Writing Podcasts

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While I was waiting in line for fast food, a boy of about 4 years old was pirouetting nearby until he crashed into me. His mother was horrified and struggled to apologize.

“That’s okay,” I told her. “I’m a daddy.”

That was all it took to explain to her that it really was okay. With that, she almost started crying.

“Oh,” she said. “You understand!”

When people make a connection, when they realize they share something that not everyone has, there is a spark of light. Imagine being lost in a city and suddenly getting your bearings and knowing where you are. You’re reminded that you’re not alone in the dark and there are others who have experienced the same struggles as you.

Are you a writer? So am I. That may not be enough to make you feel unlost. What if I told you that I sit in my favorite coffee shop and wrap away at the keys, wishing someone would glance my way and think now there’s a serious writer and I will not check my Facebook if anyone can see me. I always try to keep my document open, or at least Twitter, right?

Anyone do that? Maybe a few of you.

Do you walk into a room and look for the nearest emergency exit, or do you compose a description in your mind? Perhaps you look at the people and imagine what they’re anxious about, or even what kind of things they like to read and if they were to read your writing, if they would be inspired.

I like to think that writing is a solitary thing. And in the way that it’s personal communication, it is something that should be done only with one’s own thoughts and beliefs. But writers don’t have to be alone. As much as I relish the idea of sitting in a shack in the middle of the desert to write, I have to admit something true, we need to connect.

Do you write? Do you feel lost and alone sometimes, and not in a good way where the aloneness is invigorating? Do you just need a reminder that there are others out there on the same journey as you? There are others on their own paths, but striving toward a similar goal and experiencing the same joys and concerns.

You don’t have to get all social or join a writer’s group, but imagine being out in the nighttime sea and seeing a guiding beacon. I want to tell you where to look.

Writing podcasts can be as simple as a guiding star, and as vital as a lifesaving line thrown to you from a kindred spirit. There are too many to mention here but I want to mention my favorite three for you.

  •  The Journeyman Writer is hearty snippets of valuable writing advice and just one of the podcasts put out by a talented duo. I feel included in their circle of friends as I listen.
  •  Helping Writers Become Authors is more than a podcast rich in writing instruction. There is also a blog and if you follow on Twitter or FB you get Writing Questions of the Day that makes you think hard about what you’re doing.
  •  Sarah’s Write Now Podcast may be my favorite, not just because I got to be her guest for an episode.  I think her podcast stands out because it is unique in how she speaks to the soul of the writer. While there are good podcasts that focus on the mechanics or business of writing, The Write Now Podcast encourages someone with a gentle spirit of love and truth. There’s no better way to feel like a writer.

There are plenty more good podcasts. Get out and find some. Your homework, however, is not to link them in the comments. I’m weary of deleting spam there. Instead, tell us about a writing quirk of yours. What funny habits or rituals do you have that perhaps others might share? Let’s draw a little closer on our Road Walking this week.

 

 

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Roadwalker

Why Roadwalker? Where did that come from? Am I trying to prove something here?

Roadwalker

Here’s the thing: I’ve always liked roads. I loved cars at an early age and the road held a great excitement for me. The very road outside my home connected to the main street, which connected to the adjoining highway, then interstate freeways. I could touch the road at the curb outside my house and be touching roads all over the continent.

And Walker? It’s about not being in a hurry. Survey what’s around and take the necessary time to be real. I can’t speed up time by hurrying, I can only miss things. Walk forward.

In the end, all we have is ourselves to move through life. No fancy cars can take on on the road we’re talking about here. Walk the road, a road of possibility and hope.

Underneath the Roadwalker title of my blog, I will have a subheading that’s my call to action. I’m still thinking about it and I want it to be significant and communicate what I believe. I caught a glimpse of it this morning when I was lying in bed thinking about how 6am came and went without me getting up to write. Something came to my mind and I reached for a pen and paper next to my bed and wrote it down. That little seed may be the anchor of my mission statement, my call to action.

Your call to action is this: At some time today or later this week, slow down a moment and look around. Find something you would have missed had you not stopped. Write about what you saw and share it here in the comments, either as a link to your blog or even a few paragraphs in the comment box.

Let’s see if by next week my mission statement has solidified. Until then, be open to possibilities.

 

Call to Action

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     I had the opportunity to have dinner with the person who does more to hold me accountable to truth than anyone else in the world. We talked about a lot of things and then I ventured out on the subject of my writing. When I discuss writing with her, it’s like walking out on a narrow bridge over shallow water. One wrong step and I’m in the icy drink, but perhaps a little wiser and more careful.

     I shared what I wanted my next blog to be about and she didn’t like the title at all. I felt the bridge quaking there, but I stayed dry. I explained that I knew what I was doing. Then she asked me the question, “What’s your call to action?”

     “What’s my… what?”

     “The call to action.”

     I didn’t know what she meant, I was flailing and soaked.

     A call to action, it turns out, is what I read in the good blogs and hear on the best podcasts. They don’t leave the audience with nothing, but the reader or listener is challenged to do something, a call to action, that will hopefully change who they are.

     Oh, one of those.

     So I told her I could think of a good call to action, but she stopped me there and told me this:

     “You can’t tell other people to do something that you haven’t done yourself.”

     She asked if my blog had a mission statement. I admitted it didn’t. The last blog I wrote over several years had the mission to keep my writing, little else. I want this blog to be more. But of course, she’s right. Just like the novels I work on that have a central theme that everything must point to, a blog must have a theme that each post supports. This theme, or mission statement, ought to be posted with the header.

     Then the call to action would always reflect that.

     My dinner partner may not be a writer, but she’s got more writing wisdom than I do. Maybe that’s why she never liked my poetry and we ended up getting married 23 years ago.

     So I’ve held off on the latest blog entry about writing to admit here that I want to fortify my blog with a mission statement in order to strengthen the call to action.

     This means we both have homework. Mine is to think of a simple mission statement that will sharpen what I write about. What am I doing here and why?

     Yours is simpler. Leave a comment or tweet telling me a little about yourself and what you want from this blog. I’m through writing just for myself and want to know my reader more.

Let’s share this adventure.

 

 

 

The Truthful Soul

reading-a-book Ask me about the most moving things I’ve ever read, and I won’t mention any established authors. They come from people who care. I’ve saved countless notes from my wife. The words touched me. My daughter wrote a note in a father’s day card, nothing flowery, just straight truth. She told me what she believed about me, that I’ve shaped her life. It’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever read, and it was the simple truth from her heart.

That’s what good writing is. Straight truth from the marrow of your soul that expresses who you are and what you passionately believe. Yes, writing is hard work, but if you’re human, you have to be passionate about something. Let us know that in no uncertain terms and no meaningless distraction.

I met a friend last week that I hadn’t seen for 31 years. We’d been friends from middle school to high school and had the ups and downs most friends that age can have. But when we sat down to talk after three decades, it was like we’d been apart only a day and aged overnight. Why am I sharing this? Because we were always open and truthful with each other. We shared struggles, said things nobody else knew. And even though my friend was not an author, he wrote something in my yearbook that has stayed with me all this time. He would be moving away after high school and we knew we might not see each other again. I couldn’t think of anything significant to say, but he did.

Thanks for showing me what friendship is.

This is good writing. It was honest, from the heart, and unforgettable. Is this the kind of writing you want to produce? Tap into your heart of hearts. It’s there.

Your homework this time is this: Write a letter to someone who you want to say something significant to. It could be a thank you letter or a love letter. I caution you against ranting in anger or expressing hate. But write something from your heart and say the most truthful things you can. When you’re done, post a comment here with a link to your blog or where we can read it.

I hope this exercise is not only good writing, but good for your soul.

 

 

 

Use Your Voice

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You have a voice that is uniquely yours. If you’re like most writers, you’re still developing it and even recognizing it. And the more you write, the clearer it gets.
Not long ago I went to a choral concert at my parent’s church, just a Sunday afternoon indulgence where my kids could experience grandmother singing along with several other ladies and gentlemen of the senior age. The concert was okay, the music fine. But I discovered something astounding that afternoon. There were over a dozen singers onstage with their voices blending in chorus. My mother wasn’t any louder than anyone else, but I could pick her voice out. I had to listen for her, but as soon as I did, there it was, the voice I’d grown up hearing. The voice that had spoken to me, scolded me, sung to me, been there each day of my childhood and part of my life for 40 something years, I could pick it out of a chorus of similar voices all singing the same.
Read enough of your favorite authors and you will do the same thing. You may not hear a tone, accent, or inflection, but the written word can have a distinguishing voice just as much as if it’s spoken. Some authors are easy, like Cormac McCarthy or Karen Hesse. If you pick up a book of either Faulkner or Hemingway you will know who it is after perhaps less than a page of reading. And he’s what these established writers have: They know who they are and what they want to say. They have at least as much confidence in this that they are able to project it onto the page, where their words are formed into a prose as unique as a fingerprint.
As a human being, you have a voice that isn’t only the audible sounds you produce. From your heart, soul, and mind comes a part of you in any form of communication, be it the words you say or write, the clothes you wear, your body language, even the scent you might choose to splash on. All of these are form of communication. And when it’s all boiled down to its basic purpose, why do we communicate? It’s more than to convey a message. We communicate in order to change behavior. Ultimately, we want our message to go out, be heard and believed. Perhaps we could even change the recipient’s thinking. And at best, we can change their behavior, change what they do.
You, the writer, have that ability.
Next time, I will tell you more of what this voice is capable of. Most writers don’t pay the bills with our writing. But that doesn’t mean we’re not writers and it doesn’t mean we won’t carry our voice out into the world.
This week, write something that no-one will ever see. Use a pen and paper if you want so you can shred or burn it if you feel the need at the end. Write from the deepest, most primal voice you have. Filter nothing. It may start out as a dirge or a cry for something you feel you want or need. But give it time and a few pages. See what begins to appear, then tell yourself who you are. There is your voice, unfiltered.
If you’re bold enough, post it to your blog and link it in the comments section. We would all love to see the id crying out in us all.
Sometimes I close reminding you to write good sentences. Don’t focus on that this time. Go exclaim.

Why Write?

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Why do you write? Ask me and I can instantly compose some convoluted answer that sounds spot on. I like to say that writing is like scratching an itch. And for me, the itch is deep inside my brainpan. Imagine the kind of itch where you might have sunburned your back and then some coarse sand makes its way down your shirt. You may go into twisting convulsions trying to reach that itch, just to scratch it and relieve the piercing irritation. Now the itch is inside your brain and the only way to ease yourself is to write.
I like to say that. Maybe it’s true. But if it isn’t, the reason will suffice to answer most people’s questions.
The reality of why I write is not the picture of a brooding artist who must create or perish. The true picture is one of a bitter little boy playing with toys, creating worlds of his own because he feels that he had no place in the outside world.
Circumstances beyond my control fell into place when I was young. The result was a withdrawn kid who had very few friends. When I was eight years old I moved from a culture where I was secure and accepted to one where I wasn’t. I began to associate any kind of change or anything unknown to me as a source of anxiety. So I retreated into worlds I created where I was in control. It began with toy cars and spaceships where I made up stories. In addition, I told myself stories at night after bedtime that my toys couldn’t do justice as props. Eventually I was writing those stories down in spiral bound notebooks.
In school I was a poor student. Math frustrated me. I couldn’t spell and my handwriting was atrocious so I was labeled bad at English also. Once in the 4th or 5th grade I wrote a story about a little penguin that stowed away on a ship and ended up living with a little boy somewhere in the western hemisphere. I had been inspired by a stuffed penguin I slept with. The story was better than anything my teacher had seen, but I was forced to re-write it until it was neat and free of spelling errors. I thought perhaps I didn’t want to be a writer anymore and would just fly a spaceship instead.
My mom told me astronauts had to be good at math. I didn’t want to be an astronaut. I wanted to fly a spaceship. There’s a difference. So that is what most of my stories were about. I didn’t give up writing.
I wrote off and on for most of my young adult life. It wasn’t until I started seriously studying the craft that I really became passionate about it.
I never thought I was much good. I didn’t know there were a small number of writers who made a comfortable living at it. I wrote because I loved to write.
If you’re going to write, make that your reason. Distracting yourself with thoughts of fame, money and book signings won’t get a single sentence down. And if you want to be rich, then get a job where there’s a steady paycheck. I put several hundred hours into writing my latest novel. That will result in less than minimum wage if I sell anything at all.
But if I can make myself happy by sitting at the computer at the same time of day every day and spending an hour or so writing, then I’ve found something that other’s still seek.
Ask yourself why you write. Take a week or so to brainstorm and journal your ideas. When you’ve got something clear, like a purpose for it all, drop me a line here and tell me what you’ve learned about yourself. I hope this exercise will be a landmark epiphany for you.
Until next week then, good sentences.