I’ve always had mixed feelings about television. It’s a bit disturbing when people spend all their free waking hours staring at a screen with their brains turned off and a glazed look on their faces. And television is unreliable as a source of information. I’ve found that many of the news shows and documentaries that air on commercial television stations are full of factual errors and misinformation. These days, we all need to double-check the facts (and sources) before repeating what we hear on TV.
On the other hand, there are some great shows that have graced television screens over the past century. Read more
The world of poetry is filled with various forms and structures, from haiku to sonnets. Today let’s take a look at an often under-recognized form of poetry: prose poetry.
Prose refers to writing that is structured in ordinary form — sentences and paragraphs, not verse and meter.
And of course, poetry is a form of writing that emphasizes the aesthetic qualities of language, often structured in verse. But poetry isn’t always structured in verse, which leads us to the question: What is prose poetry? Read more
Do you ever sit down to write only to discover hours later that you’ve done nothing but stare off into space with a blank look on your face, occasionally breaking from your stupor to notice that you haven’t written a single word?
Conversely, have you ever noticed that after watching an intoxicating film or listening to a mesmerizing piece of music, you feel that creative impulse start to throb, luring you to your keyboard or notebook? Read more
Productivity. It’s all been said and done. In fact, you could spend more time learning how to be productive than actually being productive.
For us creative types, productivity can be a fleeting thing. We experience highs (a whole month packed with inspiration) and lows (three more months fraught with the ever-annoying writer’s block).
It can be frustrating. But creative writing doesn’t have to be a fair-weather hobby. Many successful authors have harnessed creativity, reined it in, and turned it into a full-time profession. So we know it can be done.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Read more
Today’s creative writing exercise comes from my book, 101 Creative Writing Exercises, which takes you on a adventure through various forms of creative writing: fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction.
This exercise is called “Everyone Has an Opinion,” and it’s from “Chapter Nine: Philosophy, Critical Thinking, and Problem Solving.”
Enjoy! Read more
The more you write, the better your writing becomes. That’s not an opinion; it’s a fact. Experience breeds expertise, so if you write a lot, you’ll become an expert writer.
Writing every day is the best way to acquire lots of experience.
Writers who come to the craft out of passion never have a problem with this. They write every day because they need to write every day. Writing is not a habit, an effort, or an obligation; it’s a necessity.
Other writers struggle with developing a daily writing habit. They start manuscripts, launch blogs, purchase pretty diaries and swear they’re going to make daily entries. Months later, frustrated and fed up, they give up.
When weeks have passed and you haven’t written a single word, when unfinished projects are littering your desk and clogging up your computer’s hard drive, you can give up and take out a lifetime lease on a cubicle in a drab, gray office. Or, you can step back, admit that you have a problem, and make some changes. Read more
To the passive reader, it’s a short horizontal line that appears somewhere in a text, usually joining two words together.
To a writer, it’s something else entirely, but what? Is it a dash, a hyphen, or a minus sign?
More than once, I’ve been pecking away at my keyboard and stopped suddenly when confronted with this versatile and confounding punctuation mark.
Many people use dashes and hyphens interchangeably, which is understandable, since most of us use the exact same keyboard character for both dashes and hyphens. However, they are technically two completely different punctuation marks. Read more
Your short story is finished. Your poem is polished. Your personal essay has been proofread. Now you’re ready to submit your creative writing project for publication.
How do you do it? Where do you find the right publication? What materials should you send? Should you use email or snail mail? How long do you wait before following up? And what if your piece is rejected?
For many writers, the submission process is a big drag because it doesn’t involve writing, and let’s face it, most of us are in it for the writing.
But there’s more to being a writer than just writing, especially if you want your work to be read or if you want to make a living as a writer.
Tips for Submitting Your Creative Writing and Getting Published
If you approach the submission process strategically and professionally, you’ll increase the chances that your work will be accepted and published. Whether you’re submitting to agents or editors, here are some tips for submitting your work and getting published:
- Take some time to familiarize yourself with various agents, publishing houses, and publications in your genre. Send your work to the ones that are a good fit for your form, genre, and style.
- Use the library or visit a local, independent bookstore to get copies of print publications like literary journals. You can also try college bookstores. Peruse them in the aisles if you wish, but keep in mind that buying copies of these publications helps support them — and other writers.
- You’ll find submission guidelines on most agents’ and publications’ websites. Otherwise, they’ll be in the publication itself. Review the guidelines carefully as they contain instructions on how to submit your work. This is crucial because agents and publications have their own submission guidelines.
- Follow the submission guidelines to the letter. Agents and publications that are overwhelmed with submissions might toss out any that stray from the guidelines they’ve established.
- In some cases, the guidelines may refer to a style guide. If this is the case, you might need to buy a style guide and revise your work so it will be in accordance with the guidelines.
- Keep your query and cover letter succinct and professional. Same goes for a synopsis (if applicable). Don’t try any fancy antics to get agents’ or editors’ attention. They see gimmicks all the time.
- Once you’ve sent your submission, sit back and wait. Do not harass or annoy agents or editors by bombarding them with follow-ups.
- Many submission guidelines include information about how long it should take to receive a response. Once that allotment of time has passed, go ahead and send a single follow-up. Ask if they received your submission. Be professional.
- If there is no indication of how long it should take for you to receive a response, wait six weeks to three months before following up.
- If you receive an acceptance, great! If you receive a rejection, accept it graciously and get back to work. Don’t give up! If your rejection includes a critique or any helpful feedback, be grateful (most agents and editors don’t take time to provide feedback) and apply it to your future creative writing projects.
Ready, Set, Submit
Submitting your work is fun and a little bit scary. Hopefully you’ll get lucky, but remember that luck comes most frequently to those who have prepared for it with hard work. If your writing gets rejected, try again. Send the same piece to another agent or publication and keep producing fresh work.
Remember, creative writing is hard work. We writers have to wear many different hats. We must be artists, grammarians, and communicators. We have to be publicists and marketing experts. And we have to become pros at submitting our work.
Otherwise it may never end up in readers’ hands.
Do you have any tips to add? Have you submitted your creative writing to agents or publications? Do you have any strategies for getting published? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.
There’s something mysterious and magical about dreams. In the dreamworld, anything is possible. Our deepest desires and greatest fears come to life. Whether they haunt or beguile, our dreams represent the far reaches of our imaginations.
Journals can have similar qualities of mystery and intrigue. If your journal is full of freewrites, doodles, cryptic notes, and random ideas, then it might read like a road map through your imagination, or it may feel like a crash course through your subconscious.
Journal writing is a great tool for dream exploration, and dreams are an excellent source of inspiration for writing ideas.
You can tap into your daydreams or your sleeping dreams as a way to inform and inspire your journal writing:
- Record your dreams so you can better understand them.
- Capture the images in your dreams and turn them into poems and song lyrics.
- Transform monsters from your nightmares into creepy villains for your short stories or novels.
Sleep, Dreams, and Journal Writing Ideas
Dreams have been a subject of great interest in the fields of neurology, psychology, and spirituality, to name a few. Yet we still know relatively little about the nature of dreams. Where do they come from? What do they mean? In one dream, you’re working out problems from your subconscious, and in the next, you’re a character from your favorite TV show. The white rabbit in your dream symbolizes a call to adventure but the white rabbit in your best friend’s dream represents fertility.
According to Wikipedia:
Dreams are a succession of images, sounds or emotions that pass through the mind during sleep. The content and purpose of dreams are not fully understood, though they have been a topic of speculation and interest throughout recorded history. The scientific study of dreams is known as oneirology.
Like I said, we know relatively little about dreams. But that doesn’t mean we can’t put them to good use. Throughout history, dreams have often acted as catalysts for artists, writers, musicians, and inventors. Here are a few famous literary works that were affected or derived from authors’ dreams:
- Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
- Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
- Stephen King’s Misery
Keeping a Dream Journal
There are many ways you can use dreams in your journal writing. The most obvious is to keep a dream journal. Just keep your journal by your bed and jot down your dreams as soon as you wake, before you even get out of bed (otherwise you risk losing or forgetting the dream). It only takes a few minutes.
You can also jot down a few notes and later use your dream as the foundation for a piece of writing. Your dreams can provide you with characters, scenes, imagery, and even plot ideas.
Journal Writing with Daydreams
Let’s dive right in to what Wikipedia has to say about daydreams:
While daydreaming has long been derided as a lazy, non-productive pastime, it is now commonly acknowledged that daydreaming can be constructive in some contexts. There are numerous examples of people in creative or artistic careers, such as composers, novelists and filmmakers, developing new ideas through daydreaming.
The imagination is a bizarre and wondrous thing. Humans have the capacity to conjure up incredible things, but contrary to popular opinion, using one’s imagination requires time and energy. It might look like you’re sitting around doing a whole lot of nothing. But who knows? You could be plotting the next Pulitzer Prize winning novel.
In some ways, daydreams are a better source of inspiration for journal writing than nighttime dreams. Since you’re awake, you can take breaks from your daydreams to jot down notes. You’re also more likely to retain a daydream because you’re awake for it. Many people have a hard time remembering the dreams that they slept through.
Dream Your Next Piece of Writing
Dreams are borne of human consciousness and imagination, which provide an endless stream of writing ideas and inspiration that can inform your journaling sessions. Your journal can function as a repository for all of these visions, and you can revisit your journal as an incredible idea warehouse at any time for any type of writing project.
Below are some links you can follow to learn more about dreams:
- Twelve Famous Dreams
- UC Berkeley has made an entire course on the Psychology of Dreams available online (audio format).
- Do you have a hard time remembering your dreams? Try a few techniques for better dream recall.
Do you ever write down your dreams? Have you ever kept a dream journal? Has a dream (daydream or night-dream) ever provided inspiration for your writing? Is journal writing a habit for you? How often do you write in your journal, and how do you use it with your other writing projects?
Poetry writing is an excellent practice for strengthening one’s writing skills. Through poetry writing, we gain command of language, cultivate a robust vocabulary, master literary devices, and learn to work in imagery. And that’s just a small sampling of how poetry improves basic writing skills.
However, poetry has other benefits that are meaningful on a more personal level.
Writing has long been hailed as a deeply therapeutic practice. In fact, all the arts have therapeutic benefits. But poetry imparts a broad range of emotional and intellectual benefits that are useful to personal growth, whether we’re working on self-improvement, emotional or psychological coping and healing, developing relationships, and even furthering our careers — including careers outside of the writing field.
And while all forms of writing, from journaling to storytelling, can be therapeutic, poetry writing offers some unique benefits.
Emotional and Intellectual Benefits of Writing Poetry
Whether you want to stimulate your intellect or foster emotional health and well-being, poetry writing has many benefits to offer:
- Therapeutic: Poetry fosters emotional expression and healing through self-expression and exploration of one’s feelings. It provides a safe way to vent, examine, and understand our feelings.
- Self-awareness: Through raw expression of our thoughts and feelings, poetry can help us become more attuned to what’s going on in our hearts and minds.
- Creative thinking: With its emphasis on symbolism, metaphor, and imagery, poetry writing fosters and promotes creative thinking.
- Connections: Many people write poetry privately, but when poems are shared, they can inspire, move, and honor other people, forging deeper interpersonal connections.
- Catharsis: The act of creation — of making something out of nothing — is a cathartic experience.
- Critical thinking: Through the expression of our thoughts and ideas, poetry pushes us to challenge ourselves intellectually.
- Language and speaking: The practice of poetry strengthens language, writing, and speaking skills.
- Developing perspective, empathy, and world views: Writing poetry often prompts us to look a the world from a variety of perspectives, which fosters empathy and expands one’s world view.
- Cognitive function: Whether we’re searching for the perfect word, working out how to articulate a thought, or fine-tuning the rhythm and meter of a poem, the steps involved in crafting poetry strengthen our cognitive processes.
This is just a sampling of the benefits of writing poetry. Can you think of any other ways that poetry writing is beneficial to your emotional or intellectual well-being? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment, and keep writing poetry!