• Memoirs

    How Do I Write My Memoirs?

      Are you stuck trying to write your life story? By the time we become seniors, most of us have come to the realization that we’ve left it too late. We think we’d like to write our memoirs, but we never got around to asking our parents the important questions: How did they meet? Who was their first love? How did they become the people they ended up being?   How Did I Get Here? Then there are the questions about our own history: What was I like as a toddler? Who was my best friend in kindergarten? Where did my first pet come from? What was my first word,…

  • Uncategorized

    What Comfort Zone Can I Step Out Of Today?

    On a Jim Fortin podcast this week, I heard the phrase, “What comfort zone can I leave today?” This really resonated with me.   To leave a comfort zone means we need to change, and that’s not an easy thing to do.  We like our status quo.  It’s comfortable.  We understand it.  It’s not challenging or painful or hard.  We love our routines. I’m reminded of the hermit crab. This little guy carries around the empty shell of another creature as his home and his protection, but whenever he grows too big for his current shell, he must find another, larger one and take a leap of faith that he’ll be…

  • Creative Writing,  Dialogue,  Point of View and Character Development,  Training, Lessons

    When It’s Okay To Act Out

    Okay, so you’re writing away and you have no idea what motivates your main character (or yourself at age twelve).   Or you can visualize your MC’s best friend, but you can’t hear her voice.     Or you’ve finally finished your fifteenth draft and you’re ready to share with your beta readers or your writing group or your editor or (gulp!) your publisher, but you have a niggling feeling there’s something missing.   Take a step back and try a couple of editing techniques that are a little different.   When we read, we tend to “hear” the words in our heads.  If the story’s well-written, we “see” the…

  • Memoirs,  Point of View and Character Development,  Training, Lessons

    How Not To Be A Wimp

    Using Blind Spots and Limiting Beliefs to Power Your Memoir In my memoir classes, one of my favourite things to do is ask questions of my students to get them thinking more deeply about their stories, their characters and ultimately themselves. One of my students brought up the topic of fear of success the other day.  She mentioned that she had a crippling fear of being successful, ie. “a public figure”. When I asked her what she thought was scary about that, she couldn’t tell me exactly, although, for her, it was tied up with public appearances, maybe interviews or readings of her work.  They terrified her.  It came down…

  • Point of View and Character Development,  Thoughts, Opinions and Philosophical Discussions

    Just Who Do You Think You Are?

    One rainy day many years ago, while I was still in college, I was stomping along the street, resentful and annoyed, on the way to buy some milk since nobody at the house had even considered what happens when you use up the last few drops. Somehow, it always ended up being I who ran these little errands, and I was sick and tired of it. Suddenly, out of the blue, I heard a voice in my head say, “I am me.”   Wait, I thought and stopped walking. What does that even mean — I am me? I know that. Who else could I be? The words held vague overtones of self-awareness, integrity,…

  • Thoughts, Opinions and Philosophical Discussions,  Writers and Writing

    Creative Cross-Pollination

    Recently, in an online chat group, a friend of mine posted this quote:     “My work is not merely about making and achieving a final product to wear or hang. They are my journey, my feelings, and my stories.” — Reiza Wahid   I think that could apply to any of our creative efforts. It’s not just the destination. It’s the journey, the learning, the transformation.   My friend went on to say, “It’s hard to explain that my diaries and origami give me such joy when there’s not much productive to show at the end.  Transformation is the key – transformation of us and who we are.”  …

  • Creativity,  Productivity,  Thoughts, Opinions and Philosophical Discussions

    Daydreaming as an Art Form

    “Idle minds are the devil’s research-and-development department.” — Robert Stacy McCain   Daydreaming, a definition: noun  The activity of thinking about pleasant things that you would like to do or have happen to you, instead of thinking about what is happening now.   Daydreaming appears to be the brain’s default setting when no other external task is occupying its attention.   For years, those of us who spent hours inside our own heads were considered time-wasters, dreamers who couldn’t live in the “real world”, unsuited for the practical requirements of daily living.     We were called Procrastinators and we were taught to wake up and smell the coffee, stop dithering, get back to work and all the other sensible, pragmatic advice that goes along…

  • Creative Writing,  Training, Lessons

    Description—How Much Is Too Much?

    Don’t use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do.  — Mark Twain   What is Description? Merriam-Webster calls it “an act of describing, specifically: discourse intended to give a mental image of something experienced.”   Or: “a statement or account giving the characteristics of someone or something, a descriptive statement or account.”   Narrative (the events), and description (how the character experiences the events), are the glue that keeps your reader stuck in your story.  If nothing much happens, if the character is not emotionally engaged, then neither will the reader be engaged.   Why is Description Necessary? 1.  Description is all about the strategic delivery of important…

  • Creative Writing,  Memoirs,  Structure and Plotting

    Riding the Razor’s Edge

    Recently a writer asked me this question:   “How can I turn my ideas into fiction? My short stories tend to be small slice-of-life sorts of things.”   This is something that I often run into in workshops and classes. People tell me they only write about true events. They don’t know how to stretch their imaginations to turn facts into stories. They’ve never learned the infinite possibilities behind that magical phrase, “What if?”   To turn ideas into fiction, take your true-to-life story elements and take them as far into what-if as possible.   The key to making a true story fictional is exaggeration. Make the events bigger than…

  • Creative Writing,  Structure and Plotting

    “High Concept” Stories

    While researching the week’s topic for my seniors’ group, (“A Clever Idea”) I tripped over a phrase that is much revered in Hollywood — “High Concept”.   Definition of “High Concept”High Concept is defined by Merriam-Webster as: having or exploiting elements (such as fast action, glamour, or suspense) that appeal to a wide audience.   In essence, High Concept is: Premise-driven  Suited for a wide audience Unique Immediately intriguing Premise: A High Concept story must have an intriguing protagonist with a challenging goal that is highly significant to him/her, and the outcome must have tremendous consequences for the protagonist and the world he/she lives in.   Audience: High Concept stories must…

  • Creative Writing,  Humour,  Memoirs,  Structure and Plotting

    One Artist’s Journey

    I like to call myself a recovering artist.  I like this description because it has a certain curiosity-piquing je ne sais quoi and it references my lifelong addiction to art and creativity.  It also raises the question of why anyone would voluntarily quit the enchanting life of an artist.   Spoiler alert — doing shows all the time becomes increasingly physically demanding for an ageing painter.  All those classy exhibitions certainly look glamorous on the outside, but behind the scenes, there’s a whole lot of grunt-work, and I was fed up with grunting.    There’s a classic artist’s joke — Q. What’s the difference between an artist and a puppy? …