How to Write | Write Effort Creates a Constant Flow of Ideas

A cabinet full of ancient texts.Okay, I’m messing around with words in the title. I borrowed a phrase “Right Effort” from an ancient text called the Digha Nikaya. The quote I’m referring to states, “Right effort is that which will create the necessary conditions for the mind to be focused, allowing clarity and concentration in  order that you may achieve completion in your task.”

Creating clear concentration is difficult to achieve most days, and certainly it is difficult to achieve for any sustained period of time, even if only for a day.

That’s why people go on retreats. They get a chance to break away from the noise of life so they can find out what is going on behind the scenes in their own minds when all the distractions are removed.

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How to Write | The Power of Negativity

How can negativity make it easier for you to write? dad_does_dishes

How can negativity make it easier for you to write? Good question! When I’m doing a simple task, it’s easy to fall into negativity. Take this morning, for example. I had a great breakfast, but when I was doing the dishes, I had a host of negative thoughts about having to clean up the mess. No, I’m not Mr. Macho guy who can’t bother with doing the dishes. At the conscious level, I don’t mind doing them, but my mind would rather be doing something else. Who likes doing the dishes?

As I scrape food off into the disposal and rinse the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, I listen to my mind chattering away about how stupid it is to do dishes. 

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How to Write | Two Monks and a Beautiful Woman

A mountain monastery--a good place to think and write.Hopefully I got your attention with that title. I’d like to tell you a little story I once read to illustrate a good strategy for how we should write.

Long ago during springtime . . .

Long ago during springtime there were two monks walking from one mountain monastery to another. They were good monks who had followed all of the rules of their order, including the rule of celibacy. The vow of celibacy was easy to follow in the monastery because there were no women. Out in the real world, however, temptations were plentiful. The monks knew that they had to be on their guard, lest they fall prey to these temptations.

At the bank of the stream stood a rich and beautiful woman . . .

The monks were walking and chatting about the sacred writings of their order. One monk dominated the conversation, the other listened patiently and interjected every once in awhile to keep the conversation going. They crested a small rise, then descended into a valley that led to a fast-running stream. At the bank of the stream stood a rich and beautiful woman adorned in expensive clothing. She needed to cross the roaring stream, but propriety kept her from exposing her legs, and concern about soiling the expensive clothing kept her from wading in with her legs covered.

A woman in colorful clothing.One of the monks offered to carry her. She accepted his offer. He scooped her up in his arms and waded across the river, making sure to keep her expensive clothing clean and dry, even though his robes were soaked from the waist down. As he set her down she graciously thanked him and they went their separate ways. She took the path downstream to the town. The monks continued their journey on the more difficult path traversing the other side of the valley and heading up the long trail to the mountain monastery still several days away.

For the rest of the day, the monk . . . said nothing.

For the rest of the day, the monk who had not offered to carry the woman, a man normally talkative and jolly, said nothing. That night they built a fire and cooked a simple meal. They ate in silence. Since silence is a virtue, the practice of it was not unusual for their order. The quieter monk who had carried the beautiful woman paid no notice to the lack of chatter.

As they watched the fire burn down and got ready to sleep, the monk who had not carried the woman felt a discomfort seething like a boiling pot of rice. He finally broke his silence and said, “I can’t believe you! You, a good monk who has taken a vow of celibacy, defiled yourself by touching a beautiful woman!” The other monk replied. “I set her down at the bank of the stream. You appear to still be carrying her.”

When we write, we have the privilege of carrying beautiful words . . .

When we write, we have the privilege of carrying beautiful words safely across the roaring stream of consciousness. Once we have finished our task, we have to set them aside and go on with other tasks. Once we write a rough draft, we have to set it down and look at it with different eyes. We can’t look at our drafts with the adoring eyes of a creative writer. We have to look at any draft with the unfeeling eyes of the editor.

Two monks standing by water.The problem is that we tend to own every word we write on the page. We carry our words with us long after the courtesy of carrying them has past. It’s fine to take some pride in turning our efforts into good work, but to own those words so much that we cannot change them is a problem. We do better to think of ourselves as insignificant passersby who only carry beautiful messages across the stream.

That’s our job. We write. Once it is completed we find ourselves on the other side of the writing proces. Set the draft down. Let it go. That mesage no longer affects us. If we can let it go, then we can go back later to review the message without any emotional baggage. We can revise and edit as if the rough draft was written by someone else. If we don’t own it, we don’t obsess about it. We see it for what it is–just words on a page.

Everyone of us breaks a rule or two . . . or ten. So what?

When you think about it that way, you can let go of guilt for making ungodly mistakes as you write. Everyone of us breaks a rule or two . . . or ten. So what? It doesn’t make you any worse unless you believe it does. Choose which monk you want to be: the one who carries out a task and sets it down when finished, or the one who agonizes about it long after the job is done.

We’re always learning at StudioBlearning

Simple things give you success in school

If you or your child are having trouble in school, it may be that you’re doing a few things wrong.

What are they?

There are simple things that you can do to be more successful that no one tells you about. I know what what they are, and I’ve been sharing them with my students in the classroom for many years.

Click on the package below to see my video about what you can do today to be more successful in the classroom.


red-arrow 2Strategy 1 - Organization




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How to Write | Getting Past the Brain’s Opposition

Start Trek human and Borg ships in a standoff.

Learning how to write does not have to be an epic battle against an unbeatable foe.

If you watched the old Star Trek shows, you are probably familiar with the phrase “Resistance is futile,” from a nasty race of hybrid humans/machines called “The Borg.” They were bad dudes. The counter for resistance being futile, as I have learned in teaching and tutoring, is the very human response: “Resistance is natural.”

“Resistance is natural.”

Every time we make a decision we have to contend with a boxing match inside the brain. I’ll show you how it works and how you can bypass the battle to achieve your goals.

I recently tutored one of my favorite kids (they are all my favorites, so you can forgive me now). This young lad, a first grader, does battle with his internal opponent all the time. Unfortunately, that translates to some losses when it comes to school. His grades are indicators of his performance, not his ability. They show how effective he is at engaging and winning the boxing match, not what he knows. I can clearly see this when I give him a simple task to perform.

We sat down for our tutoring session only to find out that he had no homework. I asked him to get a book. He said he didn’t want to get the book. Keep in mind that this child and I get along just fine. He was being oppositional because the was getting counter signals–there was a boxing match going on in his brain. I said get it anyway.

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How to Write | Learning How to Blog for Social Media: Part 3

Professor Conrad and Gracie Lake discuss how to write.  Writing is about making a connection–determining what your thinking has in common with your audience. It can be as simple as starting out with a common geographical area. “Yes, I’m from Chicago too,”  or “I love living in Southern California,” or “I worked up north in the cold country.” Anything works as long as it is a real connection.

We also cover how to write by getting out of your own way and writing what is already welling up inside you. There is nothing like the powerful magnetic pull of a story to get your point across. That means stepping out of yourself and delivering a solid story. In fact,s tory telling is one of the best ways to get a point across.

The interview also covers the important art of making course corrections. If you aren’t writing, then you don’t know how to improve, but if you are writing, whether as a beginner, intermediate, or as a professional, you know that every piece you write can be improved. Once you write, you can take a measure of where you are. Using that information, you can plot a new course and correct yourself to success.

Professor Conrad interview with Gracie Lake on making a connection and getting out of your own way by Professorconrad on Mixcloud

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You as a Function Box | Part 2

I had a great response to my post yesterday in the class, so I thought I’d share what I wrote back to one of my students who was talking about her hard times in the past week.

Hi X,

It sounds like prayer is one of the things you do to change the equation in your function box. You know, we all are awash in a sea of our own thoughts. The good and the bad things that happen in our day get automatically processed in our function boxes. We react with more good or bad thoughts as output. The output thoughts control the link to what we do about the events.

Interestingly, some people believe that we cannot control the flow of our thoughts.

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