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All I Have is a Whisper (author: Melinda Lancaster)

When I think of encouragement and support for writing, I think of technical learning but I also think of what motivates our words. Many of us go through time we wonder if our words matter. I think Melinda Lancaster spoke that well in this piece so asked if she would allow me to repost it here. Her blog URL is listed at the end of the piece.

 

All I Have is a Whisper

At the beginning of January, I accepted a challenge by Jeff Goins to write 500 words daily for 31 days. Simple and direct it required nothing more and nothing less.

This is a challenge which I should never have had to take.

Writing was once as natural to me as breathing. I did it often. For many years, prior to blogs and “vlogs”, I published short stories and devotionals almost daily. When I wasn’t mining words, I was storing ideas or brainstorming for teaching series. But then something happened to my voice. Or, perhaps, the venue changed around me so suddenly and dramatically that it left me feeling disoriented and lost.

One person in a sea of voices–with laryngitis.

Yes, it seemed that suddenly I lost my voice. I found this to be both frightening and sad. Especially when time didn’t heal it. Doesn’t time heal everything? Or have I just read those words so many times on Facebook feeds and Twitter tweets that I’ve come to take them as fact.

How does someone just stop doing something they have a passion for? It happens all the time. People quit jobs, leave relationships, drop hobbies, etc. Many times they fill the voids in their lives with mind-dulling activities to numb the pain of the loss of something that they love or loved.

I have been guilty of this.

You see, I once loved to write. While I never claimed to be good at it, I truly enjoyed penning my thoughts, feelings, ideas, etc. I was delighted when people responded to my words. Whether it was a handwritten card, conversational email, e-magazine article, or a devotional it seemed that people enjoyed my writing and related to what I shared.

How I miss those days.

The times before the internet became a cacophony of sounds. The years before “churnalism”, blogs, and social media, etc. when people communicated mostly face-to-face. They used email to bridge the gap of distance. Not to promote or sell stuff.  Back then my voice seemed loud and clear.

Not so much these days.

This is why I now struggle to write. Having lost my voice in all of the online noise, it is hard work to try to find it. Can I still type words? Yes, of course. But what should I talk about? There are droves of writers clamoring for people’s time and attention. Many of them have a loud voice and a big audience.

All I have is a whisper.

I know that I need to write first and foremost because I am a writer. It is not for other people that I pen words. I write to fulfill one of the purposes for which I was created. But is it a waste of time if no one hears the words? Wouldn’t my time be better spent doing something else? Have all of the words already been said, re-said, reclaimed and spoken again?

That is what it feels like most days. I, myself, feel as though I’m being stretched and pulled in many directions to keep up with other writer’s content. Why do I bother? Because it is good stuff.  It is useful, insightful, and meaningful. But do I need to add to it? Be another voice in the mix. One more person promoting their ideology in an already overcrowded space?

Sometimes I don’t know.

I have been told that “my voice is needed” but just how can a whisper be heard above the roar of this world? It seems to me that it can only happen if the voice has the right message. Words are good. They are beautiful. Even lovely. But we already have enough words floating around the atmosphere.

What we need are messages.

Life-giving, spirit-stirring, thought-provoking, plan-altering words. I don’t think that just turning oneself over and spilling out will do these days. There is enough of that going on already. For me, as a reader, it gets old unless it happens to meet me “where I am at.”

In the crowd. Longing to be heard. Whispering.

It is hard to imagine that a thin-voiced writer could be heard above all the noise that is already being made. Those kinds of thoughts taunt me daily when I even think about picking up a pen. I am heckled by my own questions. Chided by self-doubt.

And then I remember the words of a song by Tracy Chapman which say “don’t you know, talking about a revolution starts with a whisper.” Hmm, maybe she is on to something. And perhaps, so am I.

Could it be that the volume of your voice doesn’t matter nearly as much as what you have to say.

Is it possible to make an impact with words without being a braggart, liar, or self-promoting fool? I guess that I am about to find out. To do so, I’ve got to find my voice in this season of life. That all begins with a barely audible throaty whisper which says…

“Within me there is a message that matters.”

 
Melinda Lancaster
http://www.melindalancaster.com/2014/02/all-i-have-is-whisper.html#comment-1317856739

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How to Find Your Natural Writing Voice by Lorna Faith

By: Damian Gadal

How to Find Your Natural Writing Voice
by Lorna Faith

“The natural writing process is to write in the 1st person. This is natural – it’s how we tell a story if we’re talking to someone over coffee…” William Zinsser in his Book, On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

I’ve been doing more writing practice lately. I’m digger deeper. I’m learning to find my natural voice. You might be asking, why would I go through all this time and effort to figure this out?

Because intuitively I know that once I find my natural voice, I will have a new freedom to be me.  In all my storytelling. And I really want that… don’t you?

You might be asking, what exactly is your writing voice?

It’s your style. Your unique way of expressing yourself….with all your beliefs and opinions. It’s how you see the world – your worldview.

Your writing voice is what makes you… you.

Why do you need find your voice?

This search for your voice is really about who you really are. What you want to say or don’t want to say. And how you’re going to say all of that.

The effort you put into that, makes you more comfortable with your style. It takes awhile to find your unique voice. And until you find it, you might be a little uncomfortable with your unique writing style.

Finding your voice allows you to communicate to people in a way that’s uniquely you. It attracts people to you and to your writing.

It’s the only real and long-term way to tell your story.

I’ve learned that all it takes is practice.

So I’ve been digging deeper to find my natural writing voice lately.

Here’s an exercise that Les Edgerton mentions in his book Finding Your Voice: How to Put Personality in Your Writing.

He says to take out three sheets of paper and a pen or pencil. Writing the old way, will help free you to get back to your roots. Now, get completely relaxed and comfortable. Now, go back in your mind to when you were a young child(4-6 years old). Write a page describing a really good memory you have from that time. Allow the feelings and emotions to come up and write about them without censoring. Write this description in the vocabulary of that young child. Use words you would have used then. It’s crucial that you do your best to write in the “language” you possessed back then… not the language you use today.

So I did. Here’s what came of that effort…

Moving Day

I can still smell the dust that floated up to coat my nose that chilly spring day. My little four year old legs slid down from Momma’s soft lap that perched high up in the light blue 1963 Ford car. It seemed like a long ways to the dusty earth below. My stubby hands scraped against jagged rocks as I landed, but any pain I felt was forgotten the moment I looked up. With my jaw hanging open, like the opening of a church door, I stared out at the blanket of brown sprinkled with a little green. The mixture of dull colours and lumpy hills looked like one of my older sisters effort at baking a cake. But at this offering before me I wasn’t worried what I would find under the layers of brown. Instead my eyes widened and happy giggles erupted. I choked on the coat of dust that littered my throat and waited for the coughing to stop before I peered up again. Standing to my feet, I wobbled forward, hoping for a better view of the land that was to be our new home. All this space to run and play was a big change from the small lot and house in town our big family of thirteen had squeezed into. I shivered with anticipation. I wouldn’t forget this adventure or my first face-full of dust. 

I soaked in another big breath. My first smell of freedom.

There was something freeing and so natural as I wrote this in first person, based on memories I had of my childhood. It’s like I experienced a shift from blurry to focussed. My writing went from critical to feeling free to be me.

Go ahead and try this exercise – I think you’ll be amazed by what you discover about you and about your voice. It will be freeing.

There’s other exercises and ideas to help you find your natural writing voice. Next week we’ll work on another exercise to help find your voice.

Have you found your natural writing voice? If that’s something that you’re really wanting to figure out, give these exercises a try… I think you’ll be amazed at the freedom you find in your writing. Let me know if you find these posts and exercises helpful, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

hugs, Lorna

*Photo Credit By: Damian Gadal

*Some of the above links are affiliate links and help to support this blog

 

TO COMMENT on this blog post or read others pieces by Lorna Faith please go to: http://rawstorylife.com/how-to-find-your-natural-writing-voice/

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Learning to Fly

So often we label ourselves as deficient not seeing the glory of the wings we have been given to soar. Carryl takes us on the journey as she learns to let her voice fly. It is the same journey we face as writers so I wanted to share it here.

Echoes from the Cave

I’m taking flying lessons.

Actually, I have been for about eight years, I just didn’t know it.

Obviously, it helps to have a good flight instructor and in my completely objective, impartial and in no way biased opinion, I have the best there is.  Lynn has been gifted with a laser-guided, insight capable of skewering a defensive lineman to a brick wall, yet she wields it with the exquisite precision of a sunrise, the solid patience of a mountain stream and the timeless gentleness of an early summer breeze.  She will never force the issue; she will never make you, as a student, follow any path you don’t want to explore.  Personally, I think that would be a little bit like booking a first class trip to Paris but never actually getting off the aircraft, but what the hey.

For all the wondrous things Lynn has taught me, and helped…

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The Write Stuff

Since this blog was created to inspire and encourage writers, in the next while, I am hoping to reblog posts from members of the 500 Word Challenge group that encourage and or inspire us as writers. Tonia has graciously accepted my request to share her post “The Write Stuff”. Thank you for helping me kick this off. If you as readers have read a post in the group that is an inspiration for you, please let me know so that that writer can be invited to highlight their piece here.

The Vast and Inscrutable Imponderabilities of Life

Sometimes, I don’t feel like writing. It’s not that the muse is absent as much as the brain is too giddy. Sometimes, I must search for butterflies. At other times, a horrible malaise comes over me and I have momentary concerns that I am not good enough to do this, and then I say, “Too damn bad. I’m doing it anyway.” Why? Because this is my dream, to be a writer. It’s what I’ve wanted all my life.

I’m lucky because I know this struggle is perfectly normal. I watched my dad do this job (writing/publishing) day-after-day, year-after-year. This is what writers do: they struggle. They show up.

Some days were full of doubt. On those days, my dad looked grey and broken and I worried. He always came around to days of joy and laughter crowing that the “Divine Afflatus” was upon him. On those days, his writing was a breeze.

Though I…

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George Sisneros writes: Hope

♥♥♥ The Heart Of Guatemala ♥♥♥

It was the end of a long day. I just had parent teacher conferences for my boys…all 36 of them. Just 8 boys from the academy were passing all their classes. I didn’t get it. But as I met with the teachers I began to see the mountain I was up against. In the villages of Guatemala, 80% of the students will not pass the 6th grade and my boys were no different. Not yet.

Meet Meybelin. I walk by her home to visit a single mom that we help. Today, as I walked by her house, she ran up and gave me a hug and asked me how I was doing. I mustered up the best smile I could and said, “I’m good Meybelin.” I lied. I was frustrated and my heart was broken for my boys.

I don’t know why, but I asked her if she had gotten her report card. I knew she had. I think it was instinct since I had been asking my boys about their grades all week.

“Yes.” She said with a big smile. And that was it. She didn’t offer how she had done and I was too beat up to ask. Statistics show that even fewer girls than boys graduate from 6th grade. I know Meybelin’s mom and I know she can’t read or write and honestly, selfishly, I didn’t have it in me to see her grades.

A neighbor who was listening stepped in, “Go get your report card and show him mija!”

And off she ran.

When she got back I put my arm around her as I looked at her grades. My eyes welled up. They’re welling up as I type this. Meybelin was quietly and humbly beating the odds. She was not only passing all her classes but she had mostly 80’s and 90’s. I stared at her report card and couldn’t believe it.

I told her that I was so proud of her. I knelt down and hugged her. I didn’t want to let her go. To me she represented hope. Not just for my boys but for all the kids in El Rosario.

I asked her mom if Vonda and I could take them to breakfast on Saturday. I told her that I wanted to reward her daughter for her incredible effort. Meybelin looked up at her mom with a hopeful smile. I’d say she had a bigger smile than usual but she always has a big smile. It’s just who she is. And so, this Saturday, Vonda and I get to have breakfast with the future of Guatemala. With Hope.

As I was walking up the trail from Meybelin’s house, she yelled to me as she almost always does, “Bye George! May God bless you and keep you safe in your travels!”

Today, God spoke to me through a little 3rd grader named Meybelin.

“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” 2 Chronicles 15:7

‪#‎TheHeartOfGuatemala

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Carolyn writes: On Flight

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My minister friend Sherry told me a story a while back about the summer she watched two eagles build a nest. She was in Yosemite National Park, and for days she watched the eagles bring their sticks and bits of whatever else they found for the nest they were building for their young.

She told me that eagles put the most uncomfortable sticks in the bottom of the nest so the baby birds will be forced to go upwards to the upper edges of the nest where they will exercise their wings and learn to fly.

She said she didn’t expect to be there long enough to witness the birth of the baby eagle and see its first flight, but she did get to see it.

The baby eagle took off and flew for a while, but then it landed on a nearby cliff, and had to be coaxed for an hour by its parents before it would fly again.

Finally it took off and soared across the enormous sky.

“What a great way to understand the uncomfortable situations in our lives,” I said to my friend. Instead of complaining about those situations, why not see them as merely the uncomfortable sticks that are meant to motivate us to go upward, grow, mature, and finally try out our own waiting wings?

And why remain in the bottom of an uncomfortable nest when we are meant to fly?

When my friend told me this story, I was aware of a growing discomfort with my life and I was feeling a strong need to make changes.

One day I took the advice of a self-help writer I’d discovered, and made a list of everything I hated (the uncomfortable sticks in my life), and everything I loved. I decided to expand my business, keeping only what I loved, reducing what I hated, and adding only activities I loved doing.

As a result I was happier, and I was also able to give others (the young people I work with) the opportunity to exercise their own creative wings and take on a challenge which ultimately brought them joy, meaning, new artistic skills, and confidence (they wrote their musical).

I discovered that part of my calling is to coax young people away from the cliffs of fear and perfectionism they cling to so they can discover who they are, and what they want and love and are meant to do.

As I write, I am aware of the way I still cling like a baby eagle to the cliff of fear and self-doubt.

I’m scared sometimes.

I’m also aware of the many voices that are coaxing me to leave my cliff of fear and self-doubt for the sake of something greater.

As I respond to these voices that are lovingly and patiently calling me away from the cliff of my self-imposed limitations, I experience grace.

Grace and flight.

Sometimes just watching others fly makes me want to fly.
They are having so much fun, I want to join them.

How can I not respond to the voices that call me away from a limited life of fear and misery to a life that is free, loving, and extraordinary?

How can I not want to fly with the wings of eagles?

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Tonia Writes: A Wind Egg

(Note: a Wing Egg is an egg with a soft shell; from the belief that such eggs were conceived by the wind. It is a fragile, ineffable thing.)

A Wind Egg

I was born blessed with the world’s best father, a man so original, brilliant, kind and decent that I grew up sure of God, and sure of good. This everyday saint with whom I share a love of Puccini, writing and wonder, still graces this planet. We talk philosophy, love and travel.

As much as I learned to love the world and all its quiet wonders from dad, my mom taught a very different lesson.  She, with every gift a woman could desire and despite the support of her family to attend Stanford, took the advice of the nuns from her small Catholic college and became a frustrated and unhappy housewife. Ignoring my father’s efforts to foster her dreams and despite her proud beauty and quick wit, she would not take the world on its terms, staying instead at home to torment the next generation, and I was her favorite target.

I sometimes wonder what was it about me that made her hate me so, though I already know the answer. Her attempts to exert a rigid control on our lives and prove that life was hard, that God was hate failed utterly with me. I rejected the lie, the control and acted out in various ways not knowing the impact of my actions. I skewered holes in her paper cups so the milk piddled on the dinner table and dropped water on lit lamp bulbs just to watch them explode. Between the storms of her anger and the quiet of her neglect, I bucked her attempts to shackle me with her views and paid a heavy price still through direct confrontation.

Often our duels were small affairs that sparked and burned out just as quickly. Others, such as the time she almost drowned me by forcing my head repeatedly under the water of the bathtub in the name of teaching me to swim were terrifying events that left me emotionally annihilated.  Growing up, I wanted to be just like dad for dad was kind and she was crazy. I became a tomboy and blazed a trail away from the enforced insanity of home life. I became expert at reading her moods. I didn’t trust her.

Taking stock as a young adult of the shrapnel she left in my space, I approached the world like a bandit risking neither head nor heart and in that wake, left a heady damage for others to suffer. I am sad to this day that I can’t take back the words and wounds I scattered, all in defense of my own mother wound.

In my twenties, having passed from Catholicism to Agnosticism and from there to nihilism, I discovered this quote from the Dalai Lama, and it became the guiding force of my life. This venerable yoda-like man has done more to advance the cause and understanding of his people through love, humor and mutual interest then could ever have occurred had he gone forth in anger. He said, “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”

My love of his idea and nascent understanding of this advice heaved me in a different direction and opened my eyes to Buddhism. Looking at the bombed out remains of my spirit, this one quote led from the busy marketplace of ideas good and bad into a curiosity about what might be if I stopped projecting my hurt onto the world. Through Buddhism, I considered the idea I had chosen this incarnation and faced the question “Why would I have chosen this mother?” Why this hateful, destructive wretch who so often had told me “I wish you had never been born.”

While I spent months fighting the idea that I might be responsible for my own early suffering, I gradually saw that I was certainly responsible for all the suffering I was then creating in my life. Eventually, I arrived at the place where I understood what I had learned from this mother of mine. I had learned hate, selfishness and fear.

As the years progressed, my father had finally had enough of forty years of verbal abuse and left the marriage. He simply couldn’t take anymore. No one blamed him.

As I watched my mother’s angry tantrums and experienced her vitriol over the demise of her marriage, I watched her drive everyone away. I stood there as she buffeted me with rage, wondering why I wasn’t running too. Despite all the years of her abuse, I still fought her. This was NOT it. It was not enough for me. I was broken not destroyed. She owed us something more.

“I love you,” I said though at first it didn’t register as she grumbled on. I said it again, louder and with defiance “I love you.” That quelled her fervor for the moment. She didn’t ask what I meant though saw her absorb it slightly.  And for the next eight years I told her over and over again “I love you” even when I didn’t, with a “Fake it till you make it attitude,” sure my new strange direction was the right one. Having handled her rejection from the cradle, I held a unique position to ask for change. Over and over again I said it, smiling when ignored or rebuffed. I know I am one stubborn-ass kind of person, but I just couldn’t stop. In this game of “uncle” I was going to win.

One day, she said it back. It came unobtrusively with the tiny force of meaning we reserve for statements such as “I love pretzels” but it was there nonetheless and sat timidly in the space between us gnarled and weather-beaten. I tried not to get too excited or scare it away, a frail wind egg of bare beginning.

We became over the course of the next several years, the best of friends. I loved her wicked sense of humor when not applied to me. As domineering as she was in the lives of her young children, she strongly respected their adult lives and never imposed her views always stating “She’s a grown woman, I can’t tell her how to live.” Her funny observations invariably hit spot on where they burst with truth provoking my raucous laughter. She’d laugh all over again and tell me stories of my “lecherous lumberjack laugh” which entertained her so when I was a child. I began to see the abuse as a smaller part of a greater whole and in that whole, she had loved me, though not always well.

When she unexpectedly developed ovarian cancer in 2009, that laughter became our frontline coping strategy. I chose her nurse based on her competence and humor. Hana Zilker, a tall and imposing Georgian Jewish woman who’d come from Israel, helped me fill mom’s days with meaning and laughter and spoiled her like a baby while bossing her with the command “Jojo, EAT.”

When we entered the cancer experience together, I hoped that love would conquer all and aggressively set about with the help of my husband to find the best medical care to save mom’s life. Mom was a bad patient, a bad guest in our home. Taking no pride in her appearance, she’d allow her colostomy bag to burst so the whole house smelled like effluent and would then wallow in her own wastes for someone to come fix the problem and I learned new ways to use paper towels and horse bandages. My husband and son took it like champs and learned to carry air freshener wherever they went. Sadly, I attribute my son’s early interest in men’s cologne to a desire to escape this affront of death, as he longed for the future promised in a can of Axe.

When mom came home one day and announced that her “lungs were full of snowflakes,” I knew metastatic cancer resided there. Sometimes at night as we sat watching Agatha Christie I would ask her what was wrong, though she would never say. One day, she said “You know,” At that point I knew my efforts to keep up the bright talk should come to an end, that I should stop my parlance of hope and accept that she was dying and love her aggressively, completely and certainly, right up to that end. That end, its journey of fearful consequence, broke heartstrings each by each. When the bedside commode entered the picture, I braced knowing my antipathy for strong smells. 

My sisters asked, “How can you stand this?” I couldn’t explain but to say, “Where else could I be?” With Hana not there one day, I forced my older sister to face her resistance and help me so I didn’t drop mom on the ground and Boo said, “You’re so good at this stuff.” I looked at her strangely as I gagged. She was missing the point: “I’m not good at this. I suck at this. I’m a rotten nurse. I just show up and do it badly.”

Three days before mom died, just after Hana had changed the sheets. The sun streamed in the window casting little globes of light on the ceiling reflected off the marina’s water. Mom said, “Hold me” and I lay on the bed with her holding her in my arms. I wanted to hold her forever even while ambivalence ran through me.  I lay self-consciously on the bed, as the Hana walked in and out. It felt a spoiled intimacy to lay captive there for the anyone to see.

The last thing mom ever said to me was a joke. Our final communion moment was laughter. Thank you God.

When she died on June 20th, I was out of the room debriefing my husband and she lay attended by two of my sisters. She had a sudden heart attack, and my sisters screamed my name. I ran to her room to see her, confronting a wild storm of magenta butterflies, seen by my eye alone. They flew from her liberated, mad with joy, and raced around the room before migrating en masse from my minds eye. She lay dead and glorious. I sat there with a grin wondering if I’d snapped. Later, would come the stumbling uncertain grief that ran headstrong and voracious through my life. For now, I was just happy that she was free.

So, what is the point of this?

Love.

You want to see a better world, LOVE IT. Step away from the pitfalls of hate and judgment whether you are liberal or not and know that love is the fastest way to change the weary world. Go into your mental warehouse and find the big dusty box that says “Love” dust it off and open it. Don’t be surprised when it grins back at you. Love everything, starting with you and roll forward, a vast ineluctable wave. Knock people over with that love. Hate is easy. Judgment is simple. Love is the big Kahuna, the not so easy challenge that rends our souls and spits out the bitter pips.

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