Add Self-Discovery To Your 2017 Through Writing!

As we approach a new year, many of us are thinking about what we’d like to add to our lives to make them more fun, more relaxed, more simple…but how do we know exactly what it is we need? What is it really that would make our lives exactly what we want?

Only one person can know the answer: YOU. And writing can be one way to uncover it.

On Monday January 9, I’m starting a 4-session Writing for Self-Discovery class at South Surrey Arts Centre for anyone who has some experience journaling already and would like to go deeper into the practice. We’ll specifically be focusing on using journaling as a way to know yourself better and make decisions that will increase what you want, and perhaps kick to the curb the things you don’t want. The class runs from 6:30-8:30 pm.

It’s a Level Two class, but all this means is that you have some experience with journaling. If you are unsure of whether this applies to you, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

For more information and to register, please visit Semiahmoo Arts or ask them about Writing For Self-Discovery Level Two by calling 604-592-6970.

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

 

 

Writing For Legacy Is For Everyone – Yes, You Too!

Legacy sounds like something reserved for someone who’s lived a long time or has had something incredibly remarkable happen to them. Or maybe someone who started a foundation to benefit a group of people. Someone who has something to leave behind.

Well, I happen to think we all have something to leave behind. If you think back to your life over the past 5 years, wouldn’t you say you’ve gained at least one valuable lesson that others could benefit from? I don’t think you necessarily have to be in the end stage of a typical lifespan to know that there’s something important inside of you that could very well be passed on to those you love, or the world in general.

I’ll also go further and say that I think it’s part of our purpose here to actually share those stories. I mean, why else are we going through them? Why the tough lessons if there isn’t the beauty of helping others? Sharing our stories helps others feel like what they are going through is relatable, and gives them hope that they will come out the other side. And not just survive the feat, but thrive afterward.

I first started sharing snippets of my life, and the lessons that came with it, after my mom passed away in 2009. Like, literally two weeks after she died I wrote my first blog post on my old blog. I’ve continued talking about the trials and blessings I’ve encountered in my life on this blog, in various inspirational anthologies, and other online and print publications. And every time I do, I have a sense of release, growth and satisfaction.

Is this enough to call my legacy? Yes, I think so. I think it’s definitely part of what I will leave behind. And it doesn’t have to be left till the late stages of my life to get down on paper.

My kids and family will always have a piece of me through my words, and in the public ways I share my writing I know I am passing something on to someone else. Even if one person comes away from something I write with the feeling that they are not alone, that they will be ok, that is a great gift to them and to me.

I believe in this so much that I’ve created a course called Writing for Legacy and am offering it through Semiahmoo Arts in South Surrey, B.C. It’s a short 4-session introductory course in a small group, where we can have 1:1 conversations and group discussions during sessions, plus lifetime access to a secret Facebook group for my writing students. It’s as fun as it sounds!

During the 4 weeks, I will help you uncover some gems you’d like to share and help you get started on writing them down in an engaging, inspirational way.

The class runs every Monday from November 7-28, 2016 from 6:30-8:30 pm.

If you’d like more information or want to see if this is the right fit for you, please contact me. You can register here or call 604-592-6970.

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

When People Ask Me ‘What Do You Do?’

A couple days ago, my family and I were out with some new friends on their boat (always nice to make friends with people who have a boat). Out in the middle of the lake, the wind whipping our hair about, my friend held onto my little girl on her lap, leaned in and asked, “Does she go to preschool this fall?”

“No,” I replied. “She’s still in daycare. She just goes twice a week so I can get some work done.” I realize that I always explain to people why my daughter goes to daycare, and that she only goes a minimal amount of time. Isn’t that strange?

“Oh, so you work part time?” she asked.

“Yup, from home. I’m a writer.” I felt that familiar buzz flow through me as I said the words. It still is rather dreamy to say out loud. And then I braced myself for the follow-up question because it always comes and I never know how to answer it.

“What do you write?”

And I don’t know, dear Readers. Maybe it was the fresh air. Maybe it was the sun glinting off the lake and throwing itself all over me. Maybe it was just being so present in that moment, and truly in love with what was happening right then. But the words came.

Some of them may have gotten lost over the motor and the children’s laughing and our husbands’ chatter from one end of the boat to the other. But the words came out like one big exhale.

I’m a blogger, and I write about living a creative, authentic and kind life. Through my blog and social media, I work with brands to promote ideas and products that my readers care about. I also do some freelance writing for my local paper, and I enter writing contests. And this fall, I’m launching writing classes through Semiahmoo Arts; I’m teaching people how to use writing as a way to connect with themselves.

Hallelujah! It’s like I found myself out there on the water. I didn’t trip over my spiel, or minimize what I do.

If you’re having trouble answering that question – or any other question, may I suggest you get as far away from it as possible and take a look at it from a distance? It’s a lot easier to see the whole, big, beautiful thing.

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

 

How Writing Heals

I think people shy away from the idea of writing being a healing tool because they believe it requires some sort of pre-existing experience in writing. It doesn’t, really. It’s a practice that you can develop.¬† (And grammar doesn’t count either so go ahead and sigh a big sigh). It’s like turning to yoga as a way of nourishing your body and soul; you don’t need experience to begin. You simply start taking classes and grow into it. You can do the same with writing. If you have a desire to examine your current circumstances, or your past, and if you want to find the courage to look forward, then expressive writing could be for you.

Right now, I’m typing away at my desk. Every so often a delicious breeze wafts in from the open window to my left. When it does, a little chime hanging in the doorway of my French doors rings its soft bells. This is a beautiful place to write. But I have also scribbled furiously on the floor in my closet at dawn so as not to wake my husband. And that’s the other wonderful thing about this therapeutic tool – you can pull it out at any time, any place. It’s there for you.

I recently wrote an article about this idea for Hello Creative Family. If you’d like to read about what I mean when I say writing is a healing tool, what it heals and how effective it is against illness, grief and loss, please hop over to the article and have a read.

From the fall, I’m dedicating more time to teaching because I strongly feel that sharing this gift with others is a purpose I need to fulfill. It’s actually beneficial for me too because I learn so much from everyone I try to ‘teach’ ūüôā Mostly I am filled with gratitude that writing came to me so early and easily, and it makes me want to show everyone else how powerful this kind of connection can be.

If you are local to Surrey, B.C. I’d love to see you in one of my classes at the South Surrey Arts Centre. These are classes for adults, 18+, and will be held at the Turnbull Gallery on Monday nights from 6:30-8:30 pm.

Writing For Self-Discovery

Join award-winning writer, Taslim Jaffer in this empowering workshop where you will take guided steps on a journey of self-discovery through writing exercises and discussion. Unearth lessons learned throughout your lifetime.  This course is perfect for writers of all levels, focusing on how to use writing as a tool for your own benefit.

Sept 12 – Oct 3 (4 sessions)

$75

Registration begins July 25, 2016

Writing For Legacy

What do you have to offer the world? Uncover and capture your life-gained wisdom, no matter what stage of life you are in. Through written exercises and discussion, award-winning writer, Taslim Jaffer will teach you how to write about your personal legacy. At the end of this course you will come away with several pieces of writing that can be the basis of a longer project.

Nov 7 – Nov 28 (4 sessions)

$75

Registration begins July 25, 2016

You can also register by calling 604-501-5100. And of course, if you have any questions about the course content, please don’t hesitate to be in touch with me. I will be sharing more details over the next couple weeks, so stay tuned!

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

 

 

 

10 Gifts To Make The Writer In Your Life Love You Even More

Make the writer in your life speechless this Christmas by gifting him or her with these awesome ideas. Then leave them alone so they can wear stretchy pants, curl up under a blanket and get back to the novel they’re reading (or writing).

One: A shirt with words on it.

It’s pretty much a given that writers love words. We like our words on everything, especially if they’re empowering and make people say….yeah, that’s awesome. May I suggest a shirt or two from West + Wind? I have this one that says Like A Boss, but I could always use another.

like a boss, west + wind, local shop, vancouver, buy local, t shirt, writers gifts

Two: A notepad for when the ideas strike!

But not just any notepad, because we have too many of those. How about a waterproof one? You know we get our BEST ideas at the most inconvenient times, showering being one of them. With Aqua Notes, you can’t go wrong.

Three: Scrabble, but not Scrabble…Bananagrams!

We writers already have Scrabble, but would love a word game that we can take anywhere and not have to worry about a playing board. Look at this awesomeness in a banana-shaped bag! We can grab a word-nerd friend and shut the world out for hours.

bananagrams, amazon, let me out creative, writers gifts, scrabble, word nerd

Four: A book…about writing!

I personally recommend Stephen King’s On Writing¬†awhile back because it’s totally inspiring. It’s the kind of book that makes a writer kick back into gear, or offers a novice tips on getting started. Intertwined with King’s memoirs, this book will be a hit with any writer (if they haven’t already read it yet, that is. Get a gift receipt – we love those, too, because then we can go back and choose any book we haven’t read).

Five: A gift card to a local bookstore.

This is ALWAYS on my list. The only problem with it is there are so many choices! But I do love the flexibility of buying something off my long list. Never a bad idea.

Six: Writing-related jewelry.

I can’t wait to finish this post so I can resume drooling over this Pinterest board FULL of jewelry ideas for writers. Holy smokes.

anne of green gables tea, etsy, let me out creative, writers gifts

Seven: A gift card to a healthy, gourmet frozen food joint.

Writing can be very engrossing. It can take us away from activities like sleeping, eating and wearing appropriate clothing. Don’t let the writer in your life wither away – get them a gift card to a place like batch. They can order meals ahead of time to store in their freezer and then when they realize it’s dinner time, they will thank you while their meal warms up!

Eight: Inspiration…via dice!

Here’s a little something I found while snooping around on Etsy. (Writers call that research). For those moments when writer’s block creates a vast void (and a blank page), all your writer friend has to do is roll the dice and have a story prompted right out of them.

inspiration, dice, inspiration dice, etsy, writers gifts, let me out creative

Nine: Tea.

Or coffee, I suppose. But, say, if you were buying for THIS writer, you’d buy tea. Like DAVIDsTEA or Tea India. It just pairs well with all things literary: reading, writing, wearing shirts with words on them.

Ten: Tickets to a play.

Just like we like reading other people’s words, we also like seeing them played out on stage. So drag your writer friend out from behind their computer screen or away from their notebook and treat them to a night on the town.

There you have it! My personal wish list¬† holiday guide for your favourite writer makes your shopping easy and your writer friend’s eyes light right up!

Happy shopping – and don’t forget to grab a little something for yourself.

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

5 Reasons Why We Need Poetry

Poetry has a weird reputation; people are both fascinated by it and afraid of it. We want to know: what do people write in their darkest moments, in secret places. We want to decode the language of the senses and emotions and visit other worlds. We want to lurk in the smoky, dim spaces of people’s minds. But we don’t know how. Do we need a special code word to enter? Do we need to know something before we can know something? Is this an invite-only type deal reserved for those who wear dark, horn-rimmed glasses and hang out in cafes? Would we be looked upon as imposters if we dared sneak into the world of poetry?

One of my objectives as a writer and teacher is to make poetry accessible to everyone who seeks it.

Why? Because we need poetry for at least these 5 reasons:

1. “Poetry gives you permission to feel.” ~ James Autry

What you end up sharing is the whole, complex human experience rather than simply stating facts. You can state your visit to the doctor, the serial tests that followed and the resulting diagnosis as ‘things that happened’ or you can explore them, invite others in on the journey and truly experience them with poetic language. The latter fulfills your human need to feel and forms the foundation for a place of healing.

2. Poetry helps you tap into that intuitive part of you that knows things; when you write, you may be surprised by the wisdom that spills onto the page. This is useful in healing yourself and others who have the opportunity to read or hear your work. The more you practice writing, the stronger your poetic voice becomes and the more easily these revelations write themselves.

3. If you have ever attended a poetry reading, you may have noticed that at points during the recitation of poems, members of the audience have a physical reaction to what is being read. You may hear gasps, mmmmm’s, aaahhhh’s, and other reflexive sounds. These are declarations of sharing space. When we listen to one another, we create an intimate world where we visit each other’s hearts. This type of connection creates a community where joy and healing can take place. Isn’t it comforting when you realize you aren’t alone in feeling something?

4. When I talk about poetry as healing, I don’t mean it will shrink your tumour or cure your addictions. I do mean that it will heal your spirit in a way that gives you the strength to deal with physical illness and problems. Think of it as building the terrain that makes it possible to navigate tricky situations. Or a creative tool for helping you see things in a light that lead you to feeling whole again.

5. If you need a friend, poetry will never fail you. What is it that you seek in a friendship in your darkest hour? Or in a moment of great triumph? Or even those times when you don’t have something extraordinary to say, but you want to say it anyway? Someone who will listen and who makes you feel…like you exist. Like you’re known. Like you’re understood. Writing words on paper will do that for you; it¬†will be your companion when you need one.

Are you more fascinated by poetry, or afraid of it? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments!

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

A Fun Way To Get Your Literary Groove On!

It’s amazing how the more we take a little dip in the creativity pool, the more inspiration pours in. And that inspiration can seep into¬†many areas of life: parenting, career, relationships…I definitely see an increase in¬†ideas¬†when I take the time to¬†practice¬†thinking outside the box.

Today I’m sharing what is basically a game that will set you up with countless writing prompts for daily 15 minute creativity breaks (kind of like the ones I share on the Let ME Out!! Facebook page). Totally suitable for teachers, parents, students, writers, and anybody who wants to play with their imaginations!

This can be put together over a number of days/writing sessions depending on your energy level and available time. If you are doing this with school-age children, I highly recommend doing this in small chunks.

Ok, so let’s create¬†character sketches, settings and phrases¬†as the components of the game.

Character Sketches

Grab some paper and answer the following questions to create a character:

1. Is your character male or female?

2. How old is your character?

3. Describe your character physically. Think of details like hair colour/type, shape of eyes, clothing…be as precise as possible. You never know when certain physical characteristics can be dropped into a story to make things interesting and visualize-able!

4. Where was your character born? Do they have an accent?

5. Name at least 3 unique qualities about your character. These can be quirks, idiosyncrasies, a significant event they have gone through that has shaped them in some way. This step is to help you dive a little deeper into your character’s life.

Repeat these 5 steps for at least 5 characters. Each character should be on separate paper.

Settings 

Now we’re going to come up with 5 different settings on 5 separate pieces of paper, by answering the following questions:

1. What is the name of the city or town? (It can be real or fictitious).

2. What time of year is it?

3. What time of day is it?

4. Name a specific location in the city or town. (eg. DeeDee’s Diner) Add about a paragraph describing¬†this particular location.

Phrases

Phrases can be things the character (or a secondary character) says, thinks or overhears. Or the phrases can be part of the prose that must be worked in word for word. Come up with at least 5, on separate pieces of paper.

Some examples could be:

1. “Do you have a pen I could borrow?”

2. “What’s there to do around here?”

3. The moonlight created shadows.

4. A loud bang startled her.

5. This wasn’t rocket science.

And now for the really fun part…

Make clear piles separating the character sketches, settings and phrases. (You can put them in freezer bags or brown paper bags or shoe boxes). Randomly choose from each pile until you have a character, a setting and a phrase in front of you.

writing practice, writing exercises, character sketches, writing games, students, teachers, therapists, art therapist, writing,

Set a timer for at least 15 minutes and incorporate the ideas into part of a story. The end result could be just a stretch of the creative muscle, or it could be the beginning of a longer story.

Whenever you have 15 minutes for a creativity break, you can add to either the character sketches, settings or phrases, or you can grab one of each and work them into a few paragraphs.

If you have any questions, or want to comment on this activity, I’d love to hear from you! Contact me privately or leave your thoughts below!

 

 

 

3 Things To Write About: Inspiration For Your Writing Practice – #3ThingsThursday

June was a bullet train. It was a fun ride but I am looking forward to the slower-paced, long days of summer. I talked to the kids yesterday about ‘the plan’ that will allow me to work and give them some independent free play time, and they seemed excited about it. Mostly I think they are happy that there is so much play in store for them. But I have to give them props. These kids have always been amazing cheerleaders, coming to my poetry readings, celebrating big and little accomplishments and listening to my ideas with such patience and interest, even when I am sure a lot of it was going over their heads. In fact, THEY have taught ME so much about what it means to celebrate someone else; everyday I hope that they feel I am doing the same for them.

When I came to them with the plan and said we would need to work together, I knew they would be fine with it, but still it made me feel grateful…I just don’t take it for granted that we’ve grown together this way.

Looking back over almost 8 years of motherhood, I see such huge changes in me. Maybe you’ve noticed them, too, if you’ve been reading my blog long enough. I used to feel like I was swimming¬†upstream, ‘fighting the shackles’ that were keeping me from being…I don’t know…I don’t know who or what I was trying to be. And I think it was the not knowing that had me feeling like I wasn’t being or doing…anything. When really, what was happening was some of the greatest shifts of my life.

I’ve softened. I’ve shifted focus, perspective. I’m much quicker to say, that’s not as important to me as this moment, right here, with my family. And I am so grateful that this realization has come to me while my kids are still this young and I hope the awareness only grows.

But wait, that’s not what I meant to blog about today! But I’m not deleting it. I am, however, going to tell you about one of the great experiences I have been blessed with on this authentic and creative journey.

For the last almost 5 years I have co-hosted a free, drop-in writing group in the South Surrey/White Rock area. The group is called Word Whips by the Water and is an initiative of Pandora’s Collective. On the first Wednesday of every month, from 6:30-8 pm, at the White Rock Public Library, my friend Karen and I share writing prompts with the crowd that shows up. Everyone has 15 minutes to write to each prompt, after which sharing is encouraged, but not required.

So, for today’s #3ThingsThursday, a linkup hosted by Pink Chai Living, The Write Balance and Love Laugh Mirch, I’m going to give YOU 3 things to write about! If you’re a blogger and would like to link up, please visit any of the hosts’ websites!

Grab a piece of paper, or open a Word doc, set your timer for 15 minutes and write poetry or prose, fiction or non-fiction to any or all of the images below. You don’t need to use the words I give you, but you can if you wish.

1. Palm trees in Anaheim, Californiapalm trees, anaheim, disneyland, california

2. The embers of a campfire

embers, campfire, camping, dying embers, hot,

3. Looking up at pine trees.

pine trees, against the night sky, camping, looking up at trees, trees, looking up

 

An Exercise To Encourage Creativity & Self-Expression – For Kids & Adults

feature image courtesy of stockimages from freedigitalphotos.net

Those of you who have been around long enough may remember¬†that I used to give you a ‘task’ every Tuesday to stimulate your creativity. Just a little something that could be done in a short time to remove some of those cobwebs from your creative channels. From that, Tuesday Tasks: 52 Activities Designed for an Entire Year of Creativity was born and is now selling online and in stores.

One of my personal favourites is what I call the Feelings Poem, an exercise I did when I was in grade 6. This morning I had the pleasure to go into my daughter’s grade 2 classroom and facilitate a mini poetry workshop using this poem. As an introduction to poetry, I asked the students to list reasons why people write them.¬†Basically, the responses centred around:

– because it’s fun (YES! Enjoyment! It’s so important to do things simply because they are fun!)

Рso we can tell people things (YES! Express ourselves Рsuper important to be able to do this!)

– so we can make people happy (YES! Invoke feelings in others! I went on to explain that we can make people feel anything with the words we use…what a great lesson in kindness and a preventive measure for bullying.)

I also talked about the uniqueness of poetry: how even if two classmates decided to write on the same topic, their poems would be totally different because each of them is special. And that is SO AWESOME!

Poetry helps us describe things in a way that other people can relate to, even if they haven’t had the same exact experience as you. It’s like using words to paint a picture in other people’s heads. With an older group of kids, more time and without my toddler in class with me, I would have loved to go into more of a lesson on poetry. I’m realizing just how much I have to share about writing as a therapeutic tool of self-expression.

Here’s how the lesson went:

1. First we brainstormed a list of emotions: happy, sad, excited, surprised, worried, nervous, grumpy, scared, jealous etc. This is a great thing to do with children of all ages, but keep in mind that the younger ones will have a more limited vocabulary for their feelings. I wouldn’t spend too much time on this part for now – your child will be working with one emotion that he or she knows a lot about.

2. Next, each child chose an emotion and wrote it down in the first blank (see template below).

3. Then I asked everyone to close their eyes and think about the word they had just written – even imagine feeling it. I asked, “What colour is this feeling?” The colour went in the next blank.

4. We moved through the template, line by line, so that I could give a little prompt at the beginning: Think about the feeling you chose: if it had a smell, what would it smell like? etc.

5. The ‘And reminds me of _____’ was a bit tricky for this age group. I prompted by asking them to think of a memory associated with the feeling.

6. The last line should begin with the chosen feeling.

I’d love it if you’d try this with your child and then give me feedback on how it went. (Be sure to tell me how old your child is). Also, please do this yourself! It’s really fun and will let you stretch those creative muscles!

Stay tuned for more exercises and videos for kids and adults that will release your creative and authentic Self. To be sure not to miss anything,¬†please sign up to receive my blog posts straight to your inbox, and receive a free mini e-book! Thank you ūüôā

 

 

On Writing Memoir: What It Is And Why Write It

This is the age of people sharing stories.  We have stepped into the place of appreciating the value of the ups and downs of our journey and know that their true blessing is released when the lessons make their way into the lives of others.

When people ask me my preferred genre to write, without missing a beat I will tell them “memoir.” ¬†This is usually followed by the question, “Is that like your autobiography?”

And here’s the answer: No.

Autobiography goes something like this: This happened, then this happened, then this happened, then this happened…and… in 1987… this happened etc.

Memoir goes like this: Hi, my friend. ¬†Come on in. ¬†We’re going to step into my parents’ living room on a sunny Friday afternoon in March 2006. ¬†Sit down on the couch beside me as I sit beside my mom and learn the news that would change all of our lives. ¬†Don’t worry – I’m safe, you’re safe, she’s safe and you will know this by the calm resilience in my voice. ¬†I know this might bring something up for you as well but that’s ok. ¬†This is a healing process. ¬†There. ¬†Now that you can relate to this pivotal moment in my life, let me share with you all the gems I unearthed from it. ¬†Here’s one and here’s another. Beautiful, right? ¬†Let’s go another step further and allow me to show you how these treasures have impacted my life now – 7 years later. Do you see how this magic works? ¬†Can you see how it can work in your life, too? ¬†Here are some tools that I have used to help me get here. ¬†These tools might work for you or you may have another way of getting there. ¬†Either way, you are not alone. ¬†Thank you for listening to my story because you have given purpose and meaning to what I have been through. ¬†

I bolded that last part because I want you to pay attention to it. ¬†This is very important for me and why I share what I do. ¬†It is so rewarding when a reader sends me a message to say they heard my words and it impacted them in some way. ¬†Because really, what was the point of me going through anything difficult if I couldn’t come out the other side with something that could benefit someone else?

You have stories, too and if you have ever wondered if you should share them, the answer is yes.  If you have been wondering if now is the time, the answer is also a resounding YES.  Not sure how to get started?  Drop me a line.

After all, the stories that we share could very well be the only thing we really are.

Four generations of stories and love.
Four generations of stories and love.