Write your way to a better brain!

Last week I talked about writers who had kept up their craft well past what youngsters would consider to be their ‘prime’ (of course, in a few years those youngsters will most certainly redefine what they consider to be a ‘prime’ age!). Well, it seems that in fact, there’s more to this ‘aging and writing’ thing than I thought!

A recent study has revealed that as we age, word—both our writing and reading of them—can play an important role in keeping our brains healthy. Using MRIs, scientists have discovered that the more literary engagement we have, the lower the likelihood that we’ll develop cognitive problems (like Alzheimer’s or dementia) later in life. This includes activities as simple as letter-writing (don’t forget those Christmas letters), reading a newspaper, or even doing the daily crossword.

But aside from the cognitive well-being these activities promote, I’d argue there are benefits to our emotional well-being as well. Reading and writing helps us to engage with others and with our imaginations, and what can be more beneficial than that! Even in this digital age, the written word forms the foundation for all our interactions with the world.

So if you’ve had an idea for the next great novel brewing in your mind for years, what are you waiting for? Get writing—your brain’s health may depend on it!

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Writing and writing ‘til ya can’t write no more!

I came across an inspiring article today for all those writers out there who came to their craft later in life, as I did.

As the article points out, writing can be a tough slog. It’s emotionally draining, and it’s physically draining when you don’t have the luxury of being able to live off your writing (the reality for most writers). So it’s always great seeing all the amazing writers who are still churning out wonderful books well into their 80s and 90s! Gone are the days where writers would “fade out by the time they were 70.”

I only started writing in 2000, inspired by a beautiful baby elk, named Butter. I credit that lovely creature with awakening in me a passion that had been dormant for most of my life. Once I started writing, I found I couldn’t stop! And I think that’s what it really all boils down to. If you’re willing to commit your time and energy to what can be an incredibly thankless task, day in and day out, then odds are you’re not going to want to stop—even as the years roll on! And I think this other author summed it up perfectly:

“You can’t stop writing,” says Salter, who notes that Roth is reportedly in active correspondence with his biographer, Blake Bailey. “Even if you say you’re not writing books anymore, you’re making notes, perhaps writing in your journal. I dare say, even when you feel, ‘Christ, I can’t do it anymore,’ you’re still observing life and taking things in. You’re thinking, ‘I’d love to write that story. I wonder how I’d do it?'”

Like I’ve said before, writers write. And a few more grey hairs can’t change that!

What’s in your toolbox?

Every writer has their toolbox—the assortment of items they use on a regular basis to help turn their ideas into that compilation of words cobbled together to make a story.

The toolbox’s contents will vary greatly, of course, from writer to writer. And they might not even be physical tools, it might be an activity or process a writer undertakes to inspire or relax them.

One of my most important tools is my trusty dictionary—it never leaves my side. I like to be able to remove any doubt that I’ve chosen the best word for any given situation. Now, I know a lot of authors opt for a thesaurus, but I’ve always been a bit reluctant to include it amongst my arsenal. Of course, once in a while it’s useful, but if you start to rely on it too heavily, you might be headed in the wrong direction, literarily-speaking.

The danger, for me, is that sometimes end up choosing a word simply because it sounds more impressive, and not because it actually is, ‘le mot juste’! And it as turns out, it’s a fairly popular concern amongst writers. Here’s an excellent explanation of the dangers that lurk behind a thesaurus’ cover! 

What’s in your writer’s toolbox?

Writing in the witching hour.

I talked last week about how much I love the changing of the season All Hallow’s Eve grows nearer. But there’s another reason why fall brings out the best in me, creatively-speaking. I really do my best work as a writer in exactly the kind of conditions germane to this time of year.

Living on a farm there’s a huge amount of work to do in order to keep things rolling smoothly. Obviously 90% of that work has to be during the day-time, so if I want to write my only real option is to do so in the evening. And once the cooler months arrive and work on the farm slows down, I’ve got more time to do what I love best.

I’m incredibly fortunate to have a two-story antique home right on the banks of the Peace River. So when the sun goes down I light a fire and write until dawn. I really couldn’t ask for a more perfect atmosphere. Peace and quiet, solitude, and the flickering of the fire—a writer’s paradise, really.

So with the ever-shortening days and the instinct to hibernate slowly kicking in, I’m looking forward to a productive writing season!

Writing at the speed of light!

A couple of weeks ago I talked about writer’s block and how to snap yourself out of a summer funk and start getting creative again. Well how about jump-starting your writing for the fall? That’s the idea behind the 3-Day Novel Contest. 

That’s right, the title says it all: you have 72 hours to write a complete masterpiece!

You have three days to write an entire novel, writing only the outline in advance, and before you ask, it’s based on the honour system (or extremely annoying family members who will crack down on you hard).

I know a few people who’ve done this (and they even did a reality television show in Edmonton a few years ago), and I’ll be honest—their war stories were excruciating. The endless hours spent listening to the buzz of the computer monitor, the coffee shakes, and the inevitable bouts of insanity that come with depriving yourself of sleep and contact with the outside world!

I don’t know if I have it in me to do it, but maybe someday I’ll give this a try just to be able to say that I did it once!  If any of my readers out there are brave enough to embark on the 3-Day Novel adventure this year, good luck!

Wonderful review of the new book

Hello there, I just wanted to post this wonderful review of my new book Mary: Woman of Sorrows. Please consider sharing with your friends, or better yet – buy the book!

I just finished reading your last book Mary: Woman Of Sorrows, I can only try to explain the great effect that this book had on me. After discussing the book with my friend and neighbour, the passion that she showed [for] the book after she read it and the awesome conversation we had about it, I knew I must read it.
It was one of those books that once you start to read it, there is no putting it down until it is done, and that is exactly what I did, read it till it was done!
This book touched me on many different levels, first as a woman and the many [injustices] that we face everyday for being born female. Second as a Christian, and the close relationship that I share with Jesus Christ each and every single day, realizing all over again exactly what he did for me. And third as a mother, and the lengths I would go to for any of my children at any time or [in] any place or situation.
I thank you Bev for this book and your and your opinions. I find you to be very brave to even dare to write about this subject, and feel empowered as a woman after reading it!
Thanks again for the awsome read…
M.B.