Tag Archives: writing practice

Why would an author want to write a blog?

This week, I’m celebrating a whole year of Writing in the House of Dreams.

I asked fuelyourblogging – a really useful site for bloggers – for an end-of-year assessment, and they said

Your blog is a great example of balancing both a personal focus and a focus on others with similar experiences. As a writer, I see a lot of value and insight on your blog that I can use on my own path, so I’m engaged right off the bat.

The personal stories add that unique perspective people look for, as mentioned above.

Keep up the great work!

Woo hoo! *happy dance*

‘Writing in the House of Dreams’ has a hundred fantastic followers, including some who bring in lots of casual visitors through tweeting about my posts and sharing on facebook (special big huge thank-you – you know who you are!)

But writing a blog is undeniably very time-consuming, and for an author that’s time doing your normal work, but without getting paid. So why would an author want to write a blog?

The short answer is, because it’s a whole new adventure in writing. It might take time away from your work-in-progress, but it doesn’t take away any writing-time.

The time I spend writing my blog makes the writer-in-me feel happy because

  1. It have total creative freedom – there’s no pressure to try and make what I write here attractive to a mass market
  2. I get instant feedback from readers – this has given me many insights, especially through people sharing their personal stories
  3. It brings me the generous gift of guest posts from some fabulous interesting people
  4. Its reach is global – I have readers from every continent, some of them reading my blog in translation
  5. It engages me in the blogosphere as a reader – I’ve discovered some great new writers and had lots of interactions on other people’s blogs
  6. It makes me engage more fully with networks such as twitter, linkedin and facebook – which I enjoy

I’m going to tweet and fb one of my fave posts each day this week, as part of my blog birthday celebrations.

So gather round, dear friends, grab a glass and help yourselves to a slice of virtual cake… and thank you for coming to the party 🙂

Do you have a daily practice?

Many of the best books on writing, and pretty much every book on dreaming, recommend establishing a daily practice.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, and Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande, both propose the idea of ‘morning pages’ – setting aside half an hour first thing in the morning to write stream-of-consciousness, before your mind gets distracted by the mundane  concerns of the day.

The wonderful Writing down the Bones, by Nathalie Goldberg, develops this idea, comparing writing with Buddhist meditation practice.

The daily practice approach focuses on the process of writing rather than the products. It’s not instead of your books and stories, but as well; it’s the seed-bed from which your finished creative pieces grow. 

In the same way, writing down any dreams and dream fragments you remember upon waking isn’t just about big dreams and insights – it’s about deepening your awareness of the continuous dream-life that runs parallel with your life in the dayworld.

As with morning pages, you have to set aside value judgements and simply write, whatever comes, because that’s how you find and develop the authentic writer or dreamer that you are.

Betty Edwards, in Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, says it doesn’t make any difference what you do – the point of any daily practice is the experience of ‘flow.’ Knitting, jogging and gardening are all a form of meditation, as are writing and other creative activities.

Anything in which you are able to lose yourself and the world, will change and enrich your life, and doing it every day makes this out-of-time experience part of you; it grounds you in something bigger than yourself.

Do you have a daily practice? What are its benefits in your life?

How to incubate a dream

Last week, in the comments, Abi said she wished she could visit her dream house more often, and I suggested she might try incubating a dream.

Creative dreaming is all about ‘flying on the wings of intent,’ to borrow a phrase from Carlos Casteneda. Setting an intention is how we start to establish regular dream-recall, as I explain here https://jenalexanderbooks.wordpress.com/tips/

Once we have begun to experience regular recall, we can use intention in the same way, to incubate a dream on a particular topic. I sometimes do this with a group.

The first time I did it, I asked my workshop participants to intend to dream about a tree. Of the six people in that group, five reported tree dreams the following week.

Two people dreamt about saplings, and another about ‘baby trees.’ I dreamt about a tree-lined avenue. The fifth person, frustrated by a marked no-show of trees for the first few nights, wrote a poem about a tree to help set her intention, and then dreamt she was on a ranch in America, where she saw a single tree in the distance which looked like a child’s drawing of a tree.

This person thought, either in her dream or upon waking – she couldn’t tell which – ‘There was a tree!’ The same thing happened in my dream, where I thought, ‘Ooh… lots of trees!’

This is the waking ‘I’ being aware during the dream, and an interesting bonus of dream-incubation is that you’re likely to become lucid at the point where the dream meets the conscious expectation.

I incubate dreams to resolve plot problems and develop my writing ideas, as well as to gain insights into anything which might be bothering me in my everyday life.

If you want to try it, think about your dream intention at points throughout the day, affirming, ‘Tonight, I will dream about…’ Repeat your intention as you go to sleep.

You can reinforce your intention by writing it down, or drawing an image to represent it. Promise yourself that you will record any and every dream you recall when you wake up.

This last point is important. If you don’t automatically record everything, your conscious rational mind can click in too early and push your dreams away.

Besides, if you’ve asked for a dream, it would feel rude not to note down the answer. The dream will not co-operate if it thinks you’re just messing around.

Daily pages vs dreams

A few of my lovely dream diaries
A few of my lovely dream diaries

One of my favourite books about writing is Dorothea Brande’s ‘Becoming a writer.’ It was published in the 1930’s and is still in print, which attests to just how good it is.

Brande says we should treat our writer self as two people, the creative, playful child and the business-like, grown-up critic. We should develop and nurture both sides of our writer self, and teach them to work in harmony.

She refers to the creative side as the unconscious, and suggests one way of opening to it through the practice of daily pages, an idea which later formed the core of another writing bestseller, ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron.

The concept of daily pages is that you write stream-of-consciousness for twenty minutes a day, ideally first thing in the morning before the concerns of the day have a chance to intrude. You keep the pen moving on the paper, even if all you can think of is along the lines of, ‘I don’t want to do this, I can’t think of anything to say, it’s a bit rainy outside…’

One effect of this is to help you let go of the idea you have to wait for inspiration before you can write anything – you can write your way in. Another is that you learn to allow unconscious products to emerge when the mind is relaxed and receptive.

Many of my writing friends have found writing daily pages really useful, but it didn’t really do anything for me. It occurred to me that the reason why was because I already wrote first thing in the morning, recording my dreams, and rather than my conscious mind idling and allowing random stuff to come up, I had been fully immersed in this amazing inner world. So, unlike daily pages, my dream diary was full of interesting incidents and images.

Check out my ‘Tips’ page for information about how to start recalling and recording your dreams

The key to good writing

A lot of people who come to writing workshops express feelings of anxiety in case they won’t be able to write something ‘good.’ I imagine this is because most of us learn to write at school, where everything is judged and graded.

Learning to identify ‘good’ writing at school and university completely cured me of the wish to write. It ebbed away from being a passion in childhood to a listless ghost. But how can you say what makes ‘good’ writing? I personally like a story which rattles along, without too much description or depth, so for me Agatha Christie is a much better writer than Virginia Woolf. Seriously.

You won’t please everybody with your writing, so don’t try. Let the kind of thing you enjoy reading be your compass and write to please yourself, because that’s the surest way to develop your own authentic voice.

I’m firmly in the practice school of writing which, instead of starting from theory and technique, starts from finding out you want to say. If you write whatever you want to write, uncritically, you will enjoy it more; you will do it more often, and your writing style will improve through practice.

So the key to good writing is love. Love your ideas, love writing them down, love the adventure. Don’t let the critic in until you have something you like so much that you will love the work of redrafting.