Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: writer

Looking For Inspiration for Writing Your Story?

If you’re in need of some inspiration for writing your story, this is the book you need to get. You can’t have my copy though because it’s riddled with notes, from pieces underlined to exclamations of joy. From the very start I felt a connection with the author, like a fantasy story where the book knows whose hands it needs to be in and finds its way there.

Inspiration for Writing in the form of a book. Wild Mind cover on a pile of blankets.

It’s been a month since I finished reading it and as I flipped through the pages looking for a good quote to riff off of, I realized that the magic I felt while reading it had already begun to fade from my memory. How can that be?! I remember thinking that I should go back and do many of the “Try this!” sections of the book, but never did. I had begun to incorporate them into my daily writing routine. And then life, I suppose.

No worries though. I plan on keeping this one out on my desk, not hidden in the bookshelf, to flip through when I need encouragement and inspiration.

The following are a few of my favorite quotes and some words of my own in response.

“Over and over, we have to go back to the beginning. We should not be ashamed of this. It is good. It’s like drinking water; we don’t drink a glass once and never have to drink one again. Over and over, we begin. This is good. This is kindness. We don’t forget our roots.”

As the Mandalorian says, “This is the way.” Writing, like most of life, is a long series of restarts. Each time through, if we’re paying attention, we learn something new and build on it. It’s a slow spiral up and then then we die. Hopefully we get the chance to share what we’ve learned with others before we go.

“When you write a memory, it isn’t in the past anyway. It’s alive right now.”

I have found this to be especially true when I was writing the memoir of my arrest, among other stories. It’s like I’m there, reliving it all in my mind. It hurt and it was terrifying at time, but the wonderous thing is that, as I write, I’m separate from the event while I’m reliving it. This time I get the chance to slow down and speed up the moment. That’s when I get to process and reflect on it, makes sense of it or choose to let it be. Then the pain of reliving it has a meaning and purpose.

“Katagiri Roshi said in his book Returning to Silence (Shambhala, 1988) that it is not important whether a spiritual teacher has reached the peak or not; what is important is how he has digested the truth he has experienced and how much this truth is manifested in the teacher’s life moment by moment. This is true in writing, too.”

And now I need THAT book (clicks over to Thriftbooks and adds it to the wishlist). The feeling behind imposter syndrome is just this. We don’t need to have all the answers. We don’t need to be completely with it and composed. We only need to have the beginnings of knowing ourselves and the drive and courage to be open and honest. We’re not leaders or gurus. We’re just people sharing our experiences with others.

“It is the nature of a human being, like having a heartbeat and a breath. Thoughts really happen involuntarily. …the brain continues to have thoughts whether we will them or not.”

Oh, those pesky thoughts. Reminds me of how detestable the idea of a “thought crime” in Orwell’s 1984 is. Contrary to popular belief, thoughts, like feelings, are involuntary. Once we are aware of that, we can hold them and examine them to see if they are correct or useful. First we hold a thought out in the light, put our glasses on, then we can decide what we want to do with it.

“Writing is elemental. Once you have tasted its essential life, you cannot turn from it without some deep denial and depression. It would be like turning from water. Water is in your blood. You can’t go without it.”

I’ve tried giving this up, really. Even when I’m at my lowest, laying on the floor in my livingroom, crying to my husband that “No one in the whole world is reading this! And even if there is, they are probably only reading it as an example of mediocrity!” I still get up the next day and start typing…or scribbling in my notebook. I’ll set it aside for a few days, but then I get hungry and begin again. I have to breathe.

“Writing is the act of discovery. If I knew everything ahead of time, why bother writing?”

It’s lines like this that made me smile. I’m not alone. I just start typing and sometimes she comes out to play.

“I am my own mind. I claim my thoughts. My mouth and the words I say with it are mine and no one can take that away. I can’t write like Dostoyevski or Henry Miller. I write like myself.”

If you sat with me over a cup of coffee, you’d hear the same words you read here. Maybe if you heard me talking with people at a party, you’d recognize me.

“You have to let writing eat your life and follow it where it takes you. You fit into it; it doesn’t fit neatly into your life. It makes you wild.”

I’m not a “let it go and see what happens” kind of girl, but the older I get, the more I allow it, and the more I wish I had started earlier.

“My writing self is braver than the rest of me. I follower her, trust her, but I know my human self, the part of me that is not a warrior of truth and words, lags behind me.”

Have you ever been in a conversation and then hours afterwards thought, “Dammit! I wish I had thought of that to say!”? That is her. She hides from view, taking notes, thinking of all the witty, clever, and brilliant things to say, but she’s too shy to make herself known face to face. She’ll save those words for later and write them instead. She also comes out of hiding when triggered to respond to social media posts and the sincerely regrets she has fingers to type with.

“You’ll lose your reader if you are vague, not clear, and not present. We love details, personal connections, stories.”

You can probably tell when I’m hiding behind euphemisms and creating characters to say what I want to say. There are things I want to reveal, pieces of me that I’d love to set free, but fear gets in the way. Who will it hurt if I do? What if I’m ridiculed for my beliefs? What if I’m wrong?! Our need to get along and fit in is strong, but we can be stronger..

“We are great warriors facing the barriers of truth. We are digesting experience for society.”

That’s the beauty of creative nonfiction. For what it’s worth, we write our experience so that everyone around us can share in it. It’s why I enjoy reading it, as well. Your story is now part of my experience.

“Stress is basically a disconnection from the earth, a forgetting of the breath.

Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important. Just lie down.

All writers have a natural bent toward laziness. That is good. Utilize it. The couch is a good place. Lie there for a whole day in the middle of everything. It is like waiting for vinegar to settle after you shake it up with oil.”

The perfect ending. An excuse for why I spend just about every morning reading and writing, looking out the window, going for a walk, quietly cleaning my house. I’ve only begun to completely relax into it, to let it roll by while I watch. Little by little, I’ve realized that if I run from one thing to the next, if I fill up my days with activities, I miss the joy of life.

And there it is. There was so much more in this little book, but I’ve already shared too much. If you’d like to read my first thoughts on this book, you can find them at my original post, Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg.

Want Social Progress? Be a Better Human

Thurber book cover.

That guy! Teaching me how to be a better human from 80 years away. What better way to promote social progress!

Through his book there we are, James Thurber and I hanging out, being cool. How awesome is that?! I read that bit about writing his magazine articles and smiled…ahh yes, we don’t all have to be in the middle of the battle taking notes.

“So it came about that when other reporters were out wearing themselves down in quest of the clangorous and complicated fact, I could be observed wandering the quiet shore above the noisy torrent of contemporary history, examining the little miracles and grotesqueries of the time.”

Memoirs of a Drudge by James Thurber

I’ll admit, there are times when I wonder what in the living hell I’m doing here. Does any of this even matter? There’s so much going on in the world and I sit here disconnected from it and write about 80-year-old books, walks in the desert, and bird sightings. And don’t forget my feelings and how I cope with them. That must be important. Right?

Of course, it is! And do you know why?

Why, Michelle? Please tell us!

You know I will. Just shush a bit.

Because being human never changes. Being human is what we always will be. And being a better one helps the future more than any political movement.

I could sit and research what the best economic system is, the best parenting choices, the best political stance on government, state, national, and world-wide. I could spend my whole life doing that and there are many people far smarter than me doing it. You should listen to them.

But do you know what I think will have a much more lasting effect in this world? If I spend my time making myself a better person, a nicer, more calm, healthy, and loving person. And, because I love to think, and talk, and share, I think spending my time putting how I’m growing up into understandable words is a wonderful exercise.

I enjoy focusing on what makes me happy and healthy. And I think that makes me nicer to be around, nicer for my family and friends, and nicer for you, and nicer for the world to see and hear.

I’ve found same amazingly wonderful quotes in this book. Some are fun, hilarious, and even offensive. The times have changed, that’s for sure, but it’s still full of gems!

Want to read more? Go back to my first post about it, “The Thurber Carnival” by James Thurber.

If you want to read more about him and his work, check out his website James Thurber.org.

Can the Free Association of Writing Help You Find Yourself?

The Pleasures of Reading book cover on a book shelf. Can you "find yourself" through writing?

Oh, my gourd, I see the words “find yourself” and cringe. What does it even mean? Is there a better term? Maybe…discover my own depths? Learn more about who I really am, what I want, clarify my thoughts and feelings and use them to my advantage, instead of running blindly through life?

“It is the very process of writing allowed the writer to tap unguessed levels of his own self, to achieve a kind of nonvolitional heightening of ordinary insight, as, analogously, the process of free association in psychoanalysis is supposed to do.”

The Pleasures of Reading in an Ideological Age by Robert Alter

That is exactly why I write, here and in my personal journals. My process with almost everything I write is to start and see where it goes. With books, I read and make notes, then go back later and pull out the quotes that trigger to me think a little. Most of things I made note of at the time I was reading, usually mean nothing to me a few weeks later. But those that do still trigger me get marked and brought here for further use.

I write out the quote in a word document and start musing. Sometimes I wander far from the author’s original intent. Sometimes I wander far from my own! And sometimes the trail goes nowhere. That’s when I file it away and begin again.

The same goes for my “New Read” and “Why I Get Up” posts. There’s a trigger and then some meandering down the path of thought through words. My personal journals go the same direction, but they are never censored or edited for content. They are mine only and lead me to more ah-ha moments that I use in my daily life. I apologize to anyone that reads those. They are circular and quite profane at times. I’m sure they look the ravings of a mad person.

“Nonvolitional” is the perfect word. They all just go where they go, a free association of thoughts followed by new ideas, and thoughts on those ideas, in the hopes that some conclusion can be found.

Once I get a bit down the path and feel like I’m close to a discovery of sorts, I close the document and open the previous day’s work for editing. That’s when I try to put a bit more order and polish on my work. I didn’t use to. I used to post right after I wrote. I’d say it was some noble attempt to “be real” but honestly it was just laziness.

The past few months I’ve tried to be more consistent and deliberate with my work. I start in the same way, but spend more time editing and rearranging things so that they get across better the idea I’m attempting to convey. Hopefully, I’m starting to get better at it.

What I do know is that I’m enjoying writing more, I’m getting much more out of the books I’ve read, and I’m learning a lot more than I used to. I’m able to quote from and use the information and helps that I’ve written on, in my own life. It brings me happiness, a sort of personal purpose.

Click over to my original post, “The Pleasures of Reading in an Ideological Age” to read my initial thoughts on this book!

Find “The Pleasures of Reading in an Ideological Age” on Thriftbooks and read along with me. If you do, be sure to comment so I know you’re out there. I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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I Am A Writer. What’s your Superpower?

Writing Superpower quote with book cover on desert background.

“It feels powerful to him to put an experience down in words, like he’s trapping it in a jar and it can never fully leave him.”

Normal People by Sally Rooney

I’m a writer. In the past I wouldn’t have made a statement like that. I’m not published. I don’t have a huge following. I don’t write books, fiction or non-fiction. My blog posts…well…what can I say? I have tried my hand at few short stories this past year. It’s something I didn’t realize would bring me so much joy.

It may be one of those flawed super powers that seems cool, might be useful for something, but usually just looks silly or gets you into more trouble than its worth. But I am a writer. I always have been.

I have a box in my room filled with journals, the oldest of which dates back to 1984. I was twelve years old. I was also an avid letter writer when I was a kid. A box of old letters from pen pals, friends that had moved away, proves that.

Do all writers keep things like this?!

The things I choose to keep prove that I am a writer (and a reader) deep down in my soul. Books, journals, letters, photo albums, maps, postcards, etc. fill my shelves all over the house. I even have all the calendars and planners I’ve had over the past twenty-five years, filled with notes about who was where and when, what was made for dinner, and what was spent on what.

I plan on torturing my children with this treasure trove of information someday. When they harass me about my habits, I laughingly tell them that someday the electronic world will disappear and all that will be left of life in early 21st century will be my written archive. Then who will laugh?!

When I walk around my neighborhood, or go for hikes with friends and family, I make up quick stories about the things we see and where we are. “This tree root looks like it’s hatching a rock egg.” “What if we pretended that we were time travelers and asked people what year it was?” “This trail leads to Hobbits.” I’m happiest when I’m with people that will add to the story, not laugh at it as if it were an odd thing to do. Now I’m thinking I should write down and expand on some of those tales.

Unlike the character in the book, I don’t write things down to capture them. It honestly depends on my mood and what I’m writing. I’m attempting to communicate; sometimes with myself (future and past), sometimes with others, sometimes with my family and friends.

Everything I write, including this blog, is simply me trying to understand myself and the world around me, even the fiction. I physically write it down, and share my thoughts here with you, in the hopes that someone out there can benefit from it. I don’t want someone to read my work and think, “Oh! That’s what I am going to do!” I’m not attempting to be anyone’s “guru” in this world.

Ultimately, I’d love it if someone that reads me understands me, considers my thought process, and maybe gleans something from it that makes their life just a little bit nicer.

My superpower is attempting to communicate ideas through the written word. I may not be a proficient one, but I am a writer. I always have been, and I always will be.


If you’d like to go back and read my thoughts on this book from the beginning, start at my post New Read: Normal People.

You can find “Normal People” by Sally Rooney on Amazon.

My monthly newsletter highlights my immediate after-thoughts about the books I read the previous month. You can sign up for that awesome email at the link on the right or by hopping over to my Autobibliography page. Once you opt-in, you’ll receive one email a month only available to my email followers…mmm…so exclusive!

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