Friday, April 30, 2010

Letting Go Of The Rigidity

In an exercise of The Tenth Insight, Holding the Vision, An Experimental Guide, by James Redfield and Carol Adrienne, you are asked to work on overcoming the fear that holds you back from achieving your goals. The exercise is designed to put yourself in another’s shoes to help develop empathy and compassion. You are asked to jot down the names of three or four people you don’t like or with whom you disagree. Beside the names write out the things you don’t agree with or don’t like about them.

You are then asked to go back and describe each of the people as if you could see their higher purpose. You are asked to use your imagination to speculate what deeper, positive purposes lies behind the outer characteristics that you see and judge.

The final step is to go back to the first step and insert your name in the place of one of the people that you don’t like. You are then asked to describe something you do that is similar to what you don’t like about the person. You are asked to notice how you feel when you go back and read the exercise.

After completing this exercise, I have realized that there are a few things about myself that I’m not happy with, especially where writing is concerned. I am perhaps the most rigid and inflexible personality that I know of. In my Equine Career I believe that I haven’t worked with any more stubborn or inflexible mules. The more I wrote, the more I realized that my preconceived ideas of writing success are out of touch with reality. I don’t have to be on a beach in Oregon in order to write a Historical Novel about a mountain in Colorado.

Many great novels have been written by commuters into New York City on subways and trains. I doubt that I will mysteriously get a large book contract for an abstract idea about a novel. How about writing it? How about finally interviewing the principles in Colorado that have already agreed to an interview? How about completing the ground work? Do you think I might be difficult to work with? Am I the person that I complain about by putting the cart before the horse? Am I really as overbearing as the person that I thought believed they knew everything about a subject when they were really a novice struggling along? Could I use the help that I had to offer? What and eye opener! Writing well is indeed a journey to self discovery. Albert Bianchine

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Writing, The Art Of Healing

It was said by Ernest Hemingway that, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn … it’s the best book we’ve had. All American writing comes from that.” In Ernest Hemingway, A Reconsideration, Philip Young qualifies Hemingway’s quote. “This rather loose overstatement is generally taken to mean that Huckleberry Finn is the source for the natural, colloquial, and nonliterary prose style in which most modern American Literature, and particularly Hemingway’s is written.

Mark Twain who was disillusioned by the disappearance of the American Frontier, found life closing in on him all around found Huck Finn. Huckleberry found the big muddy and his raft. Every time his world closed in on him, a push of the raft found he and Jim in a fast moving river with trouble far behind them. Our hero never grows past young adulthood and at the crucial growth time he introduces Tom Sawyer.

Hemingway embellishes upon the Huckleberry character by creating his early Nick Adams and his difficulties at The Big Two Hearted River. Nick’s struggle to cross the river is generally attributed to Hemingway’s attempt to heal from his wounds received July 8, 1918 at Fossalta di Piave. Hemingway was wounded badly and for a time assumed to be beyond hope. It is said 277 pieces of shrapnel were removed from him. Psychologically, Nick almost doesn’t make it across the river. Through Nick and The Big Two Hearted River, Hemingway confronts his demon and seemingly keeps it at bay.

Writing is a form of healing, and history is full artists desperately trying. Living is hard, you have to try and survive. In your struggle, if it becomes too difficult, you can Just Open A Vein,like a quote by Red Smith in a book edited by William Brohaugh. Albert Bianchine

Sunday, April 25, 2010

"Words. They Are The Key."

Those simple words were destined to spawn my writing career. At a very young age, my Grandmother would buttonhole me and force me to sit and take the word power tests in Readers Digest Magazine. My Grandfather introduced me to the Western Novel soon after I had put down my Curious George books.

After abandoning my dreams of running away to join the circus, I picked up my young manhood dreams from Zane Grey the Western Novelist. I remember distinctly in his novel entitled, Wyoming, the scene opening with the Cowboy standing on the desolate plains. “Sand, sand blowing, shifting like a silver silken sea of clouds.” I was mesmerized and bitten by the great American expansive west.

Laughed out of my grade school music days for playing The Streets of Laredo as my favorite song, I took my album (yes, one of those vinyl plastic things), stuffed it in my backpack and headed for the school bus home. There I was on the bus, a Cowboy Hat wearing outcast, a drifter who didn’t fit in. It was the beginning of the character I was to create and become in my fiction writing. The self-styled lone wolf, I took up skiing and quickly exhausted the eastern mountains.

I soon found myself, Stetson hat and knapsack looking out over the great American plains of Wyoming. The big horns looming large on the horizon, with the Tetons and Jackson Hole Ski Area not far down the road. My knapsack harbored my marbled black and white composition book filled with doodles and short stories. Consumed and possessed by the adventure of the mountains, I lived the life that I had read about in the Westerns. I skied as many of the American Rockies as I was able. I was always trying to find the words to paint the beauty I was fortunate enough to live every day.

Writers are word stackers, shapers, like “Sand, sand blowing, shifting like a silver silken sea of clouds.” Just ask the self-styled lone wolf, the drifter and outrider of society who just stepped off The Streets of Laredo in their mind. Albert Bianchine

Thursday, April 22, 2010

"My Bad, But I have An App For That."

When I worked as a performer with the Beaver Creek Children’s Theatre in Avon, Beaver Creek, and Vail, Colorado, we worked in conjunction with Disney and Sport Goofy (Goofy on Skis.) We had several programs for vacationing families, especially the children. We offered a family night out with a picnic in a theatre at Piney Lake, a serene setting in the Rocky Mountains. We also offered a kid’s night out at a local theatre in Vail Village, that allowed families and evening out while their children were entertained. The cast was a wonderful array of people that told elaborate stories and performed skits with approved Disney Characters like Sour Dough Pete, and Sure Shot Shirley.

Many of the stories were performance stories with, audience participation. It struck me that inevitably many of the young children stayed at the back seats of the auditoriums and played with their video games and had no participation with the groups. Unless you physically removed the video games from the children, there is no way they would watch the performances or participate in them(with former parental approval.) They were social outcasts that didn’t interact with any of their peers or the social group.

Now flash forward twenty-five years. Those very same children are now CEO’s and General Managers of many companies. They are supremely technically gifted and computer literate and they have ipods, blackberries, and ipads. Their devices ring, beep and buzz to tell them where they should be with whom they should be and what they should be talking about. If they make a mistake or their device doesn’t remind them. They look at you with a far away distant stare and say, “My Bad.” But you know what?

I have an app for that. You guessed it. My blog.

Albert Bianchine

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I Own Those Words

How far do you allow an editor to go with your creation? This is something that you need to discuss with your editor in advance. I was watching the Celebrity Apprentice the other night and found this question in my mind. The premise of the show was that the teams would take a novice country star and make them over. This would include hair and clothing, as well as preparing them for an interview with People Magazine. This was a great opportunity for the young singers, and two of the competitors performing the makeovers were popular rock stars.

It was clear that the male singer was stuck in his style and not willing to wander out of his box. I thought, "what's the point in participating in such an opportunity, if you're not willing to allow the pros to make you over?"

That's my point here. Anyone who has ever edited my writing has more experience than me. I have to trust that they know when to remove excess wording, when to correct my punctuation and grammar, and how to dress up or excite what I've written.

For me, editing the story out of my story isn't welcome editing. For example, if I write about my life as a child, and I mention the smell of the night blooming jasmine plants outside of my bedroom, they are here to stay. They are a major factor in my childhood memories. No matter what an editor has to say about that, I own those words. If I haven't misspelled them or used them in the wrong context, leave them!

To all of you wonderful and hard working editors out there ... I love and appreciate you, but sometimes you've just got to butt out!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Telluride Writing

I always thought that drumming was a foolish part of the Alive Tribe movement. The Alive Tribe has characters named Truth and Joyous Spirit. Drumming was not for me.

I went to a writing conference in Telluride, Colorado many years ago. Before attending, I climbed to the top of Rabbit Ears Pass just outside of town to sit and meditate on the coming workshop. I stayed up to watch the sunset, then ran back down before dark.

Part of the conference included a segment on performing. Reading my writing in front of a group has always been difficult for me and I wanted to polish that skill. The closer that the time came to stand before the audience, the more nervous I became. It was very difficult to walk across the stage and begin reading White Dreams, but I was able to do so. Was I afraid? Yes. Did I eventually overcome the fear? Yes, I did. Not only did I overcome my stage fright, but I took a hike to a waterfall drumming session with Joyous Spirit. It was relaxing, and enlightening. The sound of the waterfall, and the rhythm of the drumming together were very soothing.

After having my spirits lifted, I walked back into town to a local bookstore. Upon entering, my eyes flashed on the book, The Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda. There was something special about his picture, so I bought it.

My life has changed dramatically since then, and I am now a practicing Yogi with the Self Realization Fellowship. I met and married my wonderful wife at a job in Aspen several years later, after she questioned the secretary about a letter from the Self Realization Fellowship that I had received. She had surfed at the beach in front of the Ashram that is now named Swamis. I distinctly remember her saying, “ I will take you there and show you.” I didn’t think she meant it at the time, and after discussing it with her years later, I found out that she hadn’t. There was a spirit greater than us at work.

Upon arriving to the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the name of my guru, Paramahansa Yogananda had been left written in the sand in front of his favorite meditation bench. We took it as a sign of a blessing and went through with our plan to elope in Lake Tahoe. We have been happily married for fourteen years now.

Foolish Drumming at a writing conference with Joyous Spirit, indeed. It opened my chakras that had been closed. Perhaps attending writing groups are good for me, even if I hadn’t thought so. Albert Bianchine

Friday, April 16, 2010

Resistance To Writing

I’m reminded of a scene in some B grade sci-fi movie that I have watched somewhere along the way. A creep of an alien is yelling at some human.

“It is futile to resist silly human!”

I am and have been resisting. Oh yes, I have the anchor out and have pulled the sails down on my little writing ship and blog. It is amazing to me that I would elect to neglect the only vehicle that I currently have up and running at my disposal.

It hasn’t always been that way. When I was living in Vail and working as a waiter, I became involved in reading books to children in the Library. I even went as far as starting a Vail Writing Group where none had previously existed. Motivated, to say the least, and eager to do anything to be involved with other writers. What happened to that spirit? I called myself a struggling writer and poet then. I was working on Of Mountains and Men that I published in August, 2009. I went to local CafĂ©’s and read my poems trying them out on others while learning to perform. It was great fun and I met many interesting people. So the question still is; What happened to change all that?

Was it my ranch, the horses, the goats, my job? It would be easy to blame those things. I could conjure up a million excuses why I stopped writing and performing, but that would be just what they were. Excuses lacking action! “Anything lacking action is doomed to failure, silly human.” It doesn’t take an alien in a space ship to get it. If I didn’t go to the library and sit in one of those great curvy chairs that lets you type on a typewriter (yes I am that old that I started writing before laptops) I wouldn’t have had enough material to edit into the shape of a book, let alone publish it.

Let’s go back further. If I didn’t go to Universities as a young man and take poetry writing workshops and write about what the Professors asked me to write about, I wouldn’t have had the raw poems to even think about editing.

Ok, so by now you are waiting on the point. The point is, have you met me? Have you read my blog lately? The resistance to good blogging on the suggestion of my wife by wanting to write stiff, stuffy, upper lipped fiction leaps off the page at you. Perhaps one should read what they are writing more often and learn from their mistakes.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Writing Is Writing Is Writing

My wife Kathy is an analytical critical personality. She is a teacher and a writer of informative articles on Ezine. I am a poet and a dreamer and I write fiction. So often I set out to write a blog, I know our blog is primarily about writing for writers about writing. In my latest blog attempt I began writing a wonderfully sentimental piece about our rescue ranch and my first white Appaloosa named Snowy.

When Kathy said, “What the hell are you writing Al, our blog is about writers and writing." I respond by saying,” Whatever,” and get angry and don’t want to write a blog. I am instead off on a fantastic stroll down memory lane and wondering how I could possibly turn it in to a great piece of fiction. If I tweak the truth just a little here and add some description there, because everyone knows that detail make the lie more believable, I just might have something saleable.

My question then becomes is writing about writing not writing fiction, or a memoir, or just writing about becoming a writer? I just want to write more prolifically and better. When I sit down to write, am I undisciplined if I go off on a memoir, and turn it in to a fiction piece titled, Snowy Got His Wings? Isn’t creativity and outlet for simply creating and if you push and step beyond the whiteness of the page aren’t you writing? Al Bianchine

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Writing - A Popular and Upcoming Career

I had a little time to browse this morning so I clicked on the most popular upcoming jobs on Yahoo while having my coffee. It said that writing, both technical and online journalistic are upcoming, high paying jobs. The requirement is a Bachelors Degree in English or something of that nature. The article also claimed that most people who dream of writing and publishing the great american novel end up writing technical manuals.

Wrong! As a person with a love for writing, I write. I sell, I volunteer, I blog, write manuals, courses, and recently published a book about horse fitness which had been a life long goal of mine.

Am I the highest paid script writer in the world? No. Do I have to get dressed and work for someone else every day? No. That's my point. If writing is something that you love to do, do it. If you look at Hollywood and Nashville, you will see that there are enormous pools of talent waiting tables. I don't really want to wait tables. I want to write. I'll write procedure manuals, newsletters, recipe books for the lady down the street, and donated editorials to the local free press until it adds up to a large income.

If your passion is writing, don't listen to anyone about how to make a living. Writing is a craft, a trade, and a talent. It doesn't take a publisher or a degree in English to make money doing it. Keep writing, and submit, submit, submit!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Writing And Presenting Educational Material

When putting a workshop or course together for a group of people, you might take great pride in the way that you have bound the booklets, and carefully organized the material. It is possible that only half of the group will really appreciate your work. The other half might lose the booklet in their car as soon as the workshop is over.

Generally, people not only favor a particular learning style, but they think with a dominant brain side. The left brain student is likely to appreciate the checklist that you have included with the course syllabus, and is likely to use it, while the right brain student would probably respond better to color coding.

Before designing an educational program, it is a good idea to explore these very different types of thinkers and organizers so that you can attract and maintain the interest of each. If you are the type of person that is motivated to organize this type of learning program, you are likely to be a left brain thinker. In order to be completely effective, you will need to learn different techniques to attract the right brain dreamer. Of all things, do not have your feelings hurt if someone doesn't fawn over your meticulous presentation. Maybe they just don't get it. Left brain thinkers are much more obsessive than right brainers.

In addition to dominant brain types, there are three specific learning styles that are individual to each student. If you present workshops, you will soon discover how much it matters that you present a balanced program to include each specific learning style. It will be written all over your participant's faces as you lecture. They will appear lost during some sections, and will be nodding during others.

The first learning style is the visual learner. These are the seers. This student likes pictures, graphs, colors, videos, and actual demonstrations of how things work. Studies show that visual learners are often good customers for infomercials and television shopping networks. They like outlines and diagrams, and generally do well on IQ tests that have pictures, but they become stressed during oral exams.

The second learning style is the auditory learner. These are the listeners. This type of student loves to memorize long lists of information. They listen to books-on-tape, remember words to songs, and are a specific target for jingles used in advertising. An auditory learner is good at memorization by repeating facts with their eyes closed. These learners are good at remembering specific rhyming techniques like "lefty-loosey, and righty-tighty." They often use small recorders for recording a teacher's lecture for later review. Auditory learners do exceptionally well during oral exams.

Lastly, kinesthetic learners are hands-on learners. These are the students that might fidget during the lectures. They don't relate well to a drawing or explanation of a particular exercise. They must perform the task in order to understand what the words and pictures mean.

The new television show by Dr. Mehmet Oz demonstrates a great balance for education. First, Dr. Oz gives his monologue about how many people die of heart disease each year. He gives the staggering statistics about how and why it happens. He then shows a large, color video screen of the mechanics of a working heart and how it becomes affected by heart disease. He follows this with an audience member putting on surgical gloves and actually feeling and handling a human heart taken from a cadaver. Lastly, he adds the shock factor by having a person that is overweight or has a lifestyle that might cause heart disease stand in front of the audience and discuss their habits that have led to the disease. He then discusses their numbers like cholesterol, blood pressure, etc., and how they can be changed.

Every type of learner is hit with the wow factor of the message that he is trying to portray. Incorporating all of these factors together in your articles, courses, and workshops will assuredly reach your entire audience with your teaching message.

By Kathy Duncan