Last night I finished the book Green on Blue by Elliot Ackerman. Wow, what an ending. Ackerman carefully and slowly builds the story and the reader’s connection to the characters. The main character, Aziz is a young Afghani boy who is forced to make a decision when his brother is maimed by a bomb that goes off in the market. His older brother is Ali, a sibling who cares and provides for his brother when they lose both of their parents in conflict. The style is reminiscent of Hemingway in its sparse, simple yet powerful imagery. I enjoy this style. Hemingway is my hero, and I recently finished A Farewell to Arms as well. These books also helped me as I have been writing my book about female soldiers in war.
Green on Blue was devastatingly powerful at the end. I feel like it built on the tension so well, there was this moment where the action began to escalate and culminated in an ending that was both tragic but also understandable for Aziz. Twice I was reduced to tears by Aziz’s relationship with an old man he bonds with and also with his caring, older brother, Ali. I can’t write too much without revealing things, but believe me the novel is worth reading. It was devastatingly profound at the end.
This is a novel that examines why people go to war. Ackerman fought in Afghanistan and shows a profound understanding of the complexity in the conflict in this country. I emailed Ackerman when I returned from New York to tell him how I loved his book and ask him a question. He answered my email and I was very touched that he made that effort.
Green on Blue is a profound work of art. I was blown away by the end of the novel, in its sad reality, but also the love that was present as well.
I must now say that I am reading a book that does not involve war, as my previous books I have read were: The Kite Runner, A Farewell to Arms, Green on Blue and Far from the Madding Crowd (which is a profound and beautifully written book). Now, I am seeking something light and comedic so I got a book for my birthday, Marian Keyes, Sushi For Beginners. It’s good to completely change it up and read something more lighthearted. I am going to read Dickens after this.
Check out Green on Blue, it was very powerful. 🙂 Thanks for reading. Have a great day.
Recently, a reader asked me if it was better to write by hand or is it better by computer? There are two answers to this. For writing therapy, I firmly believe if you can write by hand you should be doing that. It is more beneficial to write by hand. If you are writing notes for classes, or trying to learn something, then again handwriting is better, however not as crucial.
This question has come up quite a few times in my workshops or conversations with people who are using my book. I have experienced the benefits of using handwriting in my own writing therapy, and also in my creative process. Since then I found studies that proved this was the case.
Let me start with my own point of view and then I will give you some of the research done about using handwriting and its benefits.
Writing by hand is my practice and I also recommend it to people in my workshops as it allows the participant to effectively express their emotions, memories and to delve deeply into your unconscious for healing. In my own writing therapy practice, I pick up a pen and I use paper, it may be in a journal or it may be a piece of paper that I then destroy later. But it is ALWAYS a pen and paper. My emotions, thoughts, memories and pain can be effectively released in using a pen.
I have seen many other people in my workshops and my friends as well, also experience this by using a pen and paper. I tried typing into a computer and I was not able to release myself from pain the way I can with my humble pen and paper. The reason seems to be that it is a much more visceral experience, it allows me through my hands to write the words down in long form whereas typing in my view, puts some distance from my emotions and the page.
Apart from handwriting in writing therapy, I use a pen and paper in my creative writing, in my stories, poems, scripts, and novels. My practice is to write by hand first of all as it allows me to access my creativity in a more free and fluid manner. I can feel the character or the scene or the emotion coming through my hand onto the paper. I cannot explain why but my practice has always been writing by hand and then typing this up onto the computer. Then editing hard copy with a pen and making changes on the computer. So, I am a big believer in using pen and paper. J
Writing by hand has been shown to help you to learn and process in a better way, we even remember the notes we have taken more when we write by hand. Studies have found people who write long hand process the concepts deeper and access their memory and deeper emotions because of the physical nature of the process.
Handwriting crosses both sides of our brain using a pen and paper, and activates the Reticular Activating System (RAS). According to Lifehacker, “The RAS acts as a filter for everything your brain needs to process, giving more importance to the stuff that you’re actively focusing on that moment — something that the physical act of writing brings to the forefront.” (Chris Gayomali, Mental Floss 2015).
Psychology Today (2013) reported that studies have shown that when children learn cursive writing it utilises much more of the brain than typing on a computer does.
“In the case of learning cursive writing, the brain develops functional specialization that integrates both sensation, movement control, and thinking. Brain imaging studies reveal that multiple areas of brain become co-activated during the learning of cursive writing of pseudo-letters, as opposed to typing or just visual practice.”
From the research I have read and from my experience this act of physically forming the letters in handwriting activates part of our brain that is not activated when we type. This allows us to focus more on the emotions, memories, the things we are writing about than when we are typing the words not forming them with our pen. There is a physical connection to the words that are coming out of our unconscious. It is this that helps us connect to ourselves, our pain and allows us to release ourselves through this process.
It is a powerful thing to write by hand.
Writing by hand crosses both sides of your brain. This fact also goes hand in hand with writing therapy as writing therapy crosses both sides of your brain as well, the cognitive thinking part and the emotional, expressive and artistic side in retelling your emotions (Little Things, Johanna Silver). Everyone is different but the action of handwriting stimulates both sides of the brain and is extremely beneficial for your creative and problem-solving abilities.
Fully Engages Your Brain
Psychologists (Psychology Today 2013) have found that handwriting requires you to use more of your motor skills, and activates a series of links in your brain called the “reading circuit.” In an Indiana University study, (James, K.H. and Engelhardt, L. 2013) researchers conducted brain scans five year olds after receiving letter-learning instruction, in the children who practiced using handwriting the brain activity was far more enhanced and “adult-like” than in those who simply looked at letters.
“The brain’s “reading circuit” of linked regions that are activated during reading was activated during hand writing, but not during typing. This lab has also demonstrated that writing letters in meaningful context, as opposed to just writing them as drawing objects, produced much more robust activation of many areas in both hemispheres.”
It is the best way to learn
One of the most effective ways to study and retain new information is to rewrite your notes by hand. That’s because putting ink to paper stimulates a part of the brain called the Reticular Activating System, or the RAS. According to Lifehacker, “The RAS acts as a filter for everything your brain needs to process, giving more importance to the stuff that you’re actively focusing on that moment — something that the physical act of writing brings to the forefront.” (Chris Gayomali, Mental Floss Website, 2015)
Taking notes on a laptop may be a lot faster — but research proves that those who take notes by hand actually remember more of the information than those who don’t.
Writing forces you to slow down, which is an excellent thing for our memory and brain function. Psychologist, Virginia Berninger from The University of Washington studied children in primary school and told the New York Times: “With handwriting, the very act of putting it down forces you to focus on what’s important.”
Citing a study published in Developmental Neuropsychology, the Times reported: “printing, cursive writing, and typing on a keyboard are all associated with distinct and separate brain patterns… When the children composed text by hand, they not only consistently produced more words more quickly than they did on a keyboard, but expressed more ideas.”
It keeps your brain sharp as you get older
Writing longhand is a workout. No, not necessarily for your wrist, but for your brain. According to The Wall Street Journal, some physicians claim the act of writing—which engages your motor-skills, memory, and more — is good cognitive exercise for baby boomers to keep their minds sharp as they get older (Mental Floss, 2015).
Writing by hand can also calm the mind and ease depression and anxiety
An article by Little Things, interviewed graphologist and handwriting expert Dr. Marc Seifer, “Jotting down a sentence like, ‘I will be more peaceful’ at least 20 times per day can actually have an impact, especially on those with attention deficit disorder.”
What I know to be true is that writing therapy by using handwriting releases your sadness, anger, worry, anxiety, unforgiveness and many other areas more effectively than with a computer or the typing process. This physical act can have a calming influence as well on your mind. J Hand writing allows you to connect in a greater way to the words expressed, your emotions and memories then it provides greater healing as I have stated above.
Since writing puts to work more parts of your mind than typing, it encourages more creativity. There are also subtle aspects of writing by hand that are more artistic than typing because each person’s handwriting is completely their own.
If you need to tame your short attention span, writing by hand will help keep you focused.
Overall, the consensus is handwriting is better on many levels. In writing therapy use handwriting, for other tasks that you need to type, that’s fine. But for writing therapy it is very important to use a pen I believe, unless you had a disability and then typing would be okay.
Anyway, I hope this has helped answer the question! Go well and go forth write down your feelings by hand with pen, pencil, marker, or colourful pen, whatever you wish. Go well!
As I am getting ready for the pitch conference in September I have been given the assignment of writing a pitch or blurb. It is such a good technique – if you go to books similar to yours, in genre or subject matter and find the back covers of these books or the blurbs. Have a look at how they have written these. It is such a good exercise because then you can see how to write your own blurb or pitch for your book. I have done that today.
Remember with either a blurb or pitch you need to have the reader asking questions, wondering what will happen, creating suspense and wanting to read to know what happens. This is the essence of story, isn’t it? Suspense.
Go, and do this exercise if you are thinking of writing a book or have written one. It has really helped me to summarise my book and write a blurb/pitch that makes the person listening feel something. The person needs to care about your story otherwise they will not be engaged. I am excited about this exercise. It has taught me a lot. When I read my blurb it makes me feel the tension in the novel and that is your test. Try it. I think it will be a great exercise for you! Happy reading or writing! 🙂
In my recent workshops I decided to end the session with a quote from Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. This quote inspired and spurred me onto to continue to create and be proud of the end product that I produce. No matter what happens. I have always felt this since I was young, that no matter whether you are successful (some of the most phenomenal artists in the world were not successful commercially in their lives) in financial terms or not you have created something from nothing.
Be proud of all the work and the creative process, you created something from nothing. You created characters that did not exist, and a narrative in which they lived and breathed, succeeded or failed, loved and fought for those they loved. In my novel I am finishing currently, there is life and death, there is love and loss and there is life. It is based on the real women who fought in Syria, loosely based on real people but no one in particular. I created these women, their lives, families, the world that the reader lives in. I had to research so much of this novel as it is completely outside my knowledge of the world and use my imagination of course. It was very difficult. But this is what an artist does, they challenge themselves and want to see things from other people’s point of view. That’s what I wanted to tell the stories of these amazing, brave women!
Anyway, I wanted to share this quote as I believe it will spur you on as well, in whatever creative endeavour you find yourself in. I love it, it makes me emotional when I read it. 🙂 Happy writing and have a great day.
“Bring forth what is within you, then, whether it succeeds or fails. Do it whether the final product…is crap or gold. Do it whether the critics love or hate you or whether the critics have never heard of you and perhaps never will hear of you. Do it whether people get it or don’t get it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and it doesn’t have to be Plato. It’s all just an instinct, and an experiment, and a mystery, so begin. Begin anywhere. Preferably, now. And if greatness should ever accidentally stumble upon you, let it catch you hard at work.”
My book is available for free for five days, feel free to download it and check it out. The link is below. 🙂 Thanks heaps for reading. I would love your reviews after you have downloaded it. Have a great day! Suzanne
Yesterday, my book was in the Top 31 in the Amazon Best Sellers download list. 🙂
My next workshop, next month is going to be about my passion, which is novel writing. We will look at how other phenomenal writers have achieved in my opinion perfection in their novels. Come and be inspired and we can work together on bringing your vision to fruition.
I am completing my novel that I started in December 2015 and I wrote it in conjunction with my Master of Arts. I will share my knowledge and experience with this process.
Join with other writers to take your writing seriously but also have a lot of fun. 🙂
Information for the workshops:
Have you ever wanted to write a novel or novella? Does it seem a bit daunting? In these two workshops we will examine what makes a quality work of fiction, how we can create effective and compelling characters, narrative movement, structure, voice, vivid description and much more.
Have you started a novel and become stuck in how to structure it or wonder if it is on the right track? We will discuss how to structure our novels and make our readers feel completely immersed in the worlds we are creating.
These workshops will get you writing and exploring the kaleidoscope of aspects that form good novels. Suzanne has recently completed a Master of Creative Writing and is currently completing a novel about women fighting in Syria. She will share the knowledge gained through her novel and through her Masters study. Come and join this fun, friendly creative environment to help you complete your masterpiece. 🙂
It is $110 for two morning sessions from Sat May 5, 12- 9:30-11:30am.
Venue: Goodlife Community Centre, Buderim
Cafe available downstairs.
Contact Suzanne on email@example.com to book in. Pre-booking is essential.
Courage is my main theme for the novel I am writing about the brave Kurdish women who fought Daesh in Kobani and won. The courage I see in them –inspired me to be courageous to travel to the middle east on my own, for research and travel in 2016.
I am galloping towards the end of this novel and am constantly spurred on by the story of these women and my central characters. I have had to do extensive research to capture the reality of war for these women. I have spent hundreds of hours of research over more than two years of writing this novel. I have a few more chapters to write and I am itching to be able to do this around work and being a mother.
I follow Hemingway’s advice however, he recommends to always leave water in the well for the next day of writing. I seek to do this. I seek to stop writing while I am still inspired and, in the zone, so that I can continue this passion the following day.
After I have finished these chapters I know there will be more rewriting as every author has to do, but I am excited to get to this complete manuscript. There may be more scenes to be added, but I will know the story arc, character development and texturing is done for what I want to do at this point.
I am excited. Then starts the process of rewriting and then sending out to agents and publishers. Writers, authors need to remember this is a long process. I am prepared for it but I am excited to be finishing the manuscript.
Every writer must be prepared for more rewriting than they realise, every good author does this. At university I was shown pictures of all the corrections made to The Great Gatsby, which encouraged me a lot. This book, is a triumph, a perfect novel in my mind. So, let’s remember that all the great writers had to rewrite, so that is part of the process. However, soon I will know that the manuscript will be done to what I want to create. Then we will see. Then I can send it out.
Anyway, back to the theme of courage, my novel looks at the idea that only men are courageous and in this narrative it is clear that women are courageous. In some cases, more courageous than men. But it is not a competition, just to say that women are courageous all over the world and have to deal with many serious threats to their lives and wellbeing. This novel is inspired by these real-life women who have fought and given their lives and shown amazing courage beyond comprehension! They also remind me to be courageous in my novel writing as well, attempting to write about something I have not experienced, within a culture I have not grown up with. Courageous or silly, I don’t know. (Haha)
But be courageous in your writing! It’s worth it.
I will let you know when I finish the manuscript. Thank you for reading. 🙂
Most of the readers of this blog cannot attend a workshop in my area, but I am posting this to keep people informed of the latest workshops.
In my area, I am running a Memoir Writing workshop:
When: Saturday, March 17 and March 24
Location: Goodlife Community Centre, Buderim
Cost: $90 for two Saturday workshops.
Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org to book in 😀
If you have started your memoirs or want to start, I can help you. Whether you need the motivation to keep going or an idea of how to start this workshop will help you in all of these areas. From inspiration, to structure, humour, timing, description, character and place, we will cover the varied aspects of writing a memoir. You will also be doing exercises and starting to examine your own work. You cannot learn to write without writing, so I will help you start and continue this journey. 🙂
I would love to hear from you with any questions or to book your place in my workshops. 🙂
I just thought I would share my Amazon page. I am gearing up for this year and I am excited about various projects and opportunities that are in the pipeline. I am completing the final writing and editing of my novel. I am excited to see what this year brings! I have just gotten back from glorious New Zealand, what a stunning country.
Also, my short story collection will be free as of tomorrow for 5 days, so I will let you know about this. I have a new print version of this and it includes poetry as well. Anyway, I will let you know about these things, when it is time. Have a fab day! Suzanne 😀