Self-Help Isn’t Baloney

When my mom noticed that I was stressed about something the other day, she told me that, when the mind and spirit are at peace, the body reflects both parts, and vice versa. Without even asking me what was bothering me, she could tell by my body language and my face that I needed some encouragement.

Years of motherhood and wisdom has given her the savvy to detect emotions and vibes. She and my dad, having been together for 30 years this May, have applied themselves to learning more about the human psyche through the Holy Bible and through spiritual, psychological, and scientific self-help books.

One of my family’s favorite books is Switch On Your Brain, by Dr. Caroline Leaf, a communication pathologist and audiologist. On the subject of self-help, Leaf says that we are the masters of our own minds and domains, not random brain cells. If something bothers us in life, we—not anyone else—can change the circumstances in our environment. Leaf says, “Our perception of the environment plus how we manage our environment controls our bodies and lives…You become the master of your life instead of a victim” (65-66).

Since I currently live at home, I have 24/7 access to two of the best minds I trust. My parents, having raised me my whole life, never stop giving me advice or encouragements, especially when I ask for their opinions. Now as I grow older and embark on adventures such as my job, my creative writing, and my daily joys, I also have to remind myself of a quote my dad brought home from work once. The photo (seen below), featuring a cardinal on a winter’s pine branch, says “Gratitude changes everything.” Be blessed by this quote, my readers!

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Why Do You Write?

In his memoir A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway wrote about Gertrude Stein’s thirst for reader approval. “Writing every day made her happy,” he wrote, “but as I got to know her better I found that for her to keep happy it was necessary that this steady daily output, which varied with her energy, be published and that she receive recognition.”

At this point in my writing journey, I’m not sure which is better for me: to be recognized for my writing or to pursue the pleasure of writing. I’ll illustrate with two narratives from my life.

My pursuit of the pleasure of writing began when I was nine, when I started writing children’s stories like those I read from Angelina Ballerina and poems like those from Dr. Seuss’s tales. Going into high school, I kept my dream of writing fiction alive. I attended a teenage writers group at the Wescott Library in Eagan, Minnesota, where I received consistently positive criticism on my short story excerpts.

Going into college, I quickly learned how to write under pressure and intense grading, from which I took some of the most invaluable courses from my bachelor’s degree at the University of Northwestern – St. Paul. For example, “Writing Theory” was a class that taught me how to affect my readers’ emotions by choosing my diction, the sounds of my letters, and the length of my sentences to match my prose or poetry. Because of my dedication to my craft and the effort I put into my Honors classes, I graduated with flying colors.

Since I’ve been living the graduated life for two years now, I’ve found that I need to balance the pleasure of my writing with the recognition I receive from writers. Some of my favorite examples have come from reading my prose to a group of writers at a coffee shop in St. Paul. (Check out my essay “Simply Bask,” which I published in my university’s literary magazine!) The thrill of reading aloud to a live audience, seeing their attentive faces, and walking off a stage to a clapping crowd is one of the reasons why I want to keep writing. To publish my fiction with a traditional company is one of my goals, when I will further experience the joy of being published and recognized like Miss Stein.

So, my readers, what are your dreams in writing or publishing fiction? What are you pursuing, and when have you had an occasion to be recognized for your work? My thoughts go out to you! Godspeed.

I Broke My Writing Hiatus

Friends, readers, I’m sorry I took a year and a half off from writing. Not only did I neglect my blog, but I also neglected my craft. For the years of 2016 and 2017, I set aside other important duties which, as much as I respect writing, I found to be more important. My brother got married to a beautiful and godly woman. My family and I moved from Eagan to Lakeville in a stunning house. Finally, I found my job at CenterPoint Energy, which has been more wonderful than I could’ve thought possible in a job. I’m using my writing skills to publish about 15 construction reports a week; my co-workers and my boss make my days enjoyable and fun; and I’m using my salary to pay off all my college debt!

Writing has never been far from me. I’ve published an article in Refreshed about a woman who recovered from consumption abuse and created her own clinic to help those who’ve experienced her pains. I’ve shared my college poetry at a reading in a local coffee shop in Roseville. My days have a blessing. Even my personal reading, which has varied anywhere from Confessions of a Shopaholic to The Old Man and the Sea, has been consistently pleasurable. My professors would be proud of me.

But one thing remains on my mind: Why did I take off a year of writing if it meant so much to me? I believe I was starting to lose a little motivation. Although my passion never ceases and my imagination never runs dry, I did what was honorable: spending time with my family two years after my college graduation. My next step remains open: Now that I’ve established my life’s routine, I want to incorporate a healthy dose of creative writing into my daily life. It all starts with a little motivation.

I look to my job search as an inspiration for how to proceed with my writing life. None of my steps were in vain. Sending 90 applications with a result of 25 interviews was exhausting, but they led me to a full-time job in my field. Prior to CenterPoint Energy, I took six different temporary jobs, ranging from proofreader to data entry assistant. None were a waste.

I have never been one to settle for less, which is why I’m planning my steps to publish my fiction. I hear phrases like, “Life has a funny way of working itself out,” and you know what? It does. I truly believe it does.

Should I Do Creative Writing in College?

Power of Words
Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

I understand that writing is a natural for a lot of us. We get an idea, we scribble it in our journals, and voila! We have masterpieces in the making.

But school—that’s a whole different story. I’ve taken creative classes in college, but the creative writing I’m talking about is the extracurricular pieces I hope to publish outside college. These are the types that I deliberately avoid unless I have a spur-of-the-moment urge to jot them down. I do not want my creative writing to interfere with my school, but in those moments when I get an idea I can’t ignore, I feel compelled to write them down.

But sometimes I feel guilty—after settling down to four papers and literary analyses, I almost feel that my school is more important than my creative writing. But isn’t this what I want to do later on? Don’t I want to spend the time doing my creative work? Of course! But not just yet.

Sometimes, I’ll go on a walk and spend thirty minutes just writing what I see—the Lake Johanna with leaves tumbling in golden colors, the lake rippling under the wind’s breath, or the students—I will spend eternity if I have to getting the right moments down. But then my editorial side checks me and reminds me that I have papers due that week.

So here’s my resolution: In the moments of inspiration, jot them down, whether quickly or slowly, do whatever it takes to capture those moments and allow yourself time to fulfill your obligations. But if you’re resting on a Sunday or quiet day, do what you want. Go on a walk. Drink some coffee. Chat with a friend. Read a non-textbook. Whatever you do, do it with the utmost conviction that you’re in the right spot doing the right thing.

Spur-of-the-Moment Writing

I write every day. Not as a rule, but just because I have so much energy; I can’t help but contain my joy at writing.

 

Going into college, I came with the perspective that I ought to bore over drafts and drafts of writing just to get the perfect spot. But sometimes, as my professor said, the first drafts are the sweetest.

 

I’ve gone through three years of college now. Creative writing comes naturally, and I realizes that it’s through practice that I’ve achieved this ease. Whenever I look at a tree—or even a shopping cart in Wal-Mart—I get images of stories, of girls and boys in fantasies, in hideouts and runaway trains, in dragon caves and babbling brooks, in fairy tales and Never Land. All these places I’ve found in the landscape of my mind, and I unleash them through stories.

 

Now I’ve gotten to the practice of writing. Yes, it sounds boring. It even sounds tedious. Sometimes, when I’ve done spur-of-the-moment writing, I’ve found myself itching to do something else, or finding that, through the hurrying of essays and homework assignments, I’ve got better things to do.

 

But sometimes, I’ve found that the greatest gates of freedom as a creative writer lie in the spur-of-the-moment writing, when I get a flush of emotion at seeing the beautiful pines that adorn this campus, or the rush of wind I feel from the lakes. Seeing these natural beauties in Minnesota bring me a wave of ecstasy, and I find that when I write, I release and preserve this ecstasy in the smallest fraction I can, realizing how big my ecstasy actually is.

 

Now to the writing: Yes, it takes practice to make perfect, as we’ve all heard. But no, it doesn’t have to be tedious. Even if it feels a little strained, I’ve learned that writing can be one of your greatest tools if you learn to sharpen it. So this is what I’ve done: I’ve found an image or gotten an idea. I scribble it as fast as I can on my phone or notepad. I might go back, cure up a little phrases, and voila. I have a sketch of writing I may or may not use in my final work, but at least it’s practice, and it captures my heart.