Creative Ideas From Paula Bramante
Just a few days ago, Illumination Founder, Cognitive Scientist, and writing coach extraordinaire Dr. Mehmet Yildiz challenged writers on this platform to share their struggles and achievements related to writing. After a month of feeling blocked and scattered in my writing, Dr. Yildiz’s invitation gave me the push needed to wake up and start writing again. I am grateful for the challenge as well as the suggested outline for organizing the story.
Finding New Ways to Envision Audience and Purpose in Writing
I tend to over-think topics. This tendency blossomed in college and graduate programs where professors rewarded students for turgid academic writing on highly specialized topics. In all those classes, the days and weeks I spent crafting a research paper were only ever for an audience of one: the professor. Writing under these circumstances frequently demotivated and fatigued me, but grades and degrees were the carrots dangling at the end of the stick.
For balance, I penned personal journals, dozens of notebooks worth, on various topics about psychological self-regulation. The time I spent on therapeutic writing was only ever for one person: myself. Writing under these circumstances usually energized and delighted me, but the rewards were strictly internal with no outward connections being forged.
Finally, writing on this platform offers a refreshing new way to approach writing that results in pieces that are not too stuffy, not too self-involved, and potentially valuable and entertaining for lots of people. Sounds great, right? And it is, but after decades of writing, I am only now learning how to do it well. With each article I write — ten so far — I feel unclear about the audience, which is unsettling and distracting. It all comes out in the end, but the process feels slow and painful. I procrastinate and then feel heavy and unhappy for not writing.
As all writers know, there is just one way through this conflict, and I am doing it right now — thanks again, Dr. Yildiz.
What do I want as a writer?
I now write to connect with readers and contribute what is mine to give. My purpose is to stimulate readers’ thinking about the topics I cover in an entertaining and informative way. My hope is for readers to feel the pleasure and thrill of their ideas, new or remembered, as a result of reading my stories.
I also want my writing to outlive me and to reach and inspire people I cannot even imagine now. A story my fifth-grade teacher told the class is with me today. The crazy wisdom and kindness of a girl who reached out to me when I felt sad, frightened, and confused as a 14-year-old rests in my heart at this moment. Who can predict the trajectory and life of an idea? Most people can scarcely imagine how their words and actions affect others, sometimes in life-changing ways and even through generations. Two quotes from a favorite spiritual teacher of mine, Ram Dass, belong here:
“We are all just walking each other home.”
Home is where you feel whole, safe, vital, and loved. It might be heaven, your “real” home, or yourself. And this:
“When you know how to listen, everybody is the guru.”
We cannot fail to teach and inspire each other through our words and actions, but we must first speak (write) and act.
My Top Five Stories
Checking out my stats was a useful exercise for me. As a retired academic, perennial artist, dreamer, and explorer, writing is more of a lifestyle choice than a career for me. I did not want to be influenced by public opinion before tuning in to my still-small voice and getting clear on my goals for this new phase of my writing life. Since starting to write for Medium in December, I had glanced at my stats once or twice and had never used the “view all stats” feature. That said, finally having a closer look was interesting.
- If you have ever enjoyed doodling while talking on the phone or attending a lengthy meeting, your inner artist may be trying to tell you something. Zentangle® requires no prior artistic training and no more than an hour of your time to see if it works for you. To find out how to get started, have a read!
Draw Something Beautiful with Zentangle — You’ll Feel Better
New and traditional patterns come to life in a step-by-step, meditative drawing process for all
2. I have been a regular user of Insight Timer® for over six years and cannot recommend this app highly enough. Whether you are a seasoned meditator or curious about what meditation can offer, you will find years of free content on this app. It also features music, yoga, inspirational talks, and courses. Solid gold.
Insight Timer, An Outstanding Meditation App Worth Discovering
The founders took a gamble that is paying off for everyone
No one has or will pay me for promoting Zentangle® and Insight Timer®. I was moved to write about these enterprises because they have enhanced my life immeasurably. In each case, the founders offer high-quality content with authentic and compassionate intentions and truly abundant free material.
3. The next article is my most recent story, so I’m happy that it’s one of those with higher views. (Pun unintended, but I’ll keep it.) It’s a long read, which means that it leans towards the academic writer in me — I still struggle with seeing every article I begin as a research paper.
One way to visualize this piece is as a Venn Diagram with one circle representing the metaphysical aspect of reality and the other representing ordinary, everyday life. I introduce the metaphysical with a quote and the mundane with a story about being threatened by a dog. The region of overlap, that place where the ultimate shines through the ordinary, is what the article attempts to examine.
Fear is a Good Teacher, So Listen Carefully
A frightening experience leads to a new understanding of personal identity
4. I wrote the next story to explore a persistent concern about story-telling obscuring the truth rather than revealing it. I have wondered if my narratives about conflicts with others might only serve to reinforce my limited perspective of the situation. Ideally, my goal is to become aware of the bigger picture, to be as compassionate as possible towards others and myself, but sometimes it is difficult to know if I am leaving the stones I’d rather not look at unturned.
The risk of propping up my distorted view of conflict was a serious concern a few years ago and caused me to lose trust altogether in the journal-writing process. Writing this story helped me to get clearer on the question of truth in story-telling.
Is Storytelling Good for Us? That depends.
When personal narratives feel painful, they are too small for you
5. This article emerged after the violence at the Capitol on January 6th and a TED-Ed talk I viewed soon after on how truth sometimes becomes distorted in the retelling of a story. Each new version can exclude details the writer sees as non-essential or simply fails to understand, or can take on new details through misinterpretation. The TED lesson recounts how such distortions occurred with the popular schematic that shows which areas of the tongue are most sensitive to specific tastes. I found it striking that the original facts about the taste map had undergone such distortions well before the Internet and felt a bit overwhelmed at where this leaves us today.
Developing a Taste for Truth
How can we deal with misinformation in a post-truth society?
Stories in Need of Love (= more reads)
There are two of these, as follows.
- This story associates a World War II bomber that I saw in an air museum with a poem I’d learned decades before and had forgotten about entirely. The juxtaposition of the weaponry with wordsmithing was intriguing to me at the moment it occurred, and I tried to communicate that moment in the following story. As happens often, other ideas and information came to light as I was writing, in particular, a yearly program called Bomber Camp that offers people with enough money and interest the opportunity to role-play being part of a bomber crew. For readers with interest in poetry or World War II, the story weaves together a few unlikely strands into a pleasing albeit eclectic whole. Give it a try.
Bullets and Poetry in the Desert
War teaches many lessons. Are we wise enough to discern the ones worth remembering?
2. This story reports on a therapeutic art technique that invites people to forge harmonious connections between the various roles they play in their lives (e.g., professional and personal) to cultivate greater psychological wholeness. A common source of modern stress is feeling pulled in different directions in life, as all those we connect with place demands on our time and energy. In a word, we are called on to wear many hats. Neurographica® offers an engaging and relaxing process to arrange all of these hats beautifully on a coherent rack.
Searching for Your Higher Self? Map the Journey with NeuroGraphica®
An innovative drawing process soothes conflicting energies we carry in our bodies and minds
Works in Progress
I have a few topics in mind and rough drafts in the early stages. Here is a list of what I am working on:
Rought sketch #1: Psychological projection is challenging, instructive, and essential to personal development.
I have just finished reading Migrations by Australian writer Charlotte McConaghy. The novel explores mass extinctions in a dystopic future setting through the eyes of Franny Stone, a 30-something free spirit who sees clearly what she has to contribute to the catestrophic loss of animal life on earth and perseveres in her efforts despite suffering great loss and trauma. Her character offers poignant glimpses of projection and inspires me to develop a story explaining what projection means and why we should pay attention to it.
Rough sketch #2: The literature of spontaneous enlightenment.
Two contemporary writers in personal development, Eckhart Tolle and Byron Katie, tell stories of spontaneous enlightenment and how it has radically altered their perspectives in daily life. Their advice is simple if one is ready to hear it. My growth has been anything but spontaneous, but after two decades in, I recognize their teachings as precious.
Rough sketch #3: Breakfast with Billy Collins: Parasocializing with Poets and Writers Can Change Your Life
I often read several books simultaneously, and usually reserve time for each one at a different moment of the day. My frequent breakfast companion is Billy Collins. This story talks about a poem I read at breakfast recently and what I learned from it.
Rough sketch #4: Self-Talk As Friend or Foe — Self-Compassion is What Makes the Difference
Coming into full awareness of the tone and content of our self-talk is so essential to every aspect of our lives. How can we learn to do this?
Rough sketch #5: Are You Depressed? You Can Find Your Way Out — If you have tools, remember to use them. If you don’t have tools, develop them.
I’m in my mid-60s and have suffered from intermittent depression since childhood. Over the years, I have developed several practices to pull myself up and out. Depression is not something that resolves once and for all, but a condition that we can learn to dance with. It comes and goes, like hunger and fatigue. Based on my own experience, I am convinced that we have more power to counterbalance its effects than we realize. I share how we can tap into that power in this story.
Rough sketch #6: Soul Collage
As much as I need to write, I also need creative outlets that have nothing to do with language. About 20 years ago, I discovered a process called SoulCollage® whereby artists create their own Tarot-esque deck of cards. Each card is a 5 x 7" collage created intuitively by the artist using images from magazines. When enough cards are created, they can be used as an oracle to gain greater clarity on personal challenges. Over time, I have created about 25 of these cards and feel ongoing curiosity about what each one wants me to know about my life and place in the world as I see it. I want to share the process with readers
Why I Will Always Write
Through all the changes of my life, writing is the one activity that has held an unwavering presence in my day-to-day reality. I write because it helps me to self-regulate mentally and emotionally in a way that no other activity does. I’ve done it for academic degrees and self-guided therapy, and now I’m learning to do it as a way of connecting with other people, sharing my knowledge and experience, and leaving something for my friends and family to have when I am no longer here.
I am humbled by how much I have to learn about this kind of writing, the kind that forges connections. I am humbled by the arguments I have with Grammarly, and by the truly, ridiculous amount of time it takes for me to write a single article. After all these decades of writing, I have discovered that I have no (or let’s just say limited) writing chops for this kind of writing.
Many Thanks to the Writers I Read on Medium
I never miss an article by Barack Obama. I have also enjoyed reading articles by Sebastian Purcell, Holly Kellums, K. Barrett, Tree Langdon, Dew Langrial, Vishnu*s Virtues, Joseph M. Learned, Melinda Blau, Jay Toran, and Mehmet Yildiz. The list is still growing. I am still learning what it means to be a member of a community of writers. From what I have discovered so far, it’s pretty amazing.
One of my favorite writers, Annie Dillard, said this about writing in The Writing Life, and I love it so much:
One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now.
Here’s to giving it all I’ve got. Wish me luck.
Thanks very much for reading my perspectives. Please let me know what you think.