In my investigation of “alternative” styles of writing, including everything “flash,” I came across a book edited by Dinty W. Moore called The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction. That’s not the book I’m reviewing here, since I haven’t finished reading it yet.
I was impressed with Moore’s introduction to that publication, however, so when I found his book Crafting the Personal Essay at Amazon, I “looked inside the book,” liked what I saw, and very quickly downloaded it onto my Kindle. The book is published by Writer’s Digest Books, so that helped sway my decision, too. I have a few of their other titles and have been pleased with all of them.
I write for online platforms, including this website, two blogs and HubPages (and, previously, Squidoo). Many of my articles are written in a personal essay style but, now that I’m semi-retired, I wanted to get better at telling my stories and speaking my truth.
Sometimes my “truth” is an honest review of my vintage Corningware. Other times, it’s a more-or-less channeled piece of writing on my blog “What Life Wants.” I’ve even written the saga of Carlotta the spiny orb weaver spider. And my efforts are pretty good.
But I want to improve as a writer. I want to make a difference as a writer. I want to be known as a writer.
So I read books about perfecting my craft and I learn about the different ways to get my views across. For example, I really enjoy writing 6-word memoirs and have taken a closer look at this genre on my review page for It All Changed in An Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure. Here’s one: "Good Writer Striving to be Great." Try writing your life story in 6 words. It’s fun!
Dinty Moore’s Crafting the Personal Essay opened my eyes to the scope available for writers in the personal essay genre. I hadn’t realized that I could elaborate on my travel and recipe articles to make them feel more like literature. They call it “creative nonfiction” nowadays.
I like that essays can be quite short, as in the case of flash nonfiction. I like that they can ramble in an exploratory, investigative way. I like that they can lead me to conclusions I might not have considered previously. I like that they explore - me.
Moore includes chapters on the various types of personal essays:
I have recipe pages online that I’d like to bump up to the “gastronomical essay” level. On the other hand, they might also fall into the “memoir” group, since a couple of the recipes were handed down from my Finnish grandmother.
How do I capture a life-changing truth on a page about pancakes?
That’s the type of information I’ve been learning in Crafting the Personal Essay. So I’m into rewrite mode and allowing myself to travel down winding roads searching for the nugget that’s to be found somewhere along the way.
I love what Dinty Moore says about revising our writing: It’s not uncommon for me to be six or seven drafts into an essay before I realize, “Aha, that’s what this essay is going to be about.”
Moore’s writing style is easy and clear. The writing exercises sprinkled through the book urge us to dig deeper into our emotions and rememberings. What stopped the clock for us way back when... why do we have trouble remembering what it was? What was that issue really about? Is it time to speak/write about it now?
In his chapter on memoir essays, the author poses many questions for consideration and deeper probing, including “What are you most afraid of?” and “What as a child did you totally misunderstand, but now as an adult see very differently?” Probing, probing, probing.
That’s what writers do.
Dinty W. Moore’s book was, for me, an excellent introduction to the writing of good personal essays. His reminders to revise, revise, revise... and his instructions on becoming an excellent rewriter I found very helpful.
He suggests writing initially with a “child” attitude, playing with ideas and words just to see what develops. Then allow the “adult” in you to ask some tough questions, such as what’s your point here and who will be interested in this. Then at the very end of your revisions, invite your “parents” in to see if your piece will embarrass them or make them proud. But don’t ask for your “inner parent” reviews until you’re done editing.
As Moore says, “the trick is all in the timing.”
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In 2008, I published this piece on the older version of NewRadiance.com, when it was primarily about marketing, rather than writing. This message pretty much sums up what we're doing here and what happens when we attempt to face our truth(s) and write about them.
The unbridled meanderings of a footloose wordsmith occasionally stumble upon the Truth.
At the damnedest times, Truth will rear up, like a cobra ready to strike.
Most of us run when faced head-on with the stinging barb of Truth.
Unaccustomed as we are to experiencing Truth, it feels like the enemy.
What happens, then, when we look this Cobra of Truth in the eye?
If we're smart, we love it.
If we're brave, we embrace it.
If we're wise, we own it.
At all costs, we must acknowledge the presence of Truth. Try as we might to avoid it, work around it, or ignore it, once we recognize it, there it sits - that silent challenge to our status quo.
Living "with" the Truth is a little like sleeping with the enemy. You know it's there, but it's not you.
"Living" the Truth means you become that cobra, embodying the truth you see.
Truth comes from love. Love comes from the Infinite. The Truths of the Universe are inviolate. Your personal truths are based on Universal Truths.
Living your Truth brings you into harmony with All That Is, so that your light may shine more brightly and the way be seen more clearly.
This is all that has ever been asked of us.
That we see the Way.
And show the Way.
And be the Way.
The Way and the Truth. I am, you are, we are all of that.
And so it is.
© 2008 Barbara Casey
As night settles on our "old" life, we might begin to wonder... "What's next?"
As we listen more and more to our inner promptings and less to logic and prior experience, we seem to enter a space of directionless vacuum. Can't go back because it no longer fits. Afraid to move forward because we can't see what's coming up.
I guess this is what the faith of the mustard seed is all about.
The mustard plant doesn't fret about blooming, growing and going to seed. It just goes about its daily business of being a mustard plant. And its purpose is fulfilled effortlessly.
So, it would seem that our new examples for living are coming directly from nature. Do what comes naturally to you on a day by day basis and allow life to unfold easily.
The trick, of course, is to still ourselves enough to hear those soul promptings... and then take a little action in the direction they suggest. If we don't, and our soul is on the job... we get those 2 x 4s again, whacking us back into line. Sheesh!
So a few delays put us a bit behind "schedule." But what's a year or so when eternity is our playing field?
On the other hand, many of us are now feeling pressed to move forward to - what, exactly?
What is our energetic matchup right now? Are we courageous enough to make the leap into - finally - shining light on what we know is true about us? About life?
Can we - finally - put it into writing?
Can our faith love our fears away?
The American dream is not a material one. Never was. The American dream was always about freedom.
Today, as we pinch ourselves out of the false dream, we might want to ask - Do we prefer to be poor but free... or rich and enslaved?
As things appear to be falling apart in our world - literally - maybe we need to let the chips fall where they may and become more creative and free from the bottom up. The institutions and the 1% can take care of themselves.
We are at a crossroads now, facing decisions that will affect generations.
Do we cleanse, clear and rebuild on a foundation of honor and freedom - or do we shackle future generations with old, outworn ideas and top-down rule-making?
What do you, or I, have to say (or write) about all this?
What would you write in a personal declaration of independence, if that's the road you wanted to choose?
I don't know why I'm so surprised by the interesting twists and turns life takes when I really pay attention to my inner voice, but there are times when the pieces of the puzzle slide so easily into place and the unexpected situations from the past suddenly make all the sense in the world - that it's worth mentioning. Especially since so many of us are twisting and turning without a clear direction to go in.
For many years, I was a marketing coach for lightworkers. Lately, I've been moving in more creative directions, particularly around inspirational writing. Last month, I felt strongly urged to acquire a decent digital camera (better than the basic version, that is). As a result, I've been taking pictures of trees and flowers. And using my words and images to create mugs, t-shirts and note cards on Zazzle.com. It's been a blast... the kind of experience when time disappears and you and your creation are having the time of your life.
When I sat in the quiet this morning to learn more about this, I recognized that the desktop publishing I started doing for clients in the mid 1990s was my early "Zazzle training." The spiritual studies I began almost twenty years ago helped me to understand that everything is energy and vibrates according to its nature and environment. In 1994, I "suddenly" became a publisher of a metaphysical and holistic directory and taught myself to make ads and lay out book pages (and covers!). In late 2005, I began writing on a platform called Squidoo, a fun place where writers can test various styles of writing... and make some income at the same time.
And more recently I'm understanding in a deeper way that everything in the natural world (also everything that originated in the natural world) is sentient. (Thanks to Carna Zacharias-Miller for really driving that point home for me. And spirit for confirming so much of this.)
Capturing this consciousness on "film" and in words seems to be my new direction. I've been a writer for years and I've created images (ads, brochures, books, websites) for years. The pieces of the puzzle are coalescing into a new whole... at a new level.
Do I know where all this is heading? No, though I'm getting glimpses.
Am I excited about the possibilities? How do I count the ways?
I don't know yet how this will help me create something that would be like a dream come true for people with stories to tell, but this much inspiration has got to lead somewhere good.
Are your twists and turns straightening out yet?
When times get tough, what do tough-minded people do?
They soldier on.
"Soldiering on" doesn't mean continuing to do what isn't working anymore. Especially when it no longer feels right to do.
No, in tough times we often have to leave the safety of the fort and venture into the unknown without a map, compass or direction.
For many of us, including writers, "soldiering on" means maintaining our faith in a divine plan - for ourselves individually and for the world around us - no matter how "bad" things may look on the surface. It means acknowledging oneself as the leader of our troop-of-one and trusting that our inner guide knows the way to our next destination.
Hunkering down is not an option.
Advancing into the higher realms, while at the same time accepting the physical, mental and emotional discomforts that seem to accompany these explorations, is what our soldiering on is all about.
As our physical bodies struggle to hold and incorporate the higher energies, we've got to sometimes wonder if this is how it's really meant to be.
Basic training hurts.
And as we condition ourselves to receive energies at continually higher levels, there will be some stress and strain. So we soldier on.
Along the way, we receive visions of our new life, our new work. If we begin to act upon these visions, more is revealed. It may not look like anything we've done in the past but, amazingly enough - we have all the talents and skills needed for the job.
But to get there, we need to do the work in front of us to the very best of our abilities; to find ways to stay out of the doom and gloom whirlpool of mass consciousness; and to acknowledge and accept the discomforts that accompany any trail-blazing expedition.
And, oh yes, to remember to raise our vibration at the same time.
Easier to say than to do.
Which is why sometimes we just have to "soldier on" trusting that the divine plan is in place - and that we're in it somewhere.
In one of my 3:00 AM spirit meetings, I asked this question: What do we need to do most urgently right now?
The answer came...
Be ready for a move. The energies are shifting rapidly. You don't need to have the details figured out yet; that will be revealed in time. But clear out old "stuff" on the physical and emotional levels.
Leave your 3-D complexities behind. You need the energy to learn new ones... at a new level.
Be mindful. If you awake in the night feeling the urge to get up and write - do so. If you see a person who could use a smile and some personal warmth, provide it. Our development doesn't depend upon rituals, expensive courses or big-name teachers. Evolving our selves happens through the little things... acts of kindness, noticing a tree's dignity, not taking anything or anyone for granted.
"Thou shalt be kind."
Life isn't about learning to manifest things. That's just controlling energy and not the point at all.
What can we do? Always take the high road, keep our vibration high, not lower other people's vibration through our words or actions. Simple stuff, really. Old-fashioned stuff, you might say.
And above all, finding that inner place where our "truth antennae" are the most acute, where we feel what's right more than we think it. We'll need this ability more than ever over the coming few years... as the world as we know it falls apart and the "rescue" plans start to be shouted loudly.
Whether the voices are coming from the physical or non-physical realms, we'll need to be discerning and attuned to truth. And, if we're courageous enough, we'll write and publish our truth... somewhere, for someone. It could be on a Zazzle mug, a HubPages article, a memoir book, or a letter to our children.
Truth speaks softly.
Truth does not contain fear.
Truth does not control... it just is.
The simple truth will serve us well.
As we release the old energies in these times of rapid change, there often seems to be a time lag between what used to work for us in the past and -- what?
Whatever hasn't arrived and announced itself yet.
I've seen many inspirational writers and spiritual entrepreneurs (including myself) come to a dead stop in their work and not know (yet) which way to turn.
We know we're on the edge of something new, but it isn't within our reach yet. We also know that what we did before doesn't hold the same attraction for us. Sometimes we try interim adjustments... I was a niche marketing coach, then a teleclass teacher, a "Tutorial Lady" and now I feel like I'm getting closer to my real calling of inspirational writing. And that may change, too.
That's the trouble with "staying in the now" – a bunch of loose ends that don't tidy themselves up neatly.
Here are the strongest messages I’ve been getting recently, that have helped me keep relatively calm in the face of all these changes.
When I read Seth Godin's book Tribes I resonated with his concept of like-minded people coming together to help one another advance conceptually (and vibrationally). Writers, who work so privately most of the time, also need the support, instruction, inspiration, and butt-kicking of other writers.
Are you a writer? Do you have stories to tell?
Do you want to put your truths into print - or at least on a coffee mug or a blog post? Are you searching for a way to express yourself in writing that doesn't necessarily translate into book form?
That's what we're working playing with here on this website. Fun/serious/long/short/poetic/essayish stories. Trying different styles or picking one story-telling approach we like.
I'm reading about and writing in all kinds of alternative styles these days. So far, I've done poetry, mugs, Squidoo, blogs, ezines, tutorials, channeled writing... it's so easy to post your material online, but I've also had articles appear in print magazines, too.
Now, however, I've got to the point where I want to make a bigger difference in my writing. Do I have a wonderful portfolio of published works yet? Well, somewhat, yes.
Have I got where I'd like to go with my writing? Nowhere close. But I am trying to be a better story-teller with a point of view that reaches to eternity. That's the perspective I'd like to see everything from. That's how I want to make a difference... translating things, events, stories, even product and book reviews... from the perspective of eternity. Can I do it? We'll see.
What about you? What are your stories? Do they reflect your truths? Are you ready to climb onto life's skinny branch and jump with trust in your own abilities to express them?
New Radiance is about illuminating truths through the written word. Are you in?