Writer Wednesday – The Dangers of the Echo Chamber and Why Handwriting Is Important

2016-09-07-pic-1

We are surrounded more and more by media – social media, augmented reality games, television commercials at gas stations; the list goes on.  I’m the first to admit that the internet can bring people together – I am, after all, writing this on  blog I started with some friends, all of whom are geographically scattered.

But I have noticed the echo chamber can have an unhealthy effect.  Psychologists call behavior that pushes against another person “impinging,” and it’s my belief that, if we’re not careful about our inflow, that can happen.  I noticed, for example, that when I had Facebook on my phone, the constant dings or buzzes of incoming alerts would break my train of thought.  As I checked in, I would get drawn into whatever was trending:  racist politics, cop shootings, and cats.  Lots of cats.

I don’t mind cats.  I like them, as it happiness.  But I’m a novelist, and the first casualty in the war for attention is sustained train of thought.

As a social experiment, I took Facebook off my phone.  My daily round got calmer.  I stopped drinking as much coffee and focused more on my journal.  I noticed a couple of things:

  1. Writing by hand disciplines my mind to hold a train of thought, since I don’t write as fast as I think.
  2. It felt like I woke up from a collective hallucination.  I don’t need strangers’ opinions in my daily round.
  3. I started writing more – always good news for a novelist.
  4. I started thinking more deeply about issues like politics, body image, feminism, and philosophy.

This Writer Wednesday, I invite you to try it:  turn off the inflow and let your own thoughts loose on the page.  Nanowrimo’s coming.  Let’s be ready.

Write on!

The Writer Zen Garden – Tools From A to Zen: Reflections on the A-Z Challenge

2016-05-09 A-to-Z Reflection [2016]

Wow.  It’s hard to believe it’s already well into the second week of May already.  It feels like it should still be April.  Or, if I’m being honest, January.

Of 2010.

But I digress.

We all know that time seems to whizz by.  No sooner do we put away the holiday decorations and it’s time to take them out again.  So, too, for writing groups.  I’ve noticed small groups tend to wax and wane, some succeeding and thriving, others burning brightly for a short time and then fizzling.  There’s an old adage about groups, that they have several phases:  “Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing.”  It’s an idea that a guy by the name of Bruce Tuckman proposed way back in 1965 and it’s still true today.  Some folks add “Adjourning” at the end, to signify that not all groups survive through the performing state to continue.

That’s why I’m so pleased about Writer Zen Garden.  The group as it is today is the merging of two different groups; the original Writer’s Retreat that started in March of 2008, and the local Meetup group and international online forum of Writer Zen Garden.  We’re still going, and we launched this new website, where you’re reading this post, in March of 2016.

One reason I keep coming back to the A to Z Blog Challenge, is that I find it pulls the team together.  Even if we’ve slacked off from posting on the blog, by doing the challenge, we come together as a group and gather ideas and write.  Since on of the central missions of the Writer Zen Garden is to Help Writers Get On the Page, this is all to the good, as far as I’m concerned.  Next year, we might even come up with a joint theme ahead of time – we’re still noodling ideas for what to post for this year, so it’s definitely a work in progress.

I want to thank you, Dear Reader, for visiting us and leaving comments for the various authors of the Garden.  We sure appreciate your interaction.  We invite you to join the discussion in other ways, if you’ve a mind; we have a Facebook group; a live in-person Meetup group in Chicago, if you’re in the area;  a Twitter stream; and an international writers forum.  We’re glad you’re here!

Write on!

The Writer Zen Garden Facebook Group

The Chicago Area Meetup

@writerzengarden

Forum*

*Note: if you’re interested in joining the forum, please let me know in the comments or PM me on Facebook, and I’ll reach out to you by email.


For your reading pleasure, here are the posts for the challenge:

The Writer Zen Garden, From A To Zen

A:  A is for Artist’s Way…, by Tina Holland

B:  B is for Blogging!, by Darla Sands

C:  “C” is for Crayon, by Evey Brown

D: D is for Day Dreaming, by Grace Kahlo

E:  E is for Emergency, by Rachel Wilder

F:  The F Word, by A. Catherine Noon

G:  G is for Goals, by Tina Holland

H:  H is for Hens, by Darla Sands

I:  Is It Inspiration, Invention or Insight? or, Where Do You Get Your Story Ideas?, by Evey Brown

J:  J Is For Just in Case, by Rachel Wilder

K:  K Is For Using Krav Maga To Kick the Inner Evil Critique Away, by Grace Kahlo

L:  For the Love of a Library, by A. Catherine Noon

M:  M is for Man-titty, by Tina Holland

N:  N is for Nice Girls Writing Naughty, by Darla Sands

O:  Things My Grandpa Taught Me – O for Orion, by Evey Brown

P:  P Is For Prepper, by Rachel Wilder

Q:  Q is for Writing Quotes, by Grace Kahlo

R:  Whoops! R Is For I Gotta wRite Something Quick!, by A. Catherine Noon

S:  S is for Sex Scenes and Story, by Tina Holland

T:  T is for Tastiness, by Darla Sands

U:  How to Create an Oral History for your Family; or Unforgettable and Unfortunate Things my Kids have Done, by Evey Brown

V:  V is for Viking Swords & Fantasy World-Building, by Grace Kahlo

W:  W is for Why Do I Prep?, by Rachel Wilder

X:  An Alternative to Xanax, by A. Catherine Noon

Y:  Y is for Yoga, by Tina Holland

Z:  Zen, by A. Catherine Noon


Thank you for joining us for the A-Z Blog Challenge.  If you’re blogging in the challenge, please leave us a link so I can come visit you too.  If you have a moment, please check out these other fine blogs:

The theme on my main blog, Explore the Worlds of A. Catherine Noon, is The A To Z of the Zoo.  Join me as I explore Brookfield Zoo and finds animals, birds, and insects from A to Z.

My theme on my Knoontime Knitting craft blog is Letterforms In Nature and the Built Environment.

The theme at Noon & Wilder is The A To Z of Chicago.  Since I live here in the city and we have our Chicagoland Shifters based here, I figured I’d share a window into the city, Noon & Wilder style.

The Nice Girls Writing Naughty have a new home, and we’re blogging in the challenge again this year.  Throughout the month you’ll be hearing from each of the Nice Girls, and during the RT Booklovers Convention from April 12th to the 17th, you’ll be getting live convention reports.  Join the conversation!

Zen

2016-04-30 Pic 1

End mind, beginner’s mind?  We’re at the end of our challenge for this month, the April A to Z Blog Challenge.  Six of the WZG crew participated this month, and we’ve brought you all sorts of content from, well, A to Zen.  Thank you for coming along on this journey with us.

Why Zen?  Why Writer Zen Garden?

zen garden symplicity and harmony form a background for meditation and relaxation, for balance and health

One of the central ideas of Zen Buddhism is to be in the now.  By being fully in the moment, we let go anger about the past and fears about the future, and truly live as we are meant to live.  The Zen rock gardens, like the one pictured above, are a visual representation of what being in the flow, or the now, looks like.  The rock is seen as a metaphorical obstacle, something we must acknowledge and move around.  It causes eddies in our energy, which is represented by the flowing lines in the sand.  The more we make peace with that, the more smooth our metaphorical sand becomes and we are at peace.

Writing is a little like that.  When we talk about writing, we aren’t being fully in the moment and writing.  We’re not existing in the now.  By learning to sit down and apply the pen to the page or the fingers to the keyboard, we teach ourselves how to get into the flow and to produce.  It’s a lesson we must consistently relearn, which is reminiscent of the quote, “Zen mind, beginner’s mind.”  Author Natalie Goldberg, who wrote, among other things, Writing Down the Bones, relates a story of speaking with her meditation master.  She lamented that she was spending all her time writing, and not meditating.  He told her to keep writing, that her writing was meditating.

When I decided to start Writer Zen Garden, I wanted a name that embodied this idea of being in the moment while writing.  It seemed natural to include Garden, because we are all growing, and we are all living beings.  Connecting the three ideas of writing, Zen, and gardening made sense to me.

However you found us, I hope you’ve enjoyed your stay here.  There are additional resources in the top menu navbar, and we blog regularly.  Hope to see you again!

Remember, May 9th is the A to Z Reflections Post Day, and the Linky List is open from May 9 to May 13.  Keep an eye on the main A to Z Blog Challenge page for more info and updates, and of course come back here on the 9th for our reflections on our collective experience.  We do regular Writer Wednesday features here and will be coming up with some other regular features, so keep your eyes peeled.  And if you’re a blogger, and interested in contributing, please let us know in the comments.


Thank you for joining us for the A-Z Blog Challenge.  If you’re blogging in the challenge, please leave us a link so I can come visit you too.  If you have a moment, please check out these other fine blogs:

 

The theme on my main blog, Explore the Worlds of A. Catherine Noon, is The A To Z of the Zoo.  Join me as I explore Brookfield Zoo and finds animals, birds, and insects from A to Z.

My theme on my Knoontime Knitting craft blog is Letterforms In Nature and the Built Environment.

The theme at Noon & Wilder is The A To Z of Chicago.  Since I live here in the city and we have our Chicagoland Shifters based here, I figured I’d share a window into the city, Noon & Wilder style.

The Nice Girls Writing Naughty have a new home, and we’re blogging in the challenge again this year.  Throughout the month you’ll be hearing from each of the Nice Girls, and during the RT Booklovers Convention from April 12th to the 17th, you’ll be getting live convention reports.  Join the conversation!

The Writer Zen Garden’s brand new website is up and running, and we’re bringing you posts from me, Noony; my partner in crime, Rachel Wilder (the Wilder half of Noon & Wilder); the talented Darla M. Sands – a blogger in her own right, see below; as well as Grace Kahlo, Evey Brown, and author Tina Holland.  Check it out!

My friends who are participating in the challenge (and if you’re not on this list, tell me and I’ll add you!):

Write on, and Happy Blogging!

 

 

An Alternative to Xanax

2016-04-28 Pic 1

Writing can serve as a path to the self.  In troubled or stressful times, we need this more than anything, but our society’s advice is to avoid the problem – take a pill, a powder, and do anything but face it head on.  As news of Prince’s death trickles out, and his possible addiction to prescription medication, it’s become even more apparent to me that we are a nation addicted to drugs – legal and prescription drugs are just as bad, in some cases, as the street variety.  There were over 25,000 deaths from prescription medications in 2014 alone, according to Drug Abuse.gov (1).

I am not a doctor.  I’m aware that if someone requires medication for their life, then by all means, take it.  But there are alternatives that we can use to supplement medications and, in some cases, supplant them.  For me, writing has provided some of the best psychological assistance in dealing with childhood trauma that I have found in my arsenal.  So, too, has qualified psychological care by a licensed provider; exercise; and a steady, healthy diet.  But it’s writing that I wanted to talk about today.

When we write, we begin a dialog with ourselves in a way that we cannot in other mediums.  And by “write,” I mean literally putting pen to paper.  Studies have shown we access different parts of the brain when we handwrite vs. use a keyboard, and some theorize that using a keyboard is “cross-hemispheric,” meaning using both sides of the brain simultaneously, and therefore is fundamentally different than using just one side of the brain by using the right or left hand to write.

I have kept up a pretty constant journal since about 1986, and in bits and pieces before that.  It’s safe to say I’ve written all my life.  I wrote my first story at the age of nine.  But I didn’t truly encounter my own story, for myself and by myself, until after forty.  This is not uncommon, I’m told, for child abuse survivors, because our stories are coopted by our abusers.  In my case, family complicity and tolerance compounded the problem, because if I tried to speak about what was happening, I was punished for being “mean,” or told that I didn’t understand how much my parents loved me and how hard they worked for me.  And when it came time to talk about me and the family, the narrative was always the same.

In journaling, though, I gradually began to hear glimmers of truth from myself.  I’d seen them my whole life, but was scared of them.  This, too, is common to trauma survivors.  Sometimes the truth is too terrifying to admit, too terrifying to even speak much less write.  But as I began to tell my own story, and to realize the official story was a lie, an interesting thing started to happen:  my PTSD symptoms lessened.  PTSD doesn’t go away entirely, not ever; it fundamentally changes the person who has it.  But we can learn to cope with it, and to develop mechanisms that help us to minimize stress and normalize our daily round.  For me, writing served as a gateway to that new self.

What startled me was the fact I was terrified of this new self.  I’m told this, too, is normal among trauma survivors.  We’re taught that our selves are scary, bad, or any of a number of other things; none of which are accurate but to a child’s mind, they take on the weight of Truth.  We learn to internalize this abuse and become self-abusers as we become adults, perpetuating what was done to us as children.  Journaling serves as a kind of mirror for this behavior, allowing us to peel away those layers and to reveal the self within.  In my case, that process has taken forty years.  I’m not done yet.  But what I’ve learned is this:

Keep writing.  Trust the words.  Trust time.  Tell your truth, if to no one else than yourself.  Write what you See.  Story is God.

Write on.

 

Resources

“Overdose Death Rates,” National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse; December 2015, from the following link, accessed 04/28/2016.

Your Life As Story, Tristine Rainer

The New Diary, Tristine Rainer

Life’s Companion:  Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest, Christina Baldwin

What It Is, Lynda Barry

Whoops! R Is For I Gotta wRite Something Quick!

2016-04-21 R

So, I have a cold.  I went hunting around in my archives for a funny picture and came across this gem, snapped by my partner in crime, Rachel Wilder.

With friends like these, …

Of course, it captures perfectly how I feel right at this moment, even though it was taken some time ago when I’d just gotten out of bed and was trying to do morning pages.  🙂

Today is my day to post something crunchable having to do with the letter R.  I totally forgot until right now.  I shall endeavor to come up with something through my cold-medicine-induced fog.  Here, then, without further ado is the World According To Noony (on Cold Medicine):

  1. No, Boria, you do NOT need to sing me the song of your people at six in the morning.  Nor at seven.  Nor at seven-twenty.  I’ll get up at the last possible moment – meow – to – meowow – go to work – meeoooowwowowow – so I don’t need Felini in the Morning!
  2. Dogs take up entirely too much room on the bed when there’s only the two of you and it’s a queen-sized mattress.
  3. Cold medicine tastes yucky, but it keeps me from coughing.
  4. I cough the more I talk.
  5. I had THREE client phone calls – hack – scheduled – cough – for – wheeze – today.
  6. Tea is my friend.
  7. Don’t make a whole pot of caffeinated tea because you like the “hibiscus” part but forgotyoualreadyhadyourcoffeefortheday.
  8. The bus is late when I’m in a hurry.
  9. The bus is packed with people when I want to sit down because my head is pounding.
  10. It’s getting warm outside.  WEAR DEODORANT!

(No, really, #10.  Please.  Yes, Mister Big Fat Dude, I’m looking at you.  And holding my nose.)

And remember:  Zen mind, beginner’s mind.  Except when on cold medication.


Thank you for joining us for the A-Z Blog Challenge.  If you’re blogging in the challenge, please leave us a link so I can come visit you too.  If you have a moment, please check out these other fine blogs:

 

The theme on my main blog, Explore the Worlds of A. Catherine Noon, is The A To Z of the Zoo.  Join me as I explore Brookfield Zoo and finds animals, birds, and insects from A to Z.

My theme on my Knoontime Knitting craft blog is Letterforms In Nature and the Built Environment.

The theme at Noon & Wilder is The A To Z of Chicago.  Since I live here in the city and we have our Chicagoland Shifters based here, I figured I’d share a window into the city, Noon & Wilder style.

The Nice Girls Writing Naughty have a new home, and we’re blogging in the challenge again this year.  Throughout the month you’ll be hearing from each of the Nice Girls, and during the RT Booklovers Convention from April 12th to the 17th, you’ll be getting live convention reports.  Join the conversation!

The Writer Zen Garden’s brand new website is up and running, and we’re bringing you posts from me, Noony; my partner in crime, Rachel Wilder (the Wilder half of Noon & Wilder); the talented Darla M. Sands – a blogger in her own right, see below; as well as Grace Kahlo, Evey Brown, and author Tina Holland.  Check it out!

My friends who are participating in the challenge (and if you’re not on this list, tell me and I’ll add you!):

Write on, and Happy Blogging!

For the Love of a Library

20150101_0009

I didn’t like books at first.  I liked it when my dad read to me, but I didn’t read myself.  I learned how to read interesting books around age six, graduating from the boring “See Jane Run” types.  My mother had a set from when she was a child that were graded by year, and I read those.  But something was still missing.

Then my father took me to the library and showed me how to find good books.  The first couple times, he picked for me and I couldn’t figure out how to do it for myself.  When I picked out books, they didn’t have the same “fun” that the ones he picked did – like the one about the cat who lived in a firehouse and was a hero.

One day, I got determined and marched into the library at school.  I found Phyllis A. Whitney’s mysteries and that’s when it happened:  the inner worlds opened and I glimpsed the power and glory of books.  I’ve never looked back.

Recently, two friends on an online writing forums shared how they pared down their book collection because their books were mostly ebooks now.  It unsettled me, deeply, because I adore my library.  I love the look and feel of the books, and I love coming home to the dining room/library.  In January of 2015 I went through on a massive project to re-classify and organize all my books (of which the above picture is only a fraction).  My husband and I have a lot of books.  While there may come a time where I cull the physical library, it will not be this day.  (Thank you, Peter Jackson, for that syntax [from The Return of the King, Aragorn’s speech to the Men of the West and the Riders of Rohan].)

I even have a theme on this very blog called “A Writer In Her Library,” where I explore and ruminate on books, my books in particular, and share a little bit of my love for them.  In preparing for today’s post, I tried to think of something “Zen” to share, and thought of Lao Tzu, one of the Zen Masters.  Then I came across a small blue volume that I picked up at a used book sale for three dollars:  Simple Things:  Some Appreciations of the Small Joys in Daily Life from HOUSE & GARDEN.  It includes such essays as, “Salt,” by Aldous Huxley, and “The Coat Hanger,” by Aubrey Menen.  That’s why I like a physical library – one can wander in and, at random, pull something off the shelf that speaks to one.  I highly recommend you try it – if not in your own library, then at your local public one.  You’ll be glad you did.


 

Thank you for joining us for the A-Z Blog Challenge.  If you’re blogging in the challenge, please leave us a link so I can come visit you too.  If you have a moment, please check out these other fine blogs:

 

The theme on my main blog, Explore the Worlds of A. Catherine Noon, is The A To Z of the Zoo.  Join me as I explore Brookfield Zoo and finds animals, birds, and insects from A to Z.

My theme on my Knoontime Knitting craft blog is Letterforms In Nature and the Built Environment.

The theme at Noon & Wilder is The A To Z of Chicago.  Since I live here in the city and we have our Chicagoland Shifters based here, I figured I’d share a window into the city, Noon & Wilder style.

The Nice Girls Writing Naughty have a new home, and we’re blogging in the challenge again this year.  Throughout the month you’ll be hearing from each of the Nice Girls, and during the RT Booklovers Convention from April 12th to the 17th, you’ll be getting live convention reports.  Join the conversation!

The Writer Zen Garden’s brand new website is up and running, and we’re bringing you posts from me, Noony; my partner in crime, Rachel Wilder (the Wilder half of Noon & Wilder); the talented Darla M. Sands – a blogger in her own right, see below; as well as Grace Kahlo, Evey Brown, and author Tina Holland.  Check it out!

My friends who are participating in the challenge (and if you’re not on this list, tell me and I’ll add you!):

Write on, and Happy Blogging!

The F Word

I bet you thought I mean that eff word, eh?

Uh-huh.  Busted.

F Is For Friendship!

I have been blessed by the internet.  No, not because I sent a hundred thousand spams requesting money because I’m a Nigerian prince, or because I offered to provide an enlargement product, and not even to act as a marriage broker for offshore women.  No, I’ve been blessed by the internet with some of the best friendships I’ve ever had.

The amazing thing about the world of the internet is how small it is.  One of my friends lives in Israel, another in Plymouth, another in Hawaii, and even a couple in Toronto.  This doesn’t even count the circle of friends here in the States that is the backbone of this very website, and who have built it with me from a tiny little blog on Blogger to what it is becoming.  I’d say that “I can’t imagine life without the internet,” but that’s not true: I can, and I’d be very lonely.  My friendships aren’t virtual, they’re very real and very precious.

What about you, Dear Reader?  How has the internet changed your life?

And about that eff word:  it was my first swear word.

When I was about two years old.

I used it in a telephone conversation with my very gentlemanly maternal grandfather.  “How was the ocean?”

“Oh, Grandpa.  It was wonderful.  We collected sea glass, and shells, and played in the sand.  But Grandpa.  That water was so effing cold.”

Dead silence reigned for at least a whole minute.  Tick.  Tock.

And to the day she died, my mother never forgave my father for using that word in front of me.  He, on the other hand, maintained it was the neighbor’s children.

Since it’s his favorite word too, I think I’m my father’s daughter, at least in this sense.

~grin~

April Is From A – Z – The A-Z Blog Challenge, That Is!

A2Z-BADGE [2016]

Join us, Dear Reader, for a month-long celebration of letters – literally!

It’s the A to Z Blogging Challenge for April, 2016!

The writers of the Writer Zen Garden have collaborated to bring you posts about everything from Alphabet to Zen.  Check back every day but Sunday as we explore the challenge and get some writing done.  Click the picture, above, to be taken to the main Blogging From A to Z challenge page to get more information and to find out who else is participating.

Happy reading!