Writing

Today, I am honored to share with you someone I admire greatly, Dave Ursillo. Dave is going to chat with us about life as a writer, his latest project—The Literati, and some fun facts about himself. When thinking about how to introduce Dave, I kept returning to a simple reminder for myself: do not simplify, do not create a box for the sake of a neat and tidy post.

Dave is different (in a good way!) than a lot of bloggers I’ve had the pleasure of “meeting.” We’ve known each other online for awhile and through this time I’ve watched Dave truly evolve. He has become a compassionate and genuine leader—meaning he is wholeheartedly involved in the community online, communicating with vulnerability and presence; yet, at the same time, his message of leadership is woven throughout his work, through words he is able to powerfully connect with others—to gently turn on a light within you that sparks a ripple effect. His blog posts are mini theses. His dedication and love for the community that has gathered around him are etched in his actions. And so a bio will not suffice. I urge you to read his beautifully candid words below and then spend some time within the pages of his blog (you may want to start here).

1. In 140 characters or less (twitter style), what is The Literati?

The Literati is a digital writers’ group that empowers its members to create new freedom in their lives through their writing.

2. What prompted you to begin the Literati?

The Literati was born in response to a dangerous false-perception that afflicts so many writers and creatives. I call it “The Tortured Artist Routine.” The tortured artist routine is the stereotype that claims the creative journey is one of struggle, hardship, “writer’s block,” and being misunderstood. It’s the one that makes a writer think her journey has to be lonely, confusing and even painful. The tortured artist routine reinforces negative personal habits and detrimental thinking that leads to perpetual self-sabotage.

I thought, why don’t more writers treat the creative journey as one of deep experience, artistry, and fun? Why is it such a ridiculous idea that the creative journey can’t be treated as a reward, in itself? I knew that I wasn’t alone in that thinking, so I decided to formulate the Literati as a digital writers’ group that would bring like-minded writers together and help them “live and love the creative journey” while shattering that old, outdated and negative misconception.

3. How did you come up with the name (which I love!)?

I wrote a poem in my book God Whispers on the Wind last summer in which I referred to beautiful writers of old like Rumi, Thoreau and Emerson as “Those Loving Literati.” One month after I published that book, I was creating my writers’ group. That term “Loving Literati” was still on my mind. I don’t know where I first heard the term, but I realized that it could become the perfect name for what I wanted to create: a writers’ group for writers who love the journey, value artistry and want to really enjoy the creative experience.

4. I know there are a lot of people, especially people who write, who are scared of the term, “writer.” How do you keep the group from feeling intimidating for people who aren’t yet comfortable calling themselves “writers?” [This would include me.] Are most of the people in the group seasoned writers or is there a mix of people who may just be starting out on the writing journey in addition to those who may be a bit further along?

Never be afraid of what you have to say.

That’s what I tell a writer who feels uncomfortable or afraid of the term writer. We are, in essence, all writers in this life: we’re constantly writing the stories of our lives; we’re creating possibility and visions of our futures in our dreams. I don’t care how anyone else defines it: a writer is somebody who writes, and no writer should place an asterisk or disclaimer by that title.  

I believe that writers are artists and creatives, regardless of whether you’re a hobbyist, maintain a journal or diary, or write epic novel trilogies. That’s the great part of the Literati: our writers vary from part-time poets to web designers, photographers with a writing passion or full-time freelance writers. What unites us is the belief that writing is a form of artistry; that the creative journey is the reward; and that our artistic experiences honor our wants for purpose, fulfillment and freedom in our lives.

5. How will being a part of the Literati group help people beyond the group setting with practical items (ex. tips for getting freelance writing gigs, publishing a book, starting a blog)?

I personally help every writer in our group with their practical needs and goals, such as finding gigs, publishing a book and starting a blog.

The Literati will teach you exactly what you need to learn because our curriculum is catered to your personal wants and needs. As a big proponent of self-discovery and personal leadership, I use the unique method of helping you discover what your writing goals are—and what the tactics ought to look like—through guiding you through an exploration of your life, personal goals and your dreams. Because there are so many different ways to achieve goals, a personal exploration will help you understand what “How To” aspects are right for you.

6. What types of writers are in the group or have been in the group?

Most Literati writers already have “self-starter” tendencies: they have a blog or two, they’ve done some freelancing before, or they have small businesses already. They join the Literati to recommit to their love of writing as they get deeper into their writing careers or because they want to take their “passion” more seriously.

Many of our writers are bloggers, self-employed copywriters, freelance writers, novelists (including several NaNoWriMo winners), even writer-photographers and writer-web designers. The great part is that no matter where you are on this scale, you’re never being judged or compared against fellow writers—what unites you is a love of writing, learning, sharing and growing.

So all you need to have is an interest in honing your focus and direction, and upping your game to create even higher quality, higher level work, whether books, projects or services. Our writers stick around because they love the community that supports them throughout their many ventures and exploration of new ideas.

7. What do you think is the most important thing people take away from being in the Literati group? [one thing!]

A FEW FUN FACTS

… 5 Things Most People Don’t Know About You (and you would be okay keeping that way!)

1.) I grew up never liking literature, English class or poetry. I treated reading like it was pulling teeth. I remember distinctively scoffing (out loud) when I heard one my high school teachers describe transcendentalism and the stories of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Since then? I made Walden Pond into a day-retreat to read, hike and meditate away from the Boston city commotion; I published a book of my own free-form poetry in 2012; and I teach writing, artistry and creativity for a living.

2.) Becoming depressed was one of the best things to have ever happened to me. I was 23-years-old. Falling depressed and feeling “out of answers” made a difficult decision seem easy, like it was the only choice I had to make: to quit my job, abandon my young career path, forget everything that I had planned and begin all over again. I started writing to explore myself, understand who I was and make sense of my place in the world around me. Depression helped me get from a place where I knew I couldn’t remain to a place of chance, possibility and hope — one that would eventually lead me to flourish.

3.) I once paid $650 for a bottle of vodka in Las Vegas when I was younger. I’m still trying to make up for that deep a level of “douchery” and hope the $1,000 I helped raise for charity last October (by wearing a school dress in public) starts to make up for it.

4.) I moved to Washington D.C. to be a White House intern in 2008 and I quietly dreamed of becoming a Presidential speechwriter one day. Rhetoric is a natural passion of mine as a writer. I think that today, by contrast, I certainly now prefer writing for myself than I ever would writing words for someone else—even a President.

5.) I always sleep next to a book, notepad and pen. I make sure to keep a book near from a divine writer like Gibran, Thoreau, or Rumi whose words are truly worthy of sharing that sacred dreaming space. I also have a habit of writing a poem, essay, note or short prayer right before sleep. What’s great is that I often forget what I write (since the brain is already powering down), so it’s pretty interesting to look back on them the next morning or even months later.

… Favorite writer (ONE!)

These days, it’s Rumi, the great 13th century Sufi poet and writer.

… Favorite writing resources…

I’d be a shameful entrepreneur if I didn’t give my digital writers’ group, the Literati, a shout-out! Other than that, I believe our best writing resources come from organic, authentic experiences like writing more, reading lots of different modern day and historical writers, as well as simply living out in the world. The best writers have experienced profound depths of life itself, spanning stories, hardships, successes and ordinary faces in the street. Live more, and watch the writing follow…

–> JOIN THE LITERATI

The Literati has officially relaunched and is accepting new members for the first time in over five months. You can join throughout the month of January!! Learn More and Join. [This is an affiliate link which means if you decide to join the writing group, I will be given a small referral fee. I like to keep things transparent :).]  

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This week went by quickly! I am studying this weekend for a midterm this coming week—my last midterm (for the semester). So many thoughts to share, so many questions to pose, so many experiences to record. I long for pockets of time to write here. Do you ever feel like life is just moving too quickly? That you could push a convenient little pause button? While my words may not be as frequent at the moment, I’m still here—thinking, dreaming, and doing. I hope you’re still here too :).

A few links For Your Inspiration 

… Discovered Cheri Huber’s website this week and cannot stop going through all of the resources (focused on compassion and awareness)

What we see is never the whole story (beautifully vulnerable story written by Aidan Donnelley Rowley for the Huffington Post)

… One day, I hope to be able to write/blog like Seth Godin. Seriously, he writes the most poignant pieces each day using so few words.

… I was going to write a whole separate post about this calming technique. But I’ve used it so many times since reading about it that I thought I better share it sooner rather than later. Don’t let its simplicity fool you.

… Such a brave post

Did you put on your positive panties today? (backing this kickstarted project!)

image: pinwheel designs

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This week has been full of administrative work—lots of forms to fill out and meetings to attend. Which means I am now looking at a desk piled with random notes and far too many emails to process. I hope to spend this weekend pulling all the loose ends together so I can feel somewhat organized on Monday morning (classes begin next week).

Do you have any fun plans for this weekend? Or do you have any organizing goals before Monday?

And for those moments of needed inspiration, I hope you will enjoy the links I’ve collected below!

… [video] Why is writing so hard and slow? (via Kelly Parkinson, Content Dreamhouse)

The Art of Vogue Covers (via Miss Moss)

… Just discovered the unique online design shop, Uncovet

30 Indispensable Writing Tips from Famous Authors (thank you, Ashley!) [amazing images with the tips]

Wishing you a beautifully simply weekend!

image: the wheatfield by katie daisy

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Aug 15

Why I Blog

I started blogging as an escape. I needed a way to process what I was feeling and experiencing. When I began blogging, I didn’t journal. I had never considered writing as an outlet. At the time, I saw writing as a form of work, not something I did unless I had to. I didn’t consider blogging to be writing, but rather a form of scrapbooking (note: this assumption has changed!). It felt safe to me, especially since I kept it completely anonymous the first few months.

I began blogging in December 2008 and my book came out in August 2009. Towards the beginning of that summer, blogging became a means of marketing my book. I began blogging for Psychology Today and Huffington Post—in addition to A Beautiful Ripple Effect. Blogging was a means to an end for me. For about a year, I was intensely focused on how to be the best blogger—how to write compelling headlines that got clicks and how to write persuasive calls to action. Each post felt formulaic. And I began to burn out. I couldn’t maintain the laser focus and intense working hours needed to be the best blogger while trying to do everything else on my plate.

I began to pull back—posting less on Psychology Today and Huffington Post and loosening the structure on A Beautiful Ripple Effect. While this felt great, it didn’t look great to me. I began to see my traffic drop considerably on A Beautiful Ripple Effect. I felt like I was giving up on all I had worked hard to create. With these feelings of inadequacy, I began asking myself (and still ask myself), “why do I blog?” 

Is this a silly little hobby that I will outgrow? Am I looking for external reinforcement—that I am seen and heard, that I am a part of a bigger community? Am I interested in this conversation that I am contributing to—the conversation about about vulnerability, wellbeing, and connection—beyond my role as a blogger? Should I take a break to create distance between myself and blogging, to hopefully illuminate the purpose of my blogging?

These are all questions that run through my mind (and on the pages of my journal) when pondering the role of blogging in my life. I think the answer to my question is always changing—blogging serves different purposes for me at different times. Yet, blogging is an anchor in my life. Amidst the changes associated with being a 20-something, blogging has been a constant. It has been something I can do regardless of where I am and what I know and don’t know. It’s an outlet for my never ending questions and always evolving theories. It’s an incredibly fascinating capsule of my life.

I don’t know if I’ll ever feel good enough as a blogger. But for some reason, this is the only role in my life that I am okay with feelings of inadequacy. It keeps me constantly exploring my intentions and reworking my path.

I don’t know how long my journey as a blogger will last. There may come a day when I know that it is over. But I’m not ready yet. I still have many more questions to explore and changes to create.

I would love to know… are you on a blogging journey? why do you blog?

photo: wallums

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Sitting outside, I am listening to the waves move rhythmically. My journal is open to a blank page. A cool breeze flips the page and I wonder, “Could there be a more perfect setting for your most brilliant words to arrive with ease?” This is the type of setting writers dream about during bouts of writer’s block. If only, we think—If only we could be transported to this magical place, the words would move smoothly through us.

With steadfast concentration, I grasp my pen tightly—waiting for the words to spill onto the page. I am in my zone.

Then, my husband, Ben, (whose top bucket list item is to swim with dolphins) spots a dolphin jumping in the waves of the Mediterranean. He is filled with excitement, imprinting this moment to memory. He hurries over to where I am sitting to tell me about this joyous experience. He couldn’t believe something so simple and fleeting could alter his state of mind and his perspective of what he wants to relish now, not later. I begin to show a little agitation—my zone has been interrupted! My agitation doesn’t abate his excitement. Rather, he proclaims that this is what I need to write about, this simple experience. Its simplicity is what makes it profound. To which I reply, “No Way! I’m going to write about something powerful, something moving, something brilliant….” He gets the hint to leave me in my zone and walks back to where he can look for more spontaneous joy riding the waves.

Alone again with my journal and pen, I realize that maybe just this once he is right. Because what is more powerful than noticing the beauty around you and allowing that beauty to affect your mindset? It’s far easier to notice beauty and to share that beauty with others (hello, instagram)—skipping the sharing with ourselves. We often relish beauty at a superficial level rather than let it affect us a bit deeper.

Change is simple really—it is the willingness to create change and to look outside our comfort zone that makes it a bit more complicated.

Heed the advice of Ben, notice what brings you joy—become captivated by that joy and allow its simple lessons to enter your life. At the very least, the next time you are looking at the waves, look for a jumping dolphin.

Smile. Breathe. Feel that moment of joy.

And I think to myself, what a wonderful world. —Louis Armstrong

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Have you had an experience with dolphins? What simple observation brings you joy?

image: original source unknown

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