Archive for the 'Reasons to Write' Category

Reasons to Write: Write to Heal

By Christina KatzChristina Katz
Are you in pain? Are you confused about what you want in life? Or, even if you know what you want, are you unable to express it? If you answer yes to any or all of these questions, then you might want to consider writing to heal before you begin writing for publication.
 
When you write with the intention to heal, amazing growth can occur that creates a ripple effect of good in your life. Writing to heal will clear the way for the writing to get published down the road. Think of it as a kind of spring cleaning, clearing of the decks, preparing of the soil, or any other words that help you remember how writing to heal can lay the foundation that you can then build a solid writing career upon.
 
And if you are already in the midst of your writing career and find yourself standing on shaky or uncomfortable ground, writing to heal can help restore balance and a feeling of wholeness. When the stakes are high and you’ve got a lot on your plate, it’s not a bad idea to restore a little faith in yourself. That’s exactly what writing to heal does.
 
I am no stranger to writing to heal. I spent several years after I completed my coursework at Columbia College Chicago just writing to repair my own cracked foundation. Then several years later, I switched gears and began writing for publication. Naturally, the latter went a lot better than it would have had I not spent years focused on filling notebooks with every thought, complaint, fear and worry.
 
Have I been perfectly neurosis-free ever since? Of course not. But those years of self-inquiry freed me from the perfectionism prison that I had, unwittingly, been living inside. They loosened the chokehold that my perceptions of other people had on me. And they allowed me to just be myself in a more authentic and integrated way.
 
Of course, none of these changes happened quickly. They all occurred gradually and continue to unfold even when I don’t devote the lion’s share of my energy to writing to heal. That’s because the payoff of writing to heal has long-term benefits. There were things I learned during those years that I will never forget.
 
I don’t believe that there is any perfect opportunity for writing to heal; you just have to make time for it the best you can. But I do believe that if you need to heal but avoid it, your unhappiness will create roadblocks to your success. So don’t be ashamed if you feel like perhaps you need to put writing for publication aside, and focus your energy on writing to heal instead.
 
If you are unsure, just ask yourself a couple of questions like those I began this piece with. Do you know what kind of prisons you are living inside? Do you know how to write your way out? If not, I recommend devoting time and energy to the process on a regular basis if you feel that writing to heal might benefit you. Best of luck on your writing-to-heal journey! Here are some books that can help you get started:
 
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
 
Writing Down the Bones by Nathalie Goldberg
 
Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott
 
How You Do Anything Is How You Do Everything by Cheri Huber
 
Your Heart’s Desire by Sonia Choquette
 
Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach

 
 

Writer Mama by Christina KatzGet Known Before the Book Deal by Christina KatzChristina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Build an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (both for Writer’s Digest Books). A platform development coach and consultant, she teaches writing career development, hosts the Northwest Author Series, and is the publisher of several e-zines including Writers on the Rise. Christina blogs at The Writer Mama Riffs and Get Known Before the Book Deal, and speaks at MFA programs, literary events, and conferences around the country. Her new website is located at christinakatz.com.

Reasons to Write: Write to Express Yourself

By Christina KatzChristina Katz
We have arrived at my number one reason to write: to express myself. But before I can communicate well with anyone else, first I need to communicate with myself.
 
Sounds easy, right? But anyone who writes will tell you that there is a lot more to self-expression than meets the mouth.
 
I remember once upon a time when I was in my twenties and getting an astrological reading. The astrologer, whose name was Mary, finally said to me about three quarters of the way through our conversation, “You need to speak up, Ms. Virgo Moon. Speak up!”
 
I was slightly startled and I sat there blinking for a moment. Mary had been pretty sensitive to my twenty-something angst up until that point, but about “speaking up” she seemed to have struck a key point.
 
The only problem was that I had no idea, if I ever did decide to speak up, what I’d say. How can I communicate well with you, if I don’t know what I think, feel, or sense?
 
My thoughts in my twenties were a swirl of self-consciousness, neediness, and voracious appetites. The same can still go for today if I’m not centered when I express myself. If that happens what you are likely to hear mostly are complaints, concerns, and whatever else happens to be chafing my mind at the moment.
 
On the other hand, if I’ve spent some time writing before we talk, I can get a load of chatter off of my head and settle into my deeper mind, I can tell you about the things that matter most. Share revelations. Maybe even experience an epiphany and capture it like a lightning bug.
 
What I’ve learned over the years of slow self-revelation is that when it comes to self-expression, the key isn’t to censor what you think. The key is to be able to tell the difference between someone you can say anything to and someone with whom you should probably stick to polite conversation.
 
Have you ever noticed that there are an awful lot of people in the world who wish to only speak about superficial things? Don’t try to share your deep mind with these folks because you will likely just make them uncomfortable. Find some deeper minds that compliment yours. Tell them what you really think because on the other side of what you really think is the truth. Not just any truth but yours.
 
Remember the movie, “Say Anything”? Remember how Lloyd Dobbler said he was looking for a “dare to be great situation”? Here’s who you can say anything to: people who love you, best friends, and pieces of paper. If you want to find your dare to be great situation, explore these possibilities first. And then you will find out what you think followed swiftly by what you want to say. That’s how you get beyond polite conversation to the material that really matters.
 
Express means to say, to show meaning, to reveal your thoughts. If your thoughts come tumbling out like circus clowns, then so be it. But find the tribe of folks who will allow this to happen if you want to get to your deep mind.

When was the last time you were with someone who would allow your thoughts to just come tumbling out? Stick with those people. Listen to them too. Sharing the stuff found in your deep mind with another person is probably the most important gift in the world…and the rarest.
 
 
Writer Mama by Christina KatzGet Known Before the Book Deal by Christina KatzChristina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Build an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (both for Writer’s Digest Books). A platform development coach and consultant, she teaches writing career development, hosts the Northwest Author Series, and is the publisher of several e-zines including Writers on the Rise. Christina blogs at The Writer Mama Riffs and Get Known Before the Book Deal, and speaks at MFA programs, literary events, and conferences around the country.

Reasons to Write: Write to Relax

By Christina Katz

Do you feel calmer and more centered after writing? I know I do. Maybe I’m just a wound up ball of Christina Katznervous energy and the only way I can loosen up is by channeling that creative urge into a discipline like writing. Maybe I can’t really loosen up unless I have a pencil in hand or a keyboard at my fingertips. Maybe I am just too intense!
 
Although, to cut myself a little bit of slack, when writing is what you do every day, it’s easy to forget that you ever wrote to relax. The typical cause of this type of amnesia is usually deadline pressure and other professional obligations, which interferes with the playful joy of just splashing around in the creative process without a worry in the world- typically the kind of experience that brought many of us to writing in the first place.
 
I am certainly not exempt. When the deadlines are running high, I sometimes forget that writing and relaxing go together like lolling in a hammock goes with summer. Yesterday, after a couple of days of feeling out of sorts, I sat down and cranked out an article that was almost due.
 
Afterwards, I remarked to my husband what a great mood I was in…and then I noticed why. I was in a great mood because I had just finished a period of concentrated writing. It did not matter that this was an assignment that I have every month. It did not matter that the material I was writing has already been well traversed by my pen. I completely enjoyed composing the article and polishing it for publication.
 
Yet it was only because I forgot how much I like to write that I enjoyed it so much. Like most things, the harder you try to keep the feelings the same as they once were, the more elusive the pleasurable ones become. Actually, the more you insist on things staying exactly the same, the less you can really grow as a writer.
 
So if the process of writing isn’t as relaxing as it once was, you might want to reunite with a long-lost friend, that antique among writing devices, the pencil.  And since we’re talking about pencils, we can’t go much further without also bringing up the pencil’s best friend, a good electronic pencil sharpener.
 
I am writing this column on a yellow legal pad with a newly sharpened pencil, while sitting on the floor of my carpeted office, with my back against the floral-pattern couch, listening to the whisper of graphite on paper. The rhythmic movement of my hand across the page making a sharp point dull soothes whatever savage beasts I might have been wrestling with only moments ago.
 
In fact, if you were to bring up one of the beasts by name in this moment, I would shrug it off: Beasts, what beasts? Shhh. I’m writing. By the time my pencil is made dull, I’ll forget that I ever had a negative thought, a neurotic impulse, or a bad habit. None of them will have mattered one whit. I will be as close to at peace as a ball of nervous energy can come.
 
You might be tempted to try and bottle that feeling of blissful release. To try and replicate it every time you sit down to write. But don’t. You can get hooked on your own compulsive urges. They can wreck things that otherwise work beautifully. Don’t. Just forget the results you hope for and feel the whirl of the motor as you sharpen up that pencil.

 Writer Mama by Christina KatzGet Known Before the Book Deal by Christina KatzChristina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Build an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (both for Writer’s Digest Books). A platform development coach and consultant, she teaches writing career development, hosts the Northwest Author Series, and is the publisher of several e-zines including Writers on the Rise. Christina blogs at The Writer Mama Riffs and Get Known Before the Book Deal, and speaks at MFA programs, literary events, and conferences around the country.

Reasons to Write: Write to Grow

Christina Katz

By Christina Katz
Another of the many reasons I write is to grow. I recently doodled a picture of my writing career and it came out looking like a garden. Each row of plants represents something I do: writing, publishing, speaking, teaching, hosting, mentoring, etc. The money invested in my education both in the past and my continuing, ongoing education enrich the soil and allow for a steady stream of crops coming up season after season.

I love that feeling of putting good stuff in and getting good stuff out. Of composting the old writing to see what new something can grow out of the steaming, decomposing muck. The realization that what remains can be reused to enrich the next crop. That nothing goes to waste.

Given the economy, and the massive switch over to a “gig” economy from a more long-term career focus, some days I can’t believe how lucky I am to have started my garden over a decade ago, so that I’m not rushing and trying to catch up with the times.

I remember my early days as a writer though. There were just a few shoots coming up in my garden. I remember the feeling that I did not have enough gigs cropping up and the frustration of not being exactly sure what to do to get more.

I stayed with it though. I found mentors. I read books. I attended workshops. I went to writer’s conferences. I interviewed successful people I admired. And I expanded my skills beyond just writing.

We are living in changing times. The real farmers who have actual farms and acreage and seeds and the hope of future crops are in trouble. And just because I have created my own farm so to speak, which doesn’t require any actual soil, seeds, or crops, doesn’t mean I should turn my back on the real thing-the real world, I mean.

The Internet is swell. It has allowed me to have the career I’ve always wanted. However, I find myself needing to remember that I don’t live in the virtual world my 2.0 career thrives on. Rather, I live in the real world with real people and real pains and joys and middle places.

The Jungian psychologist Marian Woodman speaks often in her work about the shadow side of things. Every person has a shadow side. Deny the humanity of a person long enough and the shadow side will take over. The shadow side is unfeeling, numb, and insatiable, unlike the alive, intuitive, balanced self who can experience the full spectrum of emotions, connect and know beyond circumstance.

The saving grace for me, as a person who thrives in the Internet Age, is that I found my legs as a writer first. Writing has always helped me discover my feelings, communicate with others, and stretch as a human being. Writing has always been a way to grow. I am convinced that without writing my spirit would have been thwarted, stuck, and confined to that horrible feeling of darkness-my shadow.

The shadow is a cold, dark and miserable place to exist on a daily basis. And though I haven’t lived there in many, many years, if you’ve ever been there, then like me you know about the fear and hopelessness that chokes or smothers anything that wants to grow.

This summer, I hope you will come outside and play in the warm, fertile haven of the garden. You can even bring your notebook. Just be sure to get some dirt under your fingernails.

Writer Mama by Christina KatzGet Known Before the Book Deal by Christina KatzChristina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Build an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (both for Writer’s Digest Books). A platform development coach and consultant, she teaches writing career development, hosts the Northwest Author Series, and is the publisher of several e-zines including Writers on the Rise. Christina blogs at The Writer Mama Riffs and Get Known Before the Book Deal, and speaks at MFA programs, literary events, and conferences around the country.

Reasons to Write: June-The Discovery Zone

By Christina Katz
If you’ve ever read my books, heard me speak or taken a class with me, then you are no doubt familiar with a drum I Christina Katzbeat often and hard: don’t wait to be discovered; produce yourself!

The flip side of my frequent don’t-wait-to-be-discovered admonition is, naturally, to discover yourself. The word “discover” means to see, to get knowledge of, to learn of, to find, to gain sight of, to notice and to realize.
Once you become willing to discover yourself, you have the key to everything-you can know your thoughts, uncover your plans and ambitions, and see the best path right in front of you.

Why is this so important these days? Because if you don’t know which direction you are headed and why, there are more ways to get off the path and into the woods than ever. So if your choices feel like they spoke in too many directions, why not pause and dive back into self-discovery? Even five minutes of self-reflection can get you out of spin mode and reset your clarity of direction. Because if you don’t know who you are, what you are all about, and where you are going, then nobody else is going to get it either.

Why then, would you want to write to become discovered, when the same skill can be used to see and know anything and everything you are ever curious about? When you feel adrift in a sea of choices, don’t reach for the input of others. Reach for your pen or your keyboard and-WOOSH!-you’ll find that you had the power to shine in your capable hands all along. Next thing you know, you are off, making discoveries that can take you and your readers anywhere.

Through writing you can discover a new use for something old. Indeed the process of writing IS a new use for something old: you get to share a seemingly endless stream of words on nothing but good ol’ brainpower. What a joy to discover something for yourself through the process of writing that may have been previously known to others but was unknown to you.

Writing allows you to chance upon ideas, to observe closely or from a distance, to notice what you hadn’t before, to find out things that thrill and dismay you, and to identify, name and claim what is revealed.

When you write to discover, instead of writing to be discovered, you are an active force in the world. You become privy to your own thoughts, your personal passions, your true feelings, your once distant memories, and the very stuff you need to express. Your efforts pay off with exponential rewards, which cannot be topped by literary accolades or rave reviews.

You remember to write for the pure bliss of writing. You come to the center. The seed. The source from which creation springs. And from there, do you really need the adoration or acclaim or attention of others? You don’t. You have it all. The key to creation. The core. The root. And the discovery is divine.

Writer Mama by Christina KatzGet Known Before the Book Deal by Christina Katz Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Build an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (both for Writer’s Digest Books). A platform development coach and consultant, she teaches writing career development, hosts the Northwest Author Series, and is the publisher of several e-zines including Writers on the Rise. Christina blogs at The Writer Mama Riffs and Get Known Before the Book Deal, and speaks at MFA programs, literary events, and conferences around the country.

Reasons to Write: Write to Sustain Yourself

Christina Katz

By Christina Katz
Sustenance is an especially good word to describe why I write. I write to sustain myself. I write to nourish myself and others. I write for money, sure. Why shouldn’t I? But I also write to provide for others and to be provided for by my own words.

I’ve heard a lot of writers say, “I write because I can’t not write.” In fact, I’ve heard this line so often, it has become a cliché for me.

I am capable of not writing. Certainly I’ve had periods in my life where I wrote less than I do now. But if I look more closely at my past, I realize that I was writing. I was journaling and eventually journaling led me back to writing for others.

So even when I tend to think I wasn’t writing, I was. I’ve pretty much been writing my entire adult life. I’ve filled notebook after notebook and now I write book after book, article after article, column after column. Sometimes I think I don’t even realize how prolific I am.

Conversely, when I write for others, I tend to journal less. Or at least, I tend to journal less formally and more irregularly. Journaling becomes more like jottings. Just a quick splash on paper to figure out what I’m trying to say. When I’m writing a lot, I lean towards a sketchbook page rather than a lined notebook. Perhaps all my deadline writing causes my mind to crave the blank white space.

As a kid, I filled a manila folder with my accumulated writings. What is it about the slow accumulation of words, then paragraphs, and finally pages that gives sustenance to the kind of person who loves to write?

I relish the alchemy of mind meeting paper. I never tire of it. I delight in the unlimited possibilities. Yet the slow, methodical process of laying down words is grounding, as well. Words are like clay. You can sculpt them into one thing and then smash them back together and start over again. You wouldn’t want to preserve anything but your best work in final form, but you love the grit under your fingernails and the give and take of the words in your hands, you eagerly anticipate the final polished piece.

Doesn’t this really describe more than writing because you can’t not write? To me that expression sounds like a mosquito bite that you can’t not scratch. I believe that writing runs a lot deeper than a response to an external irritation. Perhaps the writer is more like the oyster kneading the piece of sand into something exquisite, or the potter kneading the clay into something more than a pot that merely contains.

So many writers sure seem to have transformed a nervous habit into something more precious. I have a fairly intense personality, so maybe I write to temper my more extreme urges. Maybe I write because each word is like a tiny weight mooring me a little bit more into this world and preventing me from floating away. Maybe every word of mine I see on paper is a tiny acquisition of myself, the act of self-claiming, the declaration of being.

Rather then writing as a raison-d’etre, then, perhaps writing is the affirmation of what already is. A way of saying what is and is not true. Each word a step closer to substance. Each session calling us to become our own disciple. Reminding us to not give ourselves away. But to own it. Every single word. All of it, sustenance.

Writer Mama by Christina KatzGet Known Before the Book Deal by Christina Katz Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Build an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (both for Writer’s Digest Books). A platform development coach and consultant, she teaches writing career development, hosts the Northwest Author Series, and is the publisher of several e-zines including Writers on the Rise. Christina blogs at The Writer Mama Riffs and Get Known Before the Book Deal, and speaks at MFA programs, literary events, and conferences around the country.

Reasons to Write: Write to Avoid Housework

Christina Katz

By Christina Katz
It’s not a secret that I dislike housekeeping. Relatives have come right out and suggested to my face hiring someone without apologizing for their directness. But I look at this as more of a sign of their intolerance for our wabi-sabi lifestyle than anything else.

I’m an author, teacher, and speaker and my husband is a teacher and theater director. Our careers require a certain amount of creative immersion that we happen to enjoy. I realize our relaxed lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but over the years in the class I teach especially for moms, I’ve become something of a mess evangelist.

The way it happened is that the moms in my class kept saying they didn’t have time to write. And finally, after tossing out all of my other suggestions, I threw down the gauntlet.

Stop cleaning so much. Lower your expectations about a perfectly orderly home. Ask for and expect more help with household chores from the whole family. Is it still a radical idea, even in the new millennium, that the “woman of the house” is not 100 percent responsible for the cleanliness of the house?

That time to write has got to come from somewhere.

Often women who are home raising kids but are not making a financial contribution feel stuck. They want to start, for example, a writing career from home but their husbands don’t want them to try. They don’t want their wives to make the investment of time and money into becoming a professional who works from home, even though writing is the lowest-investment business you can start-up.

Notice I didn’t say writing is a no-investment business. Rather it’s a low-investment business. Now I think we all know where I stand on this idea. I have had students sneak my class onto a credit card without telling their spouse until the class was over. And though, I don’t especially enjoy being privy to such intimate couple dynamics, we get the picture. Women want to learn skills that can help them make money from home so they can have the best of both worlds. What’s wrong with that?

So here are some tips for those who not only want to write to avoid housework, but those who need to avoid housework in order to write:

1.    Eschew conformity. Don’t confuse your value as a human being with how clean your home is. I have known some fabulous women who couldn’t cook or clean worth a darn. And if anything, this fact only makes them more charming and memorable to me.

2.    Make housekeeping a team sport. Crank up the music. Give everyone a job. Tackle the worst of it for a couple of hours on the weekends. It’s amazing how much a family can get done when everyone works together. Even very young children love to dust, squirt windows and mirrors and sweep. Get them their own special cleaning tools so they really can contribute.

3.    Hurry up and get paid for writing. The longer you drag your feet and dilly-dally, the more skepticism you’ll be confronted with from others. In all of my years of teaching, I have to say that I have encountered many women who seem to want a guarantee before they commit. I can’t give them that. But I can almost guarantee that if you don’t commit, you won’t succeed.

4.    Read the book, A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder–How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and On-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place by Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman. Or listen to it on audio while you clean up a little bit between juggling kids and writing gigs.

Viva tolerable messiness! Now if I could only get our dogs to pull their weight around here, I’d be all set.

Writer Mama by Christina KatzGet Known Before the Book Deal by Christina Katz Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Build an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (both for Writer’s Digest Books). A platform development coach and consultant, she teaches writing career development, hosts the Northwest Author Series, and is the publisher of several e-zines including Writers on the Rise. Christina blogs at The Writer Mama Riffs and Get Known Before the Book Deal, and speaks at MFA programs, literary events, and conferences around the country.


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  • This Blog Moving to ChristinaKatz.com as of December 30, 2009… December 27, 2009
    We’re moving! Writers on the Rise archives have been here for years. I hope that WordPress will let the archive live on for a good long time. However, it’s time to move on, bittersweet as change may be. Please come and find me at my new digs: http://christinakatz.com. And while we’re both thinking of it, […]
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