Friday, March 28, 2014


My yoga teacher asks the class at the beginning of every session to repeat the words

I will let go of expectation.

I will let go of judgment.

I will let go of competition.

It’s a powerful way to start our yoga poses. I believe it’s a great way to start a day of writing as well.

We set up so many mental roadblocks when we write.

We are afraid of rejection.

We are afraid of getting a bad review.

We are afraid of not getting a review.

We are afraid of selling too few books.

We are afraid that we have no imagination.

We are afraid that we are just not good enough.

And if you forget for a while, there is someone sitting on your shoulder while you write, whispering all your doubts and fears in your ear.

It can be very hard to overcome these obstacles but you have to because they can paralyze your writing.

Nigel Watts says in Write a Novel and Get it Published that “Like little squirmy things that live under rocks, our negative beliefs don’t like the light of day: they are at home in the dark where they are unchallenged.”

So challenge them.

Along with expectation, judgment and competition, jealousy can rear its ugly head.

In bird by bird Anne Lamont says that “jealousy is one of the occupational hazards of being a writer.” She laments the writers “who will get the place on the bestseller list, the movie sales, the huge advances, and the nice big glossy pictures in the national magazines where the photo editors have airbrushed out the excessively long eyeteeth, the wrinkles and the horns. They will buy houses, big houses, or second houses that are actually as nice, or nicer, than the first one. And you will want to throw yourself down the back stairs, especially if the person is a friend.

Well. We’ve all felt like that. 

So what do we do about it? I don’t have any brilliant solutions but I do think little rituals can help. Keep inspirational sayings posted on cards where you can see them easily.  If you have already published a book, sit back and read a chapter and tell yourself you can do it again. Approach your writing in small steps, one word at a time. Laugh out loud when you write a funny line.

If all else fails, make yourself a strong cup of tea. I have an oversized tea cup with the words A cup of tea solves everything written around the rim. It helps.

There is a French expression

 Vouloir c’est pouvoir.   To want to is to be able to.

That’s an inspiring thought. I read it every day on a card on my bulletin board. Because I do want to. Despite the fears and doubts I want to keep writing.



Monday, March 17, 2014



When I’ve been particularly disciplined with my word quota, or if I just need a pick-me-up, I head to the nearest stationary store. There’s nothing like a stack of brand new recipe cards, a fluorescent highlighter or a fresh stack of yellow legal pads to make me feel that the life of a writer has its perks! And the post it notes! Need I say more? They come in every possible size, colour and shape and are guaranteed to brighten up any writing corner! (And they are surprisingly useful!)

On the subject of yellow legal pads, I was amused to see they rated several pages of discussion in one of my favourite writing books, Page Fright by Harry Bruce.

Here are some thoughts on yellow legal pads from Page Fright . . .

Susan Sontag called them “the fetish of American writers.”

They had the undying loyalty of writers such as Beverly Cleary (the creator of the beloved Ramona Quimby books for kids), and Nelson DeMille  (whose thrillers have sold more than thirty million copies.)

Louis Auchincloss (who at 98 years old was still writing) wrote 47 books of fiction and 17 books of nonfiction on yellow legal pads.

Margaret Mitchell (Gone with the Wind) spent 10 years writing on yellow legal pads.

William Styron was a fan and often brought one to the dinner table.
John Irving wrote 11 novels and 2 books of non-fiction with a fountain pen on yellow legal pads

Lawyer John Grisham wrote his first novel A Time to Kill in longhand on yellow legal pads, working often on the steps of the courthouse.

What is it about yellow? It seems that many writers choose yellow paper, even if it’s not a legal pad.  Poet Conrad Aiken said, “I preferred yellow paper because its not so responsible looking.” Woody Allen, Elmore Leonard, Isaac Asimov and Malcolm Lowry all wrote on yellow paper.

Alexandre Dumas wrote his poetry on yellow paper, his non-fiction on rose coloured paper and his historical novels on blue paper.

The idea is that white paper can be daunting. Cheap yellow paper (or napkins) is friendlier and less intimidating. I once took an art course for non-artistic people and the instructor had us draw with black felt pens on printed newspaper for the first month for that very reason (it was also impossible to erase anything!

Rose-coloured paper? Sounds interesting. I think a trip to Staples is next on my list!

Favourite Kid’s Book of the Week:

The Higher Power of Lucky By Susan Patron

A winner of the Newbery Medal!

This heartwarming book is the first in a trilogy. 

Amazon: Lucky, age ten, can't wait another day. The meanness gland in her heart and the crevices full of questions in her brain make running away from Hard Pan, California (population 43), the rock-bottom only choice she has.

It's all Brigitte's fault -- for wanting to go back to France. Guardians are supposed to stay put and look after girls in their care! Instead Lucky is sure that she'll be abandoned to some orphanage in Los Angeles where her beloved dog, HMS Beagle, won't be allowed. She'll have to lose her friends Miles, who lives on cookies, and Lincoln, future U.S. president (maybe) and member of the International Guild of Knot Tyers. Just as bad, she'll have to give up eavesdropping on twelve-step anonymous programs where the interesting talk is all about Higher Powers. Lucky needs her own -- and quick.

But she hadn't planned on a dust storm.

Or needing to lug the world's heaviest survival-kit backpack into the desert.

It’s interesting to note that the book caused a bit of a scandal in some circles because it has the word scrotum in it! I believe some schools considered banning it!