• 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,…

  • Creative Writing,  Productivity,  Writers and Writing

    The Evils of Comparison

    “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” ― Oscar Wilde  The saints are the sinners who keep on trying. — Robert Louis Stevenson   Do you think you’re a crappy writer? Why do you think that? Did someone tell you that your writing sucks? Where did this belief originate?     Whose voice do you hear in your head? Was it a teacher in the third grade or the fifth or the tenth, telling you that you’re not good enough to be a writer?   I call bullshit! You’re not being fair to yourself — You’d never ask a child to paint like Rembrandt, dance like Nureyev, or sing like Pavarotti,…

  • Creative Writing,  Organization and Research,  Point of View and Character Development,  Productivity,  Prompts,  Theme, Purpose and Outcome,  Thoughts, Opinions and Philosophical Discussions,  Training, Lessons

    Questions and Answers

    How NOT To Write Your Memoir Most people, when they start to write their memoirs, think they have to stick strictly to the facts, that their story has to be a list of the things they did, in the order that they did them.     This simply isn’t true.  It leads to the belief that they have to write their entire history — an autobiography, which, for most people is messy, disconnected and hard to follow.   This means that they end up with a list of dry, dull facts, like some kind of desiccated checklist that may reflect the events of their lives, but doesn’t say much about…

  • Memoirs,  Organization and Research,  Point of View and Character Development,  Prompts,  Theme, Purpose and Outcome

    The Significance of Memories

    Every life has common themes that repeat themselves over and over.  One of my own most common themes is a love of animals, so when my writers’ group chose Favourite Toys as their prompt this week, it got me thinking…     What was my favourite toy as a child?     Of course, there were many…the roller skates that repeatedly steered me towards every crack in the sidewalk, leading to skinned knees and copious tears; the pogo stick that bounced me straight into a pile of fresh dog poop; and the bicycle my parents bought for me — an  unexpected gift and a total, wonderful surprise.    But the…

  • Creative Writing,  Memoirs,  Training, Lessons,  Writers and Writing

    Snippets

    I’m sitting in my recliner, teaching a creative writing class on Zoom, tea cooling beside me, about to show the class how to use short stories in autobiographies.    I’m using the “Homework for Life” exercise from Matt Dicks’ book, “Storyworthy”.  This is an exercise I’ve adapted to fit my short story workshop series and it works like a kind of free-writing or stream-of-consciousness process similar to Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages.    I’ve called this exercise “Snippets” and it’s a ten- or fifteen-minute activity in which students go back over their day and try to find a moment or incident that for some reason sticks out for them.  It also…

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

    It’s All About The Why’s

    Often, an issue that confounds writers is finding they’ve written themselves into a corner or dead end. They wind up stuck, not knowing what happens next or how to resolve the problem. Invariably, this comes from not paying attention to the Why’s. Why would the character do something like that?  Why can’t he just…whatever?  Where does he go from here? This indecision is usually based on a lack of understanding of the character’s psychology — his motivations, which are based on his flaws and emotional wounds, his deepest fears and his goals, his secret desires and his limiting beliefs. Every action the character takes has a motive, and it can’t be just that the…

  • Creative Writing

    Writing as Art

    The following is a comment I posted in reply to a blog post from K.M. Weiland, one of the finest writers I’ve never met, but whom I follow regularly.  Literature as Art In her article, Helping Authors Become Artists, she pinpoints what defines an author who has become an artist at the craft and discusses the necessity for learning the skills of writing, in order that the work cross the border from average to exceptional — the difference between talented amateur and master artist. This is a particular peeve of my own, as I believe it’s essential to learn the disciplines of any art (or science or trade) in order…

  • Creative Writing,  Grammar,  Humour

    Letters

    Gotta love letters — A. B. C.’s.  Without ‘em, our civilization wouldn’t exist.   Other languages – other letters: Cyrillic, Arabic, Greek, Chinese pictographs, Druidic runes, Egyptian hieroglyphs.  Throughout history, in all cultures, somehow, someone has figured out a way to record our activities in a more permanent way than fickle memory allows. The alphabet used in many modern language groups is made up of 26 letters and has the most versatility, as it doesn’t rely on the principle of one symbol, one concept. Our alphabet, our letters, derive from Latin.  The modern English alphabet consists of 26 letters, each having an upper- and lower-case form.  The alphabet’s current form originated in about the 7th…

  • Creative Writing,  Point of View and Character Development,  Structure and Plotting

    Writing Your Life as The Hero’s Journey

    You want to create your memoirs or autobiography.  You want to write about your life, but it seems like a series of unrelated incidents, random events happening one after another.   However, If you look closely, you can see where certain choices and decisions were the key points where your life diverged from one path to a different one.  Each of these “inciting incidents”, to use a fiction-writer’s terminology, had a profound effect on you in one way or another, but at the time, you didn’t see them or the effect they’d have on your life’s journey. The Hero’s Journey is a formula for writing fiction that was identified and…

  • Creative Writing,  Grammar

    National Grammar Day

    Though a proud member of the Grammar Police, I’m as guilty as anyone for breaking the rules of grammar and punctuation when necessary.  However, I strongly believe it’s important to know what those rules are so you can break them intentionally and not simply through ignorance. In the past several years, particularly since global travel has become so accessible and the use of cellphones and the internet have become so all-pervasive, there’s been a wholesale butchering of the English language. I can’t help but wonder how our language will evolve, now that we have instant global communication.  Will we all end up speaking one global language?  Will emojis take over…

  • Humour

    Writers’ Generic Disclaimer

    There’s something that every writer I’ve ever met has, at one time or another, said to their friend, writing buddy or critique group.  It’s the dreaded Writers’ Generic Disclaimer, or what I like to call the WGD.  The WGD goes something like this: “I had trouble with this piece.  It still needs a lot of work.”   Another common variant is: “It’s only a first draft,” or possibly, “It’s still pretty rough.”   Occasionally you’ll hear: “Promise you’ll tell me if it’s no good, but please, be kind.”   There are hundreds of variations on this theme.  We all do it.  But why? In the vast majority of cases, use…