Archive for the 'Africa' Category

Journaling For Stress Release – Part II

Even though many of us complain about stress, in many ways it can make you feel both alive and alert. Personally, I do my best work when under a little bit of stress. The pressure of deadlines, for example, is a great motivator. There have been many studies around the benefits and perils of stress. One study I read recently indicated that those who say they need stress to survive might have been abused as children or permanently affected in the womb after being exposed to high levels of cortisol during gestation. Years ago, my Aunt Lilly gave me a book called, Stress Without Distress by Hans Seyle and many of the principles have stuck with me. Lilly said that book saved her life. She was not only as a female entrepreneur after World War II, but also a survivor of Auschwitz and a widow. Hans Seyle was in the forefront of stress research and science in the 1930s and he believed strongly in good stress, which he coined as, “eustress.’ In fact he saw stress as “the salt of life.” Seyle believed that stress made us human. On a recent trip to Africa, I witnessed that animals experience stress, on a very primitive fight or flight level. It was interesting and enlightening to witness the stress response in animals who were actually in life-threatening situations. Sometimes it helps to remember what may be threatening us isn’t so extreme after all, and may in fact, be positive and life-affirming.

Journaling About Inspiring Moments

 Whenever a writer moves on, I believe we should take a moment to reflect on their work and I have made this my own particular practice. Even if you were not a great admirer of their work, I believe it is important to stop and examine not only their contributions to the literary world, but also what drove them to the page in the first place.

In yesterdays’ newspaper, I learned that the confessional poet, W.D. Snodgrass had died of old age. I had not read a lot of his work, but with the click of my Google finger it was easy to read some of his most popular poems. Even though Snodgrass wrote more than 30 books, the book of poetry which brought him his Pulitzer Prize in 1960 was called Heart’s Needle. This particular book grew from his apparent heartbreak of losing custody of his daughter in a very bitter divorce.

Even though many have credited Snodgrass as the founding member of confessional poetry, he disliked the term, believing it had too many religious connotations and he was not religious. I tend to agree, although the term for me denotes a certain amount of intimacy and an invitation for the reader to enter into the poet’s life.

Most authors are compelled to the page because of an inciting incident, something that may have happened early in their lives. I have always been fascinated by studying these inciting incidents amongst my peers. For me, personally, the incident which drove me to the journal and a lifetime of writing was the suicide of my grandmother.

Reading about Snodgrass’ life inspired me to journal about inciting incidents. What about you Are you able to identify what has drawn you to the written word? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

Traveling For Inspiration

p10002641My recent trip to Africa continues to be a major source of inspiration for me. I continue to generate poems about the experience and jot down notes and ideas in my journal as subjects for future stories.

Traveling can be a source of inspiration for everyone. William Randolph Hearst is a perfect example. Yesterday, I had the honor to visit The Hearst Castle in San Simenon, a mind-boggling property overlooking some of California’s most magnificent coastal views. The actual castle sits on a hilltop at the end of a winding road up from the Pacific. The castle’s design was inspired by Hearst’s travels as a little boy. When he was about ten his mother decided to take him on a one-and-a-half year trip to Europe, exploring its culture and magnificence. It is there where he developed his fascination and appreciation for castles and architecture. Little did his mother know how that trip would have affected him for the rest of his life.

These days people do not have a lot of disposable income and traveling is often the first expense to be cut from the budget. The fact is, you don’t need a lot of money to travel. It might just mean getting in the car and driving somewhere different, taking a book and a journal and seeing where the experience takes you. If you live in the city, you can even hop on the  bus or train and make believe you are somewhere else. Let your imagination run wild and take you places you’ve never been before.

We all need inspiration, particularly when times are thought, so give yourself a break and go somewhere, it does not have to be far and it does not have to be expensive!

My Journaling Safari

I am slowly getting over jetlag, as well as sifting through 14 days of unread email. This was the longest I’ve ever gone without access to a computer or the internet. We were truly in the middle of nowhere.

Our first touchdown was Johannesburg and my daughter’s luggage got lost which meant we had to spend two days there awaiting it’s arrival. It turned out to be a blessing since the rest of the trip was in the jungle. We had a chance to see the 2010 Olympic site and visit the Apartheid Museum. Then it was on to small plane rides to Namibia, Botswanna and Zimbabwe. It was other-worldly and impossible to put into a few words.

All I can say is that when you are in the wild like we were and taking game rides each day, your senses are very heightened. We had many amazing sightings– lions, cheetahs, warhogs, baboons, red lechwe, onyx, giraffes, elephants, zebras, cape buffalo, hippopotamus, monkeys, hyenas and an amazing selections of exotic birds were all within arms reach.

I journaled my way through Africa and hope to write a book one day, but I haven’t decided whether it should be a creative non-fiction work or a book of poems. (any recommendations welcome!) My daughter, Rachel is a photographer so we have some fabulous photos, many from the vantage point of jeeps and hot air balloons.

Here is one of the poems gleaned from my journal: 

Bush Solace

When left alone in an African jungle

what snippets of our lives

are captured in the treasure boxes

of our memories?


What artifacts

call us to our pasts?

What carries

the comforts of home

and the yearnings of tomorrow?


In this darkness

offered by the jungle

on its platter of sounds

where lions growl,

hyenas howl and

vultures wait until its over


Home is different to everyone.





Happy New Year !

Just like we ended last year with writing exercises, I want to start the New Year with the same. Just hours ago my family and I just returned from two weeks in Africa and when I when I dig out my journal from my suitcase, I will tell you about this spectacular journey, but in the meantime, I thought I’d give you a few ideas to kick start today’s writing:

  • Write about a favorable moment or day during the holidays.
  • Write about what you like or dislike about the holidays.
  • Write about any New Year’s resolutions you may have.
  • Create a scene where something out of the ordinary happens.
  • Imagine the people who lived in your home before you. Create a dialogue of their discuss about moving.

Cheers and happy writing!


Quote of the Week

"A writer uses a journal to try out the new step in front of the mirror."

~Mary Gordon

About Me

I am a memoirist, essayist, poet and teacher whose passion is keeping a notebook. My notebook is my muse and my alter ego. It contains personal snippets of my life and observations from the world around me. Diarist Anaïs Nin has been a great source of inspiration for me. My hobbies include writing, writing and more writing, but when I have extra time, I enjoy reading, walking, hiking, yoga, working out, cooking and hanging out with my family and Maltese Poodle, Spunky. In order not to become ensconced by the glare of my computer screen, I also teach in the UCLA Extension Writers' Program and in various conferences and festivals around the country. My pleasure comes from sharing my joy of journaling with professional writers and anyone interested in writing.

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