If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.-—Joseph Campbell

Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Learning about Learning

Common core and current education research encourages students to use higher order thinking skills. We turn to Bloom’s Taxonomy for guidance. There is a revised version that I like. It’s found here:


This is a newer version of Bloom’s using revised categories and a circular image rather than the hierarchical pyramid.  I will use higher order thinking skills to journal a “section” a month and each word in the section for four days. After six months I will put together a book of anecdotes, activities and new ideas for each section of the taxonomy.

It’s a plan. A more specific framework than I have tried before, and it’s scary.

But I teach a college seminar for beginning teachers. Using experiences from my thirty years as a public school teacher, I have been encouraging students through a version of theory (abstract ideas from college methods courses) into practice (the reality of a class of one’s own) for the past five years. Now after thirteen years of writing practice I am ready to document this journey.


A Month of Presence

I made little quote notebooks for family and friends this year.This is the letter I enclosed with each book:

I really like quotes, but often wonder what others’ words mean for me. Here are some ways I attempt to satisfy my curiosity.

1. Read one in the morning as a morning meditation.

2. Consider connections when first reading it.

3. Write it over and over. (Remember learning spelling words that way?)

4. Go through the day watching for examples of the quote. (Like when hearing a new word or idea and suddenly it’s everywhere.)

5. Come back to the quote at the end of the day. Do a ten minute free write using it as the prompt. (Set a timer. Put pen to paper and write. Don’t edit. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar. Just write what comes up.)

The following is from the blog I used to write, itstartedwithaquote.wordpress.com.

“The entire universe is within us. My answers are inside of me, and yours lie within you, too. Everything that seemingly happens externally is occurring in order to trigger something within us, to expand us and take us back to who we truly are.”  Anita Moorjani

In the little notebooks I wrote the following month’s worth of quotes.

1. Write it on your heart that each day is the best day in the year. Ralph Waldo Emerson

2. Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. Mary Oliver

3. Follow what you love and it will take you where you need to go. Natalie Goldberg

4. All creation teaches us some way of prayer. Thomas Merton

5. It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts. Attributed to Harry S. Truman

6. There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one you in all time, this expression is unique. Martha Graham

7. The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. Eleanor Roosevelt

8. The most sophisticated people I know–inside they are all children. Jim Henson

9. Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. Rumi

10. Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. Rachel Carson

11. I believe that when we ask to be led, we are led, and there’s nothing too small or esoteric for spiritual help. Julia Cameron

12. In a gentle way, you can shake the world. Mahatma Gandhi

13. The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them. Thomas Merton

14. The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are. Joseph Campbell

15. If you want to be incrementally better, be competitive. If you want to be exponentially better, be cooperative. Unknown

16. To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind that to be hopelessly in love with spring. George Santayana

17. You’ve got to keep the child alive; you can’t create without it. Joni Mitchell

18. Their story, yours and mine–it’s what we carry with us on this trip we take, and we owe it to each other to respect our stories and learn from them. William Carlos Williams

19. Deep listening is miraculous for both listener and speaker. When someone receives us with open-hearted, non-judging, intensely interested listening, our spirits expand. Sue Patton Thoele

20. Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

21. Every survival kit should include a sense of humor. Author unknown

22. Those who wish to sing will always find a song. Celtic proverb

23. Wherever we go, we take everything we’ve ever known with us whether we know it or not. Maya Angelou

24. Always walk through life as if you have something to learn and you will. Vernon Howard

25. As long as you live, keep learning how to live. Seneca

26. The meaning of life is to find your gift, the purpose of life is to give it away. Pablo Picasso

27. Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are. Marianne Williamson

28. Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is. Francis Bacon

29. It was in the 1920s when nobody had time to reflect, that I saw a still-life painting with a flower that was perfectly exquisite, but so small you really could not appreciate it. Georgia O’Keeffe

30. Learn to be quiet enough to hear the genuine within yourself so that you can hear it in others. Marion Wright Edelman

31. A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary. Thomas Carruthers


Hemingway’s Voice

hemingwayAlways do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.

The first panacea for a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency; the second is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity; both bring a permanent ruin. But both are the refuge of political and economic opportunists.

All our words from loose using have lost their edge.

When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

Ernest Hemingway

This month the book club read The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. An interesting choice after having read A Paris Wife by Paula McLain a while back.

Our monthly book club meets twice, once on a Tuesday night (originally for those who worked during the day) and Wednesday morning (for those who didn’t want to get out at night.) Over the years these two groups have developed their own personalities.

The night meeting is smaller and more, for lack of a better word, intellectual. At least two members do background work on the book or author before coming to the meeting. The retired English teachers gravitate toward this group. I like it because I learn a lot and am able to share  it with the Wednesday meeting. But we also have at least one member who likes this meeting because when she doesn’t get into a book, like this month’s selection, she comes to try to figure out what she might be “missing.”

Last night we had an interesting discussion about the writer’s voice.

This morning’s group will be bigger, and freer with their own voices.

So in preparation for today’s group I look at more of Hemingway’s words.

Who was this guy? A WWI veteran. A drunk. A depressive. Married four times. A writer of sparse and simple language.

One last quote to get a handle on his style…

If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water.

Fools and Writing

What’s the connection? I babble on.

No man is so foolish but he may sometimes give another good counsel, and no man so wise that he may not easily err if he takes no other counsel than his own. He that is taught only by himself has a fool for a master.  Hunter S. Thompson

A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.  William Shakespeare

I have recently received several blog awards. They are flattering and encouraging. Thank you. They are much appreciated. Unfortunately I am not able to respond to these nominations individually at this time. My writing life seems to be taking off in a zillion different directions.

That’s a good thing, isn’t it?

Here are some thoughts from Natalie Goldberg’s new book The True Secret of Writing which I have referred to often and which seem to be setting me on fire.

I’ve noticed that no matter how much my outward life seems to improve–a new house, a new book contract–I still have the same amount of inner torture, the same twisted agonies. Noticing this has helped. I recognize those old friends and don’t believe them as much.

There are many ways to meditate. Whatever opens us, softens the heart, makes us alive to this human world and helps us to bear it is our path.

and a poem by Ikkyu

only one koan matters


Happy writing, y’all!

Without Inference

There is no reasoning, no process of inference or comparison; there is no thinking about things, no putting two and two together; there are no ideas – the animal does not think of the box or of the food or of the act he is to perform.   Edward Thorndike

I have set a writing intention for the week. Every day at the same time in different settings (library, park, Walmart snack area, etc) I will write for twenty minutes, describing the setting without making inferences. Just the facts, m’am.

This could prove difficult at Walmart. (An inference, perhaps?)

The idea came from Natalie Goldberg’s new book The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language, although she sat in the same setting, a tea shop, for a week.

We tried it last night in our writing circle. It’s harder than it sounds.

Process Writing

Our beautiful spring weather has developed a blustery edge, which is reason enough to stay inside and read more of Natalie Goldberg’s The True Secret of Writing, make red beans and rice and write this post.  The “book” I tell people I’m working on sits on a table beside the sofa, untouched since last Thursday.

Yesterday one of my writing buddies and I shared our hesitations,  justifications, and downright fears, then did a timed writing on “What I’m going to write this week.”

“The book,” I said. “I wanted to work on the book.”

Tell me more, Laura.

I want to develop Margaret. I want to explore her need to set boundaries, especially around a particularly stubborn character with which she is dealing.

Great. This sounds promising.

I want to describe her garden, the one with heirloom roses in the front (which I know nothing about,) and the organic vegetable garden she is cleaning out and adding fresh compost to as she prepares to plant.


Oh, and I want to talk about why there are heirloom roses to begin with…the ones that belonged to the former owner, Margaret’s mentor.


And then there’s Hank…but he takes the story into a future without many details yet. Maybe all I can do for now is introduce him.

So what’s holding you back? It sounds like you’re full of ideas. Start with Margaret and her boundary issues. Do a few timed writings about that. See where they take you.

Gulp. OK.

Listening to Learn

Learning to Listen

Listening for Lessons

A Teacher and her Writing Practice

Writing Is My Drink

slake your thirst; find your voice


~ creative ideas for making a difference ~

...the house I live in...

A journal of life pursued