Question mandala: A creative process for getting unstuck

I finished the first draft of my memoir in the Spring. The writing flowed freely and quickly, mostly because it was a story that had been simmering and growing for more than ten years since my son Matthew died and then was born.

Once I had about 60,000 words and it felt like I’d reached the end, I set it aside for a couple of months so that I could return with fresh perspective.

But then… every time I tried to return to it, I felt stuck. “Re-writer’s block” you might call it. I knew it needed work, but I didn’t know where to start. I knew I was losing the thread in parts, but I didn’t have a clear enough sense of what the thread was to fix the places where it was broken. Every time I’d come to the page, I’d do a little tweaking here and there, knowing full well that it needed more of an overhaul than a tweak.

Finally, in mid-October, I felt ready to put some serious work into it.

My return to it started in a roundabout way. First I cleaned my studio. Call it a metaphor… “clearing space, clearing mind”. Once there was space for my creativity to blossom again, suddenly I found myself eager to return to the page.

I got back into it and started doing some deeper editing than I’d done before, re-arranging ideas and playing with threads. But something told me I still wasn’t going deeply enough. The primary thread still looked blurry.

That’s when I knew it was time to step away from words and let colour and play do their magic.

I picked up my coloured markers, made space on the floor for a large piece of posterboard, and got busy. Before long, I had the beginnings of a question mandala on the page. Over the next few days, whenever I could find a few minutes of spare time, I’d disappear into my studio, grab my markers, and add a few new elements to the design. I think it’s complete now.

And guess what? I’m unstuck! I found the thread for my book and I know how to weave it more strongly through the weak places! I’ve already begun to rewrite it, and my new goal is to have the next draft completed by the end of 2011.

In case you’re stuck in some project, here’s a bit more information about my process:

What’s a question mandala?  A mandala is a circular art form that is common in Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism. It is considered sacred art and is used as a form of meditation and spiritual discipline and awakening. In Jungian psychology, mandalas are seen as representations of the unconscious self and as a way to work toward wholeness in personality.

To create a mandala, you start at the centre and move out to the edges. Different traditions have different meanings and rituals involved in mandala design. In Tibetan mandalas, for example, there is generally a square in the centre (the palace or temple) with four doors (symbolizing the bringing together of the four boundless thoughts namely – loving kindness, compassion, sympathy, and equanimity), surrounded by three concentric circles (representing the spiritual birth, the awakening and the knowledge).

Some mandalas are very symmetrical and follow “sacred geometry”, while others simply look like free-flowing art in the form of a circle.

For me, mandalas are free-flowing (yet generally fairly symmetrical) and I don’t attach meaning to any particular shape. I simply allow things to evolve as the mandala grows. In recent mandalas, I’ve begun to incorporate questions and words as they come to me, as in my Occupy Love mandala and this most recent mandala (at the top of the page).

How does a mandala “work”? First of all, it’s important to remember that a mandala is not a means to an end. Yes, I used it to help me get unstuck, but I didn’t sit down with a specific problem in mind and expect the mandala to resolve it for me. A mandala, like any form of meditation, is meant to help us step away from our thoughts, logic and problems into a deeper level of the unconscious. Like prayer, it’s a way to clear space for an encounter with the Divine.

How did it help me get unstuck? Words emerge from the left side of the brain, so the writing and re-writing I was doing, though creative, was largely left-brained work. When I get stuck in my left brain processes (logic, analysis, naming, critiquing, defining, judging, fixing), the best solution is to step away from the problem and engage my right brain. That can be done with colour, movement, play, images, and free-flowing creativity – all of which are incorporated into my process. Before long, my left brain is jolted out of the old patterns that got it stuck and begins finding new pathways to unexpected solutions.

How can you make your own question mandala? Your mandala will be as unique as you are. It emerges out of your own brain, so it shouldn’t look like mine. If you’re new to this process, though, and want some guidelines, here are the steps I took for this particular mandala.

1. Start with a large white piece of paper. Something heavier like poster board or watercolour paper works well, especially if you’re using Sharpie markers, as I do. (You could also use paints or pencil crayons. Or if you’re doing this at work – at a board meeting perhaps – use a pen or pencil or whatever you have handy.) I find it best to get down on the floor with the paper and markers and let my body movement around the circle become part of the process.

2. Think about a simple image that is connected with whatever you’re wrestling with, or one that helps you define yourself. In my case, a butterfly is closely connected to the story that emerges in my memoir. For you it might be a candle, a walking stick, a pencil, a book – anything.

3. Draw that image in the centre of the paper. Don’t worry about what it looks like – this process is for you alone and you’ll have to let go of perfection for now. (Note: many mandalas don’t start with an image in the centre, but for this particular process, when I’m wrestling with something specific, it’s where I like to start.)

4. Draw a circle around the image. If you want it to be symmetrical, use a protractor, stencil, or bowl. If you’re not worried about symmetry, simple draw it freestyle.

5. Outside of the circle, begin with whatever shape comes to mind. Don’t over-think this. This is meant to get you out of logic and self-critique, so don’t let yourself get stuck in what will look best. Just draw! If triangles feel right, draw them. If circles feel better, then just go with it. Spirals, boxes, ovals, hexagons, squiggles – whatever. Just choose a shape and repeat it all the way around the edge of the circle.

6. Keep adding new shapes around the edge, always repeating whichever shape you choose around the entire circle.

7. Once you have a fairly substantial circle, begin a spiral of questions. Again, it’s important not to over-think this. Ask whatever pops into your head without sensoring it. (As you can see, I chose to blur out the questions in the image above, because some of them are fairly personal.) Keep writing until no more questions show up.

8. Add a few more rings of shapes outside of the questions.

9. When you feel like it’s almost complete, incorporate a circle of words that represent the themes that began emerging in your mind once you wrote your questions. Again, don’t over-think it. Even if a word seems puzzling or challenging when it shows up, write it down. It might surprise you with some new insight.

10. At the edge, decide intuitively whether you feel it needs closed energy or open energy. If you feel the need to enclose it, draw a complete circle around it and decorate the circle if you wish. If you’d rather have more open energy, finish it with shapes or squiggles or spirals reaching out beyond the page.

In the Tibetan tradition, where monks make elaborate mandalas with coloured sand, they destroy them soon after they’re complete as a meditation on impermanence (a central teaching of Buddhism). The sand is brushed together and placed in a body of running water to spread the blessings of the mandala. Though I haven’t managed to destroy the mandalas I create on paper (I suppose I’m not as evolved as Tibetan monks), I occasionally do body mandalas on my skin (like the one below) that disappear after a few baths.

I love my paper mandalas and find places to hang them on the walls around my studio or in the hallway leading to my studio. They remind me to bring colour and meditation back into my life, and sometimes they surprise me with new insight when I look back over them.

Try it next time you’re stuck. Even if you don’t have a huge epiphany, you might be surprised just how much fun it is to play with markers again.

 

Beyond the formula – Teaching for transformation

I teach writing to reluctant writers.

The students I teach in the continuing education program at the university are working on certificates in human resource management, project management, or public relations. Few of them have ever dreamed of being writers. Only a handful of them have ever considered the power of the written word.

Most of them just want to be handed the formula for “how to write an effective email” so that they can pass the course with flying colours and move on to what they’re really interested in.

“There are no formulas,” I tell them again and again, when they come to me holding their graded papers hoping to be told exactly how they can ensure an A+ for the next paper. “I can’t tell that the answer to A+B=C, because in writing, it doesn’t work that way. The only way to get better is by practicing, not by trying to find an illusive formula.” And sometimes, when they’re especially resistant (and sometimes argumentative), I add, “I’m not here to ensure that you get an A+, I’m here to teach you to be a better writer.”

Instead of giving them a formula, I push them in ways they don’t expect to be pushed. “Stretching Exercises”, I call them, and then give them creative writing assignments that have nothing to do with the course material. “If you don’t stretch yourself creatively, you’ll never be an effective communicator. No matter what your line of business is, effective communication is one of your most critical tools.”

“Writing is a transformational tool,” I continue. “If you don’t understand its power, you will misuse it.” And then I give them their final assignment – find a piece of writing that impacted your life and tell the whole class about how it changed you.

They look at me with an air of disbelief, and some of them sit with their arms crossed and pens sitting idly by while the rest of the class stretches their writing muscles.

They don’t want messy creativity or untrustworthy transformation. They want rules.

At the end of the day, I debrief with myself as I ride the bus home. “Am I teaching this the right way?” my inner doubter says, after a few too many blank stares. “Maybe I should be a little more formulaic – give them what they’re asking for. Stick with the textbook and skip the creative stuff.” And yet every time I sway in that direction, I get that icky feeling that tells me I’m not serving them well if all I do is try to invent a formula when there is none.

Each week I show up and push them all over again. And each week I get the same resistance. Sometimes the resistance grows as we get closer to the final assignment.

But then something else slowly begins to happen. A spark starts to appear in a few of the students’ eyes. They remember what it felt like to first discover the power of the written word back in grade 1 or 2. They dig into their memory vaults and remember the things they’ve read in the past that have changed their lives. They start sharing the stories they’ve written, surprised their creativity has shown up on the page. The spark grows and soon they’re telling me that they’ve dug up old journals and are writing in them again.

And then the last class comes, and I hear the most beautiful stories of people who have been transformed by novels, signs on cafeteria walls, eulogies, newspaper articles, websites, and blog posts.

That is why I teach – the re-awakening, the a-ha moments when they realize the role that good writing has played in their lives. Even if it’s just a handful of students whose spark is re-ignited, I want to be there to see it happen.

And that is why I knew it was time to stretch myself, step away from a textbook, and start offering my own classes that have nothing to do with effective business communication.

I want to see more sparks.

This week is the first class of Creative Writing for Self-Discovery, a course that has already attracted a fascinating and diverse circle of people. I could hardly be more excited. This is what I was born to teach, and these are the people who long to learn it. This is one of the things I’ve been called to gift to the world, and these people are willing recipients instead of reluctant learners.

And you know what? I wouldn’t be in this place, trusting myself to create a course that is fully in line with my own gifts (writing, teaching, facilitating personal growth, hosting a circle), if I hadn’t signed up for Teach Now last year just when I was transitioning from my job as a director in non-profit to teacher and business owner.

Teach Now is starting up again, and I’m excited to say that I am serving as a Teaching Guide for this year’s offering. If you are at all interested in learning more about what it means to be a teacher and/or stretching yourself in the role of teacher you already hold, I would highly encourage you to sign up.

Teach Now is transformational. It’s what helped me to be bold in what I teach and not give in to the demands of my students for something more formulaic. It helped me to be true to what I believed about writing and the results are clear in the students who tell me the class has been transformational. It helped me dream of the courses I want to offer in the future (including more Creative Writing and Leadership offerings).

Sign up for Teach Now, and if you’re in Winnipeg, I’d love to have you join the circle for Creative Writing for Self-Discovery. Both courses will stretch you and excite you – I promise!

 

Note: Full disclosure – As a graduate of Teach Now, I am also an affiliate, which means I’ll make a little money if you sign up through the links in this post.

Another note: Though I’m creating my own courses, I happily continue to teach at the University as well. That handful of awakened sparks in the room makes it worthwhile.

Random, honest thoughts on writing and life

a sample page from "Write to Impact Change"

What do you write the day after you’ve released an e-book on writing to impact change and you’ve heard from people all over the world that they are enjoying it and sharing it with other writers? What big and meaningful thing can you say that follows that up in a suitable way? How can you be worthy of the new people showing up on your website who might expect you to have some wisdom to share about writing and leadership?

Ack! DOUBLE ack! You know what’s happening here, don’t you?

WRITERS’ BLOCK!

I started thinking too much about the right things to say, the right way to follow up a  successful free product launch (about writing, no less), and the right way to impress you and make you think I’m a wise guru worth paying attention to, and… well, I froze. That old familiar fear lump started forming in the pit of my stomach, and no matter what I did to try to get words onto the screen, my brain and fingers wouldn’t cooperate.

So I decided to go down the path that has always served me best… honesty. (As in… “I am honestly not sure what I should write and I honestly don’t know if this is worth reading.”) And I decided that since nothing showed up that had a lovely sense of flow to it or that could be tied up in a pretty little bow, I’d give you random.

Here are some honest, random things about me, my writing, and the path I’m on these days:

1. I love to write. Love, love, LOVE it. It’s like breathing for me – necessary and life-giving. I don’t know if I could survive a week without writing. To be honest with you, writers’ block rarely gets in my way, because even if I can’t find the words for one particular piece I’m writing, I can almost always dislodge the block by starting on something else (like this random post). And there is no shortage of writing ideas in my brain. Quite the opposite, in fact. Often my problem is that there are too many ideas and I just can’t settle on one.

2. Despite the fact that writing has been a part of my career for more than 15 years and I’ve had oodles of things published, I still have moments when I deal with major doubt. I still question whether I’m good enough, and I still feel the pain when those rejection letters come. I’m pretty sure that’s normal.

3. I have recently completed the first draft of a memoir that began as the story of the impact my stillborn son had on my life, and then grew to be about surrendering to the mystery, especially when life gets painful. I set it aside for a couple of months before starting the editing process, and as I look over it now, I can honestly say that it’s pretty darn good! I am genuinely proud of it and am convinced that it needs to be shared with the world. It will be published one day, I promise.

4. The more I write, the more I realize that writing has to be part of a holistic experience for me. In order to write well, I have to find space and time for regular body movement, artistic expression, reading, and spiritual practice. I am not particularly disciplined about any of these things, but if I don’t do them fairly regularly, my writing suffers. Writing needs to engage both my left language-oriented brain and my right conceptual/creative brain and to do that I need to do things that exercise both. Movement and spiritual practice engage my right brain, while reading engages my left.

5. Variety helps me write more creatively. I can not do all of my writing at home in my office/studio. Sometimes I write on the couch, sometimes at Starbucks, sometimes on a picnic table in the park, sometimes at the library, and sometimes in the middle of the labyrinth across the river. When I was writing the Wanderer/Edge-walker series, I found that I could only engage that part of my brain if I’d done a little wandering first. I wrote none of those posts at home.

6. I want to make enough income from my writing, teaching, and speaking that I can give my family a comfortable livelihood, but I worry every day about how that will be done. After 9 months of trying, I’m still at a place where it’s not fully sustainable. I have my worst moments of panic about that in the mornings just after I wake up.

7. I wrote a novel once (while on maternity leave for my second daughter) and almost got it published, but life got busy and I set it aside. Now I’m more interested in personal writing than fiction writing. I may go back to it some day, or I may not. Whether or not it’s ever published, it was worth it just for the process and the sense of accomplishment.

8. I teach business/PR writing at the university, and I love it, but I don’t love grading papers and I’d really rather teach the kind of writing that is close to my heart. I’m designing some courses on things like “Creative Writing for Self-Discovery” and “Writing your Stories”, which I can get much more excited about. There will be no grades for these courses.

9. I love to help other people develop their writing skills.  Serving as a midwife while they birth their stories gives me great delight. I’ve had the pleasure of watching two memoirs and one young adult novel come to life while I provided encouragement and guidance from the side. If this is something you’re interested in, check out this page and then contact me. The first conversation is always free. 🙂

Writing to Impact Change – Free ebook full of tips

Good writing changes us, whether we are the writers or the readers.

I’ve taught a few writing courses this year and have plans for more in the coming months. No matter what kind of writing course I teach, whether it’s PR writing, business writing, or personal writing, there is one common element to what I teach. In every course, there is at least one session in which we talk about writing that impacts change.

Whether we write blog posts, newspaper articles, press releases, novels, ad copy, memoirs, or simply emails and Facebook updates, there is always potential for our writing to impact change in other people and ourselves. We may never see it that way (and often it’s best if we don’t), but writing is a powerful medium that can cause a LOT of impact.

While paddling across the lake last week, my friend and canoe-mate Jo, who’s very close to achieving her PhD in Psychology, told me that there is a growing field in psychology called bibliotherapy in which people use books, poetry, and other written word as their therapy. It was a relief to me to hear that this is taken seriously among experts, because books have always been my favourite therapists.

Because I teach writing for change, and have an upcoming workshop at the university called “Writing to Impact Social Change”, I’ve been asking a lot of writers to share their best tips on the subject. I have happily compiled tips from 26 writers (plus myself) that I’ve used in my classes. Writers include Christine Claire Reed, Margaret Sanders, Renae Cobb, Jarda Dokoupil, Michele Visser-Wikkerink, Jamie Ridler, Julie Daley, Katharine Weinmann, Hiro Boga, Susan Plett, Michele Lisenbury Christensen, Rachelle Mee-Chapman, Connie Hozvicka, Ronna Detrick, Dora Dueck, Marion Ann Berry, Tara Sophia Mohr, Amy Oscar, Mahala Mazerov, Debbie Lattuga, Kathy Jourdain, Lisa Wilson, Lianne Raymond, Jo Hassan, Tina Francis, and Desiree Adaway.

Because I love their advice, and I love playing with images, I put together a beautiful little ebook that I’m thrilled to share with you. (The pages look like the sample above.) Along with a tip, each page contains an original photo taken by me. (Except for the last photo, which was taken by my daughter Maddy.)

It’s a freebie – no strings attached, no need to give me your email address, no need to sign up for anything. Just download it, share it, pass it around, read it out loud at your writing circles, save your favourite pages and use them as your desktop wallpaper, or print and laminate them and hang them on your wall as posters in your writing room.

All I ask is that you PLEASE, pretty please, always remember to credit me and the other writers who graciously shared free advice with you. 🙂

To download, simply click on the image of the cover below. And then… enjoy! Be inspired. And WRITE!


Note: If you’re interested in an 8 week course that I’ll be teaching in Winnipeg this Fall called Creative Writing for Self Discovery, or if you want to know about the 1 day workshop on Writing to Impact Social Change at the university, email me at heather at heatherplett dot com.

Lend me your words (on writing to impact positive change)

Today I start teaching another writing course with a whole new circle of students.

Some of you may recall that last year when I was teaching writing, I collected writing tips on how to write to impact positive change from a number of my favourite writers and shared those with my students. I’m re-posting those below, for your inspiration.

I’m planning to do the same with this class, AND I would like to include YOUR tips as well.

If you consider yourself a writer (and that doesn’t mean you have to be published or somehow validated by anyone but yourself – the only requirement is that you love to write), I’d love to include your tips in this list that I offer my students.

Please add your tips in the comments, or send me an email at heather at heatherplett dot com. (Keep it short – I’m not looking for essays.)

After the tips have been gathered, I’ll share them with my students AND I plan to put together a little e-book which I will offer for free download on this site. (Just think – this could be your opportunity to be “published”!)

Be specific.
Be PERSONAL.
Be vulnerable.
Be yourself.
Christine Claire Reed

Follow the fear.  When I have something to say that I’m afraid to say because of the reaction I fear I might get, that’s when the writing has the most impact.  And I just have to sit down and write it.  If I overthink, the power dwindles.
– Renae Cobb

Tell a personal story about an experience that impacted you in a profound way. A moment in which you knew with absolute certainty, this is the person I am meant to be.
– Margaret Sanders

1. Start with: “I want to tell you that…”
You’re going to erase that little line once you’re done your piece, but I find if I start with that bit of sentence, my writing is more focused on what I really want to say, and what I really want the reader to remember.

2. Once you think your piece is polished, go back and cut 20 percent more. Most of us write too much and you would be surprised how much you can cut without losing your message. Your message will be more clear because you’ve taken out all the extraneous words. If you are really long winded, you might even need to cut 30 percent.

3. Believe what you are writing about. Bullshit doesn’t make for behavioural change.
– Michele Visser-Wikkerink

Think of a time in your life when someone said something to you and it
changed everything. It may have been as simple as yelling out “Stop!” as you
were about to step into the street. It may have been hearing that someone
believed in you. Or that they didn’t. For me, it was when my boyfriend
looked at a sign for theatre auditions and said to me, “Hey, you might like
that!” It changed my life forever. What words have changed your life?
– Jamie Ridler

Write from your own experience.
Don’t be afraid to share your wisdom.
Be transparent with your process, warts and all.
Invite people to consider, rather than trying to get them to change.
Share your stories, because they are the best way to make a point.
– Julie Daley

Learn how to network if you really want to make an impact as a writer. It’s not a direct “writing skill,” and many writers are very introverted, so writers often don’t appreciate the importance of networking if you want to impact behavioural change with your writing. There’s so much writing out there these days that it’s hard to get your writing noticed – even if you’ve put a lot of careful thought into writing catchy headlines/ book titles! You can write amazing “impactful” stuff, but if nobody is reading it, it’s not going to effect behavioral change. The thing that’s most likely to get people to notice your writing is relationships. People who know and like you will be more likely to read your stuff – and to pass it on to others. And when they read your stuff, the people who know and like you are much more likely to read your writing with an open mind and to take action.
– Cath Duncan

Reframe, reframe, reframe….what is the inherent possibility or potential
and how can your words and perspective  illuminate this?  This of course
presumes potential exists and that pattern emerges from chaos.
– Katharine Weinnman

Write it for the people not for yourself.
– Jarda Dokoupil

Consider these questions:
Who are you talking to?
What do you want to say to them?
What are you feeling?
What qualities do you want to infuse your self and your world with?
How can you be the change you want to effect?
– Hiro Boga

I think if you come to the page thinking “I have to impact positive change” you’re going to shut yourself down immediately.

I think the most important thing is to TELL THE TRUTH, because the truth speaks for itself.  Open, honest, vulnerable writing will influence readers.
– Susan Plett

1. Meet people where they are – make sure they feel GOTTEN – empathetic messages before emphatic messages
Understand change has stages
2. Give baby baby baby steps
3. Share specific stories, “before and after” style that help people see themselves both now and in the positive future you’re inviting them to
– Michele Lisenbury Christensen

My writing advice is to be brave enough to make yourself vulnerable in your writing—while still being honest and respectful to yourself—and your words will resonate on a deeper level with others.  When I write on my blog I write for myself with the intention that by sharing it–my words will touch others.  I try to never write at them–but to include them in my thought process. When I sit down to write I always think “what do I want to talk about”…never “what do I want to write.”
– Connie Hozvicka

Use fewer words. You may not like it that most Americans read at an 8th
grade level and have the attention span of a gnat, but that’s the reality.
If you want to communicate you have to live by it.

Create strong metaphors. If it’s wimpy, don’t use. It it’s stunning it will
stick.
– Rachelle Mee-Chapman

Here is one quote I just found yesterday that I posted on my facebook.
“You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.” ~Arthur Polotnik

As I am editing my draft memoir I am finding it very important to be clear and to use truthful words. Sometimes I find it extremely difficult to find the words to put together a sentence that will make an impact, but then I sit down to the page and take a deep breath and trust the process, I trust that I am using the right words to make the impact that is intended. To tell the story and hopefully it will be remembered.

I find it helpful for me to read out loud what I have written, to see if it makes sense, are the words I am using, choosing the right fit for the intention? I like this process.
– Marion Ann Berry

I thing the one most important thing new writers need to learn is how to tell a good story – in order to impact behavioural change, as a writer, I need to create emotional impact. To create emotional impact I need to create the opportunity for emotional resonance and, although there are other ways, a well-constructed story is one of the most effective ways to do that. Ultimately I’m interested in behavioural change that results from us becoming more connected – more connected to our true selves, other people and everything that lives and grows in our natural environment. In my experience that kind of connection can be enhanced through good story-telling. Examples could range from a well-told story about where the trash that we throw out actually goes and whose lives it effects, through to a woman sharing her birthing story.
– Marriane Elliot

Use stories! Not theoretical language.
– Tara Sophia Mohr

TELL THE TRUTH! Write in vulnerable ways. Write from your soul. Write from your own experience – or even lack thereof. Just acknowledge to us that your words are grounded in your own passions, doubts, strengths, weaknesses, questions, hopes, fears, etc.

Of course, this has to be appropriate to audience, but I think somehow, no matter the subject or the context, the best writing comes from the heart. When I read that kind of writing, I am changed. Over and over again.
– Ronna Detrick

And here are some that I added:

1.Write for the intellect AND the emotions. If you convince both, you can impact change. If you convince only one, the other may put up roadblocks.

2. Show don’t tell. Show me why the change will benefit my life. Don’t just try to convince me with impressive stats.

3. Focus on possibilities. Show me someone just like me who’s made the change and is happy about it. Make it seem attainable.

 

Tips on Writing to Impact Change (from my wise friends)

Last week, I was wrestling with how to teach my public relations students about writing to impact change. I looked in the usual places for inspiration on the subject (Google & the bookstore), but found very little. Suddenly it occurred to me that I have a lot of friends who, on a daily basis, are writing to impact change. Why not ask them? And so I did. I sent out an email to a bunch of people whose writing I respect and here are the answers that came back to me:

Be specific.
Be PERSONAL.
Be vulnerable.
Be yourself.
Christine Claire Reed

Follow the fear.  When I have something to say that I’m afraid to say because of the reaction I fear I might get, that’s when the writing has the most impact.  And I just have to sit down and write it.  If I overthink, the power dwindles.
Renae Cobb

Tell a personal story about an experience that impacted you in a profound way. A moment in which you knew with absolute certainty, this is the person I am meant to be.
Margaret Sanders

1. Start with: “I want to tell you that…”
You’re going to erase that little line once you’re done your piece, but I find if I start with that bit of sentence, my writing is more focused on what I really want to say, and what I really want the reader to remember.

2. Once you think your piece is polished, go back and cut 20 percent more. Most of us write too much and you would be surprised how much you can cut without losing your message. Your message will be more clear because you’ve taken out all the extraneous words. If you are really long winded, you might even need to cut 30 percent.

3. Believe what you are writing about. Bullshit doesn’t make for behavioural change.
Michele Visser-Wikkerink

Think of a time in your life when someone said something to you and it
changed everything. It may have been as simple as yelling out “Stop!” as you
were about to step into the street. It may have been hearing that someone
believed in you. Or that they didn’t. For me, it was when my boyfriend
looked at a sign for theatre auditions and said to me, “Hey, you might like
that!” It changed my life forever. What words have changed your life?
Jamie Ridler

Write from your own experience.
Don’t be afraid to share your wisdom.
Be transparent with your process, warts and all.
Invite people to consider, rather than trying to get them to change.
Share your stories, because they are the best way to make a point.
Julie Daley

Learn how to network if you really want to make an impact as a writer. It’s not a direct “writing skill,” and many writers are very introverted, so writers often don’t appreciate the importance of networking if you want to impact behavioural change with your writing. There’s so much writing out there these days that it’s hard to get your writing noticed – even if you’ve put a lot of careful thought into writing catchy headlines/ book titles! You can write amazing “impactful” stuff, but if nobody is reading it, it’s not going to effect behavioral change. The thing that’s most likely to get people to notice your writing is relationships. People who know and like you will be more likely to read your stuff – and to pass it on to others. And when they read your stuff, the people who know and like you are much more likely to read your writing with an open mind and to take action.
Cath Duncan

Reframe, reframe, reframe….what is the inherent possibility or potential
and how can your words and perspective  illuminate this?  This of course
presumes potential exists and that pattern emerges from chaos.
Katharine Weinnman

Write it for the people not for yourself.
Jarda Dokoupil

Consider these questions:
Who are you talking to?
What do you want to say to them?
What are you feeling?
What qualities do you want to infuse your self and your world with?
How can you be the change you want to effect?
Hiro Boga

I think if you come to the page thinking “I have to impact positive change” you’re going to shut yourself down immediately.

I think the most important thing is to TELL THE TRUTH, because the truth speaks for itself.  Open, honest, vulnerable writing will influence readers.
Susan Plett

1. Meet people where they are – make sure they feel GOTTEN – empathetic messages before emphatic messages
Understand change has stages
2. Give baby baby baby steps
3. Share specific stories, “before and after” style that help people see themselves both now and in the positive future you’re inviting them to
Michele Lisenbury Christensen

My writing advice is to be brave enough to make yourself vulnerable in your writing—while still being honest and respectful to yourself—and your words will resonate on a deeper level with others.  When I write on my blog I write for myself with the intention that by sharing it–my words will touch others.  I try to never write at them–but to include them in my thought process. When I sit down to write I always think “what do I want to talk about”…never “what do I want to write.”
Connie Hozvicka

Use fewer words. You may not like it that most Americans read at an 8th
grade level and have the attention span of a gnat, but that’s the reality.
If you want to communicate you have to live by it.

Create strong metaphors. If it’s wimpy, don’t use. It it’s stunning it will
stick.
Rachelle Mee-Chapman

Here is one quote I just found yesterday that I posted on my facebook.
“You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.” ~Arthur Polotnik

As I am editing my draft memoir I am finding it very important to be clear and to use truthful words. Sometimes I find it extremely difficult to find the words to put together a sentence that will make an impact, but then I sit down to the page and take a deep breath and trust the process, I trust that I am using the right words to make the impact that is intended. To tell the story and hopefully it will be remembered.

I find it helpful for me to read out loud what I have written, to see if it makes sense, are the words I am using, choosing the right fit for the intention? I like this process.
Marion Ann Berry

I thing the one most important thing new writers need to learn is how to tell a good story – in order to impact behavioural change, as a writer, I need to create emotional impact. To create emotional impact I need to create the opportunity for emotional resonance and, although there are other ways, a well-constructed story is one of the most effective ways to do that. Ultimately I’m interested in behavioural change that results from us becoming more connected – more connected to our true selves, other people and everything that lives and grows in our natural environment. In my experience that kind of connection can be enhanced through good story-telling. Examples could range from a well-told story about where the trash that we throw out actually goes and whose lives it effects, through to a woman sharing her birthing story.
Marriane Elliot

Use stories! Not theoretical language.
Tara Sophia Mohr

TELL THE TRUTH! Write in vulnerable ways. Write from your soul. Write from your own experience – or even lack thereof. Just acknowledge to us that your words are grounded in your own passions, doubts, strengths, weaknesses, questions, hopes, fears, etc.

Of course, this has to be appropriate to audience, but I think somehow, no matter the subject or the context, the best writing comes from the heart. When I read that kind of writing, I am changed. Over and over again.
Ronna Detrick

And here are some that I added:

1.Write for the intellect AND the emotions. If you convince both, you can impact change. If you convince only one, the other may put up roadblocks.

2. Show don’t tell. Show me why the change will benefit my life. Don’t just try to convince me with impressive stats.

3. Focus on possibilities. Show me someone just like me who’s made the change and is happy about it. Make it seem attainable.

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