The Value of Writing and Reading Fiction (And Maybe, Non-fiction, Too)

Last weekend I read a blog post that was so provocative, inspiring, and engaging, that I decided I couldn’t wait for a monthly round-up; I had to share it now.

5 Reasons Writing is Important to the World

In this post, on HelpingWritersBecomeAuthors.com, K.M. Weiland shares the experiences that made her a writer, the questions that had her doubting her career choice, the wisdom of others that provided answers to her questions, and the five reasons she is able to conclude “writing is important to the world.”

Don’t take my word for it. Go read the post now, and then come back.

Wasn’t That Inspiring!

I’m tempted to quote so much of what she said, but of course, you’ve already read it. Instead I’d like to comment and elaborate on her 5 conclusions and how they resonate for me.

5 Reasons I Agree Writing, and Thereby Reading, Stories, both Fiction and Non, is of Value for Us Personally and for Our World:

“1. Stories give us good truths.” They show us how the world works. They inspire us to be better and often show us how. Stories, both fictional and non, are therefore empowering.

“2. Stories give us bad truths.” Stories, again both fiction and non-fiction, can serve as warnings. They provide a training ground for discovering strategies and ways of being that work and ones that do not. Better yet, as a reader, you get to discover these things vicariously, rather than have to suffer the consequences of dangerous, foolish, or selfish/narrow-minded actions.

“3. Stories open our minds and teach us empathy.” Effective educators know that reading fiction and experiencing life through a character’s mind and heart, expands our and our students’ wealth of experience. They show us how other people’s feelings and thought processes work, as we experience them through character. Thus story, both fiction and non, helps develop empathy for others.

I love this Merriam Webster definition of empathy:

the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also :the capacity for this

In a world that seems to be growing smaller, more crowded, and more conflicted each day, empathy is an absolutely essential skill for living together in harmony.

“4. Stories offer us archetypal role models.” Weiland asks “if you’ve ever been in the midst of a difficult experience or faced by an overwhelming decision—and you were helped in remembering a character who endured something similar?” Have you? I know I have. At one very difficult time in my life inspiration provided by a fictional character helped buy my children 15 more years with an intact, functional nuclear family.

“5. Stories teach us to hope.” In our messy, messy world and our imperfect, challenging lives it can be tempting to just give up. But stories show us the effort to not just survive, but thrive is worthwhile. They remind us that light and hope remain in our world. While we cannot live lives of unadulterated bliss, times of joy, of love, of peace do exist, and if we make wise choices on our journeys, we will experience them and carry their memories within us along the way.

Your Turn

What do you feel is the value of reading and writing? In focusing on Weiland’s post, is there anything you think I missed? Please share in the comment space below. I love to hear from you!

 

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Papers, Papers, Papers

Papers, Papers, Papers, www.literatelives.wordpress.comIf you love the literate lifestyle, you probably end up dealing with lots of paper: notes about books you’d like to read, cool quotes, ideas for journaling, and if you’re a writer, ideas for articles and novels, and lists of names for places and characters, real or imagined.

This weekend, my basket of papers (more like snippets: pages ripped from notepads, index cards, business cards, pages torn from magazines, and even a restaurant place mat, … none of which really qualifies as a lovely, full sheet of paper), stored in a place best described as out of sight, out of mind, finally caught my attention and I actually organized it!

Amazing, Ha Ha!

Why?

Because I never intended to keep all those papers. What I really wanted was to capture and hold them until I could enter them into various data bases, etc. (which I never did).

Now, they are chopped to their smallest size and filed in mini files in a pretty basket beside my favorite chair. From here, I can easily grab one or two when I have a spare minute and enter it. Paperless future, or at least an increasingly paperless future, here I come!

A Sampling

So, what work lies ahead of me? Let’s take it in alphabetical order:

Notes to “Add” to existing files–ex. Scene Opening Requirements: opening hook, setting, viewpoint…and when done, a closing hook.

“Books” I would like to read–ex. The White Lion Chronicles by Christopher Hopper

“Journal” prompts and scribbles-ex. From “4 Steps to Turning a Writing Dream Into Reality,” which recommends writers refill their “well” by enriching other parts of their life. The note to self: “Journal a variety of ways you can refill your creative well.”

“Markets” (I do make an effort to sell my writing now and then–ex. Check out L2L2, Love 2 Read Love 2 Write Publishing

“Names” (I collect them so when I need a secondary character or place-name for a piece of fiction I can just pull an appropriate name from my collection)–ex. Danilo (male), Alyphalet (female), Christakis (setting)

“Novel” notes for my existing or future projects–ex. Possible title for Book III: Heaven and Hell… Multiple tie-ins: the idyll is heaven and the return is hell, the idyll is hell and the return is heaven, I chooses heaven and T chooses hell… (I really don’t think I like this as a title.)

“Poems,” or beginnings of poems–ex:

I come from
Beerocks and baklava
A red-headed, Greek speaking, Irish grandmother with a mysterious past,
And peasants,
Immigrants,
No royalty here…

“Quotes”–ex:

“A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged; it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in color and content, according to the circumstance and time in which it is used”
~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

“Websites” to check out–ex. AuthorTechTips.com

Your Turn

Do you collect odds and ends of paper? Using the comments box below, tell us, what kinds of paper piles grow in your home? Better yet, share a snippet from one of your “someday I’ll want this” notes. Maybe another reader will find it just as valuable as you do!

 

Eclipse Day!

Eclipse Day: Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesToday is Total Solar Eclipse Day in Salem, Oregon, and for the citizens of Salem and outlying towns, it is a BIG DEAL. Hotels and Motels have jacked up their rates, restaurants have created special “Eclipse” menus (One of which includes an Eclipse Burger, a hamburger “eclipsed” by a fried egg.)

People with acreage have divvied up their land and are renting space to campers for hundreds, yes, it’s true, hundreds of dollars per night, and some private schools are doing the same with their sports fields and dorm rooms.

As for me and my hubby? We are staying home. We bought a pair of “eclipse” glasses, then got two more for free with an eye exam (so we gave a pair to the grands). I’ll wake up with my alarm clock to make sure I do not sleep through this long-awaited phenomenon, and hubby and I will view it from the yard (or across the street if our trees appear to be obstructing the view).

If you are anywhere you can see it, enjoy this astronomical phenomenon. Savor the moment. Human beings for thousands of year have viewed eclipses a portents of things to come. What might this eclipse bring for you?

And writers, be inspired. The awe and wonder the Hale Bopp comet lit in me ended up adding a whole, additional dimension to the plot of my middle grade novel, Set in Stone.

Your Turn

If you believed in signs and portents, what do you think this eclipse could be signalling for you personally, for our society, or for the world?

Writers, how can you leverage your experience of the eclipse into your work in progress?

I’m Back

I sat out in the front yard in my comfy camping/recliner chair, with a cool glass of juice, my sun hat, my solar eclipse glasses, and a notebook for making observations. The full event took about two hours. The full eclipse lasted minutes. It was awesome. Not only did it get dark, like dusk, but it got cooler as well. You can bet, somewhere, someday, there is going to be an eclipse in one of my novels!

Addendum

When visiting with my grandkids, with whom I’d recently been talking about poetry, my eldest granddaughter contributed this:

Every hundred years we see
A big star in the sky,
but covered by the moon,
so birds don’t like to fly.

Along comes a guy
and he says
I want to fly
But that would be bad for my eye.

 

Summer, Travel, and Places of Enchantment

Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives: Summer, Travel, Places of Enchantment

I love this Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ quote. What is life, what is summer, without moments and places of enchantment?

Last week I had the opportunity to go on a road trip with my husband. (He is an awesome road trip pilot, ready and willing to stop anywhere interesting or necessary, plus he is a fantastic photographer.)

We traveled from Reno, Nevada, to Sonora California, to Eureka California, through the state and national coastal redwood parks, then home.

Summer Isn’t Summer Without Places of Enchantment

For me, there are several requirements that must be satisfied for me to feel like I have actually experienced summer.

  1. Fireworks: satisfied on the 4th of July
  2. Sitting beside a rushing river or gurgling stream: satisfied last week with a little stop alongside the Waller River. We did some rock-hopping (what I used to call it, now it’s more like scrambling and balancing after my recent health set-backs), rock-gathering–“Come see this!” “Oh, isn’t this one beautiful!”, and lastly, just sitting with my feet in the cold water, listening to the river’s roar. Ah, peace.
  3. Walking in the forest: also satisfied last week as we made stops to amble in the beautiful California coastal redwood groves. They are so majestic, huge, and old! It really puts our little lives in perspective. We even had the pleasure of enjoying some mysterious morning fog!

The Literate Lives Joys of Road Tripping

Road tripping is fun, renewing, and feeds my imagination.

As we drive, I collect names for places mostly, but as my husband and I joke and engage in wordplay, for characters as well.

Road tripping refills my “landscape well,” providing me with a reminder of the wider range of settings available to draw on when writing, and the links between settings and names.

And, road tripping can inspire actual scenes and stories. Don’t be surprised someday if one of my future projects includes a love smitten gold miner and the glacial object of his affection!

Summer’s End

A week into August, I can accept that, like every year in the past, summer will end, and I can be at peace with that knowledge thanks to mine and my husband’s summer wanderings and savoring of places of enchantment.

Your Turn

  • What does it take for you to feel you have experienced summer?
  • How does travel fuel your literate lifestyle?
  • How do places of enchantment feed your soul?

 Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts. I love to hear from you!

Reading and Writing: Work, Spirit, or Health?

Last post, after reading Writer’s in the Storm , I blogged about this quote:

Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling five balls in the air. You name them – workfamilyhealthfriends, and spirit – and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back.

But the other four balls – family, health, friends, and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same.

You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.

~ Brian Dyson, CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises

In my reflection, I talked about my reading/writing life as if it were “work” (and that is how I tend to treat it in the summer when I am off from my job as a teacher).

However, upon further reflection, reading and writing, for me, cannot be labeled only as work, but rather as spirit and health as well. Why?

Writing as Spirit

I truly feel writing, and the reading necessary to be a good writer, is my calling. When I am writing, I feel as if I am doing precisely what I was created to do. The stories that drive me and the poems that sing through me feel like “gifts” received, not something I came up with on my own.

Furthermore, as a praying Christian who has served a long writing apprenticeship, I talk to God about it rather frequently. Many, many times I have considered quitting. (Once I actually did, but not because I didn’t want to write anymore, but rather as a newbie teacher, I could not find the time. This was not a pretty time physically or spiritually.) As with most major decisions, I talk to God about it, and instead of telling me to quit, he always sends me more ideas.

Therefore, writing has come to feel as if it is not just my personal passion, but my calling and my responsibility to the God I love.

Writing and Reading as Health

As stated above, refraining from writing impacts me physically as well as emotionally. The one time I quit for an extended period of time resulted in depression and illness.

Reading and Writing rarely feel like work, although some of the support activities–like researching markets and preparing submissions do. For me, reading and writing are joy, abundance, and life! Writing sustains my spirit, and reading fuels my brain.

These are powerful passions, however, in spite of appearances, I do not love them more than my family and friends.

The Real Balance

As an introvert, I tilt toward quiet time at home. Therefore, I realize I need to push myself to get out of my head and house and spend more time with my husband, family, and friends because I do, indeed, love them very much. Dad’s death this spring has reinforced the importance of spending time with the people I love and who love me.

I want to be a more involved wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, and friend. I definitely need to keep practicing.

What About You?

Which of the “balls” from the quote corresponds to the roles of reading and writing in your life? Are there any other “balls” you feel might need more attention? How would you make the adjustments? Please use the comment space below to share your thoughts. We are all a work-in-progress; let’s help each other along the way!

Wonderful Words: Work-Life Balance

Reading Writer’s in the Storm this morning, I came upon this quote:

Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling five balls in the air. You name them – workfamilyhealthfriends, and spirit – and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back.

But the other four balls – family, health, friends, and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same.

You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.

~ Brian Dyson, CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises

As the daughter of a work-a-holic, who is as driven as the beloved father who bore the trait before her, I have always struggled with work-life-writing balance, the most recent bout culminating in my physical collapse this spring.

In theory, this summer is (according to me) supposed to be about resting, recuperating, and enjoying my relationships with children, grandchildren, parents, and friends. I remind myself over and over again that there are no goals, writing or otherwise, that need to be accomplished this summer.

And yet, my mind lives in both the actual, physical world and the literary worlds of my reading/writing lifestyle. There are writing projects I want to finish even though I keep telling myself I don’t have to be done before September 1. These include building databases–of markets, agents, and editors, and revising a novel that has been a life’s work. And I yearn to finish before school starts (but honestly will not be able to) in spite of the constant reminder, “Debby, you don’t need to finish anything before September.”

And so, this quote is a good reminder. What I came out of my weeks of illness feeling was a determination to make more time for my loved ones, and a yearning for more time for my writing. I confess, God forgive me, I am too often motivated by the second, rather than the first.

And so I’ll sign off. My granddaughter has a music camp concert tonight, and then I have a writer’s group meeting. I want to be ready to enjoy both!

Your Turn

What new priorities have you been trying to introduce to your life? Do you, perhaps, have some good ideas to help me stick to mine? I would welcome your advice. Please chime in using the comment space below.

 

Got a Lot on Your Mind? Braindrain!

Got a Lot on Your Mind? Braindrain!

Do you have a lot on your mind? Doing a braindrain can be a great exercise to help you capture all the issues and ideas so that you can deal with them in a rational manner.

What’s a Braindrain?

A braindrain is like a brainstorm, only instead of trying to come up with as many ideas as you can that relate to a focused topic, your objective is to spill out all the busy-ness in your head onto paper. It’s a useful way to get an overview of the big picture.

Funnel Cloud

My Braindrain

I have been on medical leave for almost a month now. I’ve had lots of doctor appointments and email conversations. I’ve researched topics related to asthma and better self-care. I’ve had to do a lot of resting. And I’ve learned a lot of things I don’t want to forget. So, today I did a braindrain. You can type one on your computer or phone, write it in your journal, or just spill it out on a big piece of paper.

Here’s a sampling from mine:

  • If I use my emergency inhaler more than 2x per week, I need to call my allergist.
  • I like my job and miss my colleagues.
  • I enjoy seeing my friends’ and family’s facebook posts.
  • I enjoy writing to Mom.
  • Humidity is one of my big asthma triggers.
  • I’ve found some great new blogs to follow.
  • I love reading my Bible daily.
  • I need to add more fruits and veggies into my diet especially carotenoids and leafy greens.
  • I have learned how to use my planner more effectively.
  • It is good to sit still.
  • Dark chocolate is still good for me.
  • I need to be a more faithful vacuumer and duster for my health’s sake.
  • I can always remind myself my life is in God’s hands; God loves me; God is good; and God is in control. I have nothing to fear.

As you can see, I let the ideas come in random order, although thinking of one thing sometimes reminded me of other related topics.

writing-pen

What Will I Do With My Braindrain?

When I look over my list, I see there are things I need to remember for when I get sick. I’ll gather these on an index card and put it on my bulletin board.

There were more healthy eating suggestions on the list than I included on your abbreviated version. I want to make another index card with an “Eat These!” list on one side and a “Limit These!” list on the other to keep in my wallet. I will also make an index card for each and put them on my fridge.

I tend to over-embrace the Puritan work ethic, and I tend to get stressed. I’m going to make another list, on a blank page in my planner, of things I enjoy doing that are restful and relaxing.  Then, I’m going to try to remember to look at it when I feel stressed.

I have also created a new daily item for my planner: Calming Activity.

The Braindrain: Another Great Benefit of a Literate Lifestyle

I am a person who thinks best with a pen in my hand. I love using the braindrain exercise  to capture or quiet what’s on my mind. It feels really good to get everything recorded in one place.

Your Turn

Please use the comment box below to share your own tips for coping with having a lot on your mind. Or share a braindrain of your own. I’d love to hear from you!