Category Archives: art

Book Review: Heal Yourself with Journaling Power by Mari L. McCarthy

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In Mari L. McCarthy’s latest book Heal Yourself with Journaling Power, she outlines the many personal benefits of starting or continuing to journal.  Heal Yourself with Journaling Power offers writers and non-writers a concise overview of how journaling can be used to help resolve all kinds of personal issues through daily journaling.  The book itself serves as a roadmap and call to action for anyone desiring change or left wanting more out of life.  I expect nothing less from the author/creator behind CreateWriteNow.

Mari begins by describing the true power behind journaling:  daily habit.  It did not surprise me that she begins by mentioning morning pages.  The same concept fuels one of my favorite websites:  750words.  Deceptively simple, the humble act of writing daily drives later change.  Once journaling becomes a daily habit, the real work begins.  However, all true healing through journaling hinges on writing consistently.

In the book, Mari provides readers with an outline on how to use this power to heal their own lives.  She includes different aspects of her personal story and anecdotes of others who have had similar experiences to drive her points home.  In addition, she provides readers with journal prompts in each chapter.  As a result, it can easily be viewed as a textbook by anyone wanting to use journaling to fundamentally change his or her life.  Part memoir, part writing manual, and part self-help book, I would recommend Heal Yourself with Journaling Power to anyone remotely interested in self-improvement, journaling, or writing generally.

In fact, a few simple tools will put anyone on the path to healing through journaling.  Personally, I would recommend using 750words or another online journal to get started journaling daily.  Add in the community and resources over at CreateWriteNow along with a copy of Heal Yourself with Journaling Power to keep motivated and moving forward.  I don’t see the need for much else when it comes to journaling, although different prompts are always fun and often provide insight that moves the process along.

As a writer, I found myself largely agreeing with Mari throughout the book.  While I haven’t experienced some of the more dramatic physical changes she attributes to journaling, I have journaled consistently enough during various stages of my life to attest to its power.  I particularly agree with Mari that journaling provides a clarity that is difficult to find anywhere else.  The clarity that comes from journaling consistently can help writers overcome a myriad of obstacles that may be in their way, no matter what they might be.

While I would recommend Heal Yourself with Journaling Power to any writer, non-writers may benefit from it message to a greater degree.  The techniques outlined in the book can be used by anyone to help identify roadblocks and move forward on any goal, dream, or ambition.  Using the journaling process to help organize one’s thoughts and formulate a plan of action may not be obvious to non-writers.  The power of journaling needs to be experienced to fully understand just how lifechanging it can be.

Stay tuned!  Next week I will be interviewing Mari L. McCarthy.

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About the Author, Mari L. McCarthy

Mari L. McCarthy is the Self-Transformation Guide and Founder/Chief Inspiration Officer of CreateWriteNow.com. She is also author of the international-bestselling, award-winning book Journaling Power: How to Create the Happy, Healthy Life You Want to Live.

Mari began journaling to relieve the debilitating effects of multiple sclerosis (MS) over 20 years ago. Through journaling, Mari was able to ditch her prescription drugs and mitigate most of her MS symptoms. Now she teaches people throughout the world how to heal, grow, and transform their lives through the holistic power of therapeutic journaling.

She lives in a gorgeous beachfront home in Boston, where she has the freedom, flexibility, and physical ability to indulge in all her passions, which include singing and recording her own albums.

Journaling Quote

Creativity

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I am a firm believer that everyone should have a creative outlet.  It may take some time to find what works for you, but it is so worth it in the end.  I discovered writing as my creative outlet at an early age, but then life got in the way, as it always does.  I hope this time I can make time for what matters.

As I have spent the last several weeks as a substitute teacher in a 4th grade classroom, I’ve enjoyed seeing just how passionate kids are about their hobbies.  I have budding writers, musicians, artists, and athletes in the classroom, not to mention scientists.  We had the best discussions about the US space shuttle program, astronauts, and basic animal genetics.  They are not afraid to ask great questions.  After a science lesson on the effects of long-term exposure to zero gravity on astronauts, one student asked me why we never returned to the moon after the 1969 moon landing.  A quick Google search later, we had our answers, which included the facts that politics largely got in the way and that NASA recently announced possible commercialization of space travel, including a possible return to the moon.  See article here.

I am left with just one question:  What do we do as educators between 4th grade and senior year of high school to suck the creativity out of students?  I like to believe things are changing for the better, but I still see way too much “busy,” mindless work being assigned, especially in middle school.  STEM programs are on the right track, but I do believe they need to include art, or STEAM, as well.  Still, that doesn’t cut it for everyone.  What about students who have no idea how to stick with something long enough to enjoy it?  How do we recognize and deal with the fact that many students are resistant to the idea that failure can help us learn and grow?  We inadvertently teach students that failure is to be avoided at all cost.  For better or worse, it is ingrained in our culture.  High stakes standardized testing anyone?  We need to teach students how to fail effectively:  how to move on and learn from our mistakes.  They need to know on a gut level that failure is inevitable.  We are meant to learn from it.

I am deeply grateful that I found a creative outlet that works for me.  I adored art classes as a child, but I have no ability to draw animals or people.  I am no painter either.  One of my greatest wishes is to have some musical ability.  Sadly, as much as I love music, I have none.  In searching for my creative outlet, I overlooked the obvious:  I am meant to be a writer.  Unfortunately, as a child, I always wanted to be more instead of embracing what I love and can reasonably do without embarrassing myself.  In fact, that is one of my greatest wishes for any of my students past, present, or future:  Find a creative outlet that makes you happy through good times and bad.

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Scrivener

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It is no secret that I am my own worst enemy at times. OK, most of the time. Lately, I’ve been spending time thinking of ways to write more efficiently and better organize my work. I keep coming back to Scrivener. I took the time to learn it a few years ago, and I loved it. The issue became I didn’t keep using it. I’m not exactly sure why I quit, but I did. Well, I am getting back into the habit again. It offers a variety of ways to organize all of my work.

In a recent post, I stated that Scrivener is the closest thing writers have to a digital studio. I firmly believe this. It is so versatile it can accommodate any form of writing and any organizational method. You get to create templates and forms to use for the type of writing you do most. There are preset options that include fiction and non-fiction, as well as a handful of specialty options. It may take me some time, but I am going to relearn Scrivener and start using it on a daily basis again. I owe it to myself. It makes back-end organization that much easier.

Is it worth the initial investment of time and money? For me, the answer is unequivocally yes. I took the time to go through the extensive in-program tutorial: a definite must if you want to make the learning curve a little shorter. Besides, there is humor built in. If you choose not to go through the tutorial, you may miss out on a lot of great features. In fact, I believe that is how people become overwhelmed. Scrivener is truly built for writers by writers. That means that it allows you to slice, dice, organize, and label all materials to your hearts content. Just remember that as a writer, no one is forcing you to use all the features at once. Out of all the writing software I’ve come across over the years, Scrivener continues to stand out. I see no need for anything else.

Then again, there are a lot of fun online platforms out there. At least that is one thing we have going for us as writers: our tools. I love the fact that there are so many great writing tools out there for little or even no cost. In fact, there are so many that it takes time to figure out what works best for the way you work. Only now, after years of trial and error, am I beginning to find a process that works best for me. Hopefully, it will get me where I need to go. It is worth it to take the time to figure out how you work best as a writer. There may be several stops and starts, but each time, it becomes easier than the last. Eventually, your process starts to emerge. No matter what your process may be – or your genre – there is a place for Scrivener.

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Projects Old and New

School

Over the last several weeks and months, I have finally recognized how important writing and reading is to my quality of life and my sheer happiness.  No joke.  If I have a writing project, I am happy.  As a student, I loved writing assignments.  Even if I didn’t love the subject, the book, or whatever it may be, I could always count on myself to do well. 

Some of my earliest and best memories of elementary school are of creating “stories.”  As I learned to write, my “stories” became less picture/drawing based and included more writing.  I love the fact that writing plays such a prominent role in my earliest educational memories.  By the way, I still can’t draw.

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What I’ve come to realize over the last week or so is that I didn’t value my early writing much. When I say early writing, I am not talking about childhood or even adolescent writing.  Those journals are safely tucked away never to see the light of day.  No, I am talking about the writing I did from 2005-2012.  During that time frame, I published dozens of throw-away articles for a now-defunct website called Associated Content.  As a writer for Associated Content, I wrote articles on all kinds of topics – reviews, how-to, and more – for a small upfront payment and then residuals.  Page views mattered!  After a couple of years, the site sold out to Yahoo!, which eventually shut it down.  Even though I had ample warning and could have saved my hundreds of articles, I didn’t.  I didn’t care enough.  The content just didn’t interest me enough.

While I don’t regret not putting in the time and effort to save my work with Associated Content, I do regret not saving my JamsBio work.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have much notice.  JamsBio, a now defunct online magazine, paid writers to discuss their memories as it related to music.  I only wrote ten blog posts, but it was the most fun I ever had “working.”  Even though I wish I had those articles, the ideas planted by writing those pieces live on.  I will eventually write something similar here.

The reason why all of this came to mind lately is due to different projects I am currently working on.  I just wrote my first piece for the Macbeth Post and had my first podcast published on Spartans Helping Spartans.  In fact, I am in the middle of writing a series of posts on study abroad for Spartans Helping Spartans as we speak. All wonderful stuff that I will share here.  

That’s just it.  I need to share some of my other work here.  There is an infamous piece I wrote on the Witchy Wolves of the Omer Plains for Michigan’s Otherside.  It is probably the earliest writing I did online or close to it.  I’ve toyed with the idea of a rewrite, but people keep finding it and sharing on Facebook.  Then there are a handful of articles I’ve written for the Huron Shores Genealogical Society Genogram. I’ve long meant to share them here permanently.  I just haven’t taken the time to do it yet.

As writers, we need to take care of our work and not let it become lost to time.  I wish were better at taking care of my own work. On a fun note, I came across an old online journal dating back to 2003.  Interesting doesn’t begin to describe it.  It brought back memories long since forgotten.  It is time for me to take better care of my own work.

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Quotes and Inspiration

Churchill

It is no secret that Winston Churchill is one of my favorite historical figures (although one among many). As quotes are a big part of the curriculum where I will be teaching, I decided to start off the school year with this quote. I love it. Students may not fully appreciate it until they are older, but man, is it ever true. There is always the opportunity to start over and to make tomorrow better than today.

This is precisely why I love Churchill. He refused to give up in the worst of circumstances. Period. I want to build upon that idea all year long. In fact, my Spanish classes will definitely be studying Frida Kahlo. She had that same tenacity. In fact, I wish that I could show the movie Frida (one of my favorites). Unfortunately, that isn’t a possibility. Hopefully, sharing some of her artwork and quotes will inspire them anyway.

It is by studying those who came before us and accomplished great things that we can truly become inspired. This is why I love memoir, biographies, and autobiographies. So many times I am left wondering how people persevered in the face of what appeared to be insurmountable obstacles. There is always a way.

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Essential Questions

Essential Questions by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins

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Sometimes distinct areas of my life overlap.  This is one of those times.  Who knew I’d find inspiration for my blog in the required reading for one of my education classes?  I love when things like this happen.  When I first read this article, I immediately saw the potential for a series of blogposts, each one exploring an essential question, of course.

For those who don’t know, I am currently working on completing a teacher certification program that will allow me to teach Spanish and social studies at the secondary level (grades 6-12).  Add in my interest in all things relating to language, and it isn’t surprising that I will be focusing on the essential questions in those subject areas:  world languages, history and social studies, along with language arts.  I may add in a few from art as well.  Here are a few questions that left me inspired to write.  Please keep in mind that I did not come up with these questions as they are taken verbatim from the article above.  I’m not exactly sure how I will use these questions here on my blog, but they are worth noting.

Essential Questions in History and Social Studies

  • Whose “story” is this?
  • How can we know what really happened in the past?
  • How should governments balance the rights of individuals with the common good?
  • Should _______ (e.g., immigration, media expression) be restricted or regulated? When? Who decides?
  • Why do people move?
  • What is worth fighting for?

Essential Questions in Language Arts

  • What do good readers do, especially when they don’t comprehend a text?
  • How does what I am reading influence how I should read it?
  • Why am I writing? For whom?
  • How do effective writers hook and hold their readers?
  • What is the relationship between fiction and truth?
  • How are stories from other places and times about me?

Essential Questions in World Languages

  • What should I do in my head when trying to learn a language?
  • How can I express myself when I don’t know all the words (of a target language)?
  • What am I afraid of in hesitating to speak this language? How can I overcome my hesitancy?
  • How do native speakers differ, if at all, from fluent foreigners? How can I sound more like a native speaker?
  • How much cultural understanding is required to become competent in using a language?
  • How can I explore and describe cultures without stereotyping them?

Essential Questions in the Arts

  • What can artworks tell us about a culture or society?
  • What influences creative expression?
  • To what extent do artists have a responsibility to their audiences?
  • Do audiences have any responsibility to artists?
  • What’s the difference between a thoughtful and a thoughtless critique?
  • If practice makes perfect, what makes perfect practice?

Meta and Reflective Questions

  • What do I know and what do I need to know?
  • Where should I start? When should I change course? How will I know when I am done?
  • What’s working? What’s not? What adjustments should I make?
  • Is there a more efficient way to do this? Is there a more effective way to do this? How should I balance efficiency and effectiveness?
  • How will I know when I am done?
  • What should I do when I get stuck?
  • How can I overcome my fear of making mistakes?
  • What have I learned? What insights have I gained?
  • How can I improve my performance?
  • What will I do differently next time?

(McTighe & Wiggins, 2013)

“The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets” By Eva Rice

Book Review:  “The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets” By Eva Rice – Write Meg!

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Even though I read The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice several years ago now, it never really left the back of my mind.  On the surface, it is dishy and a guilty pleasure in the best sense of the term.  As easy as it is to write off as a beach read, there has to be something more there in order for it to stick with me for so long.  That is partly why it stuck with me:  I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what it is about this book that fascinates me.  I finally think I have it figured out.  The book itself is set in post-war, 1950s London.  While there are still vivid memories of World War II and the Blitz, there is a contagious sense of renewal, hope, and general optimism throughout the book.

That atmosphere, used effectively as a backdrop for an interesting group of teenage characters (Penelope and Inigo Wallace, Charlotte Ferris and her cousin Harry), allows them to shine and adds to the excitement of early rock and roll in London.  So much of the novel revolves around the music!  Inigo is obsessed with Elvis, while Penelope and Charlotte adore Johnnie Ray.  In fact, one of the pivotal events in the novel involves a Johnnie Ray concert at the London Palladium.  I can just imagine the excitement and what it meant to be a teenage girl waiting to see your rock and roll idol in concert.

I think that is why I love this novel so much.  It takes place during a period of time that influenced the likes of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, and countless others.  The music I know and love simply wouldn’t exist without the likes of Elvis, Little Richard, or Johnnie Ray.  Knowing the history of rock and roll and what takes place in the late 1950s and early 1960s makes this book that much sweeter.  I definitely need to reread it.

London Palladium, 1950

London Palladium, 1950