Would your words change if your draw the letters by hand, instead of type them?

I remember reading Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Minds a few years ago and remember her advice to writers on the importance of writing by hand. While I can’t find her exact words, the essence (if memory serves me right), was that the voice that comes out when we write one word after the next, drawing the curves, stringing the letters, crossing the Ts and dotting the Is (or not) is different from the voice that comes out when we’re going tap-tap-tap on the keyboard. This same idea came up again in Lynda Barry’s beautiful book on writing “What It Is – Do You Wish You Could Write?” which combines Lynda’s advice on writing, her drawings,  collages, and some of her life story in one of the most unique books of writing and living that I have come across. Why write by hand?  Here’s what Lynda says:

There is a state of mind which is not accessible by thinking. It seems to require a participation with something. Something physical we move. Like a pen. Like a pencil. Something which is in motion. Ordinary motion like writing the alphabet. The ordinary everyday motion of a person with a pen writing the alphabet. on writing

  What does writing by hand accomplish that writing on the computer does not? Lynda says:

I have found that writing by hand slowly is faster than a computer-way. I know it’s not easy the way tapping a computer is easy. Tapping a computer is easy. Tapping a finger is not as complicated as making an original line in the shape of an S. Different parts of the brain are used when we make an S by hand and more of the body than a finger tap and images seem to come from this kind of being in motion. S

So, I was thinking, may we can try, you and I, to write by hand this week, even if just once or twice? And see the voice, the writing, the movement,  the red ink spill on paper? You don’t have to share them, maybe those words are for your eyes only. How does your voice change when you write by hand versus write on paper? Would love to hear about your experience. Enjoyed this post? Sign up to receive posts on creativity, writing, generosity, and living better.

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Some Saturday inspiration for creatives

Source: deviantart.com
Source: deviantart.com

A beautiful poem by the wise Rumi to spark your creativity this Saturday:

To each is given

God never gave
His bigger beasts a sting
He gave it to the bee
With an invisible wing
And with the skill of storing
Sweetness in the hive
The silkworm spins its gossamer
In order to survive
However large, the elephant
Has no such subtle skill
God gives to each his powers
His wonders to fulfil.


Are you using your eye for beauty, your ear for melody, your feel for fabric, your love for nuance – YOUR subtle skill? To decorate your home, to stitch a quilt (or maybe someone’s broken heart), to fashion clay, to string a necklace, or to write a silly poem for your boo just to tell him “miss you one” so he can say “miss you too”?

Looking for some more creative inspiration? You may like:

Our inner artist is a child – A lesson by Julia Cameron
The Hobbit: Stay safe or have an adventure?
Writing advice from the wise and witty Brenda Ueland
Smashed eggs and banana bread

Enjoyed the post? Do stay around to explore!

Baby steps to creative recovery

I know I’m going on and on about Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, but SHE IS AWESOME. Her wisdom on creativity and creative recovery has helped me feel and be more creative than I have in decades.

One of the thing that Julia talks about is the artistic tendency to be dramatic as they think about their creative life. A budding writer might think she needs to give up her job to write full time. A fledgling painter imagines he needs to move to Paris for creative inspiration. Julia says:

Blocked creatives like to think they are looking to change their whole life in one fell swoop. This form of grandiosity is its own undoing. By setting the jumps too high and making the price tags too great, the recovering artist sets defeat in motion. Who can concentrate on a first drawing class when he is obsessing about having to divorce his wife and leave town? Who can turn toe out in modern jazz form when she is busy reading the ads for a new apartment since she will have to break up with her lover to concentrate on her art?

Creative people are dramatic, and we use negative drama to scare ourselves out of our creativity with this notion of wholesale and often destructive change. Fantasizing about pursuing our art full-time, we fail to pursue it part-time–or at all.


Rather than take a scary baby step toward our dreams, we rush to the edge of the cliff and then stand there, quaking, saying, “I can’t leap. I can’t. I can’t. . . .”

No one is asking you to leap. That’s just drama, and for the purposes of a creative recovery, drama belongs on the page or on the canvas or in the clay or in the acting class or in the act of creativity, however small.

Julia’s advice?

Take on small action daily instead of indulging in the big questions. When we allow ourselves to wallow in the big questions, we fail to find our small answers. What we are talking about here is a concept of change grounded in respect–respect for where we are as well as where we wish to go. We are looking not to grand strokes of change–although they may come–but instead to the act of creatively husbanding all that is in the present: this job, this house, this relationship.

If you want to paint, you need to gather the tools and head over the park to paint the sunflowers you love so much. If you want to write, you need to pick up the pen which feels right and a journal that calls to you, and string one word after another.

sunflowerThis blog was on my mind forever. I thought about what I wanted to write about. I thought about what my voice should be. I thought about what my niche should be, and did I really know enough about anything to have a niche? I obsessed over themes. Somewhere in the middle, I read a lot of books about writing. But  I wasn’t writing. Until I was. One post at a time. Trying to find my voice, even as I tried to share it. Becoming comfortable sharing my less than perfect self with the world. Learning to follow my curiosities, wherever they took me, and believing that maybe one day they would lead me to my niche.

I don’t need to know how this ends, I don’t need to know where this takes me. I don’t need to find and fit all the pieces in the jigsaw – I just need to fit the next piece. All I need to do is write: one word at a time.

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Creative treats for the artist in us

In the exquisite The Artist’s Way, the wonderful Julia Cameron exhorts us to give little treats to the young artist inside of us. Julia says:

As artists, we must learn to be self-nourishing, We must become alert enough to consciously replenish our creative resources as we draw on them–to restock the trout pond, so to speak. I call this process filling the well…

She explains how to do this.

The artist brain is the sensory brain: sight and sound, smell and taste, touch. These are the elements of magic, and magic is the elemental stuff of art…In filling the well, think magic. Think delight. Think fun.

Well, if Julia says it, I am totally going to do it, I tell myself – The Artist’s Way has been inspiring and magical and hopeful. And so last week, I bought for myself the beautiful book Waiting for Wings, by Lois Ehlert. These days I feel like I am waiting for wings. I guess growth is like that; a funny process that involves feeling stuck and dark, but also hopeful and expanding. I feasted in the greens and mauves and yellows and oranges of this piece of art which tells the story of how butterfly eggs turn into caterpillars which turn into butterflies. The book is for 3-7 year olds, but that’s probably the age of my inner artist, so the book filled me with its beauty and wisdom. As Lois says:

Soon caterpillars hatch. They creep and chew. Each one knows what it must do: Find a place where winds don’t blow then make a case in which to grow. Caterpillar changes now begin– body and wings take shape within. When it’s time, each case is torn– wings unfold; new butterflies are born!



Sometimes when we are in the delicate and vulnerable phases of transformation, it is okay to create a case for ourselves and find a place where winds don’t blow. This is self-protection. Protecting our blossoming creative spirits means that we will be ready to fly in that very wind, when it is time. What treat have you given the creative spirit in you? Maybe a little trinket, or fresh flowers from the garden? Maybe a herbal massage? Maybe a beautiful ceramic plate that comes from the earth and is painted just the color of yellow that brightens your soul? Do share this with those going through their own personal or creative transformations. Thank you!

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On creative surrender and recovery

Yesterday, after waking up from my evening slumber but still snuggling in my quilt, I asked my husband to make me Maggi, please. There’s something very comforting about having hot Maggi, soup style, especially on a wintry Delhi evening. He agreed, though fiddled with his new phone a bit before he proceeded to the kitchen.

I waited contentedly for my Maggi as I heard him puttering in the kitchen. Soon, he called out that he couldn’t find the tastemaker for the Masala Maggi. Now, what? It was Tuesday but I’ve been feeling increasingly ambivalent about the no-non vegetarian on Tuesday rule, that many Hindus follow and which I had voluntarily adopted a few years ago. I asked him to make the Chicken Maggi and waited in anticipation.

Soon he brought me my Maggi. It looked a bit different. I tasted it – definitely different. I felt an irritation creeping up in me, much like a small child, who doesn’t get what she wants. “Do you like it?” he asked. I semi-smiled and nodded. After all, I wasn’t a small child. “Let me taste,” he said and took my fork, curled up the noodles around the fork, and tasted.”It’s really good,” he said, delighted. “I added a little bit of black pepper and some soy sauce.” So that was it – that’s why Maggi didn’t taste like the Maggi I had imagined. I paused. And then, decided to embrace the moment. I closed my eyes and focused on tasting the Maggi. It was tangy because of the soy, with a hint of the pepper and the spices that came from the packet. As I let go of my expectation, I began to enjoy my experience.

I thought about my husband freewheeling in the kitchen, peering into the steel masala box, that houses all the spices, thinking about what variation to cook up.  Wasn’t this exactly what chefs do when they create food? Mix and match and freewheel? This was probably exactly what Nestle would do if they needed to come out with a new variant. Here was my husband being spontaneously creative, something I’ve been struggling with recently.

Others in my creative writing class seem so much more creative. They write about meeting God on Mars, ghosts in the hills of the north east, and wardens of girls hostels who are closet lesbians. I feel an awe and a wonder and fear I can’t imagine like that.

But what I learned from my husband’s experiment in the kitchen yesterday was that I need to stop trying to be creative, and just be creative. I’ve decided not to waste my creative energies wondering if my education has ruined my imagination. I’ve also decided it’s no use comparing myself with other writers, all made up of a sum of experiences very different from my own. It’s time for me to stop thinking about writing, or fantasizing about writing, or looking for the magic spell that will make me write exotic romances, whimsical kidlit, or nuanced non-fiction, depending on how I am feeling that day. I will write. That’s all. And I hope and trust that in the process of writing my creativity will flow.

As Brenda Ueland puts it:

Inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes to us slowly and quietly and all the time, though we must regularly and every day give it a little chance to start flowing, prime it with a little solitude and idleness…You should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountaintop, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten –happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead after another.

Happy Writing!

Would love to hear how you are doing in your own writing journey!

(Note: I wrote this post about a year ago, when I had just started my writing and creative recovery journey. It’s nice to read it now, a year later, and see that I feel more more creative than I have for years. As I walk in the park in the morning, wisps of ideas float in my mind and I capture them in my little notebook that I carry with me. I am starting to see what Brenda means when she says “Inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes to us slowly and quietly and all the time.”)


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Smashed eggs and banana bread

I recently came across this exercise as a way to break through creative resistance:

All you need to do, before you start your creative work for the day — your writing or painting or software designing — is to crack an egg! Just break it in a bowl, egg shells and all. Then, get up and go do your work.

The thought here is that breaking an egg for no good reason makes us feel squeamish and resistant — similar to the resistance we feel as we set out to write something, to shape something, to draw something. The physical act of cracking the egg helps break through the psychological resistance that holds us back.

And so I did. I cracked the egg with my bare hands and squished it and felt the shards of its shell dig into the palms of my hands. The sorry egg lay on the kitchen top as I went to write on my blog, an aside that my sister remarked was a style very different from my typical measured way of writing. More INFP than INFJ, she said.

I did this exercise again a day or so back. Only this time, I was still a little bit stuck as I wrote, too much in my controlled, left-brained state to be able to let go. And as I stared at the blank screen before me, I thought: Let me bake! And so I did, some banana bread with a little bit of rum, using the egg that I’d just smashed, carefully picking up all the pieces of shell. I guess creativity is like that. You can destroy something but then pick up the pieces and make something you never imagined you were going to make in the first place.

banana bread

Recipe: The Best Banana Bread Recipe (I also added a dash of white rum).

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Do check out Ritu’s original blog post “On being creative and cracking an egg.

Maybe it is time

birdI’m feeling like I’m at a cusp these days of what I was and what I will be. I don’t know quite yet what I will be, what I want to be, but I feel ready to say goodbye to some patterns of my past which no longer serve me. I described this feeling to a friend as being trapped in an egg and pushing the walls, ready to hatch. Caterpillars becoming butterflies sounds much prettier but I feel more like I’m stuck in a egg and breaking free, pushing hard and the walls are beginning to crack. Maybe it is time to start taking some risks. Maybe it is time to write not censor. Maybe it is time to not be so proper. Maybe it is time to not just tippy toe in a lake of niceness but run toward a raging ocean.