Elizabeth Herman has been helping and supporting writers of various backgrounds and ages and in all stages of the writing process since 1998. She completed her doctorate in Rhetoric and Composition in December of 2008. Vital Writer Services is her new business offering coaching, tutoring, editing and proofreading to writers in various genres and with a variety of possible issues. Five percent of each fee will be donated to non-profit educational service projects around the world, which are described on the ‘supporting others‘ page of this blog. Contact her at 618-559-1641 (cell phone) or email@example.com for more information.
Your intentions for saying something to your audience tend to compel you to write, sometimes with so much strength and intensity that you have no choice but to inadvertently ignore your need to use the language correctly.
Mistakes inevitably take place in the realm of language even for the most confident and experienced users of such language. At the same time, your intense thought process can skew your content, having often-awkward effects on the way you deliver messages.
It may help to pay attention to the wide variety of reasons why mistakes happen while you are writing. A possible topic for a writing journal might be reflections on all of the mistakes you just made in your most recent writing session.
However, not too much time should be spent analyzing your mistakes and the reasons for them. Just take note, and then leave these realizations behind you. The knowledge of yourself will stay with you and give you more hidden perspective for the next time you need to generate a text.
Healthy writing habits run the gamut from setting aside time each day for writing to setting daily or weekly goals for listing of various positive self-talk items, to using journals for specific healing purposes, to any number of practices that allow your written voice to help heal you and your environment.
Here are some healthy ideas for daily journal entries:
List 10 things you are grateful for.
List 10 positive things that happened today.
List 10 positive accomplishments that you have achieved in your life.
List the foods you ate for each meal of every day.
List 10 things that you want the universe to provide for you.
List 10 random acts of kindness that you have performed this week.
List your ideas for making the world a better place.
When I was facing gallbladder surgery at the age of 29, I used a diary to keep track of everything I ate, so that I could work to eliminate fat from my diet and help to avoid the surgery. It helped me to be clear on what I was putting in my body and to monitor the effects on my condition day by day.
Although the surgery eventually became inevitable, I was able to delay it until my newborn son was a little better established in life, and I was much healthier and stronger going into it. The doctor said it was miraculous that I was able to have it done via lasers and avoid a large incision, based on how bad the actual gallbladder looked.
Sometimes you can use these journaling ideas every day, in order to track your progress on a particular issue, or you can perform a listing at random, whenever you feel the need to gain perspective.
Just the simple act of focusing enough to represent what is happening in your life through words on paper makes a big difference, and can change the course of your entire week, month or year.
Today, my 51st birthday, happens to fall about 5 days after the two week mark since my last posting to this blog. Although I’m late, I’m sure you’ll be happy to know that my topic today is a passion of mine, food writing.
I’m sitting in a small vegan place that just recently opened in east Nashville, Tennessee, called Khan’s Desserts Bakery and Café, drinking an herbal tea blend called Lavender Love, made by local tea maker called High Garden True Herbal Teas. I also have a vegan chocolate mint brownie on my table, with green frosting and a sprinkling of chocolate chips on top.
A little while ago, I indulged in a vegie burger and a side of fried okra at Pied Piper Eatery, just a short drive down Porter Road from here. The burger itself was red inside, because of the beets, kidney beans and secret spices used to make it. I ordered it with avocado, pickle, lettuce and barbecue sauce, and bottles of ketchup and mustard were already on the table.
The okra was nicely crunchy with a clearly homemade batter, and pieces of it had been cut with subtle variations in shapes and sizes, so I could tell it hadn’t come from a bag of pre-made frozen fried okra.
Even though I’m nowhere near hungry enough to break into the brownie, the tea and the thought of the sweet dessert make me feel satisfied. Food can be such an immediate sensual experience, that I sense how writing about it lets me express something very concrete and close.
Writing teachers often instruct students to write about what they know. What can you know better than the food you ingest daily? Using nouns and verbs, the details of a meal can rival the most daring of adventures as an exciting topic for a writer, including the climbing of Mount Everest and the search for the Titanic or flight M370.
Additionally, this nourishment not only provides experiences, it also keeps you alive, and can heal you from the stresses of the humdrum, mundane, so called “normal” life. You can write about your food whether you’re a gourmet or not, no matter what walk of life you come from.
It helps to keep a perspective on how you treat yourself and how your emotions come into play as part of how you work and relate to others. When striving to lose or gain weight, or achieve any other health goal, it will help to keep a journal of exactly what you have eaten every day and how much.
I’m working on a 25 minute presentation for an upcoming talk at the AAPNA (Association of Ayurvedic Professionals of North America) annual conference July 4-6 in Boone, North Carolina.
(This summer just started on Saturday, June 21 and it marches on, and I haven’t been to a lake or a beach since Mother’s Day, back on May 11. On that day, my brother, my two sons, and my two sisters-in-law and I headed out for Greenleaf beach in Evanston Illinois, for a quick nap in the presence of the great Lake Michigan waves washing up on sand, a stalwart stress reliever. After that we saw the movie Belle.)
I have written some chaotic notes on a blank journal made of paper as well as on a word document electronically. I have the link to a video that I sent my client in order to help her put aside the stress she was experiencing. Here is the link to one of the most relaxing music videos I have ever seen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXqpsebHE0s&feature=related
The presentation draft might turn out to be brilliant, but I have a feeling I need to start practicing it orally in order to move it forward.
Writing for a speech may differ from writing for readers only. How does it differ for you? How does it differ to write for your own vocalizations rather than for others’ speeches?
As I imagine giving the speech, the interaction with the audience keeps entering my mind. However, when I write for a reading audience, I don’t imagine any interactions, at least not in the moment of delivery. Spoken presentations are much more momentary, and the exchanges happen so quickly.
The momentariness of speech makes practicing beforehand so necessary. Practice extends and lengthens the moment of the delivery and makes it more familiar to the speaker, so when the actual moment does come, the message being sent out stays more clearly and firmly in the speaker’s mind.
That’s one way to make sure to relax when delivering a presentation, and relaxing will allow humor and connections to take place, enchanting and attracting the listeners.
By placing a blank journal and a pen next to your bed, you make the key to remembering and thus interpreting your dreams more accessible to you. Although using these tools for your own information may not happen automatically, in time you can start to understand your own subconscious mind more fully by writing about your dreams and their connections with daily life.
An example of this comes from Paul Roland’s book, “Understanding Dreams: How to Influence, Record and Interpret Dreams.” He tells how John William Dunne, a mathematician of the early 20th century, offers connections between imagery, memory and actual subsequent occurrences, with his story about a man who dreamed of a crowd of people throwing burning cigarettes in his face before experiencing sparks flying towards him from a circular saw that hit a nail while he was working in his wood shop.
When you create links in the different levels of your mind, the waking and the sleeping thoughts that come to you respond better when you attempt to summon them.
Not only writing from memory works well, but remembering better as a result of writing works in a similar way. This leads to better awareness of predictions your mind is capable of, even when such premonitions may seem unlikely.
As in Dunne’s story, on the level of words and logic, the mad people’s sparks from lit cigarettes in a dream may not necessarily constitute a prediction of accidental sparks from one’s own circular saw. However, the emotion and the imagery expresses themselves without words, and therefore the logic of language becomes insignificant as sources of communication between your deeper, hidden knowledge of yourself and your normal awareness.
But once the link has been written down, the logical language connects the dream with the event and you can see more clearly how you invoke your own future and see yourself unfolding throughout life.
Reference: Roland, Paul. “Understanding Dreams: How to Influence, Record, and Interpret Dreams.” London: Octopus Publishing Group, Ltd., 2005. 18.
Sitting On The Table
In my experience, sitting down to write has felt very similar to sitting down to meditate.
In my grandmother’s parlance, Yiddish, the expression “Tuchas afen tish” means literally, “put your bottom (buttocks) on the table!” The rhetorical meaning of this has always echoed the more westernized, polite version, “put your cards on the table,” or “put up or shut up,” or “let’s get down to brass tacks,” or “make your full meaning clear!”
When I had bouts with school-related writing woes, my mother would say, “sit your tuchas down and knock something out!” This combination of grandma’s Yiddish and American colloquial punch gave me a lot of motivation, and felt like a kick in the pants! I appreciated and still feel so grateful for this advice.
Tell me, dear reader/writer, what position do you use for writing? Do you always sit? How often do you write standing up? How often do you write lying down? Do you prefer the floor, or a chair for sitting?
I would love to hear your expressions for sitting down to write. It takes the same discipline as sitting down to meditate, to be sure. But perhaps the putting of words on the page takes more discipline, because we use up so much energy generating language almost ALL of the time.
At this stage, sitting for meditation feels easier than sitting down to write, because meditation doesn’t use up that energy that producing language does. It gives me a chance to rest from the chatter of gabbing and blathering and talking so much. If my blog entries seem to be brief and concise, that results from my need for rest from language, and meditation gives me that rest.
Thank you for your patience over the last few months during my hiatus from this blog. As of this entry, I do intend to resume regular blog posts here, with a focus on the relationships between writing, meditation and communication and all it entails, including publishing and marketing.
Rosten, Leo. “The New Joys of Yiddish.” New York: Crown Publishers, 2001. 397-398
The Quick Fix: Meditating in School Settings
Practicing meditation doesn’t have to take a great deal of time. In a classroom, 5 minutes of guided deep breathing can make a big difference to students under pressure.
One instance of this occurred in a program for students from minority backgrounds who chose to prepare for the exam required to enter a pre-medical school program. The teachers decided to initiate a regular, 5-minute session of guided deep breathing at the beginning of each class.
Their study showed that the breathing, with eyes closed, and the mental focus on relaxing imagery, helped their testing experience and performance significantly.
Numerous other studies of students in academically and culturally challenging environments show similar positive findings about meditation. As writers, it makes sense to draw from this wealth of energy that remains versatile and applicable in practical settings.
Paul, Gina, Elam, Barb and Verhulst, Steven. “A Longitudinal Study of Students’ Perceptions of Using Deep Breathing Meditation to Reduce Testing Stress.” Teaching and Learning in Medicine. 19.3 (2007): 287-292.