Posted by: gaildennehy | April 4, 2019

How to Build a Writing Habit

This is an older article from Marisa Mohi’s blog, but it is full of common sense ideas for procrastinating authors. I’m one so I recognize the need. Hope it helps. When Marisa wrote this, she had two wip. I presently have four plus a book of poetry for a publisher. If I can find one. Except for getting up at 5:40 A.M. I can probably do this. Let me know how it works for you.

One of those things about being a writer is that you have to be in the habit of writing. Oh, sure, it’s all well and good to say, “I’m a writer.” And then just rush off before anyone can ask you about what you do. It’s even better if you just belittle people who try to question your status as writer. (I had a crush on a guy who did that in undergrad.) I think a problem I’ve run into lately is the whole saying I’m a writer, and then, you know…not writing. And, I get it. Like, for a while, all my friends on the Facebooks were posting links to hella inspirational blogs that reaffirmed that yes, we are writers. We should call ourselves writers. Even if we’re not published! You’re a mother-humpin’ writer. It was good. I appreciated it. Because, here’s the thing: For a really long time, I didn’t feel I could say that. I had a master’s degree in writing, but didn’t feel that I could call myself a writer. Fast forward to the present. I have worked as a writer for the majority of my professional life. I’ve ghostwritten. I’ve blogged. I’ve freelanced. I’ve tech written. (What’s the past tense of having at one point been a tech writer?) Currently, I literally teach writing. I have no issue with donning that fantastic writerly mantle. But here’s where things get a bit squiffy. I haven’t been writing a whole awful lot lately. Gasp. Sacrilege! I know. If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you know that I struggle hard with the burnout. And you know, taking on too much stuff. And trying to balance life and work and side hustles and a relationship and just basically being a person. (I’ve really been bad at the being a person thing because I let so many friendships and everyday human tasks fall by the wayside.) So, in 2016, I worked on getting my life right, in a manner of speaking. I started to slow down. I lessened my day job work load. I cut waaaaaaaay back on the writing I did for others. I started reading more. I didn’t force myself to do anything I didn’t want to do. I really leaned into self-care in a pathological way. But here we are in February in this, the year of our lord 2017. And I do not have a daily writing habit. I really, really want one though. Which, naturally, means it’s time to work on it.

001: Journaling.

So, if you didn’t know, I start every single day by journaling. On the weekdays, this means I start writing around 5:40 AM, and get it out of the way before I start working out. On weekends, it’s a little nicer because I get to journal with my coffee as I snuggle with the dog on the couch. Journaling is great because I get to throw my brain down on the page. I’m sure years from now I’ll look at the pages I’ve journaled and wonder what the hell was wrong with me. They don’t say anything special. Mostly it’s to do lists, things I wish would change, or things that happened or will be happening. But the key is that I get the weird parts of my brain out of my head first thing so that later, I’m better able to write. And my anxiety has really gone down since I’ve started this whole process, probably because I can write down a worry, and then completely forget it.

002: Reading more.

I’ve been tracking my reading in my bullet journal, and it’s crazy how motivated it’s been making me to read. I haven’t fully broken up with Netflix or anything, but I’m making more time for reading because the more I read, the more I want to write. This is key for me. There’s nothing like a clever plot or a beautifully worded sentence that makes you want to write. Interestingly enough, there’s nothing like a garbage story to make you want to write, especially when you feel you could do what the author was trying to do better.

003: Literally scheduling it.

Every single day, I put a line in my bullet journal that says “write-1 hr.” Every. Single. Day. I could probably make a tracker and just track which days I write on, but honestly, I don’t pay attention to trackers. I need the list of things to do because there is nothing more satisfying than marking something off the to do list. So, by putting it on the list every day, I get the little mental reward of checking it off.

004: Making use of down time.

So, if I find myself in between classes or in my office hours and a single student hasn’t shown up, I may just open up a Word doc and write my little heart out. Lately, I haven’t been writing anything in particular, though I have some projects I’m in the middle of. I’m really just working on building the habit. So, if that means I just get about 3,000 words into various unrelated scenes, then so be it. Eventually, I’d like to focus on two manuscript projects that need to get done, but it’s like I said earlier. I’m out of the habit of making myself do things I don’t want to do. Until I get there, I’m content to just piddle around in a Word doc creating a big ol’ pile of nothing.

005: Creating a writing habit trigger.

I used to have a big ol’ electric kettle on my work desk, but not anymore. I brought that bad boy home so I could quickly and easily make some Moroccan mint tea in the afternoons when I get back from work. I start the kettle and change from my work clothes to a pair of yoga pants that are festooned with dog hair. I let the dog out, and put a weird pineapple-patterned headband on my head to keep my bangs out of my eyes as I write. By the time that’s all done, the water is nice and hot, and I brew my tea. Then, once the tea is done, it’s time for me to go into my office and make words come out of my brain and into the computer. For me, the tea is the trigger. Once the tea is done, it’s writing time.

It should be noted here that the tea is also a habit trigger for the dog. Once my tea is done, she’s knows it’s time to sleep in the reading chair in my office.

Posted by: gaildennehy | May 8, 2019

You Do Not Write the Story. The Story Writes You.

A wonderful piece by Laurwn Sapala that addresses the instinctual writing that some people feel more comfortable with than using lists and plans.

A Writer's Path

by Lauren Sapala

Why is learning how to write so hard?

If you want to be a writer, there are countless MFA programs, online courses, and more advice than one person could ever read on the internet. There are a bajillion writing guides on Amazon. And if you jump around on social media for even two minutes to see what writers are up to, you will quickly find more how-to guides, tips, tricks, hacks, and everything else an aspiring writer could ever want or need.

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Posted by: gaildennehy | April 25, 2019

5 Main Benefits of Creative Writing Workshops

A good article that reminds me to look for sources where I can share my work. I’ve belonged to several writer’s groups. Procrastination is a huge problem. Groups and workshops help keep me on schedule.

A Writer's Path

by Sara Kopeczky

Joining a creative writing workshop can be scary, especially for beginners, because allowing others to read your writing means also allowing them to criticize your work as well (hopefully in a constructive way). However, I think that the pros by far outweigh the cons. Here are some of the major advantages of creative writing workshops I have identified so far from my own experience:

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Posted by: gaildennehy | March 12, 2016

Advice from Authors Publish

» Build Your Captive Audience With These 4 Free Websites

A captive audience.

That’s what you need if you want you want to build your reputation as a writer. Having a loyal audience will make your life easier. You will have better opportunities to earn a living as a writer. You will also have it easier when you publish an ebook or two for sale. An amenable audience is one that will spend money on your products.

Social blogging platforms are the best. They usually have members who are ready to consume good quality content. Your only responsibility is to use the available tools on such platforms to attract your target audience.

So, what are your options? What writing platforms are available for your use?

1. Wattpad
Wattpad prides itself as the ultimate place to read and share stories. No one could argue with that. After all, Wattpad has 40 million active account users, all of whom are your potential readers.

Wattpad is free to use, which makes it a very affordable marketing tool if your budget is limited. All you have to do is create an account using your email and a password of your choosing. You can also join Wattpad using your existing Facebook account if you would rather.

As a writer, you have the freedom to write content regardless of genre. There are millions of people who would read what you have to offer. Your readers can access the platform via their computers as well as mobile devices. The platform also has an inline commenting feature that allows people to interact with your stories as they read. What more could you ask for as a writer?

2. Medium

Medium is another platform for writers that you should explore if you are looking to create a captive audience. This platform provides you with a chance to run a semi-autonomous blog while still keeping you connected to other Medium uses.
With Medium, you can post your content and observe how people react to it. Your Medium dashboard will provide you with statistics of number of reads, views, and recommendations. These numbers will help you determine what kind of content is popular and what isn’t. You can then use that knowledge to refine your writing until it is worthy of purchase.

Other features that make Medium a great platform for writers like you include share buttons, footnote and recommendation capabilities, the ability to bookmark an interesting post as well as the ability to write a response post. It’s also worth noting that you can make use of third party platforms like YouTube, Kickstarter, and Instagram among others, to enhance your content value on Medium.

Medium is estimated to have about 25 million users. These are great numbers to have at your disposal when you are looking to build an audience in order to enhance your writing career.

3. LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the social networking site for professionals. If you are a writer looking to impress all the right stakeholders, you cannot afford to ignore LinkedIn. The 414 million or so active users on this platform are nothing to joke about either.
LinkedIn not only allows you to post your resume and establish professional connections, but it also provides you with tools to post useful content on a regular basis. Use the chance provided by this platform to show off your writing capabilities. You never know, it may just be the ticket you need to attract high-end clients or the agent of your dreams.

The basic LinkedIn account is free. This means that you can get access to professionals you would like to follow or connect with, even when your promotion budget is nil. What more could you ask for?

  4. Facebook

Facebook seems like such an unlikely place for writers to be in, but it isn’t. The social media platform is the largest in the world. It has at least 1.55 billion active users, which accounts for about 20% or thereabouts of the global population!

Are you sure you want to ignore that kind of marketing potential?

Ensure that you create a Facebook account separate from your personal one. Create interesting content that can be read in bite-sized chunks. Post several times a week and invite everyone on your network to take a look. Interact with your audience via the comment section. Before long, you will have that captive audience you are looking for.

It becomes very easy after that to create an ebook and sell it to your loyal audience. One such success story is the photographer Brandon Stanton, the owner of Humans of New York Facebook account.

The social media blog on Facebook has over 17 million followers, a number of whom have bought his published books after viewing the author’s street photographic series and reading his subjects’ interviews. What’s stopping you from becoming an authority in your chosen industry?
The sky is the limit, even when you have no marketing budget as a writer. All you have to do is use the readily available blogging platforms with in-built social networks and you will be ready to go. So why not get started today? How much cheaper can you get after free?


Ellie Matama is a Kenyan-based freelance writer. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, watching cooking shows, and fantasizing about global travels. you can reach her via LinkedIn.

Posted by: gaildennehy | November 13, 2015

NaNoWriMo Hump-Day Cheats

Source: NaNoWriMo Hump-Day Cheats


A few hints for those of us who insist on making ourselves suffer. Actually, I’m doing well this year. I hope you all are, too. NaNoWriMo is teaching me how to keep to a deadline. This isn’t an easy lesson for an ADD author. Wish me luck. My princess needs saving.

Posted by: gaildennehy | November 3, 2015

Using Tarot in Writing

Source: Using Tarot in Writing

Posted by: gaildennehy | September 8, 2015

Poets and Inspiration. Why I write.

Poets. Ah, there are thousands of them. The first real poem that I remember reacting to was “High Flight” by Magee. I hadn’t known until then that poetry could express ecstasy.

“Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings”

It was an art that I could access. I could learn to paint pictures with words. I had always loved words.

Then, there were the poems of Alfred Lord Tennyson. I was a young teen and dreamy with it. Where else to go but to Camelot? Merlin was followed in my late teens by all the “popular poets:” Janis Ian and Rod McKuen. Not that they wrote great poetry, but it was the sixties and I was young.

The good poems came when I was in college. I was blessed with a school that offered readings from the likes of Ferlinghetti, Maxine Kumin, and others. I discovered ee cummings:

“Anyone lived in a pretty how town
with up so many floating bells down”

How wonderful to see artists who broke the mold. No abab for them, no four line stanzas. It was liberating, And then, I read Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass:”

“Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long, brown path before me, leading wherever I choose.

Henceforth, I ask not good fortune, I am good fortune,
Henceforth, I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Strong and content, I travel the open road.”

I watched Frost at John Kennedy’s inauguration and bought a compilation of his work and found, to my amazement that the man had made a career of writing poems of place. I knew the places he spoke about. I had seen the stone walls tumbling into fields and met the hired hand. I knew men who had lost fingers to chainsaws and I had picked armloads of the sweet-smelling lilacs of New England.

Perhaps, more than any other, Frost influences my writing. Some of my best poems are poems of place like “Camelback:”

“There is a mountain on the city’s northern edge
That appears tamed by the surrounding suburbs
She lays quiet, kneads her claws and waits.

And they come, in Keds and spandex
Carrying designer water,
Unwise, and blissfully unaware.

Only one and one half miles,
The trail twists and turns to the top,
She pants, knowing it’s almost time.

They scramble on the rocky trail,
Hot now in the afternoon sun,
The hours pass quickly.

A full day to the top,
Water gone, sitting by the trail,
They stop and she pounces.”

Many others are screams of pain sounding through the air that I pick up and translate. An example of one of these is “New Orleans, August, 2005”

“I heard the wind whisper her anger.
Quieter after a thousand miles,
Her voice still resonated
Sibilantly through my mind.

She told of storm tossed celebration,
And dancing through the South,
Like an octoroon queen
Smiling at those who tried to chain her.”

Finally, I write of things that horrify me in the current news.

“Las Mujeres
Almost sacred now in Spanish,
They stand in the village square,
Clothed in black,
Rosaries dripping from their fingers,
They mourn
Death, loss, and blood.”

I read poems by people from other countries, by women who have suffered, by Sappho. I read the English poets and the Italian poets of the 1800’s and in small ways, they all influence me. I’ve lived a long life of ups and downs and I have the ability and the talent to write poems that resonate with truth. I believe I can, all I need is to learn and continue learning all the days of my life. Inspiration isn’t a problem.

Posted by: gaildennehy | September 8, 2015

Figurative Language

Why is figurative language so important in poetry? Back up your argument by citing poems used in this lesson.

As connotation is to denotation, figurative language is to literal. The pictures we paint with words can easily be taken at face value, but by the use of figurative language, are drawn into the realm of dreams. Frost, for instance, wrote many a poem dealing with the simple rural life of Southern New Hampshire. However, twisted within the growing vines and flowers, are truths about the choices we make in life and the paths we walk. The most obvious of his poems is, of course, “The Road Not Taken,”

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Offered a choice in life, he picked the least travelled path, that of a poet, and it has made all the difference. His life choice is covered in a discussion concerning a leisurely walk in the woods. He could have said, “Yeah, I became a poet,” but it wouldn’t have been half as lovely. That is why we use figurative language, to beautify and describe life in finest terms.

Here is one of my own poems that uses figurative language to make a point. It’s called “A Birthing.”

An idea, like a seed in my womb,
is planted in the dark recesses of my mind.

She stirs and I feed her
on the repetitive workings of my day.

She isn’t ready, but she turns and kicks
and the pains start as I strain to pull her forth.

Throughout the night, she fights me
as I groan with weariness but labor on.

Finally, the contractions stop and she springs full blown
like Athena from the forehead of Zeus.

Quickly, I wrap her in ink and paper,
ready to send her out into the world.

But she needs more: cleaning, curling, primping,
editing all her verbs and gerunds.

I check her for appropriateness and
I fill her with what wisdom I have.

I let her go then after clothing her in fine lines,
strengthening her for when she must stand alone.

And I watch her leave my hand, my child as surely
as those of my womb.

And I pray she’ll be well received.

Here, I write, edit, and submit a poem. Simply that but oh, so much more.

Posted by: gaildennehy | September 8, 2015

Irony in Poetry

You walk out in the evening to water the lawn and gape at the neighbor’s car. The hood is smashed, the window broken, and he stands stiffly looming over his teenage son. His face is red, his voice raised, and his head is aggressively forward. He is making short, stabbing motions towards the car. His son stands with his head down, cowed before him.

It doesn’t take an Einstein to find meaning in that tableau. There is an unpleasant conversation going on between them. This unpleasantness is the tone of the conversation. In verbal communication, it is usually quite easy to grasp tone, but in poetry, the writer must rely on word choice, diction, syntax, and various poetic devices to give feeling to his conversation.

Tone is the attitude that the poet or narrator wishes to give to the poem. It displays emotion, whether anger, love, sadness, or other.

Using the ordinary in extraordinary ways is the base of poetry. It takes prose and makes it special. It gives meaning and feeling to writing. Anyone can say “I love you.” But only Browning could say

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
Of Being and Ideal Grace.

This supplies a tone of awe to her love and brings the heavens to witness. This makes “I love you” a poem.

Irony is a poetic device that helps identify the tone in a poem. Irony is the use of a word or phrase to stand for another, simply that.

Two roads diverged a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And look down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth

Then took the other as just as fair.

Lovely as an autumn walk in a forest would be, Frost is here talking about the pathways of life and the results of chosing a lesser traveled one. This is irony.

I read the poems attached to the lesson and the exclamation regarding the shoes but it wasn’t until I went out into the internet and tried to find the difference between irony and sarcasm and between the three kinds of irony: dramatic, verbal, and situational, that I finally began to understand poetic irony. Such a simple thing to cause such stress. In modern spoken usage, irony has come to mean an unexpected result arising from an expected action. An example is the race driver who is arrested for speeding. This is not poetic irony, this is situational irony.

An example of dramatic irony might be found in the Disney “Shrek” movies. Donkey and Shrek squabble constantly but are, in fact, the best of friends.

As for sarcasm, sarcasm is defined as a sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark, a bitter gibe or taunt. The Columbia Review states that sarcasm is usually an attack against another person or persons. It is meant to hurt. Irony on the other hand is not meant to hurt when used situationally and is not usually used against people.

Posted by: gaildennehy | September 8, 2015

Connotation and Denotation

Poets use the unusual to communicate the usual. One of the ways they do this, is to use the different meanings of words. Denotation is the dictionary meaning of a word, the literal meaning. This is simple basic word usage but often words have come to have shading that pull them from the literal into the emotional and unusual. For instance, this is a short piece I wrote a long time ago.

I learned poetry from Ferlinghetti,
San Francisco nights of fog-filled words.
Kumin’s animals and Plath’s depression,
A Bell Jar, yes, alienation’s cries.
The silence of crowds.

Are the words filled with fog? Obviously not, but they have the connotation of silence and cold, of wandering back streets by blurred street lights, conditions that lead to introspection. Condensed water vapor in cloud-like masses lying close to the ground and limiting visability is the definition and denotation of fog and won’t pour into a pile of words.

Connotation adds layers of meaning to poetry that, at first sight, isn’t there. Wallace Stevens writes in “The Snowman:”

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
and, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there, and the nothing that is.

Nothing here is full of different meanings. From the way it describes the man to the nothing that isn’t and that is that speaks in the snow.

Connotation adds a twist to the meaning of the word it comes about through time and usage. The Free Dictionary gives the definition of war as a state of open, armed, often prolonged conflict carried on between nations, states, or parties or the period of such conflict. But war connotes death and destruction and extreme suffering not those cold words. A poet who uses the word as a connotation is touching all that emotion and meaning and bringing it to the poem.

Remember, too, that connotations can be either positive or negative and remember to chose your words carefully. One wrong connotation can completely change the meaning of a line.

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