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The Drifter:

Seven BillionSecrets to Success


by Jennifer Paros


I drift, wait, and obey.

~ Harold Arlen, composer for The Wizard of Oz (on his creative process)


drifter11aSmallLately, I’ve been feeling drifty. I have projects waiting for me. And I do think they’re waiting. These aren’t just passing fancies; these ideas stick around no matter how I neglect them, in full anticipation of all that they will become. I even have a novel—a couple finished drafts of it—I still want to complete. I have two other stories in progress. They’re like conversations I left mid-sentence. It’s as though I said, “Excuse me, I have to go to the bathroom” and have yet to return.

This phenomenon reminds me of the time in third grade when I avoided gym class because our teacher, Mr. Cruise (kind but firm), wanted me in the game. My wobbly ego wasn’t sure she wanted to be in the game—not in sports or in life. At eight, the jury was still out. So I let my body, mind, and spirit drift away from the game and into the bathroom, repeatedly. Like drifting from writing, it wasn’t a very conscious choice. I don’t remember ever literally choosing to hide in the bathroom; I just found myself walking away from the gym, as though carried by spirits who understood my position perfectly. more...


Five Ways to Combat Fear


by Ingrid Schaffenburg




Fear is something all writers encounter, and it’s no wonder. We willingly plunge into the depths of our souls on a daily basis, which can be a scary thing at times. The very thing that lures us to this profession, that makes us feel more alive than others, is also the very thing that can stop us in our tracks. So how do we handle fear when it crops up in our work? Here are a few strategies I’ve found helpful over the years.


1. Par for the Course


First, acknowledge that it’s normal. Every writer that has come before us has encountered fear at one time or another. It’s such a common occurrence that we even have our own term for it: writer’s block. Probably the greater our fear, the greater our talent. So don’t take fear as a bad sign. See it as being on the right track. Experiencing fear isn’t the issue. How we handle the fear is what matters. To quote Susan Jeffers, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”


2. Mentality Work


One of the most helpful exercises I learned as an actress in LA was mentality work. In one of my classes, we had to spend at least thirty minutes a day reading from an inspiring work, something that would set our mind straight. This always came before our creation work with our characters. My teacher recognized that at least half our battle as artists was maintaining the right mindset, and I couldn’t agree more. I highly recommend starting with The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. more...


Make Your Writing Come Alive with Specific Detail


by Laura Yeager



I teach beginning writing to college freshman. It's the ole Freshman Composition routine.


There are several things I try to convey in a single semester, including how to organize an essay around a thesis statement; use the patterns of development to create paragraphs; organize paragraphs in the most productive, interesting way; employ transitions, parallelism, and key word repetition to build coherence; avoid wordiness, slang, needless repetition, and cliché; write with correct grammar and punctuation; research an idea; use a documentation system; edit one's own work; and edit others’ work.

But I think the most exciting thing I teach is how to be specific.


Case in point. John was writing a paper about the hip hop lifestyle. He was defining hip hop and describing the participants in this movement, but nowhere in the essay did he include any rap lyrics. How could this be? The specifics, the guts of the essay had been omitted.


So I suggested that he add some. (I'd add some here, but I think I'd be violating copyright laws.

We all know what rap is, right? Upbeat, half-spoken, half-sung, clever—sometimes harsh—rhymes about life and how to survive it?)


And instantly the paper came alive. more...




One of Two


by Cherie Tucker



noellersterneauthor1Let’s review of some of those pesky close-but-no-cigar uses that can mar your brilliant writing. Check these out to be sure you are using them all correctly:


Any more/Anymore: The first means additional items; the second refers to additional time.


If you don’t have any more to add than that I look fat, I won’t bother you anymore.


A while/Awhile: The first refers to the amount of time by name, making it a noun; the second is an adverb telling how long something lasts.


He said it would only take a while, so I waited awhile, but he didn’t show.


Every day/Everyday: The one with two words, every day, indicates that you are talking about something that happens each day or daily. Everyday as all one word means ordinary or commonplace.


Brush your teeth every day until it becomes an everyday ritual.


Every one/Everyone: Every one refers to separate things. Everyone, of course, refers to all of the people you are including. more...


Reading Pollutes Writing


by Noelle Sterne



noellersterneauthor2We’ve all heard the venerable advice: to learn our craft and hone our skills, read, read, read. Granted, when we first start writing, reading other writers’ work can show us many approaches and techniques, enlarge our sense of unthinkable subjects, and give us models for daring to write what’s burning in us.


But with all this reading stoked up, there’s a time to stop.

Surprising? Probably. Heretical? Maybe. True? Unequivocally.

I don’t advocate this action—or inaction—out of peevishness, contrariness, or hatred of other writers. Rather, like many other authors, I’ve experienced the distressing effects of too much reading.


When you read others while you’re writing, you experience many conflicting and distressing reactions. First, you see a terrible disparity. You want to throw up your hands and throw out your computer. “I’ll never write like that!”


Case in point: A friend many miles away, with whom I’ve had a long writing-related correspondence, struggled with a memoir of his growing-up years in New England. I mightily encouraged him and fed him nuggets of advice.


Then he made a mistake. “I’ve been reading Alfred Kazin’s A Walker in the City. Now, that’s a memoir.” Across the miles, I could see his face droop. “Damn,” he continued, “I’m out of my league.” I whipped off a reply crammed like a care package with nourishing motivational chunks to counteract his reading contamination. more...


June 2014