Monday, June 25, 2012

Showing Up


A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Almalek.  
I've been struggling with my Almalek lately.
The gematria is  doubt/ספק

Sometimes I seriously doubt my ability to write and that what I have to say is overly dramatic or not well thought out.

Silly; stupid; not significant.
vacuous - empty - senseless - blank - foolish - vacant

I haven't written in a couple of weeks and I feel like I'm about to burst.

Today I just made myself log on at and write.
I got through it and did a little over 750 words in about 30 minutes.  

This is with my husband in the house working with a plumber and two apprentice plumbers, the drill going and shouting from the courtyard into the bathroom window to turn the water on and then turn the water off, and then the electric jackhammer thud, thud thudding away on the cement block walls. 

A pipe broke.

One of them was in the bathroom floor and the other was inside my head.

And now the words are coming out.  

I wrote, cold, without a rough draft or hours of thought, a comment on a blog post too.

And to total strangers! 

I saw the blog post on another list I belong to and it looked interesting so I jumped over there and it reminded me of something that I learned last week, so I wrote about it. 

Then my husband came home from the bank and told me that someone had deposited money in our checking just keeps flowing. 

This feels good.

Have a productive day.  Today, tomorrow, everyday.

And don't ever let your Almalek scare you out  of writing.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Parshat Shavuah Shlach (Bamidbar/Numbers 13-15)

The spies told themselves they were weak, like grasshoppers.  Then they decided that the inhabitants of Canaan thought they were grasshoppers, too.
How did they know what these people thought when they never spoke to them?
They projected their own sense of self worth on the Canaanim.

Another issue is:  what should have been their attitude to the task of taking over the Land of Canaan?

Which is realistic?  Saying  Yes, I can  or No, I can't.
It's true that I can't do anything without the help of G-d.  I can't move my body or wake up in the morning, I can't dress myself or eat. 
On the other side, since everything is controlled ultimately by G-d and He is Infinite, I should be able to do anything, if I will it and G-d permits it.

We and the spies have to understand that we can do anything if we believe that G-d is with us.

What are you telling yourself about writing? 

Do you believe in your story?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Keeping A Journal


Hashem has given us this wonderful opportunity to get closer to Him.
Are we doing all we can to take advantage of this?

One of my goals in writing is connect to G-d.  I want everything in my life to be channeled through my understanding of G-d and what His will is.

Keeping a journal is one way to use our writing to connect regularly with Hashem.

Miriam Adahan recommends writing down something that you felt happy about or liked each day.

Writing about happiness or good things is an excellent journal practice and it's also a way to keep moving forward in you relationship with Hashem.

Why?  The effect of Amalek takes over if you don't keep moving in a positive way.
Amalek is the cooling down of enthusiasm.  The voice inside that says, "so what?  Don't get carried away.  Nothing matters.  Who are you?  Who do you think you are?"  Amalek will tear down your excitement and your sense of self worth.  Sometimes it's more subtle and will tell you to "keep balanced" or to find " the middle path".

Remember that you are unique. 
Only you can tell your story.  
It'll only be told if you write it down or record it in some way.  
It's important to do and do it regularly.

Nothing in life is static and if you aren't going up and forward, you will begin to fall away.

  •  Make a commitment to write down one "Like" or happiness each day for the next week.
  • Start a journal.  It can and should be something easy and handy to write in.  One writing teacher uses kids copy books with funny covers:  it's hard to take myself too seriously when I'm writing in a Superman note book, so I tend to write more and more often!
  • OR  get yourself something beautiful, luxurious and special to write in.  And get a couple of special pens to write with.
I know that if you have been writing and reading about writing for a while that there is nothing new about what I just suggested.  Think about this, though:  this is your running dialog with G-d!  Invest something of yourself to make it happen whatever way works the best for you.

Just Do It!

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Parshat HaShavuah Be'halot'cha (Bemidbar/Numbers 8-12)


This week's parshah describes how Aharon, the high priest, would light the Menorah every day in the Tabernacle. The verse emphasizes that "Aharon did as was commanded" (Numbers 8:3). The commentators point out that this was a special praise of Aharon, in that he didn't divert from the prescribed method of lighting the Menorah.

The Ramban (Nachmanides) explains that the praise of Aharon is that even though the job could have been delegated to someone else, Aharon always did it himself - throughout the entire 40 years in the desert.

The Sfat Emet says that beyond this, Aharon lit the menorah, day in and day out, as if he was doing it for the very first time. 

How can you approach your writing in a fresh way this coming week?

Wednesday, June 06, 2012



I have this on going friendly "argument" with a person I learn Torah with about environmental issues and Judaism.

She is firm that we mustn't pollute.  We have a responsibility to recycle, and be frugal with our resources.  We mustn't take the abundance we have of goodness for granted.

I agree. But I also believe that we mustn't think that we are controlling things, in that if, chas v'shalom, we don't always recycle, or if we are wasteful, that we're doing something horrible and it's damaging the world.

My view is first we were given this world to do G-d's will.  It says this in Breisheit.  The world is ours to use in what ever why we see fit in order to do our mission of connecting with G-d.

Second, Yaacov went back over the Jordan River to get the cailim,(Breisheit 32:25*) and it was there that he wrestled with the angel all night until dawn.  Why did he go back for some simple, earthenware pots?  Because he recognized that every thing he receives in the world is from G-d, and in a sense, it's priceless.  Even some cheap earthenware pots are valuable because of the Source.

Finally,   we pray in Shachrit (at least twice that I could find in my siddur), 'mehadesh kol yom ma'asei breisheit.'  מחדש כל יום מעשה בראשית meaning: that everyday, the acts of creation of the days of Breisheit (Genesis) are renewed.  Hashem is creating the world everyday, a new, and maintaining it.  If that is so, then what damage can we do to the earth, really?

So don't be cavalier, be respectful of the earth and it's resources but don't get too hung up on it either, because in the big picture, Hashem is renewing everything everyday.

Exercise:  Write about any or all of the following:

What do you control?  What do you leave up to G-d?

Do you recycle?  How do you feel about it?

How is renewal different from tshuva?

*Pasuk 32:25 states that, "Yakov was left alone�". Rashi references the Talmud in Chulin 91a that explains why Yakov was alone on the east bank of the Jabbok River (an eastern tributary of the Jordan - Areyeh Kaplan). "He had forgotten some small vessels and went to retrieve them."  

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

The Very First Word


Our day begins with the words:
Modah ani lefanecha מודה אני לפנך

what does "Modah" mean?

I thank You, Hashem


Jumping straight in: words to warm you and your writing up

Take a word from the list and write about it for 5 minutes or for the full length of a page without stopping. Just let it flow out, don't cross out or worry about spelling, grammar or if what you are saying makes sense. Just jump in and write!


Make a list of things you are thankful for. Be concrete.

My List
the coffee maker
my reading light
my friends Anna and Angela
all chocolate chip cookies, everywhere, at all times,
even if I never get to eat any of them

books, book stores, libraries
my fourth grade teacher Mrs Madigan
my purple glitter pen!

Think of three people...
one you want to thank
one you want to thank, but you are unable to do it
one you want to thank you, but they haven't or aren't able to do it

Write about each one

Monday, June 04, 2012


All our blessings begin with the word: Baruch ברוך


Explore the idea

What do you feel when you hear the word 'baruch'?

Take a pen and paper and free associate, writing down what ever words phrases ideas cliche`s images come to mind. Let it rip, no matter how silly, or outlandish it may seem, get it down. Keep going until you run dry of ideas.

When you're empty, read your list. Mark the items that you like, the ones that mean something special to you, the ones you feel you need to explain.

Circle 3 of the marked items, and do a 15 minute timed writing on each one.

Feel free to share your work in the comments section or e-mail me at

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Get More Writing Done: 5 Pockets of Time You Never Knew You Had « DIY MFA

Get More Writing Done: 5 Pockets of Time You Never Knew You Had « DIY MFA

Not everyone can find long blocks of time for writing because real life often gets in the way.  If you are one of those writers who can set aside large chunks of time for your writing, that’s fantastic!  Still, even if you’re a with tons of time on your hands (…and don’t tell us if you are because we might be jealous!), you can still benefit from learning to write in short bursts.  To get more writing done, you need to train yourself to squeeze your writing into small pockets of time.  None of that “waiting for inspiration” or “warming yourself up” for a writing session.  You have to learn to dive in, scribble down a few sentences, then get on with your life.
I’ve had to learn this technique the hard way.  With a 3-month-old son at home, life has become one big series of Pomodoro sessions, only instead of 25 minutes for each spurt of productivity, I never know how much time I’ll have before he starts crying and wanting attention.  Sometimes it’s 20 minutes.  Sometimes it’s 2 minutes.  Sometimes it’s no minutes at all.  Regardless, I have had to learn to make every minute count.  Here are five pockets of time I’ve discovered, pockets of time I never knew I had.

1)  Standing in line.  How often do we wait in line for things?  At the post office or the bank.  At the cafe while we wait for our lattes and cappuccinos.  At the supermarket or the drug store.  In those moments, I pull out my pocket notebook and scribble a few thoughts.  Maybe all I get is a sentence, but it’s still one sentence more than what I had before.

2)  Waiting in doctor’s offices.  One of the things you do a lot of when you have a newborn is wait around in doctor’s offices.  I used to dread those long waits but now I look forward to them.  With the little guy asleep in his stroller or carrier, I can enjoy those moments as prime writing time.  Parents with older kids probably have similar pockets of time available while they sit through a piano lesson or soccer practice, or they’re waiting to pick their kids up at school.

3)  Public transportation.  I love riding buses and subways because they always give me a solid chunk of time either for reading or writing.  I’m especially a fan of subways because they’re underground and there’s no internet so I can’t be tempted to check Twitter or log onto email.  Sometimes I’ll even take the long way home so that I have extra commute time during which to write.

4)  The first and last 15 minutes of your day.  One great way to sneak in an extra half hour of writing each day is to squeeze fifteen minutes in first thing in the morning and last thing before you turn out the light.  You always hear writers talk about waking up at 5am or working until the wee hours of the next day.  Frankly, I find both those scenarios unappealing; I don’t know about you but I like my sleep.  On the other hand, squeezing in an extra 15 minutes at the beginning and end of my day is manageable.  Even though it’s just 15 minutes, those little chunks of time can add up.  By the end of a week, I’ve logged in an extra 3 and a half hours of writing.

5)  Writing breaks.  I periodically take myself out on very short writing breaks.  I’ll grab a quick lunch and while I hold my sandwich with one hand, I scribble a few sentences with the other.  When I’ve finished the sandwich, writing time is over.  I’ll do the same by going to a cafe and ordering a cup of coffee.  I have only the time it takes to consume that drink to write.  It’s not enough to cut into my day in a major way, but still lets me jot down a few paragraphs.  Consider using your lunchtime to do this or take a short coffee break.  Even if you can’t do this every day, if you can sneak in two half-hour writing breaks throughout the week, that’s a whole extra hour you gained right there.

Take-home Message:  You never know when you’ll get a pocket of writing time, so be prepared and always carry a notebook.  I have a pocket-sized notebook and a pen with me at all times.