Where I write about writing.
For more of my writing on consciousness, nature and living deliberately, please visit my other blog, Living the Mess.
For professional writing samples, please see my Writing page.
Learn to Create Engaging Scenes Using Characterization, Action and Dialogue
Characterization, action and dialogue are three building blocks that can help you create engaging scenes that come alive in your reader’s mind. Scenes help you to move the story along with less exposition—more showing, less telling.
My First Gift Book Comes Out October 27!
I'm thrilled to announce that P.S. I Love You More Than Tuna, the first illustrated gift book for adults grieving the loss of a companion animal, will be published by Sounds True on October 27. This book has been nearly four years in the making, and I'm so...
Read This Before You Hire an Editor (Including Me)
One of the biggest challenges writers face is navigating the confusion around editing terms. Another is understanding what editors do and, more importantly, what we can't do for you. My fellow freelance editor Chantel Hamilton recently wrote the single most helpful...
Show Don’t Tell, Part I: Bringing the Reader into Your Moment
Storytelling is a bit of a misnomer. It’s not about recounting events, but bringing the reader into your body, so they feel what you felt, see what you saw, hear what you heard, etc.
Developing Your Nonfiction Voice: Write Like You Speak
“Write like you speak” is one of the most foundational component of engaging writing. For many writers, though, it can be easier said than done.
Why Authority isn’t the Same as Credibility
Nonfiction writers often believe they have to be an authority on their subject. That’s helpful, but it’s not enough to connect deeply with your readers.
Characterization: Bringing Real People to Life on the Page
Description gives readers a sketch; characterization immerses the reader in in virtual reality. Here’s what you need to know.
Using Adjectives and Adverbs Effectively
Adjectives and adverbs can be useful, but they’re often used as a cheap shortcut to more evocative writing. Here’s how to use them effectively.
How to Bring Readers into an Experience
The core of resonating with readers is writing in a way that evokes a response, either sensory or emotional. This kind of writing triggers readers’ mirror neurons—and mirror neurons are part of what neuropsychologists call the “resonance circuit.”
Using the Hero’s Journey to Create Resonant Nonfiction
The Hero’s Journey isn’t just for screenwriters and novelists. Learn how you can use this timeless structure to create resonant nonfiction.
Cutting Through the Woo
Woo comes from a desire to paint the vision of the world as entirely peace, love and unicorns, with nary a dark thought or fart in sight. But that’s not the world we live in, and—more importantly—that’s not the world your readers live in.
POV, part 2: Alternatives and Constraints
First-person POV has considerable limitations. However, there are ways to work around it, to create a richer, more engaging reading experience.
POV, part 1: Narrative Perspective
POV stands for “point of view,” also known as perspective. POV keeps the reader oriented. It’s a framework that helps the reader interpret what’s being revealed and by whom.
How Resonant Storytelling Weaves Magic and Logic
By weaving together magic and logic, you can engage readers’ hearts as well as their minds—not just one or the other. If you do it well, you can engage their minds in service to their hearts.
The Paradox of Language
The Latin-based languages comprise 26 symbols that, arranged in a mind-boggling array of variation, somehow connect us with one another. It’s pretty awesome, when you think about it. Yet it has limitations. Not only do most words have multiple meanings (like...
The Role of Conflict in Nonfiction
Every young writer is taught that the essence of story is conflict. But “conflict” is a loaded word. Most people see it as negative, confrontational and even violent. But it isn’t, inherently.
The Difference Between Writing and Storytelling
Story includes challenge and conflict and setbacks and triumphs and more setbacks…and eventually, a change. Or many changes. Story is all the drops of water that shape a rock.
Mythology and Resonant Story Structure
The essence of story is change. In fiction, this usually means that something changes in the protagonist’s circumstances and/or awareness or personality. Think of your favorite novel: If nothing changes, if the protagonist doesn’t transform in one way or another, there’s no story.
Why Transformation Matters
The other day, I saw the above photo in my Facebook feed (photo © Kerry Dixon). “Transformation” is a nebulous word, kind of like “sustainability” was a decade ago. Few people identify their primary field as “transformation.” Rather, it crosses multiple sectors, from...
Storytelling and Transformation
Transformative storytelling is as much about the syntax, the language, the word choice, structure and energy underneath the words as it is about the subject. It also has to do with the state in which writing happens. In transformative writing, all the elements work together to evoke an experience in the reader.
On Transformation, Writing and Naming
“What is precious inside us does not care to be known by the mind in ways that diminish its presence.” – David Whyte Language is a paradox. Words are symbols that can never capture the essence of what they point to, yet at this point in our evolution, words are the...
Music as a Teaching
I love music—who doesn’t?—yet it had never occurred to me that music itself could be a teaching, that it could bring people to the place, the experience, that spiritual teachers’ words point to, the transcendence that’s sometimes found in meditation (and often isn’t)....
The Long Darkness of Winter
When I first moved out west, someone told me it takes about three years to get used to the winters. It’s definitely easier than it used to be, but every year, the darkness descends and I have to put more concentration into my emotional well-being.
How Gratitude Changes the Brain
A few years ago, a friend said, “to me, every day is Thanksgiving.” (Except, I’m assuming, without the turkey, stuffing and political fights). At the time, that seemed kind of radical, though after five years of daily gratitude-journal practice, and two years of exchanging nightly “3 gratitude” emails with a friend, I feel the same way. It really is embedded—dare I say wired—into me. Even when I feel crappy, I can always find something good that lifts my mood, if only briefly. That’s the cumulative effect of regular gratitude practice. It rewires the brain.
Doing Less Leads to More
I’ve been firmly in the “stop the glorification of busy” camp since 2012, when my work came to a screeching halt for two years; I discarded all my old assumptions about how we “should” be and began testing out what made me most creative and productive