Writing Practice Prescription

Time to Think Outside of the Pill Box

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The Forgiveness Prescription

January 10th, 2011 · No Comments


Is it a health problem? A growing body of research emerging the past two decades indicate that forgiveness possesses the power to restore well-being and promote healing. The concept of forgiveness as a healing endeavor is not new: worldwide philosophical and spiritual traditions have long promoted forgiveness for inner peace and well-being.

What the medical research now contributes is the fact that it seems as though just imagining yourself as granting forgiveness may lower your blood pressure, decrease your heart rate, and produce skin conductance changes–all physiological signs of improving your health. Best of all, your mood can improve when you focus on forgiving. This is helpful for a number of conditions ranging from anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and chronic pain. (1)

If you have dropped in on this blog in the past, then it should come as no surprise to you that I endorse expressive WellWriting to promote well-being and health. As I have continued the work of writing for healing (WellWriting), it has become apparent to me that hanging onto anger, old hurts, and resentment contribute considerably to many chronic health and pain syndromes. The answer? Forgive to live and for the health of it.

Forgiveness is a learned skill and very much a process. My current work is a book in the making. If you have a story of forgiving and then being better and want to share that story, please add a comment to this blog entry.

Meanwhile, a number of books exist to address the issue of forgiveness. To browse a few, click here.


(1) Source: Integrative Medicine: Text with BONUS PocketConsult Handheld Software (Rakel, Integrative Medicine)

→ No CommentsTags: forgiveness · spiritual · stress management · writing practice

Pass the Latte, Please

December 31st, 2010 · No Comments

What would writing be without a good cup of coffee? In fact, author and speaker Sam Horn often talk about going to a “third space” for writing projects. (A place where you go to work on one project at the same time each week for the same length of writing, isolated in a comforting crowd of activity and coffee buzz. The name of Starbucks and other coffee shops come up more often than not when they talk about that third writing space.)

My recent discovery is that you can go to the Starbucks website and for $4.00 you can customize a Starbuck’s card. The card will go out from the company with your own return address.

How cool is this?!? You can check it out at www.starbucks.com

→ No CommentsTags: helping · writing · writing exercises · writing practice

Use Your Personal Writing For Weight Loss And Creativity

March 9th, 2010 · 1 Comment

Instead of eating, you discover what’s eating you.

–Julia Cameron

Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, found herself 50 pounds heavier after being placed on a new medication. What to do?

She found the answer in her own work after noticing that students taking her 12-week course in writing often left the class thinner than when they began the course.  She wrote the book, The Writing Diet, once she made this connection. You can read a Newsweek magazine interview with Julia by clicking here.

Tarcher Talks feature several of Julia Cameron’s books. To see the video featuring her book about writing for weight loss, click here.

→ 1 CommentTags: healing · writing · writing practice

Writing Deadlines

March 4th, 2010 · No Comments

Every writer I know swears that chocolate is one of the best antidotes for deadline stress.

Now there may be proof of their assertions from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. To read an overview of the study, click here.

→ No CommentsTags: stress management · writing

Do You Know Your Story?

March 3rd, 2010 · No Comments


Our bodies consist of billions of molecules. Stories, on the other hand, weave the fabric of our life.

Do you know what your story is? What shapes meaning and drive in your life? Many of us do not know but we can learn through the use of a personal writing practice, just 15 minutes a day three times a week.

To learn more about writing to know your story, please visit a previous post on this topic by clicking here.

→ No CommentsTags: healing · writing · writing practice

Start Writing To Feel Better And Be Better

March 2nd, 2010 · No Comments

Just 15 minutes a day, 3 times a week

Just 15 minutes a day, 3 times a week

We teach what we need to learn,

We preach what we need to do, and

We write what we need to know.

–Ellen Taliaferro, MD

Did you know that medical research now validates what many writers have asserted for years: writing heals?

Most of the research studies ask participants to write 15 minutes a day three times a week about traumatic or emotionally-charged events in their lives. These participants are compared to other study participants who are told to “just write” about anything for the same time and frequency. Many of the subjects writing about past trauma or emotionally-charged events perform and feel better than the “control” subjects.

Future posts will explore writing as a therapeutic, self-help activity.

For now please take a moment to read about The Writing Practice Prescription.

Then stay tuned. To be notified automatically when new posts are added to this website, please sign up for this blog by entering your email address in the upper right-hand area of this website.

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Why Grammar Mistakes Proliferate: Don’t Writers Care?

September 14th, 2009 · No Comments

By Barbara McNichol

Recently I learned what a hot topic grammatical errors can be when one of my favorite blogs, Article Writing and Marketing Insights from Ezine Articles, took a subject close to my heart and made it relevant to everyone who writes.

Within 24 hours of posting “Avoiding the (6) Common Grammatical Errors That Make Authors Look Du…Unprofessional,” the blog received 776 views and 93 comments. That’s evidence of how “hot” the topic of incorrect grammar can be!

The blog post started:

in these days of txting, iming and all low caps, its easy to take shortcuts to writing

However, even though we now use our keyboards as we once did our phones, what most people do not understand is how unprofessional the improper use of the English language can make an article, and its author, look. Look at the sentence above again. Does it look professionally written to you?

Now, I’m not saying you need to go back to 9th grade English class and try and figure out where your participles are dangling, but making sure you have a command of the basics is essential.

The post went on to list six common errors that make authors look unprofessional. Five of them are what I call Word Trippers—a pair of similar words with different meanings and spellings that can trip people up: loose/lose, affect/effect, it’s/its, their/there, than/then. (The sixth addressed misuse of semicolons, something that riled writer Jeff Rubin so much, he established September 24 as National Punctuation Day.)

Among the blog comments, the most philosophic came from a subscriber named Jenny who wrote, “I am always amazed at how many who consider themselves writers make these mistakes — which are so easily avoided if one is paying attention. Personally, I think they just don't care. Thanks for a provocative post that is a very good starting point in dealing with a problem that is unfortunately much bigger than those six examples!”

Do They Care?

As an editor who deals with mistakes like these in articles and manuscripts, I endorse Jenny’s observation that the problem is bigger than six examples. But I challenge her statement, “I think they just don’t care.”

Rather, I see three factors at play here:

  • People tend to write in a stream-of-consciousness manner, eager to get ideas down (that’s how I approach drafting of my ezine and the initial piece is downright sloppy). In this creative mode, fine tuning isn’t the first priority.
  • “Instant messaging” is just that! People seem to be hurrying to move on to the next thing, feeling good about “getting that done” and prematurely declaring the piece complete. They don’t make sure what they’ve written comes across exactly the way they wanted to say it.
  • Writers often lack the desire, discipline, or dedication to revisit their prose with a fresh eye, a clear mind, and breathing space to think it through.

Half-Baked Prose

I call the result of this propensity to write fast, move on, and never look back “half-baked.” After all, you wouldn’t eat a loaf of bread that’s half-baked. Why would you send out a written piece that isn’t fully “cooked” either?

The solution? Take time to put your writing “back in the oven” and question the key elements: the validity of the thoughts, the logical thread of persuasion, and the correct use of each word.

Yes, gremlins such as incorrect grammar and punctuation still get through unintentionally. So do unclear transitions and inexact word choice. Because of these, reviewing your written piece only once simply isn’t enough.

Three Steps to Perfection

I suggest if you habitually add these simple steps, you can “bake” your piece close to perfection:

(1) Print your piece and then go to another area to read it aloud as if a 10 year old needed tounderstand it. You’ll recognize unclear passages quickly that way.

(2) Question each word for its meaning, spelling, and role in the sentence, then take time to look up what you suspect isn’t correct. Don’t rely on memory alone; it can be shaky. Instead, access easy-to-use resources that will make your writing life easier.

(3) Revise, reread, revise, reread . . . until you’re satisfied.

Above all, slow down and think about your readers, be they 10 years old or 100. No one wants to eat half-baked bread; nor do they want to read partly polished prose. Flavor your writing until it’s “cooked” just right!


Barbara McNichol edits the gremlins out of nonfiction articles and books, and helps authors avoid the pitfalls of half-baked prose. She created Word Trippers: The Ultimate Choice for Choosing the Right Word When It Really Matters as a resource that keeps writers on a professional path. Visit www.barbaramcnichol.com to sign up for her free Word Tripper of the Week ezine or contact her at 520-615-7910.


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Recommended Book: Word Trippers by Barbara McNichol

August 19th, 2009 · No Comments

word_trippers_book-cover1My colleague Barbara McNichol has just published her new ebook titled Word Trippers.  If you do any type of writing this is a must-have resource which features 300+ Word Trippers compiled by Barbara who started acing grammar and spelling in the 4th grade. 

If you ever have trouble with with the notoriously difficult English language, this ebook clearly explains whether to use peak or peek — lay vs. lie — clinch vs. clench, etc.  It is the ultimate source for making sure you choose the right word in any instance.

Save your professional image now and check out Word Trippers.

Dr. T

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Stop Worrying: Start Writing

May 24th, 2009 · No Comments



Ellen Taliaferro, MD

The May issue of the journal of psychology publishes an article that looks at expressive writing as a preventive tool.[1] Many studies have demonstrated a benefit on the use of expressive writing” regarding a past or ongoing stressful experience results in a wide range of beneficial effects, including physical health and cognitive functioning.”

This article, Effects of expressive writing on standardized graduate entrance exam performance and physical health functioning, differs in that it looks forward and not backwards. The authors looked at the impact of expressive writing to prepare for a stressful examination.

Findings? The students who used expressive writing to prep for the upcoming examination produced a mean exam score significantly higher (19 percentile points) than the control group of students. Of note, the students in the experimental group who wrote on 3 or more occasions experienced the greatest benefits.

Click here to see the article abstract.

[1] J Psychol. 2009 May;143(3):279-92.

→ No CommentsTags: stress management · writing · writing practice

Don’t Go to Abilene with Your Writing Group

April 27th, 2009 · 2 Comments


Ellen Taliaferro

Healing rests on a foundation supported by the four cornerstones of:

  • Physical health
  • Mental health
  • Spiritual health
  • Social health

Writers using their writing as a tool to heal sometimes seek to move beyond personal expressive writing to the arena of writing to help others. At this point in time, a writing group can help build social health for the lonely wordsmith toiling away to find just the right words to tell their tale. When this happens, the writer needs to take care that writing group activity provides good medicine and not poison.

Writing groups provide support, fellowship, and encouragement. They also offer suggestions, some good and some bad. Too many suggestions can set the stage for groupthinking which can hijack your work.

Before you accept every suggestion that comes your way, think about the phrase “going to Abilene.” This phrase comes from Charles Smiley, who described its meaning in his article, The Abilene Paradox (Managing Agreement: The Abilene Paradox), Charles W Smiley, Community Development Journal, Vol. 17, #1, 1982.

Here’s the story:

It was July in Coleman, Texas. The summer heat was brutal, 105 in the shade. The relentless West Texas wind was blowing fine-grained topsoil through the air. However, the afternoon was bearable, even potentially enjoyable. The air-conditioning was working. There was cold lemonade and beer, and a baseball game on television. It had the makings of an agreeable day.

Then my father-in-law suddenly said, “Let’s get in the car, and go to Abilene. We can have dinner at the new restaurant.” My first thought was, “Why? It’s over 50 miles to Abilene. It’s insane to drive in this dust and heat. His car doesn’t have air conditioning.”

However, my wife chimed in with, “Great idea. I’d like to go. How about you, Chuck?” Since my own desires were obviously out of step, I replied, “Sounds good to me,” and then I added, “I hope your mother wants to go.” “Of course I want to go,” said my mother-in-law. “I haven’t been to Abilene in weeks.”

We proceeded to get into my father-in-law’s car and drive to Abilene, My first and worst thoughts were confirmed. The heat was death in the afternoon. We were soon covered with a fine layer of dust that was, in turn, covered with a layer of sweat. The food was atrocious and the service terrible.

Four hours later we returned to Coleman; hot, exhausted and miserable. We sat in the front room for a long time in silence. Then, to be sociable, and break the silence, I said, “Great trip, wasn’t it?” The three of them stared at me with hostility. Finally, with considerable irritation, my mother-in-law said, “Well, to tell you the truth, I hated the trip. I went along because the three of you. seemed so enthusiastic. I would have stayed home if you hadn’t pressured me into going.”

My wife looked shocked. “Don’t blame me. I went along to be accommodating. We were crazy to leave the house in this heat.” My father-in-law entered the conversation abruptly: “Listen, I never wanted to go to Abilene. I thought you might be bored. You visit so seldom I wanted you to enjoy yourself. I usually watch the ball game.”

After this outburst of honesty and recrimination we all sat back in silence. Here we were, four intelligent people who, by choice, had taken a 100-mile trip across a forsaken desert in a furnace-like temperature through a cloud-like dust storm to eat unpalatable food at a second-rate restaurant. None of us had wanted to go. It didn’t make any sense.

The Abilene paradox occurs in organizations as well as families. It occurs when organizations take action that is in contradiction to what the individuals in the organization really want collectively to do. This action usually defeats the goals the organization is trying to achieve. The Abilene paradox results from the inability to manage agreement.

Every writer wants his or her work to be the very best. But remember to be true to yourself and your story. It’s your story, not the writing group’s. When you come home from a writing group, revisit your original outline or plot and then look at the suggested revisions offered up by the group. If you accept all the suggestions, is it still your story? If not, offer a word of silent thanks to your friends in the group and let the suggestion slip away back into the universe.

I know of one writer who had a screeplay set in Dallas. When the writer returned home from a four-day writing retreat, the plot had changed so much that the only resemblance to the original screenplay was that both screenplays were set in Dallas. But the author had “gone to Abilene.” When I last checked in, she was still trying to get back to Dallas.

Please note: My thanks to Paul Schumann from The Innovation Road Map for this rendition of “The Abilene Paradox.” If you wish to use any or all of this article, please email me at DrTSpeaks@gmail.com.

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