Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Word, According to Humpty Dumpty

In the beginning was The Word, and The Word was with Humpty Dumpty...

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master -- that’s all."

Alice was too puzzled to say anything; so after a minute, Humpty Dumpty began again.

"They’ve a temper, some of them -- particularly verbs: they're the proudest -- adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs -- however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!"

"Would you tell me, please," said Alice, "what that means?"

"Now you talk like a reasonable child," said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. "I meant by 'impenetrability' that we’ve had enough of that subject and it would be just as well if you'd mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don’t mean to stop here all the rest of your life."

"That’s a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone.

"When I make a word do a lot of work like that, said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

What's your relationship with words? Do you take charge of them, as Humpty Dumpty claims to have done? Or do you trust in their innate wisdom?

It wasn't so much over the words themselves that Humpty Dumpty claimed mastery. It was over rigid definitions. Are you a slave to those definitions? Or are you willing to free yourself to be as creatively playful as was Lewis Carroll?

Whichever, you'll find 50 words and phrases to jump-start your writing on page 40 of The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write.

Please "like" these Facebook pages:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Writing Do's and Don't's


1. Remember: There are no rules. None.
There is no right way (including this one). There is no wrong way. There is only your way...the way that works for you, today.

2. Get out of your own way.
Ask any part of you that is logical, analytical, critical, cynical, doubt-filled or judgmental to step aside for the duration of your projected writing time.

3. Leap into the void...and trust.
Don’t worry about being polite, appropriate or correct. Don’t worry about making sense. Don't worry about the next word, paragraph, chapter or scene. Don't worry about the ending. Don't worry about the beginning. Don’t worry about anything. Just blurt it out...moment by moment, breath by breath, word by word.

3a. Listen...and always go with your first thoughts.
Second thoughts and second-guessing come from that part of your mind that is judgmental or censoring. Trust that what’s coming to you is what calls out to be expressed in this moment. Allow it to be expressed. Trust it and surrender to it. Fully and unconditionally.

4. Write.
What else is there to say?


1. Don't force your words into a straitjacket.
Instead, let your words and their innate wisdom determine the form of your work. In other words, if your novel wants to be a screenplay, let it. If your short story wants to be a poem, let. If your poem wants to be a song lyric, let it. It doesn't matter whether you've ever written a novel, screenplay, short story, poem or song. Your story, whatever it is, knows best. Always. 

2. Don't reread your work if you're feeling critical or judgmental.
Instead, wait an hour, a day, a week or a month...however long it takes for you to be able to see your work from a place of heartful discernment, not harsh judgment.

3. Don't worry about the next word, the next sentence or the next chapter.
Instead, remember that the next word will come as easily as your next breath...if you let it.

3a. Don't forget to breathe.
Instead, consider that if you're feeling stuck in your writing, you're probably also stuck in your breathing (and vice versa). Take a moment to center yourself and refocus on your breath.

4. Don't let fear, distraction, low self-esteem, doubt, anxiety, judgment, perceived lack of time, so-called writer's block or other people's criticisms or expectations stop you.
You're a writer. Just write. 

Adapted  from"13 Rules for Writing" from The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write (c) 2008 Mark David Gerson

Please "like" these Facebook pages:

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Steve Jobs's True Legacy

"...the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do..."
~ John 14:12

"Follow your bliss."
~ Joseph Campbell

"Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above / Don't fence me in."
~ Cole Porter

I was packing up to leave Starbucks from an afternoon's writing on Wednesday when I heard about Steve Jobs's death. The news came to me in a terse email notice from the MyAppleSpace social network. The subject line read "Steve Jobs is dead."

Incredulous, I thought it was a hacker's prank. Only when I had double-checked the news against a reliable source could I bring myself to believe it.

Like many, I received and verified the news about Jobs on products he had pioneered. For me it was a MacBook Pro laptop and an iPhone.

And like so many around the world, I was grief struck.

Here was a man who had spent most of his life bucking the system, never letting fear or conventional wisdom get in the way of what he knew to be right and true. Nor did he ever permit the legions of critics and pundits who declared him foolhardy and misguided to stop him from following the path he knew in his heart to be the correct one.

Was he a saint? Hardly. Few geniuses are. Could he be cruel and cutting? Apparently so, for he is reputed to have had little patience for those who doubted or stood in the way of his passionate vision.

Few in the Western world remain untouched by that vision. Even those who swear they will never touch an Apple product have been affected by the revolutions in computing and music distribution that he incited.

Did he change the world? Absolutely. Did he do it uncompromisingly and on his own terms? Undoubtedly.

Is his greatest legacy the products and software systems he engineered? Not hardly.

Through the day or so following Steve Jobs's death, I was deeply moved, sometimes to tears, but the outpouring of love, respect and grief for this man. But by Friday night, as I scrolled through the unending stream of Jobs tributes and Jobs quotes in my Facebook news feed, something about it all began to trouble me.

Don't get me wrong. The sentiments expressed were true and powerful, and I clicked the "like" button on many of them.

But I began to wonder, as I read them all, how often we latch onto the words and lives of others as a way to avoid expressing our own words and living our own lives.

Back in 2006 while visiting Toronto, I was privileged to attend a Barbra Streisand concert. It was a performance that more than filled the city's vast Air Canada Centre. I wrote about that experience here two years ago, in a post titled Larger Than Life.

"Whatever you think of Barbra Streisand's talent or personality," I wrote, "when you are in her energy field, you touch that [limitlessness of your soul's natural state] and your soul cries out, 'Me too! That's who I am, too!!'

"Here in the Western world, where we have been taught to play small, we transfer all of our natural desire for the fenceless world of a life lived large to our movie stars and sports heroes.

"If we can't play out our own passion and power, we play it out through a celebrity cult that's no healthier than any other cult, one we also find in countries with charismatic leaders/dictators, in religions with unapproachable gods and in all situations where we abdicate the expression of our infinite nature to someone or something outside of ourselves."

How much of the grief for Jobs, I began to wonder, is not about the death of a brilliant man whose visions touched so many but about the death of a figure who publicly lived so much of the courage, vision, sense of purpose and uncompromising adherence to inner truth that so many of us shrink from in our own lives.

Steve Jobs was not unusual. We all have the same access to the same infinite pool of wisdom, courage, purpose and inner truth that he did...not to mimic his journey and follow his bliss, but to uncover and follow our own...wherever it might carry us.

In my novel, The MoonQuest, very much a metaphor for all our journeys, the main character, Toshar, is destined for a greatness he continues to resist. Yet destiny, as he is constantly reminded, is not cast in stone. There is always a choice.

"Every choice you have ever made," Toshar is told, "has led to this moment...of choice."

"The power to choose is always ours," I wrote in Larger Than Life. "In every moment and through every situation, we're offered the opportunity to choose our greatness, our passion, our light."

The best tribute to Steve Jobs is to not quote his words but to live them, to not restate his wisdom but to find and write your own, to not honor the choices of his heart but to listen to and honor the choices of yours, to not look backward but to live in the present moment as you step forward into the next.

It's time to awaken your vision. It's time to rekindle your passion. It's time to live your greatness.

If that becomes Steve Jobs's legacy, the revolution in each of our lives -- and in the world -- will only have just begun.

Please "like" these Facebook pages:
The MoonQuest book
The MoonQuest movie
The Voice of the Muse book
Mark David Gerson fan page

Friday, October 7, 2011

Write, Write, Write...Now!
The only thing that matters is that you write, write. write. It doesn't have to be good writing. As a matter of fact, almost all first drafts are pretty bad.
Walter Mosley

Just write. Just get words onto the page.

It doesn't matter what you write or how you begin. All that matters is that you do begin. All that matters is that you write one word and then another. And then another.

However you begin, your first words will take you where you need to go, as long as you answer the call of your Muse, as long as you listen to your story, as long as you free your words onto the page and go wherever they carry you.

There's a time to revise, rework and reword. That time is later. Now is the time to write, to begin.

Have you begun? Are you writing your story, your poem, your screenplay, your theatre script, your book?

If not, close your browser and open your writing program. Or get pen and paper. Or quill and parchment, if that's your preference.

However you prefer to write, write. Just one word. Any word. Then another. And another.

It's time to begin. Now. All it takes is one word: the one word that gets you started.

• Adapted from The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write (c) 2008 Mark David Gerson

Please "like" these Facebook pages: