Using Art as Writing Prompts

If you use a Warhol painting as a prompt, you might want to write about your 15 minutes of fame or what life would be like if you or one of your characters suddenly became famous.

Seeking Transformation

Twenty years earlier, I had visited the small, quiet Chopra Center in La Jolla. Now the Center is at La Costa. Could I find tranquility and transformation at this 400-acre resort?

A Leap of Faith

When I was young — free and springy and adventuresome — it didn’t seem like to leap of faith to move across the country. I moved to San Francisco and my adventure began.

How to Be a Successful Writer

Phrases you read can serve as writing prompts. Note metaphors and similes: “It reminded him of slicing a yam with a newly sharpened knife" and “Her oval face was smooth as an egg."

Gratitude

I was the queen of negativity. Then I started sending a friend three things a day I was grateful for. Amazingly, my attitude changed.

How to Be a Successful Writer

All writers love to read, right? Reading a lot is one of the secrets to becoming a successful writer. This article tells how I do it.

Beating Obsession: Tip #2

I wanted to take the “easy” classes, like Sumi watercolor painting and guided meditation, but forced myself to attend more active classes. I knew exercise could bust obsession.

Hitchhiking with my Mother

Wherever she went, my mother wanted to see it all — grab the brass ring before it was too late. From Mexico City to Rome, I stuck out my thumb to get her there.

Is Journalism Dead?

Is the future of journalism dead? An interesting point of view from Ed Wasserman, dean of the University of California School of Journalism.

Beating Obsession: Tip #1

I’m okay during the day, but when I awake at night, racked with thoughts of the unfairness of it all, I have a hard time controlling my thinking. So I got out of town. A manageable trip—just an hour and a half to San Jose. San Jose? Who would have thought I could have such a good time and forget about my worries?

Knowing Just Enough to Drive You Crazy

Legal argument can drive a person crazy. And the truth was that I didn’t care about every issue that came before me. I cared about civil rights and sex discrimination, but I didn’t care what the State of California did with Mare Island. I didn’t want to have to take a position on EVERYTHING.

Leaving Your Legacy

Who wants to die with a suitcase full of ideas under their bed? If you're a writer, get those ideas on paper, so that you can leave a legacy of your life and times. Add colorful details, like the music that was playing on the radio or the clothes that people were wearing, to bring your stories alive. But most important, tell your story.

The Importance of Setting Writing Goals

When I asked a group of writers what would bring them satisfaction them in terms of writing, their answers ran the gamut: publish an article, finish a book proposal, stay with the writing process and be present in life.

Finding Your Voice

We all have something to say. What matters is how we say it - with details, with images, with tone. Not every first person piece you write has to have the same tone, but you want to write in your authentic voice. Tone is the voice we hear as we read. Like the voice we hear when we talk to somebody. It affects how we respond - whether we go on reading or turn the page.

My Father Was a Wonderful Mother

My father loved to plant things and watch them grow. He planted roses that twined on a split-rail fence, French strawberries tiny as gumdrops, and pears that ripened like big-bottomed ladies. He nurtured his garden, just as he did his children.

The Virtues of a Single-Sex School (or Not)

The email from my classmate asked when I had realized the benefits of attending a women's college. "Never," I replied. I escaped to Madrid and London for Junior Year Abroad and flourished in the co-ed existence.

The Cheese and Chocolate Diet

When a French shop keeper tells you that cheese and chocolate are good for your health, you pay attention.

Being, Not Doing, is a Tough Assignment

My physical therapist gave me a challenging assignment: stop doing so much, lie on a heating pad and breathe deeply. Did she also mean I should stop checking my email, stop going to the Farmers Market, and stop watching Law and Order reruns?

Digging Deep Can Make You Happy

Studies by psychologists show what we writers always knew: writing can have a positive effect our health and happiness. In writing we dig deeper for the truth. We are curious about people and events, we explore without a destination. We may recast our experience, see regrets in a new light, see what we thought were failures as necessary steps on our path.

Easing Into 2015

The holidays were sweet this year. No cross-country flights from mobbed airports to the frigid East Coast. Instead I spent Thanksgiving in the Bay Area with my second cousins--family, just far enough removed to eliminate long-term angst. Christmas and New Year with friends. And reading good books. One of my favorites was All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

What's Fashionable in Writing

The fashions of writing shift with the times. Sir Walter Scott was revered in his day; now many would scoff at his style. Donna Tartt won a Pulitzer in 2014 for her best-seller, The Goldfinch, and this has triggered a debate about what makes a good novel.

Letting Go of Regret

My desire to live without making choices I’d regret made decision-making difficult. So, designing and rebuilding my home after it burned down, was ripe with opportunities for remorse.

How Light Affects Mood

The quality of light adds emotional content to a scene. Think how it feels to be in a cold, damp, dark home or one where a warm breeze drifts from room to room. When you write, remember to include light, temperature and humidity. They help the reader feel they're in the scene.

Getting in Touch with Your "Inner Bitch"

When I bemoaned a conflict in my life, reluctant to stand up for myself, a therapist friend suggested I get in touch with my "inner bitch." I’m from New York. I used to be a lawyer. You’d think I’d be good at this.

Are You a "Hot" Authority?

I’ve never been one to jump on “the next hot thing,” so I simmered when I saw the first question on the application for the writers’ residency. Wisdom is cool, not hot or trendy.

Checking In With a Friend After 50 Years

She still spoke slowly, carefully, but though we lived 3,000 miles apart, we were still connected. We would go back for our high school reunion, we agreed, if we could get together privately. I had only talked to her one or two times in the past 50 years. But when we exchanged lists of our favorite books, we lined up on three out of four.

Fighting Over the Inheritance

When my mother died, the siblings were torn over dividing her property. At the time, for me, sentimentality trumped monetary value. I took three pairs of worn socks, the plastic clips she used to close bags of bread, a copper pot that she’d bought sixty years earlier for just five dollars.

Shortcuts to Enlightenment

I had climbed the ladder of success, but when I got to the top I looked down and discovered I was on the wrong ladder. Good schools, good grades, good jobs hadn't brought me what I really wanted. But they'd never taught me what I need to know in school.

The Stench in California

Life is a soup of smells and we’d live in a misshapen world if we ignored baby’s diapers and the stairwells in public garages. This other side of lovely can catapult us into scenes we relate to, even if we’ve never been there.

My Shocking Discovery After Googling an Ex

As a rule, I don’t Google the men of my past. Dealing with the present is challenging enough. But at my college reunion, one of my classmates Googled every unmarried man mentioned in conversation. After Googling one man, she exclaimed, “His ex-wife was a sculptor. I took a pottery class. We’d be perfect!” So I Googled an ex and was shocked by what I discovered.

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