The Story Behind The Storyteller

The Storyteller Logo

The Storyteller Logo

I think the Internet is full of trolls and it’s not necessarily the safest place to share things, that’s why I love the idea behind The Storyteller.

In a nutshell, The Storyteller is an online platform that gives people the opportunity to speak about things they might not be open about sharing with other people. It is not affiliated to Ryerson or the RSU. The only relation The Storyteller has to Ryerson is that it was started by Ryerson students.

I had the honour of meeting up with the creators of The Storyteller and learning about the inspiration behind it all.

Banner with 'The STORYTELLER' written on it

Banner with ‘The STORYTELLER’ written on it

Trisha Rolfe is a fourth year Child and Youth Care (CYC) student here at Ryerson. She told me that she learned a lot from other people’s stories and that’s why she wanted to start the blog. She’s found that she tends to be a person people come to when they need someone to talk to and it’s made her realize how much she’s learned from being an open ear. She wants to give people an opportunity to learn about aspects of peoples’ lives that they may not necessarily share openly with others. The original plan was to start a blog with her friend however that kept getting pushed back so she just ended up spearheading The Storyteller alone. Now there is a team of four working together to maintain the blog and various other social media sites.

The team! <Jamie Lupie, Kiri Witmer, Trisha Rolfe, Deanna Aguiar>

The team! Jamie Lupia, Kiri Witmer, Trisha Rolfe, Deanna Aguiar

Trisha first recruited her friend Jamie Lupia, a 3rd year student double majoring in creative writing and labour studies at Brock University. Initially, Jamie was just to help with the blog’s illustrations but she eventually started contributing posts based on some of her own experiences as well. She is the one responsible for the beautiful illustrations found throughout the blog. Afterwards, two more CYC students, Kiri Witmer and Deanna Aguiar, joined them.

Around the same time the blog was started Kiri had posted a video talking about her experiences with suicide. Kiri expressed how important it is for people to talk about issues however she felt that she keeps a lot to herself. Trisha saw this video and approached Kiri because she thought that she embodied ideals that would fit well with The Storyteller. Similarly, Trisha approached Deanna as well because she also thought that she would also be a good fit as she is extremely supportive. Each of the four members contribute to the blog in their own way.

Trisha started The Storyteller blog back in April 2015 and it is amazing how much it has grown since then. They have had several events one at Brock University and an open mic night in Niagara as both Trisha and Jamie are originally from there. They also showcased The Storyteller here at Ryerson during the FCS Student Achievement event. Trisha told me that this was her favourite event as there were a lot of people interested in reading stories. Also, it was a great way to bring awareness to our faculty to inspire people to do things outside of the classroom.

The Storyteller booth at the FCS Student Achievement Event at Ryerson University

The Storyteller booth at the FCS Student Achievement Event at Ryerson University

However, the classroom has helped fuel some of the ideas behind The Storyteller as Kiri has told me that they use concepts they’ve learned throughout the CYC program. One extremely important concept being self-care which is something that we can all relate to and should practice. It’s meant to be an outlet for not only sharing experiences but also to educate as well as to be a sort of therapy. The Storyteller also incorporates a strength-based approach because they want to focus on one’s strengths as well as celebrate the challenges or barriers one was able to overcome.

The Storyteller stresses the idea that “You are not alone” and that all of us are The Storytellers. That’s why submissions are strongly encouraged as sharing may find the solution or sharing might very well be the solution. It’s a way for people to get things off their chest so they want your rants! Submissions can be about any topic and in any form of media: stories, poetry, art, songs, etc. You can choose if you want your posts to be anonymous. They will be accepted and shared as long as posts aren’t racist, homophobic, transphobic, sexist, ablist, sanist, or discriminatory in any way. If you’re interested in making a submission click here! 

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OR if you would like to know more or if you would like to contribute in other ways you can email thestorytellerweb@gmail.com or visit any of their social media platforms: the blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

If You’re Stressed Out and You Know it Clap Your Hands!

Stress can be difficult to define. Metabolically it causes our body to release hormones which affect our mood and cause inflammation which is damaging to our overall physical and mental health. Even that wasn’t much of a definition. Stress seems to have varying definitions as it affects individuals differently, some thrive on stress while others buckle from the pressure. Defining stress is as difficult as describing how it feels; exhausting, hungering, painful, tight, irritating, angering, and depressing give a bit of a range. I might not be able to give a good definition of stress, but it is certain that stress is not good for your body or mental wellbeing. Chronic stress is associated with most major diseases, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, and with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Research has found that depression and anxiety rates are high among university students and it is no surprise as exams and coursework can be very stressful. What is important for any student is to find a way to manage their stress and to cope with it. There are a plethora of stress management techniques but one that has been the most beneficial in my life is yoga.

 
Yoga has been found to be an effective stress and anxiety reliever. Studies comparing stress levels of yoga practitioners and non-yoga practitioners have found that stress and inflammation go down with yoga practice. There have even been studies where yoga is compared to other therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which is a popular form of psychotherapy that works to change the way you think and act. These studies found that while the other therapies were effective, yoga seemed to bring about more and different positive effects. This is not to say that therapies should be stopped or replaced by yoga, but perhaps yoga should be included as part of the therapy. Looking at studies that are somewhat more relevant that involved undergraduate students, found that yoga helped with perceived stress and was found to raise mood and decrease anxiety; a tool that may be very helpful in the coming weeks.

 
Yoga is a time when your mind can fall away from work and studying and move internally to focus on your body. It’s funny how such a big part of our lives can be forgotten so quickly when we are forced to focus on something else; exams and assignments float away and the release of built up tension in your muscles smacks you in the face. In yoga you feel every shift in every muscle in your body, it is a very active form of movement even though it seems very passive from the outside. Yoga requires strength and endurance as you work to properly and energetically contort your body. The postures allow your muscles to stretch which is where the idea of the “release of tension” comes from. Not only is yoga or even just being active good for your body due to the physical release of stress, it also good for your mind.

 
Mental health studies have found that being active, including yoga practice, will raise mood. In the case of yoga this could be because it allows for meditation or personal reflection. Being able to reflect is paramount for personal growth; it is a major source of learning. When one can reflect on their actions and thoughts they can find out new things about their life and how they really feel. This may seem terrifying but it is extremely useful. When you have an unfiltered opinion of yourself it allows you to see who you are and what you think of yourself; it helps you to answer big questions like: am I happy? You don’t really need yoga to partake in personal reflection, but it does provide you with the time to do so and combing reflection with physical activity may help to clear your mind and allow for deeper thought.


Reflection is something we need in life and finding a way and the time can be difficult but it will be beneficial in the end. Figuring out who we are is a hard task and it takes a lifetime; it’s not something we decide in a day. Reflecting on our life choices as we make them will help us through the process of finding ourselves and will keep us grounded in reality. There is a lot of pressure on young people today to make big life choices in a small amount of time; it’s no wonder we’re all stressed out. Having to decide what you’re going to do with the rest of your life in four years is difficult. However, one thing to remember is that there is no law that stipulates you must decide your life trajectory right away or that you only have one shot in life; having more than one career is becoming normalized in Canadian society. Looking at myself and my friends, we certainly did not stick to plan A, some of us are on plan E already; it takes time to find what you want. Don’t be afraid to make the wrong the choice and try to avoid letting it stress you out, there’s always a plan B. Go after what you want in life and don’t be afraid to let that change, you don’t know where it might take you.


Ryerson has a Centre for Student Development and Counselling located in JOR-07c, where any student can go to receive counselling and learn more about mental health. If you have feelings of depression or need help managing your stress it would be advantageous to contact the centre. Additionally, if you are interested in trying yoga, Ryerson Moves is putting on free yoga classes (mats available) every day in SLC for the rest of November to combat end-of-term stress. For 40 minutes at varying times of day you can journey up the fifth floor of the SLC (room 508) and hopefully destress a little. If this is your first time trying yoga be sure to inform your instructor and tell them about any injuries you may have had. Yoga can be dangerous if not done properly, so if it doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t.

A Touch of Sugar

sugar-heartOn the 14th day of every November of every year the threat of diabetes is acknowledged by the world. In 1991, the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organization (WHO) designated November 14 as World Diabetes Day in response to rising counts of diabetes around the world. Diabetes has been mingling with the human population since as early as 1550BCE when Egyptian physicians made note of patients having excessive urine, which we now know to be a diagnostic factor in diabetes. Throughout history physicians came into contact with a disease that was described as being “the melting of flesh and limbs into urine”, showing another diagnostic factor – rapid weight loss. Some of these doctors even took to boiling the urine until it evaporated and found that what was left was a sweet granulated material that seemed to be sugar. It was discoveries like these that created the disease profile for diabetes as a condition that results in excess sugar in the blood because the body cannot absorb it. The physicians of humanities past had no idea what diabetes was but they knew it was deadly and they worked to discover more about it, as we continue to do today. From the 16th century onwards, various discoveries were made and treatments developed, but it was not until the 20th century that a very small but ingenious idea was conceived and a very important discovery made. This discovery was insulin and the fantastic work it does within the body. Along with this, diabetes was differentiated into two types, 1 and 2, type 1 being when insulin cannot be produced by the body and type 2 being when the red blood cells do not respond to the insulin being produced.

 

There is a very important Canadian connection to this story and that is Fredrick Banting. In the 20th century the idea that the pancreas was related to diabetes came about along with the idea that some kind of hormone was involved in the uptake of sugar in the blood. This discovery unfortunately came to our knowledge by way of the removal of pancreases from dogs; scientists found that these dogs developed diabetes. After insulin was found in the pancreases of these dogs, Fredrick Banting experimented with insulin he purified and tested it in humans at the University of Toronto. Banting’s experiment worked and thousands of people were able to live a much easier and longer life. Work continued on insulin and eventually synthetic human insulin was created and today millions of people can live with diabetes. However, this is part of the diabetes problem we face today, we know how the disease works and have an effective way to treat it but millions of people are living with this chronic condition that still greatly affects their quality of life. This is why every year we have World Diabetes Day, which just happens to be the same day as Fredrick Banting’s birthday, go figure.

intin7_diabetes-infographic_for-post_oct-17-2013Diabetes is one of the leading causes of death around the world today, the International Diabetes Foundation claims that every 7 seconds someone dies from diabetes. Additionally, WHO estimates that in 2012 1.5 million deaths were directly caused by diabetes and that in 2030 it will be the 7th leading cause of death worldwide. These statistics and projections are startling and what is even more worrisome is that the rates of type 2 diabetes are increasing in every country. Type 2 diabetes is a strange beast, even though we found an effective treatment for it and we know how to prevent it, it still hunts us. Why does type 2 diabetes continue to be a problem for humans? There is no simple answer to that question. Increasing world food prices resulting in the lack of accessibility to fresh and nutritious foods and the removal of physical activity from day-to-day living are just two of the hot-topic answers. Also, these are two of the hardest solutions to achieve on a global scale, let alone making insulin available to all individuals living with diabetes. Living in North America, we are already at somewhat of an advantage to preventing type 2 diabetes, even though North America has some of the highest diagnosis rates. However, North America is also where the most money is spent on healthcare for diabetes. This means that more people are being treated but it also means that more is being done to raise awareness and to prevent diabetes. Additionally, North America has the money and resources to develop policies that allow for healthy lifestyle changes in effect preventing or slowing the onset of diabetes, the problem is getting governments to accomplish this task. That is why grassroots organizations are so important.

 

Organizations such as Toronto’s own FoodShare, which I have written about previously, and their Mobile Good Food Market. This initiative brings fresh and affordable food to areas of Toronto that face economic hardship and lack accessibility to fresh food. More organizations and initiatives such as this one are needed to cage diabetes and ultimately many other diseases that come about in conjunction with it. Here at Ryerson we have the Good Food Centre as well as research accomplished by professors within in our Food and Nutrition program. It is a very large task to tackle diabetes across the world, but individuals can make a difference here in their own city and in their own lives. Adding physical activity back into your daily routine can be as simple as taking the stairs or finding a part of your day that makes you use your body. Why not eat an apple if you can, they don’t bite back. I am not saying solving or preventing diabetes is as simple as biting into an apple or walking up the stairs, but we need a place to start. I also understand and acknowledge the fact that there are people that cannot afford to buy an apple and in doing so I say to everyone make the best choices you can make, an accomplishment is still an accomplishment, big or small.

 

The Ryerson chapter of the Canadian Diabetes Association, the Planetary Health Commission, and Health Out Loud Ryerson are acknowledging World Diabetes Day this Friday and from 11am to 3pm on the SLC’s main floor there will be food, games, and contests where you can learn more about diabetes.

Great End of Semester Reads

A photograph of a woman sitting under a tree reading a book

 

Now that the semester is over and exams are almost done, you might be searching for a great book to read. If you are like me, you find it difficult to read for pleasure while reading for assignments and papers. So now it’s time to race to the library and start on a summer reading list. Here’s are some suggestions to get you started.

Effortless Mastery by Kenny Werner

For those of you who don’t know Kenny Werner, he is a brilliant jazz musician and this book explains his method for freeing himself from creative barriers and gaining a deeper, more spiritual understanding of jazz. While he may have written it for musicians, this book transcends art forms. It is more than a musicians manual this book expands new ways of thinking, new understandings of failure with an almost Buddhist sensibility. This is a great read for everyone.

Creation by Gore Vidal

So I should say upfront that I love Gore Vidal. I have read almost everything he has ever written. He is a brilliant story teller. I also love historical fiction. Creation is a great example of historical fiction. His novel spans the fifth century BCE. Love, philosophy, war, adventure, this novel has all of the elements of great fiction. I have read this work several times and writing about it now makes me want to pick it up and start it again.

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward by H.P. Lovecraft

You may not have heard of H.P Lovecraft. He was an early horror writer who leaves the horror up to your imagination. There is something frightening about not knowing all of the details. Unlike writers like Stephen King who spells out the horrifying details, Lovecraft sets the scene and leaves the rest up to your imagination. This novel tells the story of Charles Dexter Ward who driven to the edge and beyond by dark forces.

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

This tells the story of a rare Hebrew manuscript, known as the Sarajevo Haggadah, through five centuries. The main character, Hanna Heath an Australian manuscript conservator examines the book and finds traces of the people who have worked to save the text throughout the years. Brooks, a Pulitzer prize winner flashes back through time to reveal the history of the book and the people who became part of its history. I sometimes find that I am unable to read after hours of reading articles for school and I got this book as an audiobook with the library’s overdrive app. I was really impressed with the narration done by Edwina Wren. Not all narrators can do accents which don’t sound fake but this book was expertly written and read.

Get Outside

A man and dog walking near Humber River

Having spent my childhood running through cornfields and reading in the shade of huge oak trees, I sometimes find it hard to live in Toronto. I had always assumed that my longing to feel dirt in my fingers and the grass between my toes was because of this childhood. While, it definitely plays a role, I am becoming more conscious of just how important nature is to everyone’s well being.

In 2009 a study done by the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that the closer you live to nature, the healthier you are likely to be. This was found to be true for people living in cities which had plenty of green spaces. (Luckily, we live in Toronto, a city with tons of green spaces.) So being outside makes you healthier, but why? There are several theories. One is Vitamin D intake. The more time we spend outside, the more Vitamin D we soak up, the stronger our immune system. Another theory is that being outside improves our sleep as the natural sunlight helps to set our internal clock. Rather than relying on fluorescent lights and alarm clocks, this internal clock set by nature, helps to normalize our hormones (which can have the added benefit of weight loss).

Even beyond our internal clock and Vitamin D, being out in nature has been proven to make us happy. A study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine has provided proof that being outside causes “happiness, or the presence of positive emotional mindsets, broadens an individual’s thought-action repertoire with positive benefits to physical and intellectual actives, and to social and psychological resources”.

Even the dirt we walk or roll on has a part to play. Scientists at the University of Bristol and University College London discovered a couple of years ago a connection between dirt and mental health. There is a microbe found in soil called Mycobacterium vaccae. This microbe stimulates the same neurons of your brain that produce serotonin. Serotonin is known to increase your level of general well being. So even if you don’t live close to a green space or you have allergies and this time of the year is difficult, chances are you can still get your hands dirty with an indoor plant.

While Toronto may not be one of the top ten park filled cities in the world, we do have a large number of parks to enjoy. From High Park, Edwards Gardens, Dufferin Grove, Allan Gardens, the Islands, Rogue Park, Guildwood, to Woodbine and Humber River, the city is full of places to get outside, enjoy nature and improve your health.

Here is a complete list of Toronto parks to enjoy.

Quelling the rising panic

 

blurred text with the word 'stress' in focus

I have been thinking a lot lately about what to do when everything appears overwhelming and panic seems uncontrollable. I recently presented at my first conference and speaking in front of people terrifies me. Even though I knew my mind was blowing it out of proportion I still let it get out of control. So I have created a list of things I can do the next time this happens.

1. Meditation and deep breathing

I used to meditate on a regular basis and then fell out of the habit. Buddhism tells you when you meditate to notice your thoughts, label them as thinking and then to let them go. This practice can be really helpful when you are stressed. Stressful feelings are caused by stressful thoughts. If you can let thoughts go instead of getting wrapped up and following them you have a better chance of finding equanimity.

2. Take some time for self care

Self care means different things for different people. For me, getting enough sleep, eating well, drinking plenty of water and going for walks can help me deal with stress. Sometimes, it is hard to take the time to do these things but they can be vital. Self care also means knowing what to avoid. Excess alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine can aggravate stressful situations.

3. Avoid procrastination (well, as much as you can)

I am the queen of procrastination. I have mastered the art of procrasti-cleaning, procrasti-cooking and even gone as far as procrasti-ironing. Sometimes procrastination can be helpful. Everyone needs down time to give your mind a break and let ideas percolate. The key is know when you are taking a needed break and when you are avoiding necessary work.

4. Lower your expectations

I know this sounds odd but a lot of times stress is caused by the over riding need to be perfect. But you, me, everyone, we can’t be perfect. That’s okay. It doesn’t mean that we can’t do our best, but expecting to control everything just isn’t realistic. This is much easier than it sounds, and one that I have the most difficutly with, but trying to let go of control will lessen your stress.

5. Talk about it or write it out

Clearing out your mind of stressful thoughts can help. Write them out, talk them out, just get them out. Bottling everything up, only allows stress to build and bubble until it over flows.

Blogging Inclusion

photo of a computer keyboard with a finger hitting a key which reads 'blog'

At its most basic definition inclusion means the act of being included. But who gets included, included in what, included where and how? Inclusion is a messy idea. An idea whose meaning for me maybe very different from your meaning. Part of this may depend on the different levels of privilege or oppression that are our starting points.

Inclusion is now a buzzword. Agencies and organizations all want to ensure they are providing inclusive opportunities for disabled persons. What does this means for those who are labelled as disabled? In some cases, it means buildings and spaces are now open to everyone, that services are available to those who require accommodation. Creating a society in which everyone can be included if they choose to is of enormous value but is being included in the dominant narrative what everyone wants? Social inclusion has become more about ‘a set of normative practices’ – about consumption and lifestyle, and identity – than the transformation of society. The emphasis is now being placed on the individual, and their social engagement and activity rather than the societal structures that create exclusion and marginalization.

So how can people speak back to this excluded process of inclusion? Storytelling and personal narrative is one way. The internet and blogging platforms have enabled some marginalized people to create their own space, an online community in which new forms of normality and inclusion can be shaped. Disable people have expressed their lack of desire and/or ability to reach the standards set by social inclusionary policy and practices by seeking out and developing other ways and spaces within which to experience inclusion. One disabled blogger, Agent Fang, writes, “originally when I started this blog, it was for the purpose of cathartic ranting. Rubbish hotels, dealing with my impairments, crappy employment experiences, you name it, I bitched about it. It was great. Another great thing was that a lot of other people were doing it too … I felt a real sense of online community with other disabled people. Blogging was a new craze and we owned a little corner of it.” (http://fangworld.blogspot.ca/).

While bloggers and their sites ebb and flow over time, the pronounced desire for an inclusive community outside of normative values does not. Blogs and communities like The Body is Not an Apology, Diary of a Goldfish, Ragged Edge, Blogging Against Disableism Day and Autistics Speaking Day – Taking Back Autism Awareness, to name a few, are some of the online communities who are alive and well who are forging pride online.

Compliments and Criticisms

As of lately, I have noticed that many people (myself included at times) have difficulty accepting compliments. Accepting compliments with a simple ‘thank you’ can seem vain to some, but I think that it is the perfectly gracious way to accept them. When sincere, compliments are positive and flattering forces – something we should all strive to share more of. We shouldn’t feel embarrassed to accept some flattery – life is about give and take, and you have to receive what others offer once and a while. It’s such a shame to shoot down a sincere compliment with a “thanks – but” counter-strike, but this happens too often. “Your hair looks great today!” “Thanks – but my haircut is so bad…” or “That was a great presentation!” “No, I was so nervous and forgot to say something!” Just accept the compliment! So that is one of my recent observations and resolutions all in one – just accept it with gratitude without ruining a compliment. It is the most gracious way to respond and is not at all vain.

compliment

On the flipside, criticism can be equally as difficult to respond to. As of late, I have taken notice of criticism in my own life and in other’s. Whether constructive or malicious, criticism is an inevitable part of life and we can always improve on giving and taking it with respect and integrity. When faced with criticism it is important to calculate the validity. Who is the criticism from, what is the intent, is it valid? Does it matter? While some opinions matter, others do not. Consider what matters, and let everything else roll off your back. I think that malicious criticism says more about the person who expresses it, than it does about the object of criticism. Unlike the general rule of thumb that applies to compliments (just say thank you, don’t ruin it!), responding to criticism is more of a gray scale. To flare up can make you look just as bad, but to say nothing at all without defence to yourself can be just as bad. To me, it all boils down to assessing the situation and taking the high road. Accept the good with integrity and respond to the bad with an open, yet critical mind. That is my mentality for 2015 because life is too short to waste time on negativity. All the best and happy new year!

Write this Winter

a photograph of a spiral notebook wih a pen.  It is resting ontop of a laptop keyboard.

The holidays are over and the cold weather appears to be settling in. If you are anything like me, then you are probably in hibernation mode, glass of mulled wine in one hand and book in the other, waiting (apprehensively) for the reality and deadlines of this semester’s papers to hit you. To help get you (and myself) motivated to shake off that holiday fueled brain fog, here are some tips that I have been trying.

Time Yourself

There is nothing worse that sitting down to write a paper and then finding a hundred other things to do online. Realizing too late that you spent 3 hours doing nothing. I have started timing myself and this seems to be helping. I started with 30 minutes and am now using a 1 hour alarm. It’s surprising how comforting it can be to know that you only have to work for another 15 minutes before you can take a break. While taking breaks can be helpful, I find this method ensures that I am at least getting some thoughts and ideas down before I surf facebook or procrasti-clean my apartment for the tenth time.

Try Listening instead of reading

I find that with the amount of research and readings I do for work and school, I have difficulty finding the energy to pick up another book. This is especially true when I am knee deep in research as I know reading for pleasure will become just another form of procrastination for me. I have been listening to audio books instead. The two apps I have been using are Overdrive and One Click e Audio. Both allow you to use your library card and borrow audio books. The great thing about audio books is that I only listen to them in transit and my tired. overworked eyes get a break. There are also a great selection of podcasts about writing that are free to download.

Change your scenery

I tend to write in my apartment, at my desk or table, or if I desperately need to feel relaxed I will try on the couch. However, I have started to take my write on the move. Have laptop/notebook will travel. It’s surprising how much of a difference this makes. It is worth it to source out the coffee shops, pubs or comfy hangs near you. Especially if they don’t have wifi. Breathe. Yes, I am suggesting that you go somewhere where there is no wifi. This can help you focus and get down to the business at hand.

Whatever you try to get you motivated this winter… just remember practice does make perfect. Or at least practice makes better.

 

Writing Exercises: 5 Ways to Get Your Creative Juices Flowing

photograph of a hand holding a pen over a sheet of paper

Writing can be the most rewarding and difficult thing to do. Sometimes the idea of sitting down at your laptop or picking up a pen is terrifying and the guilt at not doing it can be overwhelming. It can help to have writing exercises which can focus your task. Just like any activity, writing gets easier with practice and exercise.

1. Free writing

In free writing exercises you sit down with a pen and paper and write for a short period of time, say 10 minutes. The key is not to let your pen leave the paper. Don’t stop writing and don’t edit. That is difficult. Most people’s internal editors are quite strong and we delete, scratch out and reword without even realizing it.

2. Guided Timed Writing

Sitting down to write for 10 minutes without stopping can seem impossible and somedays it is easier than others. For those time when you need a little extra help, try guiding your free writing. You can start with “I remember” and then every time you run out of something to say, go back to “I remember” and write the first things that come to mind. It’s surprising the places you can go with a phrase like “I remember.”

3. Take your note book on a road trip

Natalie Goldberg talks about how you need to be dumb to be a writer. You need to describe everything, all the details, you don’t take anything for granted. You don’t need to be clever, just write everything to notice. So take your note book to your local coffee shop, library, park bench or even your living room and see it, feel it, write it, with fresh eyes.

4. Don’t expect always to be interesting

Writing can consist of long stretches of nothing. There are time when I have nothing to write about that I write about not having anything to write about. Not the most riviting to read, but it gets me writing. This type of searching can lead to something interesting, but it may take several pages to get there. So be gentle with yourself and your writing, don’t assume that everything you write will be brilliant.

5. Try to do timed writing for several days in a row

Once you have a writing habit starting to form. Try sitting down and doing timed free writing for 10 or 15 days in a row. Don’t read what you have written. Then when you have passed the 10 or 15 days sit down with your writing, get comfortable and read. Highlight what you loved, underline, mark ideas that you want to carry on. You will be surprised and what you produced.