Fearless Writing: Feel First

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I’m jumping into the third chapter of Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write with Confidence by William Kenower. This chapter challenged me in my approach to unfinished pieces. When I open my Google Drive it’s full of partial-manuscripts and half-finished short stories. I’ve completed only one manuscript and it is in need of serious TLC before I can move forward in the process with it.

This chapter is all about how to face the discomfort of resistance when we write. If we exert our own efforts we take a turn in the wrong direction. Oftentimes, that discomfort signifies that we need to stop focusing on words, rules, and audience and realign our feelings with the project.

“This is what I’m selling in my stories: a feeling. I am a feelings merchant.” (Kenower 28)

Facts are far less important to the reader than the feelings that they receive from your writing. So feel first; write second. It’s nearly impossible to write about a feeling that we haven’t also experienced in our own lives. Intellectually knowing an emotion is different than experiencing it.

Sometimes what our writing needs most is for us to get real on the page and let our emotions drip from our fingers.

Practice- Write down some of the lies that have kept you from moving forward on a project

“No one will want to read this.”

“This idea is stupid.”

“You have no idea what you are doing.”

“Does this even make sense?”

“This isn’t interesting.”

“You are not even good at writing. Why are you wasting your time?”

*Whenever these thoughts creep into your writing time and interrupt The Flow of writing, write them down. Stop what you are working on to address that thought on the spot. Then write down the many ways that it is incorrect.

The Ameri Brit Mom

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My (New) Car

Last week I was coming home from dropping my oldest off at church. The battery light came on and all of the lights within my car started to dim. By the time I reached my neighborhood I didn’t have any headlights. It was a scary journey home.

I now know that the alternator needed replaced.

My husband and I weighed the pros and cons of getting the work done. This Toyota Camry was extremely special because it was a gift from friends. It came to us during a time when we really needed it, but couldn’t afford another car payment. That was several years ago and that car now has nearly 310,000 miles!

We’ve known the day was coming when my car would give out. She outlasted anything we’ve ever driven before and aside from this event she has been a very reliable vehicle.

But after counting the costs and investigating our options we decided it was time for a newer car.

We spent time searching local lots and my husband made many calls/emails to different dealerships. He set a price and mileage range. I inquired about the safety of every model that came up in his quest. With two little ones I wanted to be sure that the investment we were making in a new car would be the safest.

A few days later I drove home my (newer) car. A 2015 Nissan Sentra. She has 30,000 miles and we got an amazing deal at Car Source in Grove City.

The Ameri Brit Mom

Balance: Five Minute Friday

It’s a chilly Friday night in Ohio and I’m bundled up in my fluffy robe, fuzzy socks, and fleece blanket. This was one of those weeks that lingered beyond its welcome. Tuesday felt like Friday and each day thereafter was salt in the wound. I’m so glad to jump in on this Five Minute Friday because I’m in need of my community of writers tonight. I love plugging in and spending time in this group of encouragers. This week our prompt is Balance (how ironic!).

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Balance is one of those myths that we tell ourselves so that we believe that we will conquer chaos. Maybe I’m wrong and true balance does exist, but I feel like every time I take a step toward finding that perfect equation I get knocked off course. Part of me wants to believe that at some point I will realize that balance was there all along waiting for me to grasp. Another part of me is skeptical to its existence.

The problem is that I’m trying to balance way too many things.

Faith.

Family.

Friends.

Work.

Exercise.

Writing.

Etc…

The truth is that I cannot balance it all on my own. I go through seasons where I spend more energy in one area of my life than another. That’s the reality of balance. It’s an ever-changing concept. It’s a sliding scale. And the zen version of balance I’ve created in my mind is a pipe dream.

Balance is living each moment according to God’s plan. It’s listening to his direction and following his instruction.

Balance is saying “no” to myself and letting God take the lead. I’ll never achieve balance apart from Christ. Only He is both the Alpha and Omega.

He alone can make it work.

So for now I will rest in the knowledge that my life is in His hands. It isn’t up to me to find that balance. The only way I can overcome the chaos is through surrendering to God.

The Ameri Brit Mom

 

Fearless Writing: The Flow

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As a writer, I sit down to craft my stories or posts with the longing to enter into the zone.

It’s not easy to explain what it’s like to be in this zone. It is a sense of losing oneself to the story or words on the page. It’s also a sense often searched for, but only occasionally achieved.

Some call this “The Muse” while others say it is a “Flow.”

Whatever name you give to this supernatural experience you must admit that some sense of magic resides in its wake.

Entering into the grasp of this zone makes us, “more aware of the world we are writing than the one we are in.” (Kenower)

It is a sixth sense where we forget every worry, fear, and discouragement and replace it with faith in ourselves and our stories.

“Often my best stuff feels like someone else wrote it.” (Kenower)

We get to the end of a session and look back on the work. It is one of the only instances in which time passes and we take no notice. An hour, two, three or more may have passed, but to those in The Flow it stood still.

In this chapter, Kenower gives some rules for achieving The Flow. In order to access this superb focus one must:

  1. Have a willingness to be surprised and abandon your plans for the piece
  2. Trust where the story takes you
  3. Not worry about the past or future (live in the moment)
  4. Exert no effort
  5. Know that there is no right or wrong
  6. Not care what anyone else thinks

Practice: Describe The Flow

When I’m operating in the flow time loses its power. Moments pass by like nature on a scenic drive. I’ve landed in my own head and allowed my feet to be secured to the story. My focus is grounded. The world around me disappears. I am productive.

I capture the flow by centering myself on my goal.

Coffee is always part of the routine as well.

I sit down with the mug and begin to imagine what all will be accomplished. I dream of the characters and my fingers dance across the keys as if they possess their own mind.

The Ameri Brit Mom

Holiday Pen Pals and a Letter Writing Challenge

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The art of letter writing may one day be obsolete.

With the changing tides of technology it is becoming increasingly rare to sit down with a pen and paper to craft a message for someone else. I love the ease with which communication is achieved via emails and social media, but there is something special about moving a pen across a page. We open up a little more when the words pour through the ink of the pen.

As a ninth grade teacher I see the impact of technology everyday. Most of the results are great, but one thing I notice is that the generation of students I am teaching struggle with articulating their thoughts in more than 280 characters. They think of communication as tweets, emails, and videos. And because of that I fear they are losing out on the authentic experience of written communication.

It is out of this observation (and a little help from author and teacher, Kelly Gallagher) that the idea of pen pals came to me.

Over the Holiday season my ninth grade students have all been assigned a student in my husband’s fourth grade class. Each of my students made a journal for their pen pal and wrote them a letter introducing themselves and asking questions.

In our first rounds of writing my husband and I both observed high levels of engagement among our students. Even those students who neglect assignments and perform poorly in writing exercises opened up in letters to their pen pals and offered them advice that helped us to see them in a different light.

Of course, we did establish some rules for these pen pal relationships. We wanted to make sure that conversations remained appropriate and we also wanted to keep privacy a priority so students know only the first name of their pen pal.

The opportunity to write to a REAL student excited my ninth grade classes. The day after the letters they authored were due they were already asking about when to expect a response. Many of them put a lot of effort into decorating and writing in the journals and eagerly looked forward to hearing back from their new friends.

I stated on Friday that I will be undertaking the challenge of writing one letter a day for the month of December. The motivation behind this challenge comes from witnessing the way my students long for this written form of communication. If you would like to join me in that challenge check out my post Deep: Five Minute Friday and let me know in the comments.

The Ameri Brit Mom

Deep: Five Minute Friday

It’s a cold and wet Friday morning here in Ohio. It’s beginning to look (and feel) a lot like Christmas. I’m excited to join my link-up pals over at Five Minute Friday today. This week our prompt is Deep.

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How many people in your life would you consider to be true friends?

I’m not talking about the Passing-Comment-“How-Are-You-Doing?” type of friend. I’m asking you to think about those friendships that have depth.

Think about the ones who gets all of your jokes.

The ones with whom you can make eye contact and somehow tap into ESP.

The ones who seem to know something is wrong with you before you know yourself.

The ones who encourage you at exactly the right time.

The ones who pray for you.

The ones who know you on a deeper level than anyone.

In this day and age it is becoming increasingly harder to possess this kind of friendship in our lives. Technology has made it easy for us to expand our list of friends, but at the cost of depth. Those online friends see the edited version of our lives that we choose to make public, but those ugly moments are far from their view.

This Christmas season I’ve challenged myself to step away from the computer and Smartphone and hand-write one letter each day to someone who has influenced me. There’s something about a written letter that helps to foster that deep level of friendship that we all long for.

I’m starting on December 1, and I would love if you want to join me. I’ll be talking more about this next week on my blog so be sure you come back to visit. Let’s take our friendships deeper this Christmas.

If you want to join in the letter writing I’d love to know in the comments!

The Ameri Brit Mom

Fearless Writing: A Writer’s Worst Fear

A couple of years ago I did a chapter-by-chapter review of several different books on writing. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is still one of my very favorite writing books. It’s been a while, but nine months after giving birth I am starting to feel like myself and ready to get back in the habit of writing on a regular basis. I ran to my bookshelf to Fearless Writing, a book I received last Christmas but haven’t had a chance to read yet.

Fearless Writing was written by William Kenower, Editor in Chief of Author magazine, he is most known for his teaching on the craft of writing. This book focuses less on craft and more on the thought-process necessary to develop in order to be a successful storyteller.

I look forward to re-establishing a weekly routine of cracking open a good book, sharing some thoughts, and practicing new skills. I will approach each week with some thoughts I had while reading the chapter and then I will also post my 5 minute practice that follows the prompt at the end of the chapter. I hope that these posts inspire you as a writer. Feel free to follow along with the prompts and if you should post in response on your own page I’d love for you to send me a link in the comments.

Welcome to Chapter 1.

A Writer’s Worst Fear

Most writers fight a battle before they ever touch pen to paper or open a new document on their computer. For some, the battle is in finding the time and space conducive for writing. But more often than not the battle is one waged within the mind of the writer. Its weapon of choice is doubt and it attacks every creative thought or ambition before it lands on the page.

The biggest fear affecting writers is What will other people think of my work?

It feels great to receive positive feedback. But when readers aren’t singing your praises after a heartfelt post, story, or chapter it can damage the confidence of the mind behind its creation.

Rejection is part of the process. If your writing is intended for anyone else to see there will be rejection–there is no question about it.

Writing fearlessly is all about approaching fears in a new way. Instead of allowing fear stifle your creativity use it to propel your writing into bold confidence. Start your writing with accepting the fact that someone will dislike what you have to say, but don’t let that become an excuse for censuring your creativity.

Writing is a highly personal venture.

Every writer picks up the pen with a different purpose. Every reader approaches a piece with their own experience and lens as well.

Getting beyond fear already puts you at a 1-0 record. And when you start your writing session with the mentality of a champion then fear is pushed down to its healthy dwelling place and your imagination has the license to embrace every idea.

5 Minute Practice- Create two characters. One is a confident, experienced writer while the other is struggling. Through their conversation offer advice to the struggling character. Then heed that advice yourself.

“Stacey, it’s so good to see you!” Mel reached around her friend’s back balancing the paper cup in her hand. “I’ve missed you so much.”

Stacey’s face emitted a small smile contrasting with that of her friend. Through layers of clothes and a large coat Stacey allowed the warmth of her friend’s embrace to throw off a little of the weight she was bearing that morning on the ride over to the coffee shop.

“Go ahead and order. I’ll find us a table.” Mel spoke as she left Stacey at the counter in search of an empty corner of the shop for the two to sit down and work.

What am I doing here? Stacey thought to herself. It’s been months since I’ve thought about writing. Why did I agree to meet Mel?

She allowed her eyes to browse the menu and settled on an order of hashbrowns, since she skipped breakfast, and a hot mocha to sip on as she worked. After placing her order Stacey joined Mel at a small table in the corner of the shop.

“Oh, it’s been so long. Tell me what is going on. How are the kids?” Mel jumped right in as Stacey peeled off her dark coat and pulled her laptop from her secondhand bag.

“The kids are great. Bill has them this morning so let’s hope they survive.” Stacey pretended that had been a joke and not the reality of her thoughts on the ride over. This was the first time she left Bill alone with both girls since Becca had been born nine weeks earlier.

“I’m sure all is well, Mama.” Mel chuckled. “I’m just so happy you could escape for a little girl time.” Mel pushed her paper cup to her lips as the waitress approached with Stacey’s order.

“I hope you don’t mind I ordered some food. I’m starving.” Stacey said apprehensively.

“Not at all. I get it.” Mel smiled. “So tell me about your work. Any new chapters since we’ve spoken?”

“Well, there isn’t much to tell.” Stacey began as she picked up her fork and weaved it through the shredded hash browns. “I haven’t powered-up my laptop in three months. Let’s hope I still have the magic today.” She placed a hand on the closed computer in front of her. The companionship she once shared with the device had been replaced by a layer of dust that she only removed that morning before packing up for the date.

“There’s nothing wrong with that, Stacey. And I’m sure as soon as you are ready all of your magic will return. I love your work and I cannot wait to read something new.” Mel encouraged.

Stacey smiled back doubt and shoved her mouth with a forkful of potatoes.

“Don’t be so hard on yourself. We all go through seasons and even the best authors need some time away. Having a baby is a perfect excuse for taking a breather. It’s not like you’ve been sitting at home doing nothing. You’ve had a baby to feed and care for. I think you will find that the confidence will return and you’ll be back into it very shortly. How about coming with me this week to Writing Group? I’m sure seeing everyone again will help.”

The Ameri Brit Mom

The Faith of a Child

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Last Sunday as we were headed home from church my oldest daughter and I somehow landed on the topic of baptism. On a few occasions she witnessed others within our church as they declared to the congregation their new life in Christ. Her curious mind probed my husband and I, but before long she lit up and said, “I want to be baptized.”

I was so proud of her decision. The fact that she could articulate the purpose of baptism at six years old is unfathomable to me. She’s a girl on fire for Jesus!

Yesterday our church celebrated her baptism along with several friends and family. The entire children’s program also came in so they could support her. After she came out of the water she was all smiles and shivers.

I’m so proud of the way she has chased after Jesus.

On October 3rd she prayed and accepted Jesus, but he was active in her life long before that. Her heart is evidence of that. She has a beautiful soul and is kind to everyone.

God has big plans for her.

The Ameri Brit Mom

 

 

Value: Five Minute Friday

Happy Friday!

I hope those of you who live in the USA had an amazing Thanksgiving gathered with loved ones and lots of yummy food. Thanksgiving was a little different in my family this year as my youngest sister is living in Canada. Her empty seat at the table was a constant reminder of the miles between us. Thankfully, Mom and Dad are headed to Niagara today in a car packed with leftovers and cards from all of us.

Today I’m gathering with others that I am also thankful for as we meet up every Friday to share encouragement and life with one another. This week the Five Minute Friday community is writing on the prompt: Value.

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With the conclusion of Thanksgiving festivities our hearts turn in anticipation toward the Christmas season. I woke up this morning to a Facebook feed endlessly announcing Holiday sales. Like many, I spent time yesterday with the people that mean the most to me and being thankful for all the Lord has blessed me with. But, like many of you, I am so tempted to turn around–not 24 hours later, and cultivate a spirit of want.

Can we just have a day to simmer in the juices of thanksgiving? I mean, goodness, our turkeys marinate longer than us!

How can we so quickly switch from “Lord, thank you” to “Lord, I want”?

This holiday season I am praying to stay cognizant of my attitude.

I want to enter into this Christmas season with the same sense of thankfulness that I felt gathered around the table yesterday.

The promise of a Savior–that is why I am thankful and why I anticipate Christmas.

Please join me in remembering the true gift of family and placing value on the things that matter most this season.

The Ameri Brit Mom