Saturday, November 22, 2014

Need Blog Ideas?

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Writers Block - the Key to Unlocking the Block


Originally Published March 7, 2009 on Yahoo! Contributor Network

Writer's block - that formidable opaque mountain of confusion and uncertainty that plants itself in front of you as you sit down to write a book, a screenplay, an article, a poem, or a blog.

You've just begun and already you're stuck. You can't see around the obstruction and you can't see beyond it. You want to write something, anything, but you don't know where to begin. Or you begin, but you stop, because you don't know where you are going.

You've heard about it. You swore you'd never experience it. And yet here it is and there you are, a recipient of writer's block.

But writer's block is nothing more than a pause button on the controller of your mind. If you think about it, it's not even remote. It's right there in your head. All you have to do to prevent writer's block is click PLAY and read on:

What to Write About
The first trick for overcoming writer's block is to come up with a sustainable topic. Not so easy, you say? If the idea of coming up with a subject causes so much frustration that the project seems insurmountable from the get-go, imagine ideas sprouting up everywhere, all day, all night. From the time you wake up in the morning to the time you retire at night, and even into the night, dreams and daydreams alike take shape.
Digital headlines splash across computer screens. Radios play songs that inspire. Television programs stir emotions. Newspapers and the Internet reveal story after story. Compelling conversations engage you. Every bit of information, from the rustling of leaves to the chatter of children, filters through your senses and makes an impression upon your brain.
From the thousands of stimuli you are exposed to every day, try pausing for just one moment and freeze the frame. Pay attention to your environment, to the sights, the sounds, the tastes, the textures, and the smells. Pay attention to what matters to you. One moment can grow an entire book.
You can, as the saying goes, "write what you know" - or you can write what you don't know but want to learn - researching can be fun and challenging.
If you don't know what interests you, but you feel a compulsion to write, visit a bookstore or a library for ideas. Scan the bookshelves. They are lined with titles and subjects so diverse, something is bound to appeal to you (pun intended). Discover what arouses your curiosity.
Are you a sports lover? Narrow your topic further. What is your favorite sporting event? Are you a player or a spectator? What is your favorite position? Why is the game important to you? Does it conjure happy memories? Can you connect the personal aspect of the story to a global perspective?
Maybe a psychological thriller is hiding in the shadows of your childhood. Was your home reflective of television programs in the 1950's, when perfect parents raised perfect children, or was it perhaps a little more sinister? Or inspiring?
Quirky relatives and friends may offer humorous and adventurous ideas for an article or story.
Do you have an interest in third world and other worldly subjects? Try writing about poverty or space aliens. Or link your interests together to write about poverty-stricken space aliens.
How about hobbies - those that engage you and those that interest you but that you haven't yet tried? Visit a hobby shop for ideas.
Has something so significant happened to you that it stopped you dead in your tracks? Write about how it impacted you.
Issues you care about, like child neglect or the nuclear arms race, historical perspectives, medical discoveries, taxes, social security, celebrities and so many more concerns are just waiting for you to explore and share with your readers. Choose one or choose several. Use your imagination and begin jotting down ideas.
Once you decide what to write, you next need to decide how to write.
Methods for Writing
We all have different methods of writing. Some writers set aside time in the morning, some write at night, some all day, and others write when they feel inspired. Some feel more at ease at the local bookstore while others sit in pontoons on lakes scratching sharpened pencils on spiral notebooks. Still others like the comfort of their own homes sitting in front of their own computers.
My writing begins when ideas explode out of my brain at lightening speed. I am the dartboard. Ideas are the darts. One idea after another flings itself from my fingers to the page. They splatter like paint from several brushes at once. The words mushroom like a cloud, forming a mass of potential - that sadly misses its target.
And then the darts stop and the paint dries. I am drained. What I see before me looks like a brainstorm gone awry. I expected the words to flow from one sentence to another, from one paragraph to another in flawless perfection. What I expected does not match what I see. I step back.
But only for a moment, because I refuse to give in to writer's block. Also, what I have before me is a mess that needs to be cleaned up and rearranged. So I rewrite, regroup, and begin again. Or I find a fresh slant on what I've already written. More words jump out of me. But like an empty drain, when everything has been poured out, the pump needs time to replenish.
Reasons for Writer's Block
I keep a number of article and story ideas recorded in notebooks and on my computer. I refer to them often. I've noticed that if I become blocked, the reason may be that my story is not headed in the right direction. Or perhaps I've gone off on a tangent and I need to bring my story back on track. Other times, I realize the reason I'm stuck is that I need to research the subject more and my subconscious knows it.
Pay attention to what was happening just before you got blocked. Did you run out of ideas, or did the ideas stop making sense? Too much extraneous material can sidetrack your story. 
Tighten up your verbiage, pitch unnecessary words, phrases, or even paragraphs and pages, and move forward. When all else fails, take a breath.
Writer's Block = Writer's Break = Fresh Perspective
While my spirit breathes, after a short break, I begin another project or continue working on one I previously let rest. It gives me space, time, and perspective on the current article. It also prevents me from using writer's block as an excuse for not writing.
Writer's block serves a purpose, too. Nobody was meant to write all day every day. We have people to see, places to go, errands to run, and life to live. When that mountainous wall halts your writing, do something else - exercise, eat, and have fun. Come back to the computer refreshed.
If writing is your goal, write - every day if possible. Carry a notebook around with you. Get in the habit of writing in it - thoughts, opinions, phrases, anecdotes, and anything else that causes that controller to pause and take notice.
Television sitcom moments that cause you to laugh, radio talk shows that intrigue you, anything you find funny, interesting, or amazing, memories, dreams, and overheard or shared conversations between family members, friends, co-workers all become fodder for your muse and get recorded in your notebook.
Like many writers, I spend only about an hour or two a day on my work. Sometimes I don't have even that much time. My days are filled with incessant, unrelenting, but often welcomed interruptions. Having another job while trying to write is tough, but it can be done. Keep a notebook within reach.
Once you have a large collection of ideas, peruse them. They are now puzzles for play. Note the mysterious patterns that surface as you gather your materials together. Where once you had only writer's block, you now have all the ingredients for a successful novel, poem, screenplay, or article.
Be Creative
Finding missing pieces is fun and building your own puzzle is creative. If you've been stricken with writer's block, you can rely on your notebook to unblock you every step of the way. But what you write has to stand out from other writers; grabbing readers' attention is imperative. Being creative requires you to look at your subject from various angles. If you feel your creativity needs a refresher course, check out a previous article I wrote, The Creative (Writing) Spirit where I offer exercises to boost your creativity.
If You Get Off-Track
When writer's block prevents you from moving forward and your writing appears to be a mishmash of unrelated ideas, go back to the question - what is my story about? What information do I want to convey? What is my reason for writing this particular piece? In one sentence, write the answer to one or all of those questions.
Use a thesaurus to find relationships between corresponding words. The jolt may trigger an "Aha!" moment that allows you to move past the block.
Whatever your subject, think of your piece as a circle that connects the beginning and middle with the end. You'll bring your reader - well - full circle. You don't always have to write the story in that manner, but if you get sidetracked, this method will make your article more cohesive.
Sometimes you just need to walk away from the computer or notebook. A refreshing walk will clear your head. Meditation helps too. I sometimes use music to set a mood. If I'm trying to focus on a particular theme, say something metaphysical or paranormal, I might put on Pink Floyd. Something fun might call for Cyndi Lauper. I change the music to match the mood of my writing.
When all else fails, I call a friend. Or I brainstorm. With pen in hand, I write down everything related, and even unrelated, to the topic I'm writing - whatever pops into my head. If I think about ideas before I fall asleep, solutions to problems oftentimes appear upon awakening. And many times I awake in the middle of the night with a clear vision of what I am supposed to write. I've learned to record it immediately, because no matter how often I tell myself I will remember the insight in the morning, I either don't or I don't remember it correctly.
At times, you will have to set aside your work and return to it another time. Eventually it will work itself out - if you don't force it. Forced writing appears to be just that and the reader will find the piece stilted and unreadable. Wait until the words flow together in a way that appeals to your aesthetic sense of language.
But if it never satisfies you, if it never works itself out, leave it alone. Bury it. It was probably never meant to appear in print or on screen. It served a purpose, though - it educated you. And it probably isn't completely dead because pieces of it can be extracted for other works later on.
Help for unblocking writer's block periodically comes from the most unexpected places. While I was working on this article, for instance, I received this horoscope in my email from "You have a bit of letting go to do today, in preparation for the Moon's return to your sign tomorrow. Although your work may flow easily at times, you might also experience intermittent creative blocks. Don't get hung up about something that's not moving forward now; instead, look at what the signs are telling you. Once you learn your current lessons, you'll be allowed to proceed to the next step."
Signs are everywhere. When you choose a subject, say pregnant women, for example, you will suddenly find them everywhere. You might not have noticed one single pregnant woman until you started writing about her, but the second you focus your attention on your article, you will find her wherever you look.
And if you can't find the signs, post one yourself. Ask your friends for help. If you are researching unforgettable movies, for instance, begin by posting in an email or on social media sites, "I'm researching an article on movies - what are the most memorable movies you have seen?"
Final Thoughts

Have faith in your ability to present your material in a fashion that will arouse interest in your reader. Get those paint splattered darts moving! Writer's block is an illusion created by your mind for the sole purpose of sabotaging your creativity. Remember - belief can move mountains. (Matthew XXI 21: ... if ye shall say unto this mountain, be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.)

The Creative (Writing) Spirit: Exercises to Boost Your Creativity

Originally Posted on Yahoo! Contributor Network August 15, 2008

I was about eight years old when I learned that a paragraph consisted of one central thought. One afternoon my class and I were sent home with assignments to write paragraphs on each of five spelling chapters.

Words in each chapter were completely unrelated to each other and writing the paragraphs was difficult, but I somehow managed to complete them. Emotionally exhausted from trying to connect words like forehead, apron, paw, jaw, and jail, I leaned back several hours later with a feeling of utter accomplishment. My little third grade brain had figured out a way to make all the words connect - a man in jail wearing an apron with a picture of a forehead, a paw, and a jaw on it - how clever was I?

And then my mother came in to rant about the teacher who kept me up all night with homework that she believed should have been completed at school. She grabbed my papers, and second by second, as she read through each sentence, I watched her angry demeanor transform into maniacal laughter. As I listened to my hysterical mother and watched her waterfall of tears, I realized that her laughter was at my expense.

I expected my mother to gloat over the intelligence of her eldest daughter because of my flawless writing skills. Instead she rewrote, in a matter of minutes, the assignments that took me several hours to write, separating each chapter into several paragraphs. I knew I would be expelled. She also insisted that my understanding of my teacher's instructions was wrong.

Not only was my understanding wrong, according to my mother, but also my perceptions were, how did she put it, warped. For years she introduced me as her weird daughter. And I believed it myself until I read a key chain with written words: I'm not weird; I'm gifted.

Having been blessed with an abundantly creative spirit, I feel confident that the creative process begins with distorted perceptions, truths realized, and realities unexplored. My mother had to be wrong. I was an unrecognized genius, because my assignment taught me how to successfully connect dots where no dots existed - magical thinking at its best!

Creativity IS magic. It begins in the brain and resides in the spirit. If you think of the brain as a muscle, imagination is its exercise. Forcing the brain to think creatively REQUIRES an imaginative spirit - an ability to take two seemingly unrelated ideas and mesh them together as if they were meant to meld. Creativity also means blending two or more ideas to create a fresh spin on an old idea, forming patterns where none existed before. Creativity arises from making surprising observations, connections that might not previously have been made.

Creative endeavors that tap into emotions result in laughter, tears, thoughts, and memories. Think of comic geniuses such as Chris Rock or Robin Williams. Their minds move so fast (remember this was originally written in 2009) they could dodge speeding bullets with their brains. Instead they whip their words into frenzied creations that marvel audiences who explode with laughter.

Architecture, art, music, gourmet foods, and an endless list of creations that inspire and awe people are results of imaginative thinking.

Creative teachers combine various senses - sound, sight, taste, touch, and smell to help students learn and remember. Students are more likely to absorb information when teachers use creative techniques that rely on more than one form of sensory stimuli.

While some of us are just naturally capable of unusual thought processes (or weird as my mother might say), others could stand to use a little help. To strengthen the mind muscle, I've designed a couple of exercises for the creatively challenged (examples for the first two exercises are listed below. The third exercise is too long to provide an example for this article):


Grab a third-grade spelling book. (Obviously, I'm borrowing this one from my own experience.) Take the words from a chapter and write one paragraph using all of the words in that chapter.

Example (borrowed from a now defunct web presence, Third Grade Spelling Words): Words from the 21st chapter are: friend, tried, believe, died, night, said, Friday, thought, Saturday, again, eight, people, does, tired)

I went to bed early Friday night because I was tired. My friend wanted to spend the night, but my mom thought it was too late. When I awoke Saturday morning, Mom said she thought that eight people were involved in an accident. One was my friend. "Does that mean they died?" I wanted to know. She ignored my question. I tried again. "I believe your friend is OK," she said, wiping a tear from her eye.


When you have time for only a short exercise, use this one:

Write down the first word(s) that come(s) to mind.
A food.
A scent or odor, pleasant or repulsive.
Something you have seen recently that has impacted you. It can be beautiful or gruesome.
A texture you find pleasurable, and one you find irritating.
A sound you find pleasurable, and one you find irritable.
Now combine the elements to write one paragraph.

Example: (I chose crab legs, skunk, a red and gold sunset, velvet, itchy wool, a baby laughing, motorcycle engine blaring) As the red and gold sunset sank beneath the horizon, and as I was getting ready to sink my teeth into some delectable crab legs, some souped up motorcycle, its engine blaring, ran over a skunk outside my front door. Like a whining child wrapped in itchy wool, I sulked until I heard the baby, wrapped in luxurious velvet, laughing.


Pick a place. Examples might include a deserted island, a cave, a museum, a carnival, a cruise liner, a horse and buggy, or a hot air balloon.

Now choose one song from any one type of music, such as Rock and Roll, Blues, Country and Western, Hip Hop, Oldies, Christian, Jazz, Rap, or New Age.

Add two different types of people. One can be somebody you know: your mom, dad, daughter, son, co-worker, friend, enemy, or neighbor. The other one should be somebody you don't know: political figure, famous person. One will be someone who is close to you and who trusts you with every fiber of his or her being. The other will be someone who is not particularly fond of you.

Choose one mood for each person: calm, frenzied, catatonic, tense, amorous, giddy, helpless, happy, sad, or sleepy, for example.

What is the weather in your residence - cold and rainy, hot and humid, perfect, freezing cold, light and breezy, snowy?

Choose an area on the planet different from the one in which you have been residing.
Now that you've made your decisions, put all of the elements into the following scenario and write a story based on it:

The area of Earth upon which you have been living is in danger of being obliterated by a gigantic asteroid. You are in charge of convincing your friends to abandon their lives as they know it and join you on your quest to gather their friends and family together in an Exodus that will take them to a different part of Earth where they will be protected. In your project, which you have named the Rebearth Project, however, everything you have ever known to be true is questionable and the music you once found enjoyable is now beginning to annoy you. You hear it in your head unceasingly and don't know the source of the music. You also don't know how to turn it off. Sadly, nobody else hears it. You've never had any training in Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, and you realize that the people following you trust you to get them safely to your predetermined destination. You, however, don't have a clue how to get them there. How will you rescue them without them thinking you've lost your mind?


Gathering thoughts together to create new thoughts allows your mind to stretch into areas previously unvisited. But creativity takes more than a stretch of the imagination. Just because something is different doesn't mean it's something others will find appealing or worthy of notice. A chocolate covered onion, for instance, is creative, but distasteful. Then again, even though you might never be able to sell it in stores, you may be able to sell it in a story about aliens from the planet ChocOn. (The planet Chocolate Onion, referred to as ChocOn, was ejected from the Milky Way Galaxy due to its liaison with Pluto, who was demoted to dwarf.)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Faith the Size of a Mustard Seed

For most of my adult life, I’ve wanted to read a book I’d been hearing about, The Magic of Believing, by Claude M. Bristol. For some reason, I waited over 40 years to read it. Amazon’s description reads: “In this bestselling self-help book, a successful businessman reveals the secrets behind harnessing the unlimited energies of the subconscious. Millions have benefited from these visualization techniques, which show how to turn your thoughts and dreams into effective actions that can lead to enhanced income, happier relationships, increased effectiveness, heightened influence and improved peace of mind.”

I could have saved myself a lot of money on “New Age” books that provided exactly the same information. The basis of the book deals with faith, in BELIEVING that what you visualize will manifest. I absolutely believe and have faith in the power – and magic – of believing.

Have you heard about how having faith, even just a tiny bit, produces miraculous results? If you look out into the Universe and imagine the depth and breadth of everything around you and then move beyond your imagination, going out and out and out past the point where any telescope could take you, you get an inkling of how vast our Universe really is. None of us will ever really know, though, because we can’t fathom “infinity.” Despite our inability to understand what an infinite Universe looks like, we can understand its vastness. Compare that image of the Universe to the size of the period at the end of this sentence. 

That tiny period compares to the size of a mustard seed. What does it mean to have faith the size of a mustard seed? It means that if you have just the tiniest bit of faith in ANYTHING you do, in ANYTHING you need or desire, all you need is just that much faith – and that’s it! That’s all the faith you’ll ever need, because having faith the size of a mustard seed means that some part of you, even the smallest part of you in the remotest recesses of your mind, BELIEVES. And that very tiny, almost imperceptible bit of faith is all you need to set the wheels of your desires in motion.

You know how synchronicity works, don’t you? Seeming coincidences work a kind of magic that causes you to pause momentarily, gape a little, and hold your breath. You speak someone’s name and he calls, you think a thought and it becomes tangible. Just recently I had been thinking about the book, The Secret. I’ve written about it before, too (The Secret and the Secret - More Than One: Listen, Do You Want to Know Two Secrets?), I have been reading other posts about it (randomly – I didn’t purposely look for them), and suddenly I’m inundated with reminders about The Secret – I flip on Netflix, for example, and there it is – The Secret – in movie form.

Until recently I hadn’t thought about The Secret in a long time. I used its powers when I needed to move, but I want and need so little, I don’t use it very often. I wanted and needed to sell my home and I firmly believed that somebody would buy it soon after I put it up for sale. One of the first people who looked at my home eventually bought it. If they had purchased it when I initially put it up for sale, I wouldn’t be living in the home where I now reside, because it wasn’t available then. I firmly believe I was meant to sell it at just the right time.

Just recently I broke probably my tenth vacuum cleaner. It doesn’t matter if I buy expensive vacuums or cheap vacuums – they always break on me. This one didn’t break, though. I accidentally broke it. So I decided to use The Secret and wished for a new one. I looked online for “best inexpensive vacuums” and I even went shopping for one, but I couldn’t justify buying a new one, so I just kept affixing tape to the filter panel to hold it in place every time it fell off (often). Because I suffer from allergies, dust blowing around causes lots of problems, so the filter is necessary. Since I was the one who broke it, I just keep applying and reapplying the tape as I vacuum. 

After watching The Secret on Netflix, I thought about a vacuum cleaner just magically appearing in my life. (I know – other people dream of cruises and beautiful new designer clothes – I wish for practical items.) A couple of days ago I was talking to my mother who knew nothing about my vacuum problem. And what did she say to me? “Do you know anybody who needs a vacuum?”

I paused, I gaped, and I momentarily held my breath. One tiny bit of faith manifested so quickly after I put that thought out into the Universe and now I’m getting a new vacuum! 

If you don’t believe that something so simple can work for you, it won’t. The only difference between you wanting something and manifesting it and me wanting something and manifesting it is that I believe I will get what I want or need and you quite possibility might not – IF you don’t believe you will.

Granted my needs and wants are simple. I don’t want to win any lotteries or live in a mansion or drive a fancy car. I just want to experience joy in my life and, in case I make a mess, be able to vacuum it all up ;)

If you feel you’re missing something in your life, I highly recommend either picking up the book or watching The Secret on Netflix. To fully experience the Law of Attraction (a main component of The Secret) and put its suggestions into practice, all you need is faith the size of a mustard seed. And if you own a Kindle, The Magic of Believing is worthy of your time.

If you’re interested in purchasing any of the books, just click on the links above and if you would prefer the Kindle edition, here are those links:

“Men devoid of the power of spiritual perception are unable to recognize anything that cannot be seen externally.” Paracelsus 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Breathing New Life Into Your Old Posts

Chances are, if the title grabbed your attention, you are reading this post because you have in your collection numerous old blogs or articles you’d like to resurrect. Quite possibly a site where your material sat shut down and you are left with hundreds or even thousands of articles just waiting for rebirth.

If you have ever spent hours researching an article, if you maintain a blog, or even if you just scribble daily funnies for your friends, you probably have enough old material – let me rephrase – enough old RELEVANT material to refresh and repost.

When one web site, which housed a lot of my material, shut its doors, I hurriedly copied and pasted each article onto my desktop and dropped each article into folders where I thought they might fit. Rather than just automatically reposting those articles though, I read through them. I clicked the links. As you might expect, many of the links were broken, so I had to find my original source and re-link to the new source.

In many instances, I found updated material, so I rewrote portions of those posts and got rid of broken links or irrelevant material. Add a move and upcoming holidays that set me back several months, and you can imagine why it will take me several more months to complete my updates. But I’m on a mission, so they will find new homes.

Resurrecting your blogs is not the only way to breathe new life into old posts, though. You can also write entirely new posts and set up links from your new post to your older RELEVANT posts. Notice the stress on relevant. If you are writing about something that happened in the 1980s, make sure you relate that post to current events or at least make sure that the topic is not time-sensitive. 

One way to bypass time-sensitive posts is to write material on the anniversary of those past events. And don’t forget to check links in your older posts and update them if necessary. Or – leave the post "as is" and bring your reader back in time to the atmosphere around that period. Create an ambiance that brings readers into that time period with you. Help your readers experience the events as if what happened – happened to them.

Remember, if what you have written is still relevant or relatable today, you can always update it and repost it. Give it a more impactful title, correct mistakes you might have missed, tighten up your writing, and promote your new baby.



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