As another summer glides into autumn, the school year begins. If you know a new or student teacher, or an experienced educator who enjoys reflecting on his/her professional and personal life, consider giving LifeJournal for Educators as a gift. You can purchase LJ for Educators at https://educators.lifejournal.com/ordering. We’ve been getting rave reviews from those teachers who have purchased it.
This month our newsletter covers a variety of topics. Many of our customers are aspiring or published writers; we’ve been asked to include newsletter articles that address such topics. Sheila Bender, a well published author, has written an article 20 Tips for Writers. We also provide some suggestions about best ways to synchronize computers for LJ2, and finally we discuss an article about journal writing in Dr. Weil’s Self Healing newsletter, called “Journaling: Self-Healing through Writing.”
20 Tips for Writers by Sheila Bender
1. Writers write. Sit down with pen or pencil or at the keyboard and put words on the page. You can read them later.
2. Look for words and phrases that reoccur in your writing. Write about their strong meaning to you. You will find your work deepens.
3. Invent first, shape second, edit last: if you don’t allow yourself to be a mad scientist on the page there will be nothing to shape or edit later.
4. During your invention stage allow, allow, allow–although you have a topic and a plan, see what happens when you remain open to the images and characters that unexpectedly materialize. Even when you are shaping your invention, make room for surprises.
5. With main characters, figure out what they want and then create obstacles to the fulfillment of their desires; know what happens inside as well as outside the characters as they deal with the obstacles.
6. Go easy on adjectives–describe your subjects with nouns and metaphor.
7. Open a scene with something that draws the reader immediately into the situation–for instance, a conversation (even one line), a disturbance (silverware falling to the floor), or an entrance (a dog walks in the door).
8. Sensory details and proper nouns are important, even if you think others have similar experiences to yours–they want to live them again through your senses, just as if they are there.
9. Learn to love the revision process–90 percent of writing is revising. No one writes a masterpiece on the first draft.
10. To create psychological time in your writing, interrupt conversation and action to focus on the response the character or speaker is having to his or her environment in that moment. Describe objects and textures in the environment that catch the speaker or character’s eye; these include people, things, noises, smells, tastes and inner thoughts. Then return to the action.
11. Use a good dictionary to search out the history of a word that surprises you in your writing; there is often an important reason the word has entered your consciousness.
12. To turn a freewrite or journal entry into a poem, try putting the prose into couplets (the two lines do not have to rhyme). Next, make stanzas of about 4-6 couplets. Next, prune words that are now unnecessary.
13. Need a short story idea? Think of a place you have love. Think of the oddest or worst thing that ever happened to you. Make it happen to a character who is visiting the place you love.
14. Need to make a character interesting? Give that character a quirky obsession–i.e. with knowing what an ex-lover is doing, with kinds of cat litter, with unpasteurized cheese, for instance.
15. Writers cannibalize their own work. If you have written a poem about something it doesn’t meant you can’t also write a story about that same thing and an essay.
16. Check your intangibles–if you are using summarizing words often, you are hiding opportunities from yourself. Don’t say beautiful or amazing or dull–show what is beautiful, amazing or dull–give the details and the reader will experience the feeling rather than the being told what to feel.
17. Check exposition in poems and prose. What lines are merely filling the reader in with information that the writer wants them to have? Weave the necessary information in subtly through images, dialog and character reactions.
18. Put metaphors in the mouths of characters; they create tone, evoke experience and economically convey information. For instance, if a boy describes his desk as a rocket ship we immediately know he is young and imaginative and action-oriented.
19. Look through old letters, journals and clippings. Whatever raises questions for you is a good topic for writing (and researching for more of a story).
20. Claim teachers–reflect on writers who influenced you through their writing, lives and teaching. List what you have learned from each. Take note of how you use what you’ve learned.
Sheila Bender is the author of eight books on writing and publisher of WritingItReal.com, an online magazine for those who write from personal experience. Her newest title, Writing and Publishing Personal Essays, has been well received by writers of all levels as well as those who teach writing. She regularly presents and teaches at conferences including the Whidby Island Writers’ Conference, the Society of Southwest Authors Wrangling with Writing Conference, and the Writing It Real in Port Townsend Writer’s Conference.
Using LifeJournal on Multiple Computers and Saving your Files on a USB Flash Drive
1. When you create the writer initially on Computer A, in the Create a Writer dialog that will appear when you first use the program, you can choose where you want to save your files in the Journal Files Location field. Insert the USB flash drive, click the Browse button, and navigate to the USB flash drive. Create your journal entries and when finished close the program.
Dr. Andrew Weil, the well known medical doctor who has spearheaded the movement toward wellness and integrative medicine, writes about journaling in the September 2005 issue of his monthly printed newsletter. The article, “Journaling: Self-Healing through Writing,” reports that Weil “frequently suggests to those with chronic illnesses, particularly autoimmune disorders” and “anyone, whether healthy or not [that] expressing oneself in writing can be a creative outlet and a good way to release feelings that you might otherwise hide or suppress.”
He cites research from the 1980s and 1990s that provides evidence that healthy people remained healthier (made fewer doctor visits) and some ill people improved their health by writing about emotionally meaningful topics.
Weil then goes on to report recent studies that show journal writing helps women who have fibromyalgia experience less pain and fatigue; helps reduce high blood pressure; and helps terminal cancer patients sleep better.
The two experts he cites are James Pennebaker, PhD and Kathleen Adams, two supporters of our software who have endorsed LifeJournal.
The take home message: improve your health. Keep journaling.
“Every human being has hundreds of separate people living under his skin. The talent of the writer is his ability to give them their separate names, identities, personalities, and have them relate to other characters living with him.”–Mel Brooks
“Everybody is original, if he tells the truth, if he speaks from himself. But it must be from his true self and not from the self he thinks he should be.”–Brenda Ueland
“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.” —Cyril Connolly
How to Purchase LifeJournal or LifeJournal for Educators, or Upgrade to Version 2.0
You can purchase LifeJournal 2 (or upgrade to version 2.0) either by:
-Ordering LifeJournal online; ordering LifeJournal for Educators online.
Chronicles Software Company
To learn more about upgrading to LifeJournal, go to our June 2005 newsletter.
If you have friends or colleagues who would enjoy this newsletter, invite them to subscribe. We request that you keep the broadcast intact, including our contact and copyright information.
©Chronicles Software Company, 2005. All rights reserved.