Weekend Edition – Finding the Place Where Your Writing Gets Interesting

Using Curiosity & Contradiction to Fuel Your Writing:

Follow your curiosity where it leads, to the edges of the reality you know, and beyond.

Follow your curiosity where it leads, to the edges of the reality you know, and beyond.

This week, I had not one, but two, nuggets of writerly wisdom dropped into my lap. Even more fun, they were delivered in real time by real people via Twitter, of all places.

Just before lunch on Tuesday, the Grub Street Writing Center hit my inbox with an invitation to join a tweet chat happening that afternoon. For the uninitiated, a tweet chat is a coordinated group conversation that takes place on Twitter at a particular time. You can follow and participate in the conversation via the chat’s hashtag.  Anyway – long story short – I decided to attend the chat. (I was procrastinating on a deadline, so I thought – why not?)

Side Note: I have found that the easiest way to keep up with the stream of tweets that make up a lively tweet chat is to use TweetChat.  This third-party website lets you enter the chat’s hashtag and then provides a streamlined view of the incoming tweets that highlights moderator posts and responses to your tweets. The platform also automatically appends the chat’s hashtag to your own tweets. It’s very helpful.

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The topic of the tweet chat – how to finish your novel or memoir – wasn’t particularly relevant to me (since I’m still a long ways from actually finishing any such projects), but the second question in the chat hooked my interest right away:

Q2: What strategies do novelists and memoirists use to develop their initial ideas? 

The first response that made me sit up and say, “Hey! That’s interesting.” was from Alison Murphy (Twitter Profile – “Writer, Program Director for . Fights like a girl.”):

grub chat 151123a

Aminatta Forna, the woman to whom Alison attributes this idea, is an author with five novels under her belt, so I’m guessing she has put the theory to the test.

I love the idea of writing about what you want to understand (instead of writing what you know) for a couple of reasons. First, it takes away the pressure of having to be an expert about your writing topic. If you’re writing about the thing you want to understand (vs. the thing we already know), you aren’t expected to have all the answers up front. You can learn along the way. Second, the fact that you’re learning along the way means that there’s a world of possibilities laid out in front of you when you start your journey. Writing about a thing you think you know can make you unintentionally close-minded if you fall into the trap of only working with the finite amount of information you’ve already discovered. Writing about something you want to understand, on the other hand, means you’re asking questions instead of just spitting out rote answers; and questions are much more fun than answers.

Which reminds me of a related quote from Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Live, Pray and – more recently – Big Magic. In an interview with Oprah, Berg urged creative people to stop worrying so much about following their passion, and instead follow their curiosity. Curiosity is one of the words that define my personal “manifesto” for living and creating, and it fits perfectly with this idea of writing about things you want to understand. I’ve written about the genius of curiosity before, and here is an excerpt from another post I wrote after hearing the lovely Susan Orlean speak about how  curiosity fuels her projects:

What matters to you? Write about that. Follow the lead that keeps you up at night. Build a story around it, or unearth and share the story that already exists. Let yourself be consumed with a burning desire to know, to learn, and to share. Orlean talked about needing a sense of discovery and amazement in her projects. She said that she knew she was on the right trail when each new piece of information made her think, “Wow! That’s amazing!” Her creative fires were stoked by a constant need to share what she’d learned with others, to give her readers that same moment of awe and epiphany.

Indulging your curiosity is not only an excellent strategy for developing initial story and project ideas, it also helps keep you engaged and excited about your work, and it infuses your writing with a sense of excitement that your readers can feel. Curiosity and exploring the unknown leads you on a journey full of the unexpected, epiphanies, and the chance to learn new things about your world, your work, and yourself. That’s a pretty good bang for your buck, if you ask me.

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The second tweet that I loved from this chat was also sent in response to the question about how writers develop initial ideas. This answer came from Sonya Larson (Twitter Profile:Program Director of Grub Street. Writer. Break-dancer? Someday.):

grub chat 151123b

This is brilliant advice. Contradictions and opposing truths are the heart of tension and conflict which are, in turn, at the heart of a strong narrative. Looking for those differences in the world around us – in individuals, cultures, beliefs, actions, etc. – can help us unearth the core of strong story ideas that open up new possibilities.

Larson’s comment also reminded me of a piece I wrote a few years back for my marketing blog about how all the most interesting things  happen on the edges:

Out on the edges things get interesting. People try new ideas, combine disparate concepts, and look at life through a different lens. You can see farther and into new places. Experiments fail and succeed. Alliances are forged. Partnerships are brokered. On the edges is where the great mash-ups happen. Peanut butter gets into chocolate and the world is changed forever

Though these two concepts are slightly different, like following your curiosity they both have to do with opening ourselves up to more possibilities. Part of our job as writers is to use our perceptive abilities and imagination to see the different facets of people and situations. One of our super powers is the ability to see things from different angles and viewpoints, to keep an open and flexible mind that allows us to shift the reader’s perspective. We shatter assumptions, bend and expand reality, shape stories so that they redefine how someone sees the world.

This idea of exploring opposing but equally true realities also relates to the tried-and-true writer’s tool of asking the question, “What if?” What if the serial killer is also a philanthropist? What if the charlatan magician is also a real wizard? What if the rigged political race is also a true reflection of the people’s voice? What if your true love is also your nemesis? On the edges where opposites meet, there is friction, and in that friction, great stories are born … if you’re willing to ask the questions and explore the unknown with open eyes.



book thirstyKristin Bair O’Keeffe’s second novel, The Art of Floating, was the book that drew me back into a long dormant love affair with reading for pleasure. The book lust that story inspired in me kept me reading late into the night like a kid with a flashlight under the covers. I loved it.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting O’Keeffe at a local author fair. Though I was a little star struck and may have babbled a bit, we had a lovely chat – more about kids than books – and I picked up a copy of her first novel, Thirsty.

An excerpt from the book description:

It is 1883, and all of Klara Bozic’s girlish dreams have come crashing down as she arrives in Thirsty, a gritty steel town carved into the slopes above the Monongahela River just outside of Pittsburgh. She has made a heartbreaking discovery. Her new husband, Drago, is as abusive as the father she left behind in Croatia.

In Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s debut novel, Klara’s life unfolds over forty years as she struggles to find her place in a new country where her survival depends on the friends who nurture her: gutsy, funny Katherine Zupanovic, who isn’t afraid of Drago’s fist; BenJo, the only black man in Thirsty to have his own shop; and strangely enough, Old Man Rupert, the town drunk.

This isn’t the kind of story I’d usually be drawn to. I tend to prefer novels with a little more fantasy and magic, and I don’t often spontaneously choose historical narratives. Still, based on how much I loved The Art of Floating, I was more than willing to give O’Keeffe’s other novel a try. I was not disappointed.

I’ll be honest, this wasn’t a book that I loved from page one. It was a book that crept up on me, slow and stealthy, so that by the time I had reached the last third of the story, I was willing to abandon all the other obligations of my afternoon in order to curl up on the couch and finish the story. (Which is, by the way, exactly what I did.)

O’Keeffe handles the passage of time with great skill and subtlety. For a relatively short book, she covers a long period of time – about forty years – but it never feels tedious. Though it took me a little bit to get used to the idea of skipping years between chapters, once I found the rhythm, it seemed a natural way to tell Klara’s tale. As a writer, I was impressed by O’Keeffe’s ability to select the moments that would best tell the story over the course of a lifetime. The way the story takes us from one important moment to the next, skipping all the unimportant stuff, feels very authentic in that it mirrors the way we recall memories of our own.

Though the story is on the one hand very gritty and even, in places, hard to read because of the subject matter – abuse, death, war, grief, regret – it had for me the feel of a fairytale. Despite the stark realism of Klara’s life in the dirty and desolate mill town, there is always a thread of faith, strength, and hope that runs through the story. There are moments of light in the darkness that keep Klara, and the reader, pushing ahead, persevering to reach a hopefully happy ending. Some of these moments have a flavor of magical realism about them, like the flock of angelic butterflies that visits the town, but most of them are magic of a different kind – the magic of love, friendship, redemption, and joy.

Thirsty is a hard, but beautiful tale that shines a light on the best and worst of the human spirit. O’Keeffe’s poetic language weaves a spell that draws us slowly into the grip of the story so that, by the time we reach the end, we feel as if we have traveled the years with her characters and come away better people for having taken the journey.

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dan blank giveawayIn other shareable news, Dan Blank of We Grow Media is hosting a fabulous giveaway. The Creative Success Giveaway features six books that promise to inspire and support you in your creative journey:

  • The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer
  • Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Rising Strong by Brené Brown
  • Still Writing by Dani Shapiro
  • Essentialism by Greg McKeown
  • The Steal Like an Artist Journal by Austin Kleon

Each of these books is on my To Read List, and if you’ve spent any time here on the Weekend Edition, you already know that I love Dan’s work helping authors connect with readers. (His blog posts are often included in my weekly wrap-up of writerly blog posts.)

You can enter the giveaway here until 7PM EST on December 4th. Prizes will be awarded on December 7th. Good luck!


And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly and otherwise inspiring/informative/entertaining posts from this week:


Finally, a quote for the week:

pin curiosity disney

Here’s to heeding your curiosity and daring to step into the places where different truths clash to create new realities. Happy writing! Happy reading!
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
Forest Path Photo Credit: Casey Hugelfink via Compfight cc

Friday Fun – Black Friday for Writers

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: So, it’s “Black Friday,” supposedly the biggest shopping day of the holiday season. Whether you partake of the retail madness that abounds for these twenty-four hours or not, it’s still fun to talk about gifts. SO – what’s on your writer’s wish list this season AND/OR what’s your favorite gift to give as a writer (to other writers, or to non-writer muggles)? 

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: I usually have a pretty long list of writerly things I’d like, but this year there’s no one item I’m particularly coveting. Having just bought a house this summer, I’m feeling like that purchase kind of filled my gifts-to-me quota for the year. I wouldn’t say no to a working time turner, though.

For gifts that are more readily available in the muggle world, I liked the suggestions in Sabrina Taylor’s holiday-gifts-for-writers-and-entrepreneurs post on Craft Your Content. Each item in her list is something I already have, or would like.  I’m also always a sucker for new notebooks, like these from Word. Notebooks,  or these from Field Notes, or these waterproof ones from Rite in the Rain.

As for what I like to give – books, books, and more books. I love to choose books for each person on my list. I rarely give novels, but will often find great non-fiction choices that will hopefully deliver hours of pleasure after the holidays. I also love giving picture books as gifts for adults.

Oh! One more idea – Audible. I listen to a lot of audio books, and I have found my Audible membership to be a great value. I highly recommend this as a gift idea for any writer or reader on your list.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson: I love collecting fancy-to-me roller ball pens, mostly from Levenger. I’m a total geek for Barnes and Noble or Amazon gift cards so I can buy books. And I also love receiving new journals – of any kind. Renewal of writing-related magazines are always great, too.

Gifts for writer friends include custom-made pens; gift card packs; journals or calendars with specific topics (ie, a daily prompt, or a gratitude-specific journal,  or something with a theme) that encourage writing each day; once in a while a bookmark might be a great gift, too.

For non-writers, I find restaurant gift certificates to be good gifts — or gift cards to a spa for some pampering after the holiday.

M. Shafer, Photo

M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin: I love Black Friday. After gathering provisions for the Thanksgiving feast and weekend, Black Friday is a blessed day of rest when I don’t have to drive into town or buy anything. What a relief! That said, my husband’s birthday comes right on the heels of Thanksgiving, so the day before Thanksgiving, I picked up his gifts at Everyone’s Books, my local, independent bookstore. I chose all recent titles by friends and neighbors – which I’ll showcase in my next post here (Tuesday, December first).

The Thanksgiving Reader

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’d like to share with you the Thanksgiving Reader, posted by Seth Godin, to be shared around our Thanksgiving tables this year, and for years to come. It’s a beautiful compilation of stories, quotes, and art.

Earlier this week, my colleagues here at Live to Write—Write to Live shared their take on being grateful and giving thanks. (Here’s a link to Lisa’s post and to Julie’s post.)

Today I’d like to share with you two quotes from the Thanksgiving Reader that resonated with me the most:

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.

It turns what we have into enough, and more.

It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. It turns problems into gifts, failures into successes, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events.

It can turn an existence into a real life, and disconnected situations into important and beneficial lessons. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. “

–Melody Beattie


“I think that we can’t go around measuring our goodness by what we don’t do—by what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude. I think we’ve got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create, and who we include.

–Robert Nelson Jacobs

I’d also like to take a moment to say I’m truly grateful for this community here at Live to Write—Write to Live. I hope each of you has a wonderful Thanksgiving, whether you are working or at home, alone or with a crowd, cooking or eating leftovers, surrounded by loved ones or missing them today.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, family physician, and life coach. I’m also planning to win NaNo in a few days. I’m a little behind, but not as much as in years past at this time! If you like, you can join me at Rodger’s Memorial Library in Hudson, NH, for a Write-In on Saturday, November 28th. For more information, click here. It’s a chance to use the power of the group to power through those last few (thousand!) words on the way to 50,000. Hope to see you there!






The Act of Gratitude

Gratitude The Reason for the Season Not just nice to have, it's necessayDid you all read Lisa’s post on Monday? She and I are on the same wave length this week. Holidays are both wonderful, and stress soup. I want to focus on why gratitude isn’t just nice, it’s necessary.

Even in the most trying of times, there is something to be grateful for. Finding and focusing on that one thing can provide much needed peace, even for a moment.

Gratitude keeps us humble. Implicit in gratitude searches is being willing to say “thank you” in acknowledgment.

Gratitude is more attractive than entitlement. Enough said.

Wishing all of you, dear readers, a wonderful, gratitude filled Thanksgiving.


Julie Hennrikus, J.A. Hennrikus, and Julianne Holmes are all grateful for a lot this fall.




Short and Sweet Advice for Writers – Start in the Middle (In Medias Res)

Image from an excellent post about presentation story structure by Ffion Lindsay

Image from an excellent post about presentation story structure by Ffion Lindsay

Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end, right? Right.

But, no one ever said they always have to be told in that order.

Sometimes, the best place to start your story is smack dab in the middle, or even at the end.

In fancy-schmancy literary terms, this is called in medias res, a latin expression which basically means “in the middle of” or “in the midst of.” Writers of all kinds (literary, film, tv) use the in medias res technique to capture and hold the reader’s attention right from the first word. By dropping readers into the middle of the action, without any explanation or exposition, the writer can quickly and easily pull them deeper into the story.

Some people refer to this technique as cutting all the “throat clearing” or “small talk.” If, for instance, you open your story with a description of your protagonist and perhaps the setting, you are – by some standards – engaging in throat clearing. You are working your way up to making a point, to letting the reader know why you’re telling the story in the first place.

Think about how you tell stories about things that have happened to you. If you’re relating an anecdote about how you caught a runaway horse at the state park, you aren’t going to start with a detailed description of what you were wearing or what kind of trees and plants were in the park. You’re not going to go into a lengthy backstory about why you were at the park in the first place, or how you were feeling about being there. You’re going to start at the point when you heard hoofbeats pounding through the woods, coming at you from you didn’t know where. You’re going to immediately put the listener into the most exciting part of the story.

Or, here’s another example – did you ever get back an academic essay to find that the teacher had crossed out the first three paragraphs of your paper and drawn an arrow to the fourth with a note saying, “Here’s your beginning.” Lots of first drafts – fiction and non-fiction – have too much throat clearing in their beginnings. Think about this when you are editing your own work. Can you move the information in your opening lines or paragraphs to a later point in the story and then instead start your story a little further in where the action starts to sizzle?

Here are a couple examples of stories that use in medias res to draw readers in:

The Art of Floating by Kristin Bair O’Keeffe opens with the lines,

Sia Dane discovered the man on the beach exactly one year, one month, and six days after her husband disappeared.

One moment she was out there alone, moving toward the old clam shack with Gumper lollygagging behind, nosing about in a seaweed jumble for shells to carry home, and the next, there was the man … standing at the water’s edge … drenched as if he had just walked out of the sea.

We’re not given any explanation as to who Sia or Gumper are. We know next to nothing about them – not where they are (other than the beach), how old they are, or what they look like. We only know that they have just discovered a mysterious man. And – just like that – we’re hooked.

Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book also opens in the middle of the action:

There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.

The knife had a handle of polished black bone, and a blade finer and sharper than any razor. If it sliced you, you might not even know you had been cut, not immediately.

The knife had done almost everything it was brought to that house to do, and both the blade and the handle were wet.

Bam! Smack dab in the middle of the action.

Starting in the middle can inspire your reader to turn the page, and it can also inspire you – the writer – when you’re working on crafting a story. If you’re stuck trying to write the beginning, stop spinning your wheels. Start anywhere. Pick an exciting scene that you can’t wait to write and start from there.

Pay attention to the books and stories you read, to the TV shows and movies you watch. I bet you’ll be able to find all kinds of examples of in medias res once you know what you’re looking for.
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Join me each Saturday for the Weekend Edition (a fun post and great community of commenters on the writing life, random musings, writing tips, and good reads), or introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

Being Grateful and Giving Thanks

With the momentum for stress building due to the upcoming (US) holidays, I find it more important than ever to take a few minutes each day to give thanks and be grateful for all that I have – regarding my writing life and my whole life.

Diane wrote about how gratitude is one of the best feelings we human beings can feel. And she opened by talking about how when we’re in a state of appreciation, we can’t also (at the same time) be in a state of fear or lack. She shares some of what she’s thankful for and has great prompts for us.

Julie talked about the gratitude journal after reading Simple Abundance. It suggests writing down 5 things, every day that you are truly grateful for. She gave us a baker’s dozen of writing-related things she’s grateful for.


I have a gratitude / thankful journal, but don’t write in it every day.  I do, however, give thanks every day. If I’m not writing the items down, I’m spending a few moments before bed saying my thanks out loud. Sometimes it can be a lot more than 5 things, sometimes the 5 things became the basics: fresh air, clean clothes, food in the fridge that wasn’t moldy, hot water, a new writing project.

I used to find the holiday season stressful: pressure to find the ‘right’ gift, dealing with family dynamics, increased traffic, crowded malls, work deadlines that didn’t account for all the delays due to increased traffic and crowded malls, cards to write and mail, and, oh, decorating! So much to do and not enough time to do it!

It’s this time of year, and during stressful moments, when we need to pause, take a deep breath, and spend a moment connecting with what is good.

Stop. For a moment.

Breathe. Slowly in, hold it, slowly out.


Be still, breathe, and look around.

Look not just at what is around you at the moment in the physical space, but look around inside yourself and discover all the positive feelings, recognize what makes you smile, listen to the sounds around you.

You can be grateful for being able see, feel, and hear. Already 3 things, right there. You may see a mess that needs to be cleaned up. You may feel aches and pains. You may hear a generator instead of silence. But you can be grateful to have those sensations, those abilities — not everyone does.

As Thanksgiving comes rushing toward us this week, I hope you can find a minute each day to pause and either write down or say out loud, at least 5 things you are grateful or thankful for.

This morning I’m grateful for technology (to do my work), the sunrise (to light up the room), fresh coffee (need I say more), writing projects (to pay the bills), and fleece (to keep the chill away).

What are at least 5 things you are grateful for right now?

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with manufacturing, software, and technology businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Weekend Edition – Why I Blog, One Writer’s Convoluted Tale

Blogging – Why I Do It & What It Does For Me

hands keyboardThis week’s Friday Fun post asked, “Why do you blog, and is it worth it?” It’s a valid question. Blogging can be a very time consuming pursuit. I spend an average of five hours each week planning, writing, and commenting here at Live to Write – Write to Live. That’s a pretty substantial chunk of time in my world, hours some might say I should spend working on other writing projects – a novel, a nonfiction book, a short story collection, etc. Though I sometimes worry that maybe those people are right, and my blogging habit is just an elaborate procrastination scheme, those moments of doubt don’t last long. I know there’s much more to my blogging than mere avoidance.

Anyway, since client deadlines kept me from chiming in on yesterday’s Friday Fun post, I wanted to take some time today to share a little bit about why I blog, what it means to me, what it does for me, and to invite you to share your thoughts on the topic.

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My blogging journey began more or less by accident. I’ve shared my blogging genesis story before, but the short version is that I began by publicly journaling about my divorce, which led to a gig as a mommy blogger, which gave me the confidence to launch a marketing blog with five other professional copywriters, which eventually landed me here (since one of those other copywriters was our own, dear Wendy). I no longer mommy blog, or write for my own or any other marketing blog, but I continue putting in my five hours each week here.


Good question.

There are several different kinds of bloggers. Some bloggers …

  • Develop blog properties with the focused intent of monetizing them via products, ad revenue, or affiliate sales
  • Use their blogs as content marketing, not expecting any direct monetary return from the blog, but using it to promote their expertise in order to land clients for their business
  • Do what they do simply to express themselves, share their knowledge, and build communities around common experiences and interests
  • Writers and artists, create a blog to be both a portfolio and a community hub for their fans and patrons, using it to increase awareness of and support for their work
  • Use their blogs as a public chronicle of a personal journey, exploring their lives, thoughts, and emotions
  • Blog purely to keep themselves accountable to a writing practice

When you understand which of these reasons motivates you to blog, you’ll have a much easier time setting expectations, making blog-related choices, and reaching goals (whether your goal is selling 1,000 copies of your novel or simply sticking to a consistent writing schedule for three years). When you’re clear about why you’re blogging and what you hope to get out of it, you gain a lot of valuable clarity. You can be more intentional about what you write, and this will help you evolve as a blogger (and a writer!) more quickly and in a more meaningful way.

I definitely started out as a blogger who wanted nothing more than to express myself and find a community of people who could relate to what I was going through. I had little knowledge of what blogging actually was, no idea how it’s popularity would explode, and no clear vision of where I wanted to go with it. I just wanted to get stuff out of my head and into the world. I loved that people responded to what I wrote, and was giddy when someone offered to pay me for my writing.

My professional blogging about marketing and copywriting was straight-up content marketing. As someone new on the freelancer scene, I needed a way to demonstrate to prospective clients that I knew what I was talking about and could wrangle words. Blogging helped me build an archive of articles on relevant topics that I could later use when pitching a client. I even had a few instances where clients found me through the blog (though, because I didn’t do any heavy promotion for the blog, those were few and far between).

Today, my hybrid motivation is a mash-up of professional (build a portfolio, create a platform), personal (explore ideas, connect with others), artistic (improve my craft, hone my voice), and pragmatic (stay productive and accountable) reasons. It’s a lot to expect of any practice, but – in my experience – blogging delivers.

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In her book, The Power of Vulnerability, Brené Brown talks about the importance of having a creative outlet. She says, “Unused creativity is not benign – it metastasizes. It turns into grief, rage, judgement, sorrow, shame.” She also touches on the importance of doing work that fulfills you – work with a purpose that is meaningful to you. She’s quick to clarify that she doesn’t mean you should quit your day job in order to pursue work that won’t keep a roof over your head. She explains that people who live “whole-heartedly” make time in their lives for meaningful work, but that very few of them actually do such work as their main profession. In most cases, the meaningful work is something they do outside of their regular jobs: a plumber who paints on the weekends, an accountant who is also a jewelry designer, a marketing assistant who spends three weeks a year volunteering as a relief worker in third-world countries.

She also points out that the meaningful work doesn’t have to be grandiose. Your meaningful work doesn’t have to receive accolades, make money, or earn you any major recognition. It just needs to make you happy by providing you a way to express your own unique creativity. She gives the example of a woman who makes handmade candles to sell on Etsy. The woman doesn’t make any money selling the candles, and she only makes four each month, but that’s enough. For her, that is meaningful work that allows her to share a little bit of herself with others in an authentic and vulnerable way. Brown says, “The only unique contribution that we will ever make in this world will be born of our creativity.”

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In his book, Show Your Work, artist and writer Austin Kleon talks about the importance of putting your work out into the world – sharing it, even if you’re scared. He encourages artists to think in terms of “process, not product,” and to share what you’re doing in order to “gain a following that you can then use for fellowship, feedback, or patronage.”

This idea of showing your work can be, in both a literal and a meta way, the very essence of your blogging. As a blogger, I do not pretend to have all the answers. I do not present myself as a “guru” or an “expert.” I prefer to think of myself as a fellow traveler, someone with whom you may share some part of your journey, but who may also have traveled roads as yet unknown to you. While I am happy to share what I’ve learned along the way, I tend to ask more questions than I answer. I am, as Kleon recommends, fully immersed in the process.

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I share the work of these two writers because, together, their insights illuminate the primary reasons I blog: to express my creativity, create meaningful work in my life, share my experiences and ideas, and to stay grounded in the process as much as – if not more than – the outcome of my writing.

I am not discounting my professional and material reasons for blogging – portfolio and platform building, etc. My work here on Live to Write – Write to Live serves those purposes as well, but – to come back to the original question about why I consistently spend five hours each week blogging – my motivation for showing up here has less to do with my career goals or the prospect of any financial reward and everything to do with my drive to explore my experience, connect with others, and practice my craft.

Blogging has become, for me, an integral part of my creative journey, and as such, the greatest rewards are in the doing work, in giving myself the time and head space to step out of my day-to-day and be fully here, with my thoughts and with other writers who are on their own journeys. And, if that’s not worth it, I don’t know what is.



This week, two of my writer friends published pieces that are worth reading:

Illustration by Rick Brown

Illustration by Rick Brown

Tracy Mayor, my friend and accomplished essayist, wrote an insightful and inspirational piece about “The Gap Year” for Brain, Child Magazine (the smartest, sassiest, most entertaining parenting magazine out there). A “gap year” is a year period of time that students take off from school, usually between high school graduation and college, or after their freshman or sophomore year at college. Typically, students will put their formal education on hold for a year or so in order to pursue travel, outside studies, an internship, or another kind of purposeful journey or exploration.

My daughter just entered middle school this year, and I know that the next few years are going to fly by. It may seem like a long way off, but I realize that before I’m ready, we’ll be facing decisions about what she wants to do after high school. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of a gap year, and the research Tracy shares in her essay points to many benefits including increased maturity, greater focus, and even better study habits and academic performance.

I also love that Tracy tweeted the piece with this comment:

tracy m tweet

We’ve decided that our mommy gap year will take place in Iceland.

··• )o( •··

Photo by Eneas De Troya

Photo by Eneas De Troya

This week also included a treat of a read from my friend YiShun Lai. Her short story, “Next of Kin” (published by Atticus Review) is an exemplary piece of work that reminded me how satisfying a short story can be.

The story begins …

At the consular offices in Mexico City, the dress code is nearly always casual. Open-necked shirts, light-colored trousers that won’t stick when you get up from a park bench after your lunchtime meeting afuera.

Your father is not as interested in this new posting, but then, he’s always thought the jobs that required a suit and tie were the only ones ever worth living. At your last posting, in Hong Kong, it was suits and ties every day.

You prefer this casual option. Yes, Dad, it has buttons on it. No, Dad, I’m not buttoning that top button.

Your first few weeks are an absolute mess. Dad has decided to come for a visit before his airline miles expire, conveniently a month after your arrival in Mexico.

Read the rest here …

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:


Finally, a quote for the week:

Rather than a quote, this week I’m sharing a lovely video about the art of bookmaking. Stories are magic, and books are the vessels that hold that magic. The art of crafting books using traditional techniques is, then, a magic all its own.


Here’s to discovering and embracing your creative journey (whether it includes blogging, or not), and to enjoying the process as much as the product. Happy writing!  
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

Hands on Keyboard, Photo Credit: Anonymous Account via Compfight cc