Are You Looking for a Writer’s Group?

One of the basic rules of writing seems self evident. Don’t confuse your reader.

But how do you know if your writing is clear?  Your characters relatable?  The pace fast enough to hold a reader’s attention? 

How do we identify  personal writing quirks that drag down our sentences? Like using very, almost, began to, kind of, a bit, just, in order to.  

Is our writing less direct because we use filter words like, “He saw the woman cross the street”  instead of “The woman crossed the street.”

Are our tenses consistent?  Is it clear who’s speaking?  Are paragraphs so long they become cumbersome to read?

Errors and misunderstandings about what makes prose clear and inviting can be hard to pinpoint in our own work.  Grammar programs can help, and so can other writers willing to be honest and supportive.

Finding the right feedback group is important.  You may want a genre-specific group, or one with writers who have about the same amount of experience you have. Try to be clear about your intention and what you hope to offer and gain from participation.

For in-person groups, try Southwest Writers, our local organization of writers helping writers. They have regular meetings, speakers, workshops, publishing opportunities and contests in addition to information about local groups.

Meetup is another option for those who want in-person meetings.  And, if you don’t find what your looking for, consider starting a group. Local bookstores are a good way to find book clubs and meet other writers. 

There are lots of online groups and communities. Here are some links to get you started.

Students have asked me if I teach in-person feedback groups. The answer is yes, I have in the past, and am considering starting another group for people ready to give and receive honest feedback to improve their craft.

If you are currently working on fiction or memoir and are interested in joining a group, contact me at

Include your name, contact info, what you are writing, and why you think a group would help you improve.

Where Does the Creative Self Live?

The inner world is endless and infinite.  Pregnant with knowledge, it waits for us to turn our attention around so the birth of new ideas, new songs, and new stories can emerge into our everyday world .

The earliest depiction of the infinity concept comes from Ancient Egypt in the form of the Ouroboros—the image of a serpent or dragon eating its own tail.  A symbol of eternity and renewal, harmony and balance, and cyclical rhythms, the infinity symbol has spoken through the ages to creatives and spiritual seekers.

Infinity is unlimited potential, and when you put it like that, you realize nothing is stopping you from expressing your authentic self.

But how do we do it?  How do we find the right place?  The right time?  

The creative impulse stirs.

We listen. 

We hear the whisper.

We dare new thoughts.

But the impetus fades. Disappointed and a little sad, we notice that the call to create requires more than an impassioned beginning. How do we recapture the feeling that something new is possible?

Ask the Creative Self for guidance, of course. But how?

Demanding that inspiration appear rarely works. That’s how the Greek Muses got their reputation for being flighty and unreliable. The Creative Self must be approached gently. With respect. As you approach that vast reservoir of creative energy, be humble.

The Creative Self operates on a different wavelength. She lives where time is spacious, measured in layers of meaning rather than hours and minutes. As in fairy tales, a day in the inner world might be a year in ours.

With the noise of everyday life, it isn’t easy to hear our authentic voice, which differs in kind from the repetitive mumblings of Practical Self.

You don’t have time for that now, Practical Self states, with smooth assurance.Learning to say no to Practical Self is a muscle that gets stronger with repetition.

Listening for the voice of Creative Self helps you notice how the negative messages of Practical Self reverberate through your mind. Noticing the blocks and letting them go clears the channel.

To deepen your communication with your Creative Self, try this simple exercise.

  • Sit quietly in a safe space where you will not be disturbed for ten minutes. If thoughts intrude, let them float by. If negative beliefs come up, say hello to them and bid them goodbye. Notice how your chest expands with each breath. Notice yourself as a conscious mind and a breathing body connected to the earth and sky.
  • Imagine all your repetitive thoughts collected in an enormous bubble that floats away at your command.


  • Imagine a golden mist covering all the repetitive thoughts like a warm blanket. The thoughts dissolve, leaving an open field of golden light where your Creative Self can play.

Try this before each creative session to deepen the connection to your inner world. Being still and receptive is an invitation. In stillness, Creative Self offers its gifts.

Sharing Love

The ancient Egyptians and Greeks knew a lot about the human heart. They saw it as the seat of empathy and love, and the place to go when the intellect got stuck. 

Modern science now confirms these intuitive beliefs about the physical heart as a source of inner guidance and even intelligence.

The physical heart is an information processing center, sending signals to the brain and the rest of the body. It has a complex nervous system, called the heart-brain, which talks to the head-brain. It produces a powerful electromagnetic field that is imprinted by our emotions. This explains why we sometimes perceive meaning intuitively through our heart faster than the head can process the same information.

The heart may be more important than the brain in calming the body, reducing stress, and increasing intuition. Getting the heart and brain to work in harmony is the key to living more peacefully.

The HeartMath Research Institute has developed tools to help us regulate our emotions and break the cycles of knee-jerk responses to stress. The beauty of their techniques is their simplicity. Anyone can use them to handle difficult emotions, change how they approach problems, and boost the immune system.

When heart and brain work together, that is called coherence, the opposite of feeling stressed.  The more coherent our body systems are, the more we can rceive new ideas, understand connections, and experience the joy of expressing ourselves honestly.

Heart-brain coherence can be achieved at will by actively self-generating positive emotions like love, compassion, gratitude, appreciation, patience, and kindness.

Here is an example of a simple exercise you can do anytime you want to feel better, be more centered, and express more of your loving nature to those around you.

  1. Focus your attention in the area of the heart. Imagine your breath is flowing in and out of your heart or chest area, breathing a little slower and deeper than usual. Find a rhythm easy for you.

2. Activate and sustain a regenerative feeling such as appreciation, gratitude, love, care or compassion. Think of a beloved person, pet, experience, or place to generate the feeling.

3. Continue breathing in and out from the area of our heart, slowly and deeply. Radiate that renewing feeling to yourself and others.

Here is a link to a free video course that includes information, PDFs to download, and the basic HeartMath techniques.

Debut Novel by a Talented Storyteller

My friend, Gency Brown, recently published her first novel, A Right Fine Life. I attended her book launch party at one of our locally owned bookstores, Books on the Bosque, an excellent store that welcomes author events.

The book is a contemporary saga of a young man who dreams of becoming a country western recording artist and the challenges he encounters as he learns about the tradeoffs required to achieve fame. The research that went into this book made it come alive for me. I learned a lot about the behind-the-scenes world of country music. Gency is active in the country music community, and I asked her how important it was to write about a character breaking into the music business in her first book.

“I wasn’t ticking off an item on my bucket list,” she said. “The character grabbed me and told his story through my memories and imagination. I knew people like him. I wanted to show that not all country music stars are drunks or drug addicts. They’re good people in a hard business.”

When I asked Gency about her biggest challenge in bringing her story to life, she mentioned the editing process, and how valuable her beta readers were, as well as a helpful critique partner. Gency also mentioned that she attends writer’s conferences, always a wonderful source of information and inspiration.

Gency is retired, as are many of my writing students, and I asked her what advice she has for writers starting their books later in life. “Believe in your story and yourself,” Gency declared. “You bring a lifetime of experience to the work but never stop learning.” Good advice for us all.  

Finishing a first novel and having it accepted by a traditional publisher is an enormous accomplishment, and when I asked her what was most rewarding about the process, she smiled and said, “Finishing! I had doubts throughout the writing, but kept going, and now I’m proud of the finished product.”

Given the enthusiastic crowd of well-wishers at the launch party, it was clear that her readers appreciate her efforts. 

You can pick up a copy of A Right Fine Life at Amazon and and, of course, Books on the Bosque.  Gency’s website is and her social media is under gencybrownauthor. Her website blog offers insights into her writing process. Check it out for words of wisdom from a published author!

2024! Here We Come, Ready or Not

I've been featured on eBookDaily

A new year is exciting, scary, full of promise, hope, and maybe trepidation.

A time to look back on how we did last year. For remembering the goals we reached. For forgiving ourselves for those we didn’t. For being thankful for family, friends, lessons learned, doing good work, taking risks. For making it through.

I gave up on making new year’s resolutions long ago. They didn’t motivate me. I often lost the paper or file where I noted them.

Instead, I look at what I want to let go of. More than cleaning out the closets (which is good and helpful), I look at old ideas, used-up patterns, and beliefs that no longer serve. What can I change to make the coming year brighter, regardless of what’s going on in the outer world?

I can stop being overwhelmed by the details of projects I chose to do. Over booked and over-committed, I worry. Even when the project is self-inflicted. This makes me less productive. So, what is really important? 

I’ve made my choices. I will finish the book I’m working on now. Set the marketing plan in place and then tackle the novel that is beckoning me to learn about new characters and discover their story. That means making time for research, finding new resources, and writing. How will that time fit with my other responsibilities? What might I have to let go of? (Maybe the misguided notion I can do everything, all the time, no matter what).

What about you?  What’s the most important thing you want to spend time on in 2024? The project/idea/task/group/person that gives you the most joy? Go ahead, write it down. In your journal.  No one will know. 

What excites you the most about the possibilities for this project? Write what comes. There are no wrong answers.

Then ask yourself, what, if anything, stops me from giving this beloved activity the attention it deserves? 

Intention can be tricky, the same way goals can be tricky. It’s easy enough to think, “lose ten pounds,” “paint the kitchen,” “write that story I dream about.”  

To make our intention real, we write it, paint it, or make a collage. Anything to bring it into the physical world with us.

That’s the first step. We also need to acknowledge what stands in the way. What ideas, beliefs, old programming, or fears are waiting in the wings to sabotage us?  

When we cling to the limitations of the past, we may not notice why the grand intention falls by the wayside, or the goal is forgotten. 

For writers and non-writers alike, personal journaling helps to clear out the debris, toss what’s no longer needed, and develop new, shiny, resilient beliefs to keep us going.

Yes, there is enough time. Yes, you can do it. Yes, working toward your heart’s desire is worth it, even if it’s hard. 

So, try it.  Write morning pages. Tell your journal what you want, how you feel, what makes you angry, and how you’re going to move through this next year, brave and free. 

You’re in charge. If you’re not satisfied with your story, change it! And let me know how it goes, cause I’m right beside you, changing mine.

The Gift of Acceptance

When I attended a school in California to learn to meditate, a seven-week experiment  turned into a three-year program of transformation. The teachers used no books or written material. All instruction was verbal, in the tradition of the great mystery schools of ancient times. 

Similar to Gnosticism in its approach, at that unconventinal school we learned to understand and work with our energy systems. They taught us to find and release ideas, beliefs, experiences, and patterns that hindered us from being a clear channel for our own highest information. In other words, we learned how to invite direct perception of our own higher/deeper aspects that are connected to Source.

Over and over, we were reminded to “stay in present time” which was both a concept and a grounding technique. 

This is a tall order. Although I learned how to accomplish it in my sacred meditation and reading spaces, ordinary life was more challenging. 

Accepting what comes with an open heart is a key to healing. Only through accepting and noticing both positive and negative events can I learn what hidden beliefs and karmic conditions influence me through what psychology calls the “shadow” identity.

For me, the first step was to stop resisting. Another tall order, especially with losses and health issues. The second step could not happen until I accepted the actual conditions of my life and found the reason my biofield had attracted them.  Then, change and healing became possible.

For some of us–stubborn, opinionated, and slow to learn–these steps are taken again and again. 

Mindset matters.  Looking for the lesson, the pearl, the elusive needle hidden in the chaff, is a habit of thought that develops over time. With practice. 

Although “awakening” to Source was not where I started, it has become my lifelong journey. The lessons continue to come, showing me deeper levels of my experience than I ever dreamed of accessing.

All creative work, all soul work, creates resistance. I don’t know why; it seems a function of how our mental minds work. I learned to deal with it first in my writing, and those lessons have served me well. As long as I remember to stay humble. As one of my teachers said long ago, “We’re all bozos on this bus.” 

Humor matters. So does compassion. We know about compassion for others. We strive to express it without erasing the boundaries that keep us safe. And some of us have to learn compassion for ourselves. A worthy goal.

Today I was inspired by the words of the Dalai Lama in his Bodhisattva Prayer for Humanity.

“May I be a guard for those who need protection

A guide for those on the path

A boat, a raft, a bridge for those who wish to cross the flood

May I be a lamp in the darkness

A resting place for the weary

A healing medicine for all who are sick

A vase of plenty, a tree of miracles

And for the boundless multitudes of living beings

May I bring sustenance and awakening

Enduring like the earth and sky

Until all beings are freed from sorrow

And all are awakened.”

The Joy of Finishing

This week I finished a short story I’ve been noodling around with for about five years. It started with an image of an old woman building a circular wooden device in her backyard. I saw her in a seaside town on a New England island, threatened by rising sea levels. She refused to evacuate, instead collecting items from the people in the village to add to her circle, which would become a magical shrine.

The finished version is quite different. There is still an old woman, but she lives in ancient times and travels to a village being held hostage by armed invaders who are waiting for the harvest so they can steal it to supply their army stationed nearby. She builds a circle in the forest, constructed of stone, and collects items from the villagers for a shrine, although no one knows why.

I always knew how the story would end. Rarely do I start a story without knowing its end, although I may not know the middle. The end is the most satisfying part, and when I finished what I now call “Mosaic,” I realized why it took so long.

When I started, I had a vague grasp of what the character was doing, but not until I knew more about the transformation she would undergo did the piece come together.

That is often the way. The impulse comes. Sometimes an image. A character. A setting. A title. But not enough for a complete story.

Patience has never been one of my virtues, but I’ve learned that forcing my creative energy to bend to the demands of my analytical mind is not helpful.

In other areas of my life and work, setting goals and making plans works fine. In rewriting, editing, finding markets, developing classes, and working with students, a loving discipline is useful.

But not for the initial creation.

For that, I must wait. Surrender to the process.  Sometimes a day or two. Sometimes years.

I used to judge myself for the waiting. Then I noticed that waiting is valuable. It allows the creative impulse to gather itself, to grow and become more than it was.

Slowly, I learned the rhythm and timing of my Creative Self, and stopped scolding it for not marching along as quickly as ego-mind preferred.

Not that I don’t work on other things while a story is germinating. Of course I do. One of my mentors paraphrased the well-known saying:

All things come to she who waits

If she who waits works like hell while she waits.

I take that seriously. I’m a writer. I write every day. But I don’t force myself to complete what is not ready.

There is joy in waiting.

In allowing.

In surrendering to the growth required before a complete story peeks out from behind the veil.

Finishing any creative project is worth celebrating, so no matter what happens to “Mosaic,” published or not, appreciated or not, I’m happy. I finished.

Are You One of the Blessed Weird?

Beatitudes for the Weird

Blessed are the weird people

—poets, misfits, writers, mystics heretics, painters & troubadours—

for they teach us to see the world through different eyes.

Blessed are those who embrace the intensity of life’s pain and pleasure,

for they shall be rewarded with uncommon ecstasy.

Blessed are ye who see beauty in ugliness,

for you shall transform our vision of how the world might be.

Blessed are the bold and whimsical,

for their imagination shatters ancient

boundaries of fear for us all.

Blessed are ye who are mocked for unbridled

expression of love in all its forms,

because your kind of crazy is exactly that freedom

for which the world is unconsciously begging.

Blessed are those who have endured breaking by life,

for they are the resplendent cracks through which the light shines.

Blessed are the Weird by Jacob Nordby

Are You Waiting for Inspiration?

My students often talk about “waiting for inspiration.”

They’re right. There’s nothing better than a thunderbolt from the blue—the perfect idea, the fully formed story, the image of the painting that drops into your mind. You can’t wait to get it down. The rush carries you through a creative session. An hour. A whole day. Maybe a week. Very exciting.

But after a while, you feel different. The rush has trickled away. The inspiration has faded. You look at what you produced. Maybe you like it, maybe not. You decide to keep going, but that rush of adrenalin does not return. The work feels like drudgery. You decide to wait until inspiration strikes again.

A common misconception is that creativity is separate from you. A visitation. A blessing. It can feel that way, and those sudden flashes may be a wake-up call. Maybe your Creative Self is trying to shake you out of your routine.

I had those experiences like that when I was working on my first novel. Ideas, characters, and scenes would pop into my mind when I was at my job or walking on the beach. I would rush home to write them down. When I was inspired, I wrote and wrote. But when the excitement faded, I avoided my desk, fearful of the practical aspects of writing a novel, the hard work of slogging through the difficult parts, learning how to make the parts fit together.

Being a writer is more than inspiration. There is re-writing, editing, polishing and research. The more I work, the more my Creative Self whispers in my ear. She seems to like constancy and commitment. She likes that I am keeping faith by practicing, learning, and preparing.


Committing to a regular work schedule tells the universe you’re serious about your creative work. Make your schedule manageable. A one-hour session three times a week is plenty to start. Make it a habit and notice how it helps deal with any resistance you encounter. After you feel more confident about your commitment, you can re-visit your schedule.

Loosening the Chains

Measuring productivity can be helpful and motivating. When I (reluctantly) started counting the number of words I produced in each writing session, my productivity skyrocketed. I was amazed. Writing produced more writing. I learned to write faster without editing or second-guessing myself. The pages piled up. That method still works. First draft fast and furious. Second draft slower, third draft slower yet.

Some writers have rituals for how to begin their creative time. They light a candle or say a prayer to invoke the Muse. Some need to do the dishes before they can start, or walk the dog, or make coffee for the rest of the family. These are not time wasters, but preparatory steps.

Down time is not unproductive. Artists need time for their ideas to percolate. They spend time noticing how evenly the grass is growing and how the shadows of clouds move across a landscape. They notice the faint tracks where a snake slid down a sand dune, a lizard nearly invisible on a rock, how the elderly man next door waits every morning at his mailbox for the postman. Just out of sight, the wheels are turning, the juices flowing and moving, about to burst into consciousness.

As creatives, we set our own boundaries. We define our goals and how to reach them. We find our rhythm. We choose the time of day when we are most productive. We choose our priorities.

We respect inspiration but don’t wait around for it to show up. We commit and do our work, and when inspiration does tap us on the shoulder, it’s that much sweeter.

My next writing class, From Inspiration to Publication, starts on June 7, 4-6 PM. Live on Zoom. For anyone with an idea.

A Timely New Novel Set in New Mexico

Native American communities have struggled for decades with high rates of assault, abduction, and the murder of women. Currently, more than 200 Native Americans from New Mexico and the Navajo Nation are missing and being investigated by the FBI.

The new novel by Joyce Phillips, Stolen Sisters, tells about one young Navajo woman who was abducted from an Albuquerque Mall while shopping for a prom dress. Salli Li, is horrified when her daughter calls from the Navajo Nation and sobs into the phone, “Mom, Chooli’s gone!” 

Salli jumps into action to save her granddaughter, enlisting the aid of a Navajo shaman and a team of student hackers. Her hunt for clues takes her to isolated areas  of the southwest desert where she participates in a sweat lodge, visits an ancient kiva, and explores mountain caves in a desperate search to find Chooli before her abductors sell her into slavery.

Stolen Sisters is a fast-paced adventure set against the background of modern Native American culture in the Southwest.

Author Phillips who lives in Cape Cod, but frequently visits the Southwest to research her books, added a personal note when I spoke to her about Stolen Sisters.

“While writing this book, my son died unexpectedly.  The grief of the mothers, grandmothers and daughters in my story became achingly real as my sorrow entwined with theirs. I believe my novel will speak to those moved by the plight of missing and abducted women.”

A story for our time, Stolen Sisters is available on Amazon and can also be ordered through bookstores.

All content copyright © 2023 by Carol Holland March. All rights reserved.