myself a writer?            While on vacation in St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, my husband bought license plates for me in the National Park Store that said “Writer.” I almost made him put them back. They sat on my desk for the next several years, partly as inspiration for No Virgin Island. Now, was I a writer?            Getting the right agent made me feel like I was on the road to being a writer. The day I signed my first publishing contract for No Virgin Island, I knew I was a writer. I had a contract that said so. But did I feel like a writer?              When readers began telling me what they thought about No Virgin Island, how bonded they felt with Sabrina, how they loved Neil Perry, I realized people were actually reading the words I had written.            That’s when I knew I could say without equivocation, “I’m a writer.”I felt like a writer.            Thanks to Edwin Hill for the inspiration for this blog and the question of the week tomorrow to my fellow Miss Demeanors. Edwin’s book, Little Comfort comes out August 28, 2018             

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