We creatives can’t sidestep the importance of “knowing our stuff.” I’ll include some info related to the fundamentals of certain fields – whether it’s writing, design, entrepreneurship, blogging, or whatever field might be of interest to you.

Open & Nourish Your Mystery Box – Only 5 Spots Left

When I was a tow-headed boy, The Box in the Woods down the road kept my secrets. In the middle of The Woods towered a maple, an “X” carved with a butter knife in its bark. With no other kids in sight, I’d scatter the leaf shards, dig a few inches of dirt with the trowel, and pull out The Box, one of my grandfather’s cigar boxes, to finger the bounty.

A rock shaped like a heart I’d found near a stream. My favorite three marbles – an oxblood, a Devil’s Eye, and a Cat’s Eye. A foot of rope. A small hammer. Nails. A small rodent skull. A picture of brown-eyed Robin.

They were the makings of magic and mystery.

Creator of Lost and Fringe J.J. Abrams says that the mystery box represents “infinite possibility, hope, and potential.” One of Hollywood’s most sought-after writers and directors, Abrams says mystery is the catalyst for imagination. He’s right.

We each have our own Mystery Box.   And this March you have a limited chance to open and nourish it with me and a crew of other amazing creatives. Read more

Should You Court Metaphor or Courage to Write Your Story?

Image: http://www.hospicepiedmont.org

A few months after Carol Sanford’s son Kirk died prematurely, as a writer she didn’t square off with or mine her heart, per se. She turned to her son’s astronomy notebooks. And then she felt her way into metaphor and form. The result, “Astronomy 111: Grief and Memory,” offers an exceptional reading experience that essays into grief and agony, hope and wonder.

You want to write your own story, your memoir, your business’s “about” page, your bio. You resort to the only options you think you know: 1. List your experiences. 2. Tell “what happened.” 3. Un-cage your heart and let it leave its blood-stained paw prints across the page.

But are there other, better, more “effective” ways? Read more

Story-telling, Truth, & Cold Blood: Archived Interview w/Moneyball Director Bennet Miller

Bennet at work in '05

In February 2006 – weeks following the Oscar-winning Capote’s release and just weeks before the Oscars were announced    I had the good fortune to interview the film’s director Bennet Miller about the boundaries between truth and fiction in both documentaries and features and even about the boyhood roots for telling stories via camera. Miller’s next project came several years later – the just-released and big-buzz feature Moneyball starring Brad Pitt.

 If you want to jump down to listen to the  never-released interview, scroll below. But if as a creative, a writer, a brand marketer, or anyone interested in the problems of story-telling and truth, you might want to read what’s in between for context. Read more

Where Creatives Find Know-How, Community, & Affirmation

A writer from the Taos Writer's Conference 2010

This morning in a courtyard in Taos, New Mexico, I guided fifteen writers through a meditative yoga flow. When I asked them to check in with questions such as, “What am I here for?” and “What am I writing for?” a couple of them had watery eyes.

This group makes up 15 of about 180 writers attending this year’s UNM Taos Summer Writer’s Conference, where I’ve taught writing courses (and early morning yoga classes) for seven years. This afternoon I begin teaching a five-day writing course called “Where It All Begins: Writing, Yoga, & Wonder,” and I’m wondering what each of the nine writers from around the United States taking the course are here for.

To attend a writer’s conference, after all, means not only that you have to shell out bucks for registration and travel, devote days away from your usual work and family life, and actually schlep to wherever the conference is held. It also might mean you might face your greatest insecurities and sit at a table with other bona fide (or not) writers.

So why bother?

In this Age of Convenient Information Access and ready-made persona formation, why invest time and money in any training? Read more

You Want to Have a Remarkable Voice? Listen.

Click on the photo to hear a distinct voice.

Note: We’re hungry to master our craft. At least judging from the questions readers and clients have sent me, we are. And judging from the research about what motivates us, we are. The following is the third in a series of articles about mastering that slippery thing called “voice.”  Have fun.

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Part I: Don’t Waste Your Time Trying to Find a Voice. Create it.
Part II: How to Kiss Your Readers with the Syntax of Things

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You want to be remarkable? Or taken seriously? Or “show your freak self” as a blogger or writer or web entrepreneur?

Then get voice. Read more

How to Kiss Your Readers with the Syntax of Things

Note: Several writers, bloggers, and web-preneurs ask me questions about “finding their voice.” I suggest you won’t find it. You’ll craft it. And you’ll craft it by studying your medium. Your medium is not the web. That’s the vehicle. Your medium is language. I’m also glad to see some discussion about bloggers wanting to be taken seriously as writers. In which case, my response is not to toy with language but to study it. Play with it. But play with it by studying other writers who for centuries have taken their life’s work to innovate language.
This article is the second in a series about voice and mastering your craft as a writer, blogger, or web-preneur.

“Whoever pays attention to the syntax of things / will never wholly kiss you,” e.e. cummings writes. With all due respect to the master of grammatical lyricism and whim, I disagree.

If you want to be remarkable as a writer or blogger or web-preneur, fall in love with sentences. And then learn to send your love out to readers via rhythmic sentences.

In short, approach something as simple as sentences with wide-open wonder as if you’ve discovered how to write again for the first time. Read more

The Creative State of the Union: 6 Bold, Wonder-Centered Ideas for Obama’s Education Initiative

What will President Obama say this week when he highlights education reform at the State of the Union Address?

If he wants to speak beyond platitudes and programs, then I have six big ideas. Call them the MAKE WONDER FIRST IN THE CLASSROOM PROJECT. Read more