Archive for the ‘Notes on Writing and Life’ Category

The Four Commitments

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to pull back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: That the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               –W. H. Murray
                                                                                                                                                                                         The Scottish Himalayan Expedition, 1951

Commitment is vital to the writing process. First of all is the commitment to sit down at our desks every day in front of the blank page and write what wants to come, regardless of what it is. As we do this, a space opens for an outpouring of writing, whether it’s about an incident or conversation the day before, a dream, image, or thread of idea taking us to new directions.

The second commitment is to acknowledge the writing by reading it over, highlighting compelling passages, typing it into our computer (if we’ve written in longhand), and printing it out. We may also assign the writing a title and give it a place in a new file folder.

The third commitment is to shape the writing. Sometimes it’s clear what form the writing wants to take, such as a poem, or personal essay. Other times we need to let it sit and gather more threads that will weave into a form.

The fourth commitment is to complete the writing, however long this takes, and send it off to find a home. This may be a short or lengthy process, depending on the writing, its form, and myriad other factors such as finding appropriate markets.

Commitment can’t be forced. We must come to it when we’re ready, which may be after years of confusion about our creative path.

Commitment, too, is the attitude in which we approach writing. If we’re sincere in our desire to open to our truest writing, the writing can’t help but appear on the page. We come to this writing willingly, with an open heart, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and intimate with our deepest feelings. Some days we’ll receive much cohesive writing that can be easily shaped into a finished piece. Other days we’ll receive dribs and drabs, and on these days we must trust the work is proceeding on deeper levels.

There will be times our commitment is tested with any number of obstacles, ranging from distraction, doubt, fear, worry about our affairs or those of other people, and the inevitable vicissitudes of life. Yet with a strong commitment, we can come back to our writing and begin where we left off. We come to know, as novelist and short story writer Ray Bradbury said, “We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is knowing to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.”

The Owl and Two White Feathers

Monday, September 19th, 2011

This morning I’d just entered the grove of big cedars and firs up the path from our cottage and was looking at the oddly shaped yellow-brown fungus that had sprung up the other day when out of the corner of my eye I noticed a large shape fly overhead. ‘Not a crow, ‘ I thought, walking carefully forward until an owl’s compact grey body perched on a high branch came into view.

As I stopped, the owl jerked its small beaked face in my direction and turned it away several times. ‘Must be one of the barn owls that lives in this forest,’ I mused, amazed that after nine years of listening to plaintiff calls at dusk or early dawn,  one of these birds was finally showing itself to me. Each time the owl look in my direction I focussed intently on its dark eyes, feeling a strange excitement and awe at its presence. A few moments later, the bird lifted its wings and disappeared into the trees.

 As I continued on my walk, I felt the deep mystery of the forest and how it continually offers gifts to me—when I have the awareness to perceive them.

More alert now to what else might show itself to me, I crossed the creek and walked along the sun- drenched field, recently mowed of its long grass. Up ahead something white glistened in the grass—a white goose feather still moist with dew drops. I picked it up, brushed off the dew with my fingers, then scooped up another feather lying nearby and smoothed off the dew as well.

Back home, before recording my inspiring walk, I flipped through a book called Spirit of Place by Loren Cruden to discover that the owl is a totem of wisdom, vision, prophecy, and transformation, among other things.

What inspires you to write?  Are you ready to act on this inspiration?


Sunday, July 31st, 2011

Let the beauty be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground


One of the most vital things we can give ourselves on the creative path is nourishment. Over the last twenty-two years of writing this has taken many forms for me, often with some kind of sitting.

When I worked full-time as an editor for Toronto Life magazine, I’d walk a couple blocks north during my lunch hour to sit and write in the gardens of St. James Park. After I left my job to become a freelancer, I’d sit in my small backyard on summer afternoons and admire the deep crimson roses growing up the side fence, or walk south several blocks to Bellwood’s Park and sit on the sprawling lawns under an expansive sky. Often I’d bring along my notebook and write for a half hour or longer.

Now I sit at my desk in the mornings before and after my walk into the nearby forest. Sitting in silence always fills my creative well, especially after days of intense activity, such as that of last week when my brother and his wife arrived into Ganges Harbour from Seattle on their newly bought sailboat. Even before they headed up the coast again after four days here I felt depleted by all the intense activity that we engaged in, yet after a day of sitting still I felt replenished and ready to write again. At first the writing was sketchy, given my low energy, but over the next couple days as I continued to sit and write the creative gate opened wider and a steady stream of writing began to flow onto the page.

I’d like to offer you the same kind of fertile space to open your own creative gate, either at The Heart of Engagement writing workshop I’m offering on Salt Spring on Saturday, Aug. 13 or through my Three-Month Writing Program, which begins on the 1st or 15th of each month. Both will help you attune to your deep creative reservoir and the writing that is waiting to be expressed through you at this time. Please see the following for more details.

Blossoming Blessings,



The Heart of Engagement

A writing workshop with Lorraine Gane

Saturday, Aug. 13, 1-5 p.m.

When we open to what wants to emerge on the page, we enter into a deep engagement with the creative source, a rich reservoir of buried memories, feelings, images and other impulses for writing. And as we stay receptive in the process, even if uncomfortable at times, the writing can coalesce into stories, poems, and other pieces vibrant with our own authentic expression. Through practices to still the mind and relax the body, we’ll enter that rich territory, writing past the censor to express ourselves fully on the page. Sharing in a supportive environment will help shape the writing into a completed form. Throughout the afternoon, we’ll aim to break through old barriers, open to new possibilities, and write with depth and awareness in our truest voice.

Note: this workshop is open to writers at all levels of experience, working in any genre

Place: Salt Spring Island (2 km north of Ganges); Cost:  $75 ($65 by Aug. 7)

*Note: Off-islanders can stay at a lovely lakeside cottage:



This program is designed to support new writing as well as ongoing projects that could benefit from editorial suggestions and other creative advice. The program starts with a one-hour phone consultation to discern what would help your writing process. We then create a plan to propel your writing through various means (practices, exercises, reading suggestions, creative approaches). Feedback on writing via email includes detailed comments on aspects such as cohesiveness and clarity, in addition to fine-tuning suggestions. Two more half-hour consultations follow, one per month. Participants can send in 15 double-spaced pages for review with the option of buying more editing time at a special rate. The program will offer the support you need to take your writing to the next level. Next start dates: Aug. 1 or 15, or at an agreed on period. Cost $375 (can pay in three installments, with two post-dated cheques).

Letter From Japan

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

Last week a friend sent me a letter written by a woman who lives in Sendai, Japan, hard hit by the recent earthquake and tsunami. At the time of writing, she was staying at a friend’s’ home, huddled in one room to keep warm at night and eating by candlelight. During the day, they helped one another clean up the messes in their homes as the earth trembled, sometimes every fifteen minutes, sirens blared and helicopters buzzed overhead. Yet there was no looting or pushing in lineups. “Old men in green hats go from door to door checking to see if everyone is okay. People talk to complete strangers asking if they need help.” And there were touches of beauty, among them the silence in the streets with no cars and clear skies at night “scattered with stars…I usually can see about two, but now the whole sky is filled.” She also noted the “strange parallel universes happening around her: “Houses are a mess in some places, yet then a house with futons or laundry drying in the sun. People lining up for water and food, and yet a few people out walking their dogs.”  Rather than despair, the events as they were unfolding made this woman “feel as part of something happening that is much larger than myself. This wave of birthing (worldwide) is hard, yet magnificent.”

What struck me about the writing was its clarity, insight, and authenticity. The writer was witnessing what she saw and expressing her feelings, opening to the larger truths of the situation, which offered a different perspective than what I was seeing on the news night after night with clips on waves crashing houses, buildings and cars swept away, and then radiation in the food and water.   

What also struck me was that in the middle of these catastrophic events this woman took the time to write the letter, which has touched the lives of many people, given that it was shared from email to email. We never know where our words will end up. Our only job is to write them.

Shortly after receiving this letter, a note from a friend: “There is no time to avoid what really matters,” which has inspired me to offer a special spring package called “Writing What Really Matters.” This eight week online course will include weekly exercises to help you write what is most important to you and shape it into personal essays, articles, poems, short stories, or other pieces (ten pages of writing). It will also include a number of bonuses, such as recordings and a package on how to open deeply and move through writing obstacles ($249; value $300). The course will start May 1, so if it appeals to you please let me know within the next week, given that there are eight spots open.

 Many Blessings,