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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Stillness First: Mediation and Writing

Writing may seem like a relatively silent endeavor. However, we need only tune into the mind's internal dialogue to recognize it is anything but. When we are brainstorming ideas, writing an article, researching or simply chastising ourselves for not reaching our 1,000 word goal today; our brains are talking a mile a minute. In a half hour, we can move from complete confidence in our project to abject fear and failure. Despite the frightening swings of our thoughts, they are not our reality. Arriving at a deeper space of knowing shows us how to find freedom in stillness, which ultimately crumbles the many walls (or blocks) that prevent us from touching our authentic creativity.

Meditation is a process that guides us out of the chitta vrtti, as we call it in yoga, which is a sanskrit term meaning chatter of the mind, and into a space of peaceful awareness. It is not in our experience of meditation that we sit down to write, but merely to exist. Here the incessant growling recedes to a gentle murmur and then, if you really let go, ceases all together. Gone are the to-do lists, the feelings of laziness, the fears of failure and even all that existed before and all that might exist at some future point. When we connect to the infinite now in a mindful way and consciously choose to allow thoughts to merely be one ebb in an endlessly flowing tide - here and now gone - we reach the self that lives deeper than our material world. It is this self that is freed of the limitations of our dense form, our constructs of reality and our attachments to this identity whether that be a job, a hobby or even an image in the mirror. It is learning to hear the voice that is voiceless and when you return to the world of thought, the world within is much richer and more prepared to discover writing anew.

I have been meditating for several years and though I believe it's important to not approach meditation with a goal in mind - such as being a better writer - I know in my heart that our endless determination to improve ourselves is often what leads us to meditation. The same holds true for many writers. We want to be better, more devoted, more in touch with our characters, our narrative and our audience. All in life is connected and when you integrate mediation into your daily life, connection begins to permeate elsewhere. Connection unfolds in your writing, your relationships and your interactions with the world.

So I ask only that you consider it with an open mind. Perhaps you ask the question: How might meditation affect my writing? Maybe take it further: How might meditation affect my entire life? And then try it. Find a quiet place (I love the woods) and sit comfortably, palms up if it''s comfortable and bring your awareness to your breath. Other stuff will come at you - sounds, thoughts, physical discomforts - acknowledge them and then let them go. I like to imagine encapsulating thoughts in a  bubble and blowing them off of my fingertips, letting them drift away. Maybe try this for five minutes a day, more if you're feeling adventurous. Perhaps that is as far as you go or maybe you sit down to write after your meditations - a journal entry or just a half hour on your writing project of choice - and see what new ideas appear. When we meditate, we find openings that were previously closed, inspiration that before was dormant.

Meditation is the tongue of the soul and the language of our spirit. - Jeremy Taylor

Saturday, June 22, 2013

2013 Writing Contests

Writing contests are a fantastic way to discover new genres and reveal your writing to both the reading and writing communities. When searching for a writing contest, consider submitting something in a genre outside of your norm. It helps you to broaden your skills as a writer and also allows you to flex your craft and discover other interests beyond your typical stories or poetry. Many writing contests have specific themes, which can also bring focus where otherwise you might feel conflicted about what story to write. Choose a few contests below and make it your personal writing goal to be more open, more intuitive and more flexible with your writing. And perhaps most importantly don't take it too seriously. Writing is an inward journey so be gentle with yourself and allow the words to flow...

2013 Autmumn House Poetry Contest: Deadline 6/30/13

2013 Lois Cranston Memorial Poetry Prize: Deadline 6/30/13

Hunger Mountain Howard Frank Mosher Short Fiction Prize: Deadline 6/30/13

Literal Latte Short Fiction Contest: Deadline 6/30/13

Teachers and Writers Collaborative 2013 Bechtel Prize Essay: Deadline 7/1/13

Bard Fiction Prize for Published Authors: Deadline 7/15/13

The Cincinati Review Robert and Adele Schiff Awards in Poetry and Prose: Deadline 7/15/13

The 2013 Rattle Poetry Prize: Deadline 7/15/13

The 2013 Wasafiri New Writing Prize: Deadline 7/26/13

Dream Quest One Poetry and Writing Contest: Deadline 7/31/13

2013 Northwind Short Story Contest: Deadline 7/31/13

Subito Press Book Prize: Deadline 8/16/13

Sunday, May 19, 2013

You Have to Start Somewhere

Writing can be an intimidating process especially when you first start out. The naysayers are many often detailing how difficult it is to get into an MFA program, get published, write something worthy and, of course, make a living doing so. However, if you love to write, you must abandon other peoples' opinions of the obstacles and go forward with a singular focus on doing what you love and making it work as best you can. This means beginning in a space that's reasonable and accepting where you are right now, irrelevant of where your writer friends are or where you feel like you should be.

A little over a year ago, I moved back to Lansing and struck up a friendship with a neighbor who loved to read and enjoyed writing, but had never really felt confidant taking the plunge. Over a series of months chatting about writing, he started to pen short stories. He would carve out time in the mid-day when his son was at school and before he went to his overnight shift at work. He wrote short stories and then began submitting them to small flash fiction contests and various websites. Within a month or two of writing his first story, he won a small contest and received a $10 gift card and publication online. His enthusiasm was contagious and he thanked me profusely for inspiring him to believe that he could do it. It reminded me of how hugely gratifying every step of the writing process can be. Where ever we are, we can discover the joy and satisfaction of living our craft. Whether you're writing a journal so that you can better reflect on your life or completing and selling your latest manuscript, allow gratitude into your life so that you can celebrate every victory regardless of its perceived value.

If you've been writing every day or never written a word, but really have wanted to, begin today - now - this moment. You have to start somewhere...

Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.
Graham Greene

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Inspiration and Vulnerability in Writing

The video that I'm posting is not specifically about writing, but it is about creating, being vulnerable and asking for what you need so that you can sustain yourself doing what you love. I found it extremely inspiring and know that in my own creative process, the fear of asking and ultimately the fear of rejection have prevented me from many things. We put so much time, effort and ultimately love into our work, we must implore ourselves to share it with the world and be unafraid to ask for help in return. I hope this moves you as it did me this morning. Thank you for visiting and keep writing!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Writing Jobs in Michigan and Online

Writing Jobs in Michigan

Experienced Textbook Writer: Ann Arbor

Writer: Detroit

Copywriter: Detroit

Business Blog Writer: Detroit

Writer: Detroit

Sports Desk Reporter: Grand Rapids

Case Reviewer/Proofreader: Howell

Technical Writer: Lansing

Social Media Strategist: Traverse City

Proofreader/Document Writer: Troy

Editor/Proofreader: Warren

Telecommute Writing Positions - Home Writing Jobs

Food Writers

Financial Blogger

Virtual Writer/Editor

Freelance Business Writer

Medical Writer Wanted

Expert Proofreader

The only advice I can give to aspiring writers is don't do it unless you're willing to give your whole life to it. Red wine and garlic also helps. Jim Harrison