Thursday, June 30, 2016

Writing for your life - book review and notes

This post includes a summary of Writing for Your Life: A guide and companion to the inner worlds by Deena Metzger. My notes from when I read the book are also included in the post.

Writing for your life

I first came across Deena Metzger's book, Writing for your life: A guide and companion to the inner worlds, in 2009. I have collected a variety of books on the craft of storytelling, and thought this one sounded interesting.

The description from the back cover reads:
Writer and therapist Deena Metzger enables us to heal what is fragmented, injured, or suppressed within us, and experience the wonder of self-knowledge and the joy of creation. In this resource for writers and nonwriters alike, Metzger helps us explain ourselves and our creativity through journals, autobiography, stories, fairy tales, dreams, and myths. She offers stories and suggests numerous exercises to show readers how writing shapes and informs our lives, and how our "silence" hinders us.

The book divided into four parts and an epilogue:

  1. On creativity
  2. On story
  3. The larger story: Archetypes, fairly tales, and myths
  4. Writing as a spiritual practice

Throughout the book are numerous writing exercises. Unlike some books with a few numbered exercises at the end of each chapter, the writing exercises in Writing for your life are interwoven between narratives and experiences of the author.

On of my favorite recommendations from the book is "If you have never kept a journal, this may be the time to begin." One of the first exercises is to keep a journal of your normal every-day environment as you might view it from the perspective of visiting another country. This exercise, like many in the book, forms the basis for additional exercises.

My notes on Writing for your life

I first read Writing for your life in 2009, based on my dated notes. There are many exercises in the book, but my notes only included ones from the first few chapters, so I'm not sure what happened. In reviewing the book again now in preparation for this post, I noticed several other exercises I want to try. However, for this post, here are the exercises I liked on the first reading.

1. Write anything for five minutes.
2. Keep a journal writing as though you are visiting a foreign country.
3. Write your autobiography in five minutes. What did you omit?
4. Things I didn't see today.

5. Make a list of things you must not write about because:
★It is not generally important enough from a literary perspective.
★It is too private and therefore trivial from a literary perspective.
★It would embarrass you to speak about.
★It would embarrass or offend your family or associates.
★It would embarrass or offend the reader.

Select the three or four subjects, images, or experiences that made you most uneasy or that hold the greatest emotional charge for you. Set aside your inhibitions and attempt to write on these subjects.

I also included a list of story ideas in a massive list of story prompts.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Questions to ask

Two lists of questions are included in this post. The first is a list of biographical questions when pulling out family history or conducting an interview for historical purposes. The second list is a series of questions to ask when networking with others.


Many times we meet individuals, but don't know what to say. Whether you are talking to your children about their day at school, to a friend or relative after a long absence, or new acquaintances, asking a question can get a conversation started.

Big Talk

In the video below, Kalina Silverman discusses her experiencing in skipping small talk and connecting with others at a more meaningful level.

Biographical Questions

The questions below are from notes I found in one of my old planners (2009). In an effort to bring new content to my blog, I've been reviewing notes from my journals. For this particular list, I did not include a source or the context for use. However, it would be easy to incorporate almost any of these into a conversation.

  1. Where were you born?
  2. How would you describe your childhood?
  3. What favorite childhood memories do you have?
  4. What significant/traumatic events occurred in your childhood?
  5. What was your favorite music as a teen?
  6. What did you study in college?
  7. What career goals did you have?
  8. Any adventures as a young adult?
  9. How did you meet your romantic partner?
  10. What are your favorite qualities about your romantic partner?
  11. What are your hobbies and interests?
  12. Any regrets/unfulfilled dreams/desires?
  13. What are your future goals?

Networking Questions

This list, also from my notes, is from Bob Burg,  speaker and author on business communications. These questions are best suited for meeting fellow business professionals, either at formal network events or casual meet-ups.

  1. How did you get your start in ____?
  2. What do you enjoy most about your profession?
  3. What separates you and your company from the competition?
  4. What advice would you give someone just starting in your business?
  5. What one thing would you do with your business if you knew you could not fail?
  6. What significant changes have you seen take place in your profession through the years?
  7. What do you see as the coming trends in your business?
  8. Describe the strangest or funniest incident you've experienced in your business.
  9. What ways have you found to be the most effective for promoting your business?
  10. What one sentence would you like people to use in describing the way you do business?
  11. How can I know if someone I'm speaking to is a good prospect for you?

Use Questions Judiciously

Obviously, if you just pepper individuals with questions as though they are in an interview, you may not have a very productive conversation. If you incorporate a few thoughtful questions, you can make an impression as being a good conversationalist. Ask a thought-provoking question and listen as others respond.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Notes on Thinker Toys

This post contains my notes from 2009 on the book Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques by Michael Michalko.


I have been maintaining planner journals since 2009. Just recently I started reviewing my notes contained within the pages of each journal to identify content for blog posts. In 2009, I purchased and read Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques by Michael Michalko.

The book contains a variety of techniques and suggestions to improve the output of brainstorming. Alas, I no longer have this book as I sold it back to Amazon. However, a great advantage of taking good notes is that I can still review this content without owning the book.

Rule of 6

I'm not sure if this is from Thinkertoys or not, but it is relevant to the idea of creating a mental attitude of problem-solving:

For every perceivable phenomena, devise at least six explanations to explain it. Many solutions may exist, so coming up with six will sensitize you to the complexity of the universe and the variability of perception. It will prevent you from fixing on the first plausible explanation as the truth. In life, there are so many individuations, that nothing at all, no one thing, can cause anything else.

The psychiatrist Milton Erickson used brainstorming techniques similar to this in his therapeutic sessions. You can also visit my previous blog posts from the book Mental Jogging for exercises in brainstorming multiple possibilities for a specific prompt.

Thinkertoys - Chapter 2 - Mind Pumping

  • Idea quota - Come up with a certain number of ideas each week or month.
  • Tiny truths - Study an image for ten minutes and then visually recall the experience.
  • Dukes of habit - Deliberately program changes into your daily life.
  • Feeding your head - Read, take notes, and outline books. Think as much as you read.
  • Brain banks - Write down all ideas in a way that you can randomly pull out ideas to generate new ideas.
  • Travel junkie - Travel around the country and across town, because visiting new places will generate new ideas.
  • Capturing idea birds - Record your own ideas and thoughts.
  • Think right - Focus on becoming more fluent (more ideas) and flexible (more creative) in your thinking.

Thinkertoys - Chapter 2 - Challenges

  • Keep a journal of problems that you find to be personally interesting and that would be worthwhile to solve. 
  • Writing down challenges may trigger your mind to create solutions. 
  • Make a list of things that bug you and select one as a challenge.

Challenge statement:

  • In what ways might I _____?
  • Vary the wording by substituting synonyms for key words.
  • Keep refining and narrowing the challenge.

Read the book for more

The remainder of the book is devoted to specific techniques including cherry split, SCAMPER, idea box, lotus blossom, and many others.

If you are looking for new or creative ways to brainstorm, both individually and with groups, I encourage you to check out Thinkertoys. It is available through as a new paperback, e-book, and used paperback.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Jim Rohn on Journaling

The introduction Jim Rohn included in his journal.

Jim Rohn

Jim Rohn (1930-2009) was an entrepreneur, author, and speaker. During the 1950s and 1960s he became involved with a couple of direct selling businesses, eventually resulting in promotion to vice president of one company. After the company closed, Rohn was invited to speak at a local Rotary club. More organizations started inviting him to speak about his personal story and leadership principles. Rohn developed his company, eventually speaking to over 6,000 audiences and 5 million people around the world. He also authored several books and audio training series.

I wrote previously about using a paper-based planner. For 2009 I used a Jim Rohn lined journal for my planner. Unfortunately, this planner is no longer available through Jim Rohn's website. However, the Moleskine line of journals is a great substitute.

The Jim Rohn Leadership Journal

I purchased my Jim Rohn journal in 2008 in my search for a quality blank notebook to use as a planner for 2009. At 220 pages with a bonded leather cover, I felt it would be an excellent quality book for my needs.

In looking through my old planners for blog post ideas, I opened my journal from 2009. Even before I made it to my notes, I came across this introduction to the journal. It is included below word-for-word from the journal.

I have highlighted a few key points in red.

Jim Rohn on Journaling

First of all, let me thank you for the investment of time you have made to continue the process of designing a unique life for yourself. It is my hope that together you and I will open new doors, reawaken the passion and rediscover the magic you already possess. Let's begin the process of gathering the ideas and inspiration that will lead to higher rewards and more happiness than you've ever imagined.

I want to take a moment and share with you some of my thoughts and ideas as to why keeping a journal is so vital to your success.

If you're serious about becoming a wealthy, powerful, sophisticated, healthy, influential, cultured and unique individual, keep a journal. Don't trust your memory. When you listen to something valuable, write it down. When you come across something important, write it down.

I used to take notes on pieces of paper and torn-off corners and backs of old envelopes. I wrote ideas on restaurant placemats, on long sheets, narrow sheets and little sheets and pieces of paper thrown in a drawer. Then I found out that the best way to organize those ideas was to keep a journal. I've been keeping these journals since the age of twenty-five. The discipline makes up a valuable part of my learning, and the journals are a valuable part of my library.

I am a buyer of blank books. Kids find it interesting that I would buy a blank book. They say, “Fifty-six dollars for a blank book! Why would you pay that?” The reason I pay fifty-six dollars is to challenge myself to find something worth fifty-six dollars to put in there. All my journals are private, but if you ever got a hold of one of them, you wouldn't have to look very far to discover it is worth more than fifty-six dollars.

I must admit if you got a glimpse of my journals, you'd have to say that I am a serious student. I'm not just committed to my craft; I'm committed to life, committed to learning new concepts and skills. I want to see what I can do with the seed, soil, sunshine and rain to turn them into the building
blocks of a productive life.

Keeping a journal is so important. I call it one of the three treasures to leave behind for the next generation. In fact, future generations will find these three treasures far more valuable than your furniture.

The first treasure is your pictures. Take a lot of pictures. Don't be lazy in capturing the event. How long does it take to capture the event? A fraction of a second. How long does it take to miss the event? A fraction of a second. So don't miss the pictures. When you're gone, they'll keep the memories alive.

The second treasure is your library. This is the library that taught you, that instructed you, that helped you defend your ideals. It helped you develop a philosophy. It helped you become wealthy, powerful, healthy, sophisticated and unique. It may have helped you conquer some disease. It may have helped you conquer poverty. It may have caused you to walk away from the ghetto. Your library, the books that instructed you, fed your mind and fed your soul, is one of the greatest gifts you can leave behind.

The third treasure is your journals: the ideas that you picked up, the information that you meticulously gathered. But of the three, journal writing is one of the greatest indications that you're a serious student. Taking pictures, that is pretty easy. Buying a book at a bookstore, that's pretty easy. It is a little more challenging to be a student of your own life, your own future, your own destiny. Take the time to keep notes and to keep a journal. You'll be so glad you did. What a treasure to leave behind when you go. What a treasure to enjoy today! Don't neglect to do the things that will propel you towards the unique lifestyle you desire and deserve!

Enjoy the journey!
Jim Rohn

Start today

This is my 10th year of keeping a journal or planner of some sort. If you have not already started keeping an idea journal, I encourage you to start today.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Eighth Grade Bios

A collection of eighth bios of students who matured into successful adults.

For several years I edited the yearbook at my daughter's small elementary school. One of the features each year was a brief autobiographical sketch written by each eighth grade student. As I would type these into the yearbook software, I always thought, "This is the end. There's no hope for humanity if these aspirations are the future."

Now, looking back, all of these students (who shall remain anonymous) have graduated from college or technical school and are successfully working or giving back the community.

Eighth Grade Bios

____ is 13 years old and she loves horses! Her favorite colors are ocean blue, green, purple, and some shades of pink. When she gets older she would like to be a famous actress. Her favorite food is fettuccine alfredo, and she enjoys watching Pirates of the Caribbean, and all horse movies! Her favorite actor is Orlando Bloom, and Reese Witherspoon is her favorite actress. Her favorite horses are Arabians, Friesians, Andalusias, and Tennessee Walkers. Her pet peeves are people who abuse horses and obnoxious brothers!

___ is 13 years old. Some of her hobbies are riding horses, swimming, reading, shopping, sports, hanging with friends (usually at the movies), and gymnastics. She hopes to make the gymnastics team next year and to someday become a nurse. Her pet peeves are people who chew with their mouths open, messy sisters, and people who can’t pick up after themselves. She loves pizza, pasta, ice cream, Orlando Bloom, all kinds of movies, the color pink, and of course, her best friends.

My name is ___. I like football and playing sports. I like sharp objects and things that go fast. I don’t like school. My favorite foods are pizza and Chinese. And I like camping.

____ likes Bagel Bites. Her current boyfriend is Clint Eastwood. Her favorite cereal is Lucky Charms. She owns 197 pairs of socks, as well as a couple of strays.
Every time she makes grilled cheese, she burns it.
She likes Halo (1, 2, and 3), GH (1, 2, and 3), Sims, and Zelda games as well as classic Mario.
She can spend countless hours on the computer or watching movies.
She is a music harvester who loves to discover new bands.
Cows are her favorite animal and she loves Mountain Dew.
When she grows up, she wants to be a medic ninja.

Hello there. My name is ____ and I love food more than most things in this galaxy. I like Japanese food the best, then Mexican, and then Chinese food! I love Mango Orange juice and Mountain Dew. I drink a lot of orange juice but I don’t drink a lot of water. I hate water, unless I am swimming in it on a hot summer day! I love summer and I hate the cold chills of winter. I spend the majority of my time on the computer, playing games, updating software, listening to a lot of music, and most of all, talking to people. I also talk on the phone for a good portion of the night. I am a prime guitar player, and I like to write poetry. My favorite color is Electrifying Green. Being all tied up with school during the weekdays eats me up, so I have to reserve the weekends for fun, adventuresome-filled days with friends. Some of my goals in life are to make lots of money working in a crime lab, traveling the world, finding the cure for cancer, dying happy and fat, or on some extravagant, outrageous adventure across the world.

Hey, I’m ___. I love to eat, play and watch football, and hangout with my friends! Some of my favorite foods are pizza, any type of sugary food, and some Mexican food! I love to go to the beach and play in the sand and water! Football is the ultimate sport no matter what anybody says. If you ever get the chance to join a football team, do it. I also like to go over to my friend’s house, play video games, and hang out.

Hi, my name is ____. There is one thing that I like above all others and that is sports. I like almost every sport that there is. Basketball is my favorite out of all of them. My favorite foods are taco salads, pizza, rice, and beans. I like to do many things besides sports. I like to hang out and play sports with my friends. I also spend a lot of time with my family. I am a very exciting person to be around. I am not sure that I want to be but if I had to choose, I would be a basketball player or an engineer.

Your bio here

What were your interests when you were in eighth grade? Write your eighth grade bio in the comments.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Random Quotes from My Planner

In this post you will find a few quotes extracted from my planner.

For a few years I used a preprinted calendar planner which included quotations on each page. When I transitioned to a blank journal for my planner, I tried to include quotes at least once a week. However, I discovered in reviewing my planners to pull quotes for this video that I stopped writing quotations regularly.

This is something I hope to remedy by renewing an effort to record quotes regularly.

The quotes below are fairly random. Most of them were written by authors and creative spirits.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Poetic Form - Interlocking Rubaiyat

A centuries-old poetic form, the interlocking rubaiyat is a fairly straightforward form used by Robert Frost and others.


A number of poetic forms exist. Probably the most popular forms - at least seen frequently in the work of poets and in songs (including hymns) are pairs of rhyming lines, presented as ABAB or AABB.

Joyce Kilmer's "Trees" poem (first two stanzas)
I think that I shall never see (A)
A poem lovely as a tree. (A)
A tree whose hungry mouth is press (B)
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast; (B)

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound (A)
That saved a wretch like me (B)
I once was lost, but now I'm found (A)
Was blind but now I see. (B).

The Rubaiyat

I subscribe to Writer's Digest magazine. A recurring column is "Poetic Asides," written by Robert Lee Brewer. The poetic form featured in the May/June 2016 issue was the interlocking rubaiyat.

The general rules are:
  • Quatrains (4-lines) following an AABA rhyming pattern
  • Each successive stanza uses the unrhymed (e.g., B) for the rhyme in that stanza. The flow of a three stanza poem would be AABA, BBCB, CCDC or CCCC. In the last stanza, the third line can remain unrhymed or rhyme with the other lines.
  • The meter is usually tetrameter or pentameter.

Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" follows the interlocking rubaiyat structure.

Whose woods these are I think I know. (A)
His house is in the village though; (A)
He will not see me stopping here (B)
To watch his woods fill up with snow. (A)  

My little horse must think it queer (B)
To stop without a farmhouse near (B)
Between the woods and frozen lake (C)
The darkest evening of the year. (B)

He gives his harness bells a shake (C)
To ask if there is some mistake. (C)
The only other sound’s the sweep (D)
Of easy wind and downy flake. (C)

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, (D)  
But I have promises to keep, (D)
And miles to go before I sleep, (D)
And miles to go before I sleep. (D)

Write your own poem

I encourage you to take a few minutes and write an interlocking rubaiyat. If you do, copy it into the comments below.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Can you be a successful writer and work full-time?

Anthony Trollope was a novelist during the Victorian era. He worked full-time for the British post office and wrote prolifically.

Living prolific writers

Whom do you think of when you hear the phrase "prolific writer"? A brief Internet search led me to a 2008 article listing five writers with numerous works to their credit. Four of these writers are still living.

When can I quit my day job?

An aspiration of many amateur authors is to transform their writing  habits into professional, full-time  jobs. Inevitably, writers who start earning some income, either through traditional publishing or via Amazon's CreateSpace and Kindle, ask the question, "When can I quit my day job?" 

Today I would like to introduce you to a writer who didn't quit his profession until far along in his successful writing career. Is it possible to maintain full-time employment and publish several books?

Saturday, June 4, 2016

May Update

Blog Posts

Gettysburg Address
The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln is probably one of the best known speeches in the history of the United States. Written for the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the speech is only 271 words in length and probably took 2-3 minutes to read.

Stock Video Sites (Free and Paid) Reviewed

In this blog post I review several stock video sites including VideoBlocks, ShutterStock, iStockPhoto, VideoHive, XStockVideo, Videezy, Videvo, and StockFootageForFree. Four of these are free.

Apple iMovie Book Trailers

Use Apple iMovie to create dramatic trailers to promote movies, events, and books.

App Review for Writing on Your Phone

This post review different apps for writing on the iPhone. Apps discussed are Notes, Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, and Google Docs. 

Dale Carnegie's Secrets of Success

The link in this post displays a list of tips from How to Win Friends & Influence People and How to Stop Worrying & Start Living.

Hero's Journey

Hero's Journey Story Structure using The Tale of Peter Rabbit as an example.

Best Seller in a Weekend - Webinar Review

Best Seller in a Weekend is the business of Alicia Dunams. This post is a review of a webinar I attended.

Another Set of Mental Jogging Prompts

More brainstorming prompts from the book Mental Jogging by Reid J. Daitzman.

Ultimate Video Bundle - App Review

The Ultimate Video Tools bundle consists of several utility apps to assist with converting images and GIFs to video formats. Most of the apps offer the ability to use music from previews on iTunes.

Writing 365

You can view my weekly update from April to compare my progress during the month of May, which is displayed below. I continue to meet my daily writing goals, but my writing interests continue to evolve. I am less regimented than at the beginning, as I now work towards a goal of 1,000 per day, and write in whatever categories interest me on a particular day. With the exception of journaling, which I write every day, the other categories (books, devotional, and blog posts) vary from day to day.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Jim Rohn's 12 Pillars of Success

This post contains a brief biographical sketch of Jim Rohn and his 12 pillars of success, based on my notes from a webinar.

Jim Rohn

Jim Rohn (1930-2009) was an entrepreneur, author, and speaker. During the 1950s and 1960s he became involved with a couple of direct selling businesses, eventually resulting in promotion to vice president of one company. After the company closed, Rohn was invited to speak at a local Rotary club. More organizations started inviting him to speak about his personal story and leadership principles. Rohn developed his company, eventually speaking to over 6,000 audiences and 5 million people around the world. He also authored several books and audio training series.

I wrote previously about using a paper-based planner. For 2009 I used a Jim Rohn lined journal for my planner. This planner is no longer available through Jim Rohn's website, which is one of the reasons I began using Moleskine journals.

12 Pillars of Success

In reviewing my notes on Yahoo Notes, my primary app for notes prior to smart phones, I came across a list of 12 pillars of success from a webinar by Jim Rohn and Chris Widener, dated 2006.

  1. Work harder on yourself than you do on your job.
  2. Live a life of health.
  3. Give to relationships.
  4. Write down your goals.
  5. Control your time.
  6. Surround yourself with the best people.
  7. Be a life-long learner.
  8. All of life is sales.
  9. Income seldom exceeds personal development. Work full-time on your job and part-time on your fortune.
  10. All communication is the foundation for successful relationships.
  11. The world can always use one more great leader.
  12. Leave a legacy by teaching others the pillars of success.

You can learn more about Jim Rohn and his products at