TAKE JOY

There is a beautiful Chinese quotation: “Keep a green tree in your heart, and maybe the singing bird will come.”  For me, the green tree stays alive because of the joy I get from writing – a gift that took root when I was a little girl of seven and had my first poem published in a children’s magazine.  Now, eight decades later, I have nurtured it through 5,000  published articles, poems, stories and 14 books.

If you have an ambition to  be a writer, you should realise that talent alone is not enough. Determination is necessary, but what you really need is compulsion.  Writing must be such an integral part of your life that if you are breathing, you are writing. You want to share your eyes with your readers, and all your other senses too, enabling them to hear, smell, taste and touch the world you have created for them.  If your words speak to them and you can make them feel joy and pain, smile and weep, feel empathy and compassion, then you are indeed a writer.

As a teacher of Creative Writing, I also taught my students to be salespeople because you need to learn how to get your words out to the reading public.  They must learn, as you did, sometimes to face rejection and not give in to despair.  My way was always to give myself periodic encouragement rewards.  When I write a book, the time to complete it and find a publisher can be awesome, so during the writing I have always submitted short stories or magazine articles.  These are easier to sell, and the temporary triumphs are confidence-boosters for the stamina you need to keep working on much longer projects.  Usually with articles, I suggest that students do not invest time in writing and researching the whole piece until they have  sent out a few query letters.  Only when an editor indicates that he/she likes the idea, should you complete the work.  However you must make your query letters as creative as you  can, and give the projected article a title as irresistible as you  can make it. I tell my students that the only way  that they will never be rejected is never to submit anything, and that every achievement in life begins with two small words: “I’ll try.”

Joy in writing also springs from joy in reading. They are inseparable.  Time and again I travel back to the leisurely, masterful narratives of Somerset Maugham and Evelyn Waugh; revel in the humanity  and poetic descriptions of John Steinbeck; chuckle at the rapier wit of Noel Coward and Dorothy Parker; and dream with yesterday’s poets who didn’t write of politics and technology but were lyrical – Byron, Shelley and Keats; W. B. Yeats,  Rupert Brooke and A.E. Housman.  All these authors probably date me (my grandchildren have never read them) but their works are timeless and remain an inspiration.

Sometimes our own words disappoint us. Edith Wharton wrote: “I dream of an eagle, I give birth to a humming-bird.”  So we try and try again, sometimes managing to capture just a little bit of heaven in our quest to be crowned with stars.

And when we do, there is nothing to compare with the joy of accomplishment. Our spirits soar along with our words, and the singing bird builds its nest in the green tree we have kept alive in our heart.

Be in touch at dwaysman@gmail if you want help (free) with any writing problems. I am always available to encourage and advise. My latest novel “Searching for Sarah” is available direct from me at discount. Happy writing!

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SHAPING A POEM

The definition of poetry that I’ve always liked the most is “emotion recollected in tranquillity.”  If no profound feelings are involved, then the words could more easily have been expressed in prose.  But sometimes prose just won’t do … the depth of emotion felt by the writer demands the poetic form.

The stimulus that inspires a poem is different for everyone, but you need to be observant and experience all your five senses, absorbing the sights,  sounds, taste , smell and tactile impressions you encounter.  Something is tingling inside you, maybe an excitement that you need to capture.  According to a record left by Wordsworth’s sister, he was thrilled to see the daffodils seeming to dance at Ullswater, but it took two years for him to write the poem we all learnt at school:  “I wandered lonely as a cloud…’His poems originated in stored memories.

Poems can come when we are joyful, dejected, angry, lonely, spiritual or loving. Your feelings color what you see and remember, and even though most subjects like nature, love, death, fame, war and the transience of human  experience have all been covered through the ages, your view can still be fresh and unique.  The subjects may be limited, but there are always possibilities to approach them in a new, imaginative way.

A poem is an intricate composition. There is the narrative poem, tied to events. A.E. Housman’s “Eight O’Clock” is an example. It moves you because it implies the public execution of an un-named man for an unspecified crime. A descriptive poem is different.  It depends on conveying a scene, a sound, a personality or feeling, although you can combine narration and description.  Many modern poets write persuasive  poems deliberately to change attitudes, sometimes using satire.  Although this type of poetry does not appeal to me, it often employs stark realism to shock the reader into changing his or her view on a subject.  Randall Jarrell, Allen Ginsberg and James Wright employed this kind of poetic persuasion.

How do you start to write a poem? Usually you put your feelings into words, jot down images, metaphors, alternate phrases. The days are long past when verse had to rhyme and you had to contrive artificially to express your thoughts. Sometimes beginning with a structured form, however, is the best way if you need that deliberate discipline.  Blank verse is an alternative, comprised of unrhymed lines, each line a pentameter of five metric feet. Each foot is an iamb (a 2-syllable unit) with the second syllable stressed.  Iambic pentameter couplets are also called heroic couplets.

Once when Somerset Maugham was asked how to write  a novel, he said: “There are seven rules to writing a novel.  Only no-one knows what they are.” I feel the same about poetry.  Most of the poems I have loved have been in free verse, not committed to a predictable pattern of rhythm, rhyme or stanza. Walt Whitman, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams wrote in free verse.  This sounds as though it’s easy to write, but it’s only easy to write it badly. It may lack metrical precision but it should have cadence, with its own pace and rhythm.  You can even find free verse in the magnificent translated Psalms in the Bible, and you should read T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, a long poem of irregular stanzas and lines; some surprising rhymes as in “fingers/malingers; ices/crisis”.  You are always conscious of the poet’s change in mood, rhythm and vocabulary.

  When you write prose, your first thought is clarity.  With poetry it’s not always the most important choice. A certain ambiguity can sometimes enrich a poem. Also, you no longer have to start every line with a capital letter .e.e.cummings dispensed with them altogether.  Punctuation, too, is optional. If you wish you can let line endings and breaks between stanzas indicate a pause.

Naming your poem is like naming your baby. Bestowing a name is an act of magic, to give reality to a hope or wish to be fulfilled. You can dispense with a name in a very short poem like a “haiku”, but a name confers value,  Usually the title emphasizes an element of the poem.

Although I always loved poetry and memorized hundreds of lines, writing poetry came to me later in life.  Maybe, as we mature, we feel things more deeply.  All the emotions that bring tears to your eyes or joy to your heart are stimuli for poems.  When I turned 70, (two decades ago) the three score years and ten allotted by the Bible, it was a time of deep introspection, particularly thinking of dreams unfulfilled and how short a time was left.  It was truly therapeutic to verbalize this sadness.  I just let the feelings flow, and surprised myself with a poem:

                                              PAST REGRETS

          When autumn lays out her lush carpet

          Of scarlet and gold and brown

          I’ll think back to spring and summer

          And of all I let slip by.

          I had my chance,

          But so many times I hesitated,

          Afraid of consequences

          That may never have happened.

          We do not regret the things we did

          In this life, that passes so rapidly.

          No, it was when we failed to grasp the moment

          The one that never came again.

          To you who are still young,

          Take life with both your hands;

          Laugh and love, travel roads untrodden

Or, like me, face a Winter of regrets.

Try writing a poem yourself. You will be amazed at the emotional outlet you experience. You can write to me if you are having any problem with your writing. My service is free. Contact me at dwaysman@gmail.com Happy writing.

                                                           

                                                          

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HOW YOU KNOW YOU’RE A WRITER

Your default template setting is Word in double-spaced Times Roman 12 pt.

While you are reading another writer’s work, you find yourself thinking: “Too much tell; not enough show”.

You’ve found yourself using the word ‘procrastination’ more and more.

You have a drawer just containing pens. Some of them you kept unlawfully (from the Bank, the Post Office …)

Battling with your manuscript for the past 2 weeks, doesn’t seem to interest anyone but you.

You think you’ve invented a new fiction genre.

You’ve stared at a computer screen for more than an hour without actually adding anything.

Publishing houses have somehow been transformed from those great places that print books into fortresses that must be stormed.

A rejection doesn’t make you utterly depressed for a week any more.

You’re the only person you know who uses the word ‘conducive’ in everyday speech.

Just for a moment there, you thought one of your characters was a real person.

You know what an unsolicited submission is.

Quoting someone in an e-mail to a friend, you pause to consider whether to to use double inverted commas or single quote marks.

You found yourself nodding and smiling at most of these.

Happy writing. I am here to help you (free) with any writing problems. Contact me at: dwaysman@gmail.com My latest novel (no. 14) “Searching for Sarah” is now available direct from me at discount.

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WRITING AN OP-ED PIECE

If you just want to criticize something, write a letter to the Editor. But if you want to write an op-ed article, be constructive. We all have opinions and most of us like to express them. Next time an issue comes along, that you feel you must comment on, write an op-ed. Most newspapers don’t pay for them, but they are very satisfactory for the author.

Choose your topic well. Column space is at a premium. Give careful attention to the subject matter. Be relevant by choosing a topic that touches on a large issue. For example, if you are responding the a local library’s decision to filter its Internet service to prevent children from accessing pornographic sites, don’t just offer an opinion on the decision – a Letter to the Editor would suffice. Instead, address the larger issue – personal freedom versus a desire to protect our children.

Address the events of the world around you through your unique perspective. Let your areas of expertise color it – as an attorney, a psychologist, or maybe as a parent. Watch the news for items suitable for your unique commentary. Keep abreast of local, national and world-wide events. You won’t be qualified to write on every issue, but find those you are qualified to write on.

An op-ed differs from a Letter to the Editor – while the former can be filled with angry rhetoric, an op-ed must present a reasoned argument. Don’t be merely critical. A good opinion piece will challenge readers to find a solution.

Usually the acceptable word count is between 500 to 800 words. You don’t have unlimikted space to make your point. So learn how to focus. The narrower your focus, the better.

Don’t forget to document any references or quotations. You must be able to back up any statements you attribute to others. Writing op-eds is a wonderful way for a writer to express an opinion in a powerful forum – and you may even be paid for it.

Happy writing. I am here if you need any help (free) with your writing problems. I have some discount books available of the latest of my 14 novels – “Searching for Sarah.” You can contact me at dwaysman.com Good luck.

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WRITING AS THERAPY

Recently I read about a group of seven ex-patriate British women, living temporarily in the Far East.  They were all facing new challenges, meeting new people and having new adventures.  They had something else in common …. they were all experiencing a sense of loss for what they had left behind.  For some it was friends and family, for some it was the familiarity of places that were as comfortable to slip into as the folds of an old overcoat.  They were all feeling vulnerable.

They wanted something more than the superficial expatriate relationships.  They decided to form a writers’ circle.  It began casually after they heard a talk by a writer on the benefits of speedwriting, or what is known to writers as “stream of consciousness”.  The speaker explained how this kind of writing can be used to free inspiration and find out who you really are.  Sometimes, while writing on one topic, another will come into your mind as if by accident.  Natalie Goldberg, in her book “Writing Down the Bones” explains it as:  “Shake the apple tree and you get oranges.”

You don’t need to be a professional writer, or even have ambitions in that direction, to benefit from this kind of writing.  You just sit down with a pen and some blank pages and start writing about whatever comes into your mind. Let it flow without worrying about grammar, spelling or syntax.  When you write in this uninhibited way, your internal critic and censor doesn’t get a look in.  You can write on a particular topic (the women I mentioned chose “home”) or you can make up a heading like “Morning Pages” and see what happens.  Random thoughts will flow on to the paper and some of them may surprise you.  You’ll find that you peel away protective facades and allow yourself to express your vulnerabilities.  Whether you decide to do this on your own or with a group of friends as the women in the Far East did, you’ll discover honesty  and maybe it will be cemented in tears, letting you come to grips with sorrows you had buried in your subconscious that needed to be expressed before you could move forward with your life.

If you form a Writers’ Circle, to meet for this kind of speedwriting, it can develop into a closely bonded group.  Members can take turns to think of a topic but it should only be disclosed at the last minute when everyone is ready to write.  I tried the experiment once with a group of my students and the subject was, believe it or not, “door handles.”  It was amazing what they came up with when they let their imaginations flow unimpeded.  Door handles were turned to enable them to step into magic gardens; to new and better lives; to entering places that were forbidden to them until then.  The important thing to remember is confidentiality must be assured when you open up your secret imaginings and fantasies, judgments are never made, all emotions are admissable and both laughter and tears are held in equal esteem.

 To those who want to write and are just taking their first steps, “stream of consciousness” writing is a wonderful way to overcome writers’ block.  It lets loose intense emotions that can come to the surface and provide inspiration.  In such a safe environment, it is easy to be honest with yourself.

Many authors, like Virginia Woolf, have even published their stream-of-consciousness writing.  Psychologists have often used it in therapy for anxiety-ridden patients or those experiencing traumatic nightmares.  The very act of writing down one’s secret fears helps to banish them.  You should not try to do it on a computer, because the technology interferes with your unimpeded flow of words.  I have tried this kind of speedwriting sometimes, and when I’ve read it over later, have occasionally found an unexpected poem hidden among the words.

When asked why I write (and I write a minimum of 3,000 words a day) I usually reply that I do it to clarify things for myself, to help me understand my life and put things in perspective.  I find this happens even when I am writing fiction and different events are happening to characters I’ve created in my mind.  My motto, printed on my letterhead, has always been: “Every act of creation is a self-portrait. Autograph your work with excellence.”

Godfrey Howard, speaking to the Authors’ Club in London, said: “Writers write because they love language, because they want to share their visions, and because they want to throw a bridge across the void.”

I believe writing is one of the most therapeutic things you can do.  If you have never done more than write letters, try it.  If you want to get rid of writers’ block, try it.  Lose your inhibitions and let the words pour out unimpeded.  You may be surprised and delighted where they will take you.

Happy writing. I am always glad to hear from you, and help you (free) with any writing problems. I now have some copies of my novel “The Pomegranate Pendant” that was made into the movie “The Golden Pomegranate” , as well as 2 other novels “Searching for Sarah” and “In a Good Pasture” – available direct from me at discount. Contact me at dwaysman@gmail.com

                                                                    

                                                                           

                                                                            

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THE SEVEN STATES OF BEING A WRITER

  1. Be sure. Are you ready ti pay the price? Isolation; open to criticism; iof you’d rather socialize, watch TV etc., it’s not for you. It takes commitment.
  2. Be determined. Practice until you become at least a part-time professional. Write and keep on writing.
  3. Be patient. Persistent. A solid writing career usually arrives later in life. This is an age of instant gratification … you won’t find it in writing, except for the joy of the work itself.
  4. Be open. You must be willing to have all the flaws in your work exposed, so that you can fix them. A good editor will criticise your weaknesses . Runners say “No pain, no gain.” If you can’t accept criticism, you won’t last the distance.
  5. Be curious. Read everything. Don’t strive for attention. Strive to go unseen in a crowd and WATCH people, the sky, a baby’s repertoire, how shadows lengthen. Everything eventually contributes top what you write.
  6. Be serious. Give unstintingly of yourself – 110%. Every work of creation is a self-portrait. Autograph your work with excellence. But don’t take yourself too seriously – be able to laugh at yourself.
  7. Be yourself. Let who you are, what you are, what you believe shine through. Not to preach, but to be sincere. True opriginality lies not in saying what has never been said, but in saying what you have to say.

Happy writing. If I can help you with a writing problem, contact me directly at dwaysman@gmail.com My latest novel “Searching for Sarah” is available direct from me at discount price. I’m always glad to hear your comments.

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LET’S GET STARTED

A few writers have recently contacted me, and said: “I really want to write a book, but I just can’t get started. ” So let’s talk about it. It’s sad that the only thing preventing you writing is actually sitting down and doing it. In this corona period, you don’t have the excuse that there’s not enough time.

Writing is good therapy. Putting thoughts on paper , especially when stressed, can be calming. With creative writing, engage the imagination and call into use your inner skills. We all possess the instinct to present facts in a way people will understand and enjoy. That is storytelling. If you have to entertain and inform, you can varnish the truth. Experience and invention – the secret to being a writer..

If we have an abiding interest in, say, romantic fiction and read it often, then you can use that sense of familiarity. If it’s thrillers or mysteries, then stick with that. But fiction is not the only form of story-telling. Whatever we read is, in essence, a story. Even if it’s about travel, or a human-interest piece about someone with an unusual job , it’s entertainment because it engages the reader’s interest and tells them something they didn’t know.

Settle down with coffee. Lots of coffee. And biscuits. Begin with structure – a beginning, a middle and an end. Look on it as a journey. Some planning is essential. Who are the main characters? Will the locations be real or invented? Contemporary, historical, futurist or fantasy? Do you need to do initial research?

Fiction engages the use of emotion, humor, drama and invention. It differs from writing features, which require a more ordered approach. That’s what makes writing fiction exciting – your imagination can take you anywhere, at any point in time. Just write the first line – a piece of dialogue or a dramatic introduction, let it take you where you will. Just let it flow … editing can come later. Write at least a page, and put it away for a day or two. Allow it to ferment in your mind. Then go back and read it. You may be surprised at what you’ve accomplished. And you’ll want to do more. That’s writing!

If I can help you with a writing problem, contact me at dwaysman@gmail.com My services are free. My latest novel “Searching for Sarah” is available from me at discount. Happy writing.

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HOW TO WRITE A BOOK

Many people find just the idea of writing a book frightening. I’ve heard it described as putting out to sea in a rowing boat, hoping you’ll eventually reach land, but aware of the dangers of storms and disasters on the journey.

I don’t think of it that way. If I had to make a comparison, it would be like an artist standing in front of a huge, blank canvas. He has a palette of wonderful colors that he can combine to make new and exciting shades. He can paint with dashing, bold swathes or delicate strokes. He can do anything he wants with the blank canvas, and his mind is filled with exciting possibilities. So it is with starting a book, particularly a novel.

If you have a burning desire to write a book, don’t discourage yourself by believing “I’m too ordinary.” No, you are extraordinary and unique. You are the only person who can write the book inside you , because – even if it’s fiction -it is still made out of your beliefs, your prejudices, the jokes you laughed at, the songs you sang. You can create characters from the essence of people you loved or hated, admired or lost, but still yearn for. However to go the distance and write a complete book, you need an almost demonic compulsiveness. There is no guarantee that it will ever be published, but the New York Times Book Review estimates that first novels have a one in ten chance. It’s a highly competitive field, but you may be just the one.

Writing a novel differs from a short story, which usually focuses on one incident and its remifications. In the novel, with its 60,000 plus word length, you have the scope for a much more complex plot. You can span many decades or cover just 18 days as Tom Clancy did in “The Hunt for Red October.” My novel “The Pomegranate Pendant” covered almost a century in Jerusalem; my novel “Esther” close to 40 years. You get a rush of power to know that you can put any words or philosophy you wish into your characters’ mouths, any thought in their minds.

The act of writing a book need not take years. None of my 14 books took me more than six months to complete, some much less, even when I had a full-time job. Aim for a minimum of 3 pages a day. With that quota, in just 90 days you will have the first draft of an average-sized book.

Remember only 10% is inspiration, the other 90% is perspiration! Sit down. Don’t doodle. Don’t even go to the bathroom during writing time unless kidney stones would result. Don’t take phone calls. Go into a trance in which your characters come to life. They’ll take over and tell you what they want to say and do. Keep the rhythm of work going until you’ve completed your word quota. Then each day will be a triumph.

You will have rejections – all writers do, even famous ones. Just re-submit until someone likes it. If it’s finally published, and you hold a copy in your hands, the thrill is like giving birth. You have created this miracle, and readers will be able to share your eyes. And the long lonely effort (for writing is a lonely occupation) is well-rewarded.

Thomas Wolfe wrote: “If a man has talent and cannot use it, he has failed. If he has talent and only uses half of it, he has failed. If he has a talent and learns to use the whole of it, he has succeeded and won a satisfaction and a triumph few men ever know.”

Happy writing! I am here to help with any of your writing problems – contact me at dwaysman@gmail.com

My latest novel “Searching for Sarah” is available direct from me at discount.

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INSPIRATION FROM OTHER’S WORDS

No-one knows exactly where Inspiration comes from. It can arise from another person’s words; a deep emotional experience; listening to music; admiring a painting; a walk in Nature … the list is endless. I have often found inspiration from reading something written by someone else – that took my mind down hitherto unexplored roads. I often found it after reading a poem; and after reading one translated from the Sanskrit, this was the result:

ON READING  ‘BLACK MARIGOLDS’ (*translated from the Sanskrit)

I hear the mysterious tinkle of temple bells

As I walk through spicy bazaars

Where merchants buy and sell silver.

Swarthy skin sweats

And almond eyes peer

As my hands touch turquoise silk.

How musically the cadences rise

And fall, silent, like dewdrops.

Words of love, lust and longing

Purified by their beauty.

Like King Solomon’s “Song of Songs”

These images too, seduce the senses.

The poem ends too soon

And I am still.

I have never seen a black marigold,

Yet suddenly it appears before me

And its perfume, tantalising,

Lingers on the breathless air.

So, try this exercise. Read a poem that you love, close your eyes and think about it. What makes it magical? What special feeling do you have after reading it? While it is still fresh in your mind, take a pen and paper, and just see what develops. You may be surprised!

Happy writing! You can contact me free with any writing problem, and I will try to help you. My latest novel “Searching for Sarah” is available direct from me at discount – e-mail”: dwaysman@gmail.com

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BE INSPIRED AND MOTIVATED

I’ve collected a few quotes to inspire you in your writing during these difficult times. Take them to heart!

The scariest moment is just before you start!

Make yourself a writing area, no matter how small – just for you, your pen, or laptop/computer. A quiet place.

As soon as you start to pursue a dream, your life wakes up and everything has meaning.

If there are no tears in the writer, there will be no tears in the reader. If there is no surprise for the writer, there’ll be no surprise for the reader.

Learn to enjoy your own company, because good writing requires concentration.

Inspiration is everywhere, if you seek it out.

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.

Listen to the criticisms and prejudices of your trusted ‘first readers.’

Enjoy the process of writing, and what you learn about yourself along the way.

We are all apprentices in a craft where no-one ever becomes a master.

Forget all the rules. Forget about being published. Write for yourself and celebrate writing.

Happy writing! I am here to help you, free, with any writing problems. E-mail me at dwaysman@gmail.com

My latest novel “Searching for Sarah” is available direct from me at discount.

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