Finding your way in the dark: 4 lessons in writing feedback.

Finding your way in the dark: 4 lessons in writing feedback.

Sometimes writing can feel like a stumble through the shadows...

You take your truths, your stories and you weave them into word--words you hope will reach across continents, culture, time.  And deliver your message, your meaning to someone you may never meet, speak to or hear from.

We spend so much time in solitude, walking an unfamiliar landscape with little light to guide us.   

We may write and read alone.   But we do it to connect with other people.   

And when we travel too long without answer or feedback, we wonder where we are going...

And we ask ourselves:

  • Will anyone understand this?
  • Did I make my point?
  • Does anyone care?
  • Is my voice strong enough to carry my message?
  • Am I evolving as a writer...or just moving in circles, making the same missteps again and again?

Why writing on your own isn't always enough.

Why writing on your own isn't always enough.

You're out there, on your own, doing all the right things:

These are the first steps--the steps you must take to finding your voice and your confidence as a writer.

No one else can take them for you.

But...

No time to waste? Use Creative Writing to Find Your Voice.

No time to waste? Use Creative Writing to Find Your Voice.

You want to find your voice. And you're busy.

So busy, you don't even want to believe it's possible.  

And maybe you even have this fantasy, where one day you'll wake up with more time than 'to-do.' 

Is it just me? Because I admit it,  I  cling to that fantasy...

The fantasy is more comfortable than admitting the reality:

I've got to make some serious choices to make about how I spend my time.

Here it is, this little fact, irritating us, reminding us of it's presence:

We have to choose. We can't do it all. And we owe it to ourselves to make our time count. 

And we owe it to ourselves to commit to creativity.

Online Reading is Changing Your Writing and Your Brain--You Decide How.

Online Reading is Changing Your Writing and Your Brain--You Decide How.

We need to talk. 

All that reading we do online, it's changing us.  It's a silent process, more than a decade in the making. 

As reading changes, so does writing, thought, mind...

So let's put our phones down for a minute.  While we're at it, we'll tell Facebook to take a hike...Medium too.  Because this change--nearly imperceptible, scratching at us--it's worth our (undivided) attention.  Even if that attention has become...fleeting.

We can see it in our writing, but it goes deeper: the nature of our thought, our ideas is changing. Writing, in the end, is just thought and language on paper--or on a screen.  

Thought and language...language and writing... all of it jumbled into a black bag with a velvet interior.  Go on, reach in there.  Feel around, try to grasp what you can't see. 

The contents? That ever-changing matter that is as familiar as it is mysterious?

It's just... who we are, after all.  

Choose the Adventure of a Lifetime

There is no destination.  

You pick up a book and travel to distant lands and cultures.  You find new homelands that you could never otherwise visit... linger in misty places that exist only in fantasy.  

You take on the lives of your favorite characters, explore their worlds, drink their tea, feel their carpet under your feet.  You know their struggles, their tragedies.

You forge meaning.  

Starting Your New Book Adventure

It's the journey of a lifetime.

Ready to go? 

This is the moment where you pack your bags, where we make sure you have everything you need for your journey. 

Everything is new, so don't plan too far ahead.

Focus first on the next few months--the next 1-3 books.  After that, you may not see things the same way anymore.  

You may find you're a different sort of traveler.  

And here are a few more travel tips before you go!

Choose Your Own (Book) Adventure

Remember those choose your own adventure books?  

At the end of each chapter, you had to choose between your options: steal a key, go into a cave, return home... it was up to you.  

Your book journey is such an adventure.  

It's also the adventure of a lifetime.

Books are the places you'll go and the people you'll meet on your travel. And each one will leave you a slightly different person. 

Which adventures will you choose?  

One Step at a Time or Jump Right in?

One Step at a Time or Jump Right in?

So what book should I choose? I should pick something based on my reading level, right?  Something easy if I'm just starting out...

It's more complicated than that.

I love teaching because it reminds me: the human family is made up of so many kinds of thinkers--each perfect! 

We have unique ways of seeing the world, relating and learning.  

Knowing your preferences and how you may differ from others can help you enjoy your language learning, your reading habit...

Life in general really!

Your Origin Story in English

Your Origin Story in English

I have two things to ask you today:

  • Would you indulge me for a moment?  (and)
  • Have you ever thought of yourself as a comic book character?

Seriously.  

Maybe you're not a big fan of graphic novels.  (Or maybe you are!) 

Personally, my exposure to graphic novels comes largely from the fact that my husband is a 'comic' fanatic.  They are in my house staring me in the face and they are beautiful... so I pick them up, take a walk in a strange land.

How could I resist?

Even if these books are outside the realm of what I normally enjoy, I find them engrossing--I particularly love the concept of the Origin Story.

5 Books to Help You Adjust to a New Culture (And Improve Your English!)

5 Books to Help You Adjust to a New Culture (And Improve Your English!)

If you're reading books to perfect your English, there is a good chance that you're not satisfied with just learning the grammar, the syntax, the pronunciation.  You want to make the language--and the culture--your own.

There's also a chance that you find yourself living in more than one language, more than one culture. 

You'll have to decide who you are in English. Which parts of your native culture you will hold on to. Which parts of your new culture you'll embrace. 

You will have that singular experience of feeling foreign--not just in a new culture, but also when and if you return to your country of origin!  Language changes you, as does travel and living abroad. 

No matter where you make your home, you may have to ask yourself where, exactly, you fit in. 

Books can help. 

6 Unexpected Side-Effects of Reading Books for Better English

6 Unexpected Side-Effects of Reading Books for Better English

Read.

Read because you love to.  Read because you can't see yourself without a book in your hand.  Read because the world would be a better place if more people read more books.  Read to escape.  Read to experience.  Read to grow. 

Read in English.  Because you already live part of your life in English, don't you?

Follow your passion for books and your English will rise to the occasion.

Reading Journal: 5 Creative Ideas to Bring Your English to Life

Reading Journal: 5 Creative Ideas to Bring Your English to Life

Time is our most precious currency.  It makes us choose, select, edit.  What stays? What goes? 

Who are we, in the end?  The way we spend our most valuable currency--our time. 

To put it bluntly, if you think you have to choose between the challenge of making English your own and your other passions--you'll have to pick one or the other. 

The way I see it, you have to choose both.

If you love books, if you can't imagine life without reading, then pick up your book in English and you've just found a way to engage two passions at once--to beat time.

The same is true for your reader's journal.  Incorporate more of what you love into what you're already doing. 

Books, English and Friends!

Books, English and Friends!

We're going to try something new this week!  You won't see a blog post from me!  The last part in the series on using a reading journal to bring your English to life will be out next week. 

This week, I'm asking you to put all of these ideas into action.

I'm asking you to try out thinking before you speak.  It's easy just:

  1. Download this week's worksheet with writing prompts.
  2. Write freely about them in your journal. 
  3. Join the discussion on Skype this Wednesday, June 21st at 6 PM UTC and see how your ideas flow when you think before you speak.

Want More Elegant English? Your Reading Journal Can Help.

Want More Elegant English? Your Reading Journal Can Help.

Sometimes we get to a place with our non-native languages and we are allowed to celebrate! 

It's not easy coming this far--being bilingual is challenging and amazing--and we are allowed to rest on our laurels sometimes! 

But even after years of living in a language, you can sometimes discover there's something more you want. 

It happens!  For example. . .

I studied French at University, taught French, I've lived here for more than 10 years.  My French is pretty darn good, thanks.

Well, except that in English, I've always thought of myself as a writer.  I've been in writer's groups and had a lot of fun.  And I miss that.  I'll be fine living and doing business in French.  But am I a writer? 

Think Before You Speak: Your Reader’s Journal in 15 Minutes a Day.

Think Before You Speak: Your Reader’s Journal in 15 Minutes a Day.
It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.
― Oscar Wilde

I love this quote.  It reminds me that when you take the time to read, and to think things over,  it shows up later when you are put to the test. When your English is put to the test.

How can you keep your English ready for new situations?  By giving yourself time to think before you speak.

It’s a really powerful way to change your relationship with English (or any language you want to make your own).

If you're a book lover, one of the best ways to prepare for challenges is toread in English--and keep a reader's journal.

Read Books, Transform Your English: Advice from 5 Inspiring Teachers

Read Books, Transform Your English: Advice from 5 Inspiring Teachers

You need to be yourself in English--to feel at home in the language, to make it yours.  And you know that reading books in English is an essential part of that ongoing journey.

You want your reading to help you, not just to understand more, but to actually find your voice in English.  And you want that voice to be your own, to be truly you.

That’s a pretty serious transformation. 

  • But how exactly can you use your reading habit find your voice in English?
  • What does it look like when you start making English your own?
  • What actual steps do you need to take to get there? 

For the next month, I’ll be addressing these very questions. 

And I wanted to kick off that discussion with some advice from some inspiring teachers and coaches.