Jacob Molyneux, AJN senior editor, writes in the Off the Charts blog on the variety of nurse bloggers:
A couple of weeks ago, as I followed our tour group, I saw this sign over a storefront on a busy street in Galway. How surprising to see that Reiki was practiced in Ireland.
Well, not so surprising says my friend, fellow nurse practitioner and Reiki Master Teacher, Jane Van De Velde, who tells me “Ireland has a huge Reiki community! I have met Irish practitioners in some of my Reiki travels.”
Check out her latest newsletter.
- Empower Yourself With Reiki (beverley1.com)
I go back every once in a while and reread the books that have always rewarded me with inspiration and encouragement. Especially now as I’m completing my book and can almost see a glimmer of light flickering at the end of the tunnel, I find I need that boost, the reassurance my work is not crap and I’m not totally delusional to think I can write.
Here are three books that jump-started my writing life and have a prominent place in my bookcase. Each time I revisit them I discover surprises I had missed before, remember old truisms now imbedded in my writing DNA and realize again the warm support as if each author is an old friend who knows me well, warts and all, and still believes I can succeed.
Natalie Goldberg. Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life was the first book I read about actually being a writer. I remember learning about the book in a short article in a woman’s magazine back in the ‘80’s. I went to Barbara’s Bookstore in Oak Park, Illinois, bought the book and immediately devoured it. Later I also bought Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg’s first book. But Wild Mind remains my first love. Goldberg tells the novice to lose control while writing, letting the wild mind take over, ignoring the “critic” or “editor” in one’s head. She details the life of a writer, gives permission to indulge in one’s passions for writing and gives exercises at the end of the chapters to prime the pump.
Anne Lamott. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life showcases Lamott’s irreverent and awesome writing style while bringing the craft of writing into a comfort zone that anyone can attain. It’s one of the few books on writing that chokes me when I read some parts. And then she coins the phase, “shitty first draft,” which I have written plenty.
Julia Cameron. The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity was my bible in the ‘90’s although I never could complete all the exercises she recommends doing to free oneself to be more creative. Although not a book centered on the writing process per se, it gave me permission to spend less time on housework and more time chasing after my muse. Cameron had a book signing in Borders Book store in White Flint Mall in Rockville, MD where a woman in the audience raised her hand. I was sure she was not a plant since she had a toddler by her side and a newborn in a carriage. She said Cameron’s book helped her get an article published. I went home and reread the book probably for the forth time but, alas, I still could not complete all those exercises.
Learning to write is an ongoing process. In future posts I will share other books that have taught and inspired me over the years.
On another note:
I was so happy to read on the AJN blog about two writing workshops for nurses.
Lastly, a plug to nurses who might live in or near New York City and who want to do more writing about their experiences, to develop a more sustainable writing practice. There’s a writing weekend for nurses cosponsored by the Center for Health Media and Policy at Hunter College and the Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing coming up July 20–22, and it’s taught by some fantastic people. Also, we’d be remiss not to mention an upcoming weekend writing workshop (August 11–12) taught by AJN‘s clinical managing editor (and a marvelous scholar and poet) Karen Roush in Briarcliff, NY.
I hope more writing workshops open in the future for nurses in other locations around the country. But, in the meantime, check out the books I mentioned above and just start writing.
What are your favorite books on writing?
“What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.”
—Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I remember Sadie Rooney handing me a brown paper bag on my visit that autumn day in the early 90s. Her husband, Jim, a self-taught preacher, had died the month before. At first it seemed she wouldn’t have the strength to honor his wish to die at home. But on that day, Sadie was pleased with herself because she had cared for Jim up to the end. So when I reached into the bag and pulled out a mug and read the inscription out loud—24-Hour Woman—I figured Sadie was thanking me for being there for her. I was the 24-Hour Woman: the nurse practitioner orchestrating the journey towards the final curtain for Jim. And buoying up Sadie to face, head on, the whole dying business.
All these years I kept the mug. It came with me when we moved out of state—twice. Sat on my desk at each new job. A reminder of my nursing success. Or so I thought.
I had made notes of my visits to Jim and Sadie. Now as I write their story for my upcoming book, I am re-thinking Sadie. How resilient she turned out to be. She was there for her husband—night and day—quelling her own fears and insecurities. And at our last meeting, she told me of her plans to become a preacher.
Now with the passage of time, I see Sadie as the 24-Hour Woman. Thinking of her gave me the encouragement to take on new challenges as she had done. I had it all wrong.
I’ve written about getting this book done so a draft will be finished by September first. (Post: Time To Get Serious). I’ve listed goals to be accomplished by the end of each month. I only have to tweak one story to meet my target for April and since there is one more day in April, I will get it done.
It’s difficult for me to do even a little bit of tweaking and not go back and revise over and over again. There will be time for editing when all the stories are written.
Another hard part for me is to follow my outline. I still find it surprising I was able to write an outline in the first place.
I remember reading Robin Hemley for the first time and laughing out loud. Was he writing about me?
“I am not one to write outlines. I hate outlines. I hate the idea of outlines. I’m one of these artsy types, who, if not relying solely on inspiration, at least tries to allow a book to proceed organically—– It basically means we don’t know what the hell we’re doing and it wouldn’t take us so long to finish a book if we wrote a simple outline.”*
Well I’ve spent five or seven years, depending how you count, avoiding outlines. Even though this is my first book and I don’t consider myself “artsy,” I say amen to Robin Hemley’s words.
I continue to plug away.
Two months down. Four to go.
*Hemley, Robin. “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Writer.” In Carolyn Forche & Philip Gerard., eds., Writing Creative Nonfiction. (Cincinnati: Story Press 2001), 57.
Seems that this is a great time to be a writer. At least that’s what I heard at the fifth annual Triangle Area Freelancers Nonfiction Writers Conference yesterday. I had attended the last three. Each year only gets better.
What I liked most was the conference was small enough to feel part of a friendly, local group and yet large enough to offer diversification of attendees and interests.
What I thought was important follows, in no special order:
Writing your creative nonfiction book:
- Write the best book you can (although we all know this, it was repeated over and over)
- Make sure facts are accurate
- Spend money on a copy editor
- Be able to concisely describe your book
- Be able to concisely describe what makes you the right person to write this book
Networking and self-promotion:
- Besides developing a platform by getting a blog and joining Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, use local media such as newspapers and magazines
- Get interviews on local television and radio programs
- “Blog rolls” now take the place of bookstore signings
- It’s not all about you, plug other writers
I’m not sure I can accurately explain all the details and advances made in the self-publishing arena so I’m not even going to try. However, Writers’ Digest magazine devotes the May/June issue to e-publishing and ways traditional publishing is changing.
I intend to buy my copy tomorrow.
I didn’t attend the 2011 Fall Conference in Asheville sponsored by the North Carolina Writers Network but I kept this description of one of the master classes: “If You’re Afraid to Write About It, You Probably Should Write About It”
Often a writer’s breakthrough comes when he finally faces up to material he’s been avoiding. Maybe it’s too personal or too painful or maybe he assumes it just wouldn’t interest anyone else. Whatever the reason, we writers often overlook our own obvious strengths, dismissing the very things that are central to us. Consequently, we write around the edges of our lives or our characters’ lives, so that our stories are pale imitations of what they could be. They may be well-written, they may even be entertaining, but they lack heart. As a writing teacher, I spend a good bit of time helping students recognize and appreciate their own writerly landscapes. When a writer makes the shift to writing about a world he knows, embodied with places and characters that matter to him, the writing almost always comes alive.
I’m currently writing about making home visits to three men that shared the same life situation. They all had terminal cancer. I visited the men on the same day because of their geographical proximity. With little experience in working with dying patients at the time, I found the visits depressing. While there are many completed chapters in my book, I had ignored this trio up to now. What is it about these men that disturb me?
What do you avoid writing about?
First of all, I have been carrying around ten extra pounds for years until they magically morphed into twenty extra pounds.
Second, over the past seven years I have written and rewritten my book of nursing stories. And I have written and rewritten the first chapter at least five times, not counting changing from past tense to present tense and back again. Furthermore, I hadn’t followed any of the many outlines I generated because I was constantly changing the structure of the book.
Why I decided that particular morning to stop procrastinating baffles me. However, I don’t intend to waste precious time analyzing why as long as I continue to make advancements.
What I have accomplished so far:
- Engaged my friend and mentor, Carol Henderson, to monitor my progress and coach me to succeed. There is nothing like having to be accountable to someone.
- Met my first month’s goal by writing three new stories.
- Developed a working outline of the complete book, which I intend to follow.
- Set a date for completing the draft: September 1, 2012.
By the way, I have lost ten pounds.
What is it you have been putting off?
I am empowered knowing age does not limit our creativity. James Arruda Henry learned to read and write in his mid-nineties. He didn’t stop there but went on to write a book: In a Fisherman’s Language.
As a gerontological nurse practitioner and woman of a certain age I am delighted to promote his story.
Earlier today I attended a poetry reading at an independent bookstore a few miles south of where I live. A former instructor of mine, Florence Nash, along with two other female poets read from their chapbooks. Throughout the readings, I drifted on the words, phrases, rhythms, twists, poignancy, humor and surprise endings.
I took Ms. Nash’s poetry class after I had heard a speaker at a conference say he assigns students enrolled in his Creative Writing course to write poetry in order to develop creativity, an ear for cadence of a phrase and ability to make every word count.
I loved the poetry class. But I found I struggled with writing poetry even more than I struggled with writing prose. Besides, the amount of time I devoted to writing poetry eclipsed the time I spent on my creative non-fiction projects. I had to make a choice and chose to concentrate on finishing my non-fiction book. I suppose I’m a one-skill person.
However, reading poetry out loud helps me appreciate the beauty of language and hopefully makes me a better writer.
I did complete one poem that I liked, a pantoum, (see below) in Ms. Nash’s class. I sent it off to a contest. It was rejected. Not much difference with the results of my prose submissions. Oh well.
Pasta and beans and basil soup
Soothing the cold rainy day.
Memories drift in the steam from the mug
Washing the years away.
Soothing the cold rainy day,
She cooks in the morning hour
Washing the years away.
Her gnarled hands crusted with flour.
She cooks in the morning hour,
And gives me a garlicky kiss.
Her gnarled hands crusted with flour.
It’s the warmth of her love that I miss.