Learn a new language, gain a new soul

Czech proverb, “Learn a new language, gain a new soul,” is so beautifully illustrated by Robin Wall Kimmerer’s practicing her ancestor’s language, Potawatomi. She is even more fluent in botany.

I loved Krista Tippett’s interview with her:

On Being: “The Intelligence in All Kinds of Life”

The Daily Good reposted her essay from The Moon Magazine:

Robin Wall Kimmerer, “Learning the Grammar of Anomacy”

Robin inspires me. In her own struggle to learn a language with nine remaining speakers, she is helping keep that language alive. Even her beginning, broken Potawatomi is deeply meaningful. Every new word counts. Every attempt to view of the world through a new language enriches our souls and our world.

She says, “I remember the words of Bill Tall Bull, a Cheyenne elder. As a young person, I spoke to him with a heavy heart, lamenting that I had no native language with which to speak to the plants and the places that I love. ‘They love to hear the old language,’ he said, ‘it’s true.’ But, he said, with fingers on his lips, ‘You don’t have to speak it here, if you speak it here,’ he said, patting his chest. ‘They will hear you.'”

Tree in sunlight copyright_ooyoo_iStock_5889617
Photo © ooyoo, iStockPhoto #5889617

Gwyn Nichols

WritersResort.com

Write Your Book This Year: Give Me Ten

Are you waiting for your retreat, vacation, sabbatical, or retirement to write your book? Uninterrupted time sounds luxurious, and then it can be overwhelming. Whenever I reserve a day for my own project, I celebrate, then usually flounder and remember Julia Cameron’s metaphor, comparing uninterrupted time to a bolt of antique silk. It can be hard to cut into.

As I thought of that recently, I remembered a PBS show, Sewing with Nancy, featuring “10-20-30 Minutes to Sew.” Nancy showed viewers how to create even a fully tailored jacket in tiny pockets of time. She recommended identifying each step, prepping materials the way a chef preps ingredients, and systematically advancing a project day by day.

Sewing with Nancy 30 Years screenshotAnd get this: Nancy is still on the air. It’s the longest running sewing show ever. Teaching her audience to fit hobbies into busy schedules must be one key to her success, and this approach probably renews her own creative stamina.

For her McCall’s patterns, Nancy says, “I don’t have hours to spend sewing every day. Just a few minutes here or there can quickly add up to a finished project!” Go, Nancy!

Few people would wait for a sabbatical to piece a quilt. You don’t need one to write a book either. So drop everything and give me 10, only 10.

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Text © Gwyn Nichols 2013. All rights reserved. WritersResort.com

Screenshot of Sewing with Nancy from Wisconsin Public Television

Write Your Book This Year: How to Write Right Now

"God Calling" © DarkCloud, iStockPhoto #7909523
“God Calling” © DarkCloud

Are you trying to squeeze your dream into your life, or will you fit your life into your dream?

If you are waiting for magical writing time to appear on the horizon (perhaps after you retire), then you, like me, will discover that mirages cannot be caught. Instead, when we stop where we are, and dig deep, time appears and expands. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Calendar the upcoming week. Block out the set commitments and routines. Outline the available hours for everything you want to do. Designate some as writing time.
  2. Begin and close each planning and writing session by connecting with divine guidance, in whatever way that works for you. Ask that your writing be of service to others and meet your own needs.
  3. Carry a journal or notebook around. Steal moments, capture ideas.
  4. Keep Morning Pages. Julia Cameron suggests three pages written first thing. It works best half asleep, and scribbling. These don’t count as writing. It’s usually the second half, after I run out of ideas, when ideas begin to flow.
  5. Count the ways you’re already writing. E-mailing, blogging? Copy those notes into one file. Plan ways to share your book in segments.
  6. Next week, we’ll talk about fear. Until then, write anyway.

What helps you fit your dream into your life? Or your life into your dream?

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Text © Gwyn Nichols 2013. All rights reserved. WritersResort.com

Photo “God Calling” © DarkCloud, iStockPhoto #7909523

Writing Detox

Sheila Patel, MD, of the Chopra Center suggests “9 Practices for Seasonal Detoxification,” many of which you might expect from a “board-certified family physician and Ayurvedic expert.” She prescribes an organized or do-it-yourself healing retreat of meditation, mind-body exercise, foods, herbs, sauna, massage, rest, nature–and writing.

9.)  Keep a Journal
Writing is an extremely useful tool for self-reflection and emotional detoxification. Take time each evening to write about what you have been feeling both physically and emotionally. Note what you are grateful for, and then try to identify things in your life that you would like to eliminate. Write about how it will feel when these things have been eliminated—and also identify what you would like to bring into this space that you will create in your life.

Writing will change your life! Here Dr. Patel touches on several reasons for that. Self-reflection is good for brain functioning, stress reduction, and creativity, especially when focused on gratitude, and when it leads to making positive changes.

And for the writing retreats I often recommend, you may spend more time writing, but I hope you’ll also incorporate many of Dr. Patel’s suggestions. Enjoy the rest of her article here: http://www.chopracenterhealingwisdom.com/?p=452

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Text © Gwyn Nichols 2012. All rights reserved. WritersResort.com

What’s Your Style?

This one is for those of you who already write in complete, yet not inexhaustible sentences, and wonder whether you have any style.

Of course, you do–just as you have a personality style, a speaking style, a breathing rhythm, a driving style. You can’t help it. You are an original because you are the only one. Whether you want to tweak your writing style is up to you. (My favorite book on style is Trimble’s Writing with Style.)

David L. L. Houston enumerates some of the features that distinguish one author’s style from another, and I liked his style. What’s Your Style?

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Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011

How to Succeed in American Business

Teaching in a multicultural environment often includes overtly explaining American business culture and helping students practice that language. For starters, there’s the direct eye contact, the body language, the smiling, the small talk, the willingness to let people know you’re accomplishing something–while not crossing the line into boasting.

In “Looking at the Bamboo Ceiling,” NPR’s Melissa Block and Michele Norris interviewed Wesley Yang, author of “Paper Tigers: What Happens to All Of The Asian-American Overachievers When the Test-taking Ends?” and Jane Hyun, author of Breaking The Bamboo Ceiling. Both write about “Asian-American students’ over-representation in almost every index of achievement in education . . .  and under-representation in corporate leadership.” They describe the adjustments they have made to be as successful in business as they were in the classroom. They’ve learned to share achievements, and to connect socially through the nonverbal cues.

Hyun tells the story of working on spreadsheets while a colleague seemed to waste a few minutes every day, chatting with the boss. Hyun’s background had taught her to put her nose down, work hard, all alone at her desk; no one taught her that building relationships would also matter.

Yang explains that in many places in the world, if you went around smiling all the time, “you’d be perceived not as a friendly person, but as a crazy one.” He finds it handy to use his “Asian poker face” at times, and jokes that he hasn’t learned to smile, but notes that “the United States has a different expectation, and if you don’t meet that expectation, there will in many cases be a barrier to trust and acceptance . . . your whole life on the basis of something that seems so trivial and . . . can be changed.”

Just as Americans need to learn new communication styles when they work internationally, many of our own students require bicultural fluency to be successful. I tell students from backgrounds where direct eye contact is considered rude that staring at someone’s nose looks exactly like eye contact without being quite as uncomfortable for them. And I encourage them to retain the gifts of their own cultures, and to continue to use their cultural nonverbal traditions at home, while learning to speak “American business” at work and school. These additional cultural ideas make all the difference in American career and social success:

  • The American business sense of time requires punctuality and a full day of work all day every day.
  • You’re required to communicate. If you can’t come in, or you’re going to be late, you call your boss and make a new agreement. You don’t wander off early without letting people know what’s happening. (You also take the loss on your timecard if you’re hourly, or let people know how you’ll make up the work if you’re on salary.)
  • When you make a mistake, you apologize and learn out how to correct it or improve next time. Neither ignoring a mistake nor treating a correction as an attack on your honor will help you work things out.
  • Smoking won’t entitle you to extra breaks and won’t be socially acceptable in most workplaces. According to a 2009 Center for Disease Control report, high school dropouts smoked at a rate of over 28%, while those with graduate degrees were down to 5.6%. Yes, that would probably be the toughest adjustment you could make, but you wouldn’t be the first person to quit, and every organ in your 60-year-old body would thank you.

All of these learned behaviors are challenging, but possible. If someone offered you an extra $10,000 a year, or $100K, would you do it? That’s the invitation. You are officially invited to the ball. Feel free to dress up, put on your American business manners, and shine.

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Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011

Friday Flick: Music with Shining Eyes

If you’ve never loved classical music before, give Ben Zander twenty-one minutes to change your heart. If you’ve loved it already, share this with someone who could use a little healing. Ben conducts the Boston Philharmonic and speaks about his transformative experience with Landmark Education–a beautiful combination. This is Benjamin Zander’s TED talk.

Benjamin Zander at TED: Music with Shining Eyes
Benjamin Zander at TED: Music with Shining Eyes

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Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011

Image YouTube screenshot