Writing From the Inside Out – now available as audiobook!

Hooray!

Writing from the Inside Out: The Practice of Free-Form Writing is now available as an audiobook. You can get it here on audible.

The reader, MacKenzie Nikol Greenwood, does such a phenomenal job of really embodying the language and conveying the spirit that inspired the project. She imparts a listening experience that is meditative and inspiring. I heartily recommend listening to her performance of the text.

If you enjoy this narration of Writing from the Inside Out, please post your glowingly positive review on audible! I very much want to support her continued endeavors as a narrator.

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“True creativity flows continually throughout life, breaking free of form.”

The Ergonomics of Emacs (with Colemak and Ergoemacs)

I am a writer, and I spend a lot of time with text. Lately, I have been experimenting with my setup and trying out different programs.

I highly recommend emacs for any writer who is

  • interested in free software
  • somewhat technically inclined
  • willing to become one with their keyboard

It’s the One True Text Editor, and a lot could be said about it. Right now, I want to focus on how it can be phenomenally ergonomic.

My Setup

The setup that I am recommending is for writers of prose, not necessarily developers, though I can’t imagine that this setup couldn’t be tweaked a bit and still be ideal for writing millions of lines of code.

With this setup, I’m never reaching for the mouse or trackpad to click a region or highlight text or move windows around. Everything gets done with keyboard shortcuts. I hardly even need the arrow keys, even when editing/revising. That alone is a beautiful thing, something that doesn’t get talked about that much by the general public, I’m guessing, because, as a feature, it’s invisible – to the uninitiated, emacs just looks like 1986 with better pixel density (though not necessarily more colors).

One of the big gripes people seem to have against emacs is that the keyboard shortcuts are non-intuitive and/or uncomfortable. Well, yeah. I can see that, at least how it is by default. For the first couple of days I used emacs, I tried the key combos that it inherited from the precambrian days when it was first fashioned from shards of bone and spare capacitors. I used it that way for a couple of days. I liked that I could do so much from the keyboard, but the shortcuts weren’t intuitive, and they relied excessively on the Ctrl key. I had other things to do and not do besides learn key combos in emacs.

One great thing about the program is how it can be customized. All the key combos can be changed. Even better is when all of the hard work has already been done and all I have to do is install an emacs package.

I installed Ergoemacs. With ergoemacs, my fingers never venture far from the home row. I mean, I don’t even need to go all the way over to the backspace key. I have plenty of better options. I can backspace with my left pinky (Colemak layout) or I can delete characters, words, or the line, either in front of or behind the cursor, by using the excellent meta-key combos, which are grouped in a way that makes a lot of sense. A lot of sense. Meta is easy to reach. My left thumb wasn’t doing very much anyway. Now it runs with the pack.

I am experimenting with other configurations as they occur to me. For example, I mapped the RETURN function to the Meta-‘ key. It’s not that hard for the right pinky to go over to the return button on the keyboard, but why bother, when Meta-‘ is even closer?

I am a big fan of this text editor, but I can certainly still see why emacs is not right for everyone. It has a learning curve and a general technical bent to its design. Maybe some enterprising hacker will put together an emacs that is more easily accepted by the average prose writer (liberating these writers from Word, etc). I would love to see that. More free software users, more free minds.

Emacs’s main asset, as I presently see it, is also the reason why it doesn’t attract a wider userbase: It relies on the keyboard. That’s not a user-friendly plus for the casual user. A user has to be willing to take the plunge into the invisible tactile realm of keyboard livin’. Part of the reason I wish emacs had a wider adoption among non-engineers is because then it would have been on my radar and I would have given it a try sooner. Although, for me, I can’t say for sure that I would have stuck with emacs if it hadn’t been for ergoemacs.

So, for anyone who is on the fence about trying a different text editor, word processor, or document creation suite, I would recommend emacs with ergomacs and org-mode. Give colemak a shot while you’re at it.

PS. Another remapping to consider: Meta – [ and ] to navigate through (previous-heading) and (next-heading) in org-mode.

Oh Yeah, and Keep a Cheat Sheet Handy

One thing about ergoemacs: Since all the commands are remapped, it occasionally becomes necessary to translate from the default precambrian keyboard shortcut to the ergo-remapped shortcut. If you read advice somewhere as to how something is done in emacs, they will probably give you the default way to do the command, but the default keybinding won’t work for you, since you exist in a different space/time continuum. When in doubt, you can probably use the menu bar to select the command that way.

 

Emacs: My Recommendation for Writers Using a Free Software Setup

Free Your Mind and Your Software Will Follow (and vice versa)

The more I learn about GNU and FSF and Richard Stallman, the more my respect grows for the Free Software movement. Over the past year and a half I have transitioned from a Mac Pro retina to a custom gnu/linux desktop and a dedicated gnu/linux portable writing machine.

The most recent change I have made is switching to emacs from Scrivener. You read that right: to emacs from Scrivener. I won’t say that I will abandon Scrivener, nor that I find anything at all wrong with a small company selling software in the way that Literature and Latte does. I personally see what they do as a creative thing, and mostly by that logic believe that they have every right to make a living by it. Stallman (and, no doubt, many others) seems to say that because a work of software does something, it should be free. Software is not my area of expertise, and I don’t have a strong opinion on the matter, except in the general sense. I would much rather point a finger at the biggest players (biggest offenders, potentially) and encourage them to make free software. e.g. Adobe, Microsoft, Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, and Microsoft.

Learning Curve

Goodness, there is a learning curve for emacs. Emacs is most commonly used by programmers. For writers, our needs aren’t so great, so that means we can learn all that we need about the program in a short time. Admittedly, as non-programmers, we are at a relative disadvantage since emacs expects some familiarity with code, especially if you want to customize it (and of course you do).

The good news is that with a couple of tweaks, things are not so difficult after all.

I highly recommend the following packages:
org-mode
ergoemacs

Org-mode

Org is a popular and versatile add-on for emacs that allows you to nimbly create and interact with lists. That’s all I use it for. It also has some advanced TODO list capabilities, but what I love about it is how I can keep organizational trees nice and tidy and navigable. I can use it as an organizer/synopsis tool by opening multiple frames. You can easily install it within emacs using the built-in package manager.

Ergoemacs

I found the default emacs key bindings the single greatest annoyance/hindrance that made the learning curve unneccesarily steep. For anyone starting out, particularly for a creative writer, I would highly recommend using the ergoemacs key bindings. I type using a colemak configuration, and ergoemacs even comes with a colemak theme. These keybindings are intuitive. This package can also be installed within the emacs package manager.

Multiple frames, full screen

Press F11. Nice, isn’t it? I run emacs in a full screen environment (no distractions, nothing else but this document at present), and emacs makes it easy to move between different documents, whether as separate full-screen buffers or in a split pane. Again, there’s none of that mousing around business to do, which is a luxury.

Dark mode

I belong to the minority of writers who most enjoys light text on a black background. I use and love the wheatgrass theme in emacs. And because I am running the Gnome desktop environment (set to a universal dark theme), in emacs nothing is glaring at me.

– When it’s late in the day and I am writing, I write by candlelight. It’s magical.

Markdown

Emacs is a text editor, not a word processor, so it’s not rich text or WYSIWYG. But you can work in markdown, and in some cases that might be preferable. With markdown, you know what you are going to get in the finished manuscript. With a word processor (I’m looking at you, MS Word), you can’t always be so sure.

So yeah, on the one hand, you have to write in markdown, but on the other hand, you get to write in markdown. And you’re content with that, aren’t you? I mean, you’ve got to be pretty hardcore to get into emacs, where even word-wrapping isn’t a given. So you have to actually select word-wrapping, and guess what you gain? Freedom!

A lot of writers choose to write in markdown anyway, no matter what they’re using to compose. There’s something about the … purity of plain text that I have always loved.

Purity

All and all, I really feel a benefit from using emacs. It’s just the keyboard and me, pretty much. I don’t have to reach for the mouse to move the cursor around or change buffers or panes or expand my outline. That seamless feeling is hard to get in an X-window environment.

Using free software has become for me a part of the whole creative shebang. Free mind, free software.

I’m not extremely technically savvy, but if you have questions, feel free to post them. And if I can help you on your free software journey, I would be happy to.

My Dedicated Writing Machine

I’ve been writing a sci fi series, and the longer I live with these stories, the more I become interested in the ironies and paradoxes of technology.

Ironies? Too many to mention. Suffice it to say that I live in the rural hinterlands and I am nevertheless connected with others via cell phone and the internet.

One last irony: A computer is generally great to work on — they can do a million little things, but I want to do one thing. I want a dedicated writing machine. Having the propensity to write creatively, I would prefer to work on a machine that feels imbued with that same creative spirit.

I wanted a dedicated writing computer, something that I can keep at a workspace that I use only for writing, equipment that only knows me as a writer. Not as a web browser, not as a teacher or web researcher or tinkerer.

The Mission

This dedicated machine, ideally:

  • is single-purpose like a pen and paper or a typewriter
  • has all the benefits of technology. (Copy/paste. Organizer features. Etc.)

Therefore

It needs to be able to run Scrivener.

(edit: Ironically, I have now transitioned to emacs, which, suffice to say, can run on just about anything).

Lately I have been using Scrivener to write. I am always interested in other writing programs, as I’m always interested in other ways to work with words. Voice recorder, longhand, libreoffice, typewriter… These days, I spend most of my time in Scrivener. I don’t even use most of its features, but haven’t found anything out there that compares — or rather, that competes. I do keep a separate text program open (gedit) and often simultaneously work from longhand notes and a jotty longhand outline.

Side note: I recently ditched QWERTY for Colemak and would recommend doing so to anyone who is interested enough in these matters to make it even this far into this post. I switched cold turkey, which was downright trippy for a couple of days, and definitely made typing more time consuming. After a week, typing the new way was no longer perplexing. “The new way,” I said. Yes! It’s a better way to type. If you don’t want to give up your QWERTY cold turkey, there are better ways to switch (like Tarmak).

Being able to run Scrivener may seem like a simple requirement, and maybe it is. But if you take a minimal computer like the raspberry pi for example, well, the pi runs on an ARM processor, not an x86, so it can’t run Scrivener. Great for other things, though.

No internet.
I want to be connected to the internet when I want to be connected, so something like an ethernet-only machine seems good. I understand the appeal of automated backups on a server somewhere, but I’m willing to forgo that for the sake of being streamlined.

Mechanical keyboard.
If you’ve used one, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, and the tactile experience of typing is one that interests you, try anything with cherry mx switches or topre or alps keys. Or even dig through the attic for an IBM model M bucking spring. Me, I love cherry mx browns with O-ring dampeners. Quiet, but tactile. Type rapidly without bottoming out and experience your fingers floating along. That sounds grandiose, and there you have it.

Dark theme or e-ink.
This is a minor issue really, and easy to accomplish. I usually prefer to have white on black than the glare of a white screen. Scrivener’s composition mode can easily accomplish this, though ideally the darkness carries over into the rest of the OS. As of today, an e-ink screen isn’t really an option.

Linux.
I have become something of a Linux enthusiast. I am all for free and open source. When it’s a company, I prefer it to be a small and/or reasonable one rather than a corporate monolith. I lean toward Debian/Ubuntu. This is an easy fix, as Linux can run on pretty much anything with a pretty good chance for being awesome.

No toolbars, no dock.
I want the screen to have nothing on it but my current application. I don’t want the cognitive availability of anything besides the page.
I accomplished this easily with Gnome. By changing a setting, I can hide the toolbar. Everything on the screen is an open field. To bring up the launcher, all I have to do is press the Super key. Otherwise, no side dock, no top toolbar. And a solid black background. If no window is open, it looks like the screen is off. Purity.

Multiple workspaces.
OSX does this really well, particularly with the multitouch integration. Four-finger swipe to a new workspace is brilliant. In Gnome, as with many Linux desktop environments, switching workspaces is as simple as Ctrl-Alt-Up/Down. In a way, having the keyboard shortcut is better for someone who likes his hands on the keyboard.

Minimal yet capable.
I don’t want the machine to give any sign of struggle with the generally non-processor intensive work I am doing. (8086, you’re disqualified.)

Low power, potentially portable.
In some ways, I’m just rethinking the laptop. The laptop is supremely versatile, but it’s also a compromise. Even my Mac Pro Retina is, for nitpicky reasons:

  • I can’t change the distance or elevation between me and the display.
  • The chiclet keyboard isn’t the dreamboat my mech keyboard is.

So why not just plug in the keyboard and use the mac display? In a way, it’s a waste of a computer. The Mac is a fully functional machine, and I am only going to use my writing machine for one thing.

Oh, and extremely inexpensive.
For an endeavor like this, the sound decision is to make it as inexpensive as possible. Goal: to cost about as much as my mechanical keyboard, which will likely outlive it.

Smallish screen with high pixel density.
This was one of the trickiest points. Though I suspect this will change in the recent future, as of now, most high pixel density displays are large (4k desktops) that need to plug into the wall. What about a high-dpi USB powered monitor? Not as easy to find, and cost about as much as a tablet costs.

Eventually,
I realized that a repurposed tablet computer fit my description perfectly. I got an inexpensive Onda v975w, a Chinese tablet running Windows 8 with a display identical to an ipad 2. I wiped Windows away and installed Debian Jessie via netboot, using a powered otg adapter and powered usb hub. I made a few customizations to Gnome, installed the i386 version of Scrivener, and called it a job well done.

For portability, a separate 5v usb battery pack will do the trick. (Plus this to power the usb hub.) Of course, the tablet has its own battery, but its single micro usb port can’t be expected to power a keyboard, mouse/trackpad, and USB drive. So, the battery is for that stuff, with the added benefit of also charging the tablet battery.

One last note: data portability/security.
In Scrivener, you can designate where you want to save (and almost continuously auto-save). You can set a separate location for where you want to save backups. I chose to save my document on a USB flash drive and save backups on the tablet’s removable mini SD card. I don’t save anything on the tablet’s internal drive.

In linux, you can easily encrypt both of these drives using luks or whatever. You have to enter a passphrase to mount the drive, and is a good idea if you’re traveling or have any state secrets on your thumb drive.

Recommendation: Velcro, for attaching the usb hub (and external battery) to the back of the tablet.

Also: I should mention that touchscreen functionality didn’t make it for my installation of Debian, but actually I prefer it this way. I don’t want to touch the screen, smear it up while I’m writing. Ubuntu 15.10 worked brilliantly — touch function worked when I tried it via live boot.

Also, the battery indicator doesn’t work. Not really an issue for me either, since I keep it connected to a power source.

Another note: If you decide to go with the same device I did, be warned! It’s a 64 bit processor but has a 32 bit bootloader. Installing or even booting a 64bit OS requires a 32 bit bootloader workaround, and sometimes the workaround requires more workarounds. In other words, be prepared to get really familiar with GRUB and BIOS/UEFI whatnot. I decided that since the device has 2gb RAM, there would be no harm in running a 32-bit OS and calling it good.

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Thoughts?

Independent Publishing – Lessons Learned

My interest in independent publishing has been rekindled. Back in 2010, I got into it, releasing some guides on creative writing. But most of my attention was drawn to other things, namely travel, running retreats, building our off-grid house, and working with Divine Arts for Writing from the Inside Out.

The rekindling happened as I started collaborating with a good friend of mine on a sci-fi collection. It’s a different kind of writing than I usually do. It’s fun, but I am also taking it seriously, because I look forward to some day sharing these books with readers. And I want to do this independently.

I’m floored by what I have recently discovered about independent publishing, and I want to share some highlights to help other writers. Let me know if you have other recommendations, comments, or suggestions.

Independent Publishing / Self Publishing

I’m a fan of traditional publishing and I’m a fan of independent publishing because I am a fan of writing. Publishing makes writing available to readers. There is a misconception that traditional publishing is ‘real’ and self-publishing is a road to quiet obscurity. Both are real, and both can lead to success.

I like the phrase ‘self-publishing,’ though ‘independent publishing’ is probably better— it avoids some of the stigma associated with self publishing, and it makes clear that the process requires motivated action.

Collaboration

Book Layout and Cover Design

The difference in terms (independent vs. self publishing) also points to the collaboration involved with making a good book. The writer (alone or with a team) fills the book with words and such. So far, so good. But that’s not everything. A book needs a good cover, and good book covers are hard to do unless cover-making is your expertise. So, why not hire an expert?

99designs.com is one of many good resources available for independent writers who want to work with independent designers. Very cool!

Editors

Even when a writer is good at writing, it doesn’t mean she is also good at structuring a book, copyediting a book, laying out a book, thoroughly revising a book, proofreading a book. Editors tend to be quite good at this. Many editors actually enjoy doing this kind of work, revising for usage while retaining style, and so on. So, why not hire one or more editors?

Joanna Penn has a good link list of recommended editors.

Readers

Every writer needs beta readers, people who can read a draft and give feedback. My suggestion is to do what you are already inclined, which is to share your book with a close friend. Make sure the draft you send him is as polished as possible. Be considerate! And let him know your doubts and questions about the draft so he can know what to look for.

Reviewers

Writers really benefit from online reviews because reviews are proof that people enjoyed the book. It’s nice when reviewers share some highlights about the book, because in doing so, the reviewer is also kind of characterizing herself. As a potential buyer, if we have something in common with the reviewer, and the review is good, then we’re likely to buy it.

Goodreads, for example. This is a sort of community for people who really love to read. What writer wouldn’t be happy to give a free review copy of a book (in exchange for a review)?

I, for one, would love to have more reviews on Amazon, so contact me (comments at writingimmersion.com) if you would like a review copy.

Mentors, Teachers, Trailblazers and Success Stories for Self-Published Authors

Awhile back, I was on Audible looking for audiobooks on writing. I came across Write. Publish. Repeat. (The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success). I bought it and listened to it as I worked outside building our house. I liked the information in the book. The simple concept of writing many related books had eluded me as a sound strategy for self-publishing.

As a sales model, writing a lot is fundamentally different than writing one. Writing only one book is kind of hoping for a lightning strike. Writing a lot creates more visibility, more potential sales, higher revenue per reader. More books means more for readers to enjoy.

Releasing a new book boosts the sales of previous books, so there is a kind of compounding-interest thing happening here. The more you have, the more you can grow.

Other strategies for indie writers:

  • Have a good call to action at the end of the book. Make it easy for readers to continue the series or find more from you. Link to a mailing list, a website, and give information about your other books and future projects.
  • The first book in a series is a kind of entry point. Price it low or make it free. Pricing low is a sound strategy for any entrance to a ‘sales funnel.’ Make it easy to enter. If readers like it, they will probably read more.
  • Be yourself. The fact that you are selling something doesn’t need to fundamentally change how you present yourself or who you think you are. You should be generous, professional, and such, and remain true to who you are. Don’t make the mistake of acting salesy because you think it’s necessary. Actually, no, it’s not necessary, and it’s not helpful at all. There’s nothing sleazy or untoward about paying for a book, or about being smart about how you make your writing available. Success in the marketplace requires a mindset shift toward generosity and self-assurance which can be difficult for introverted writers, but it is certainly doable.

A few months after listening to Write Publish Repeat, it came time for me to update my iPhone OS, and the new version included a Podcasts icon. I really hadn’t listened to many podcasts before, but suddenly I had this icon there, so I clicked that thing. Predictably, I searched for podcasts on writing, and I found one called The Creative Penn. In Write Publish Repeat, they mentioned Joanna Penn and her podcast. I figured I would give it a whirl.

Her podcast is excellent. I recommend it for any writer remotely interested in independent publishing. She is smart, generous, and she always has helpful stuff to say. She is also honest about her own journey. She has good resources on her site for self publishers. I would recommend this book: The Indie Author Power Pack: How To Write, Publish, & Market Your Book. It’s 99 cents. How can you go wrong?

Your 1000 True Fans

Worried about being just one of a zillion people vying for riches and fame? Well, don’t be. It’s not a zero-sum game, and the paradigm of publishing has certainly changed (and it continues to evolve). Also, more good news: you don’t even need to strive to become a big name. No selling out required to live well. All you need are 1000 true fans. This article is great for clearing that up:

http://kk.org/thetechnium/2008/03/1000-true-fans/

Successful Indie Authors

Barry Eisler has a very long (let’s say ‘exhaustive’) list of Resources for Indie Authors. Here it is:

http://www.barryeisler.com/indie-authors-resources.php

Hugh Howey’s blog articles are sophisticated, engaging, and timely

http://www.hughhowey.com/

Other

Smashwords is a cool source for selling and promoting your self-published book

https://www.smashwords.com/

As is Kobo:

http://store.kobobooks.com/

Amazon is most certainly the biggest player with the most traffic, but don’t forget about these awesome sites.

Want to publish a short story? Check out wattpad.com.

Finding this material has really impressed me. I already knew something about self-publishing, but what I had previously learned was still a bit off-putting to me as a poet and academic and reader of literary fiction. For one thing, I thought it would always be necessary to be salesy to sell something. These folks and others prove that there really is no downside to indie publishing.

So, in the near future, I will revise and update some of the self-published writing guides I put out a few years ago. And I will be releasing some cool sci fi stories.

The future of independent publishing is very exciting.

Distinctions Between Vignette, Prose Poem and Very Short Story

Some great happenings in literature can be called flash fiction, prose poetry, short-shorts, and even sudden stories — though the name “Sudden Story” strikes me as a little weird, like a stylistic choice rather than a form.

It’s useful to think primarily of the author’s intent. Did they call it a poem? A story? A prose poem? Fable?

There are two primary modes for writing: poetry and story. Yet, they aren’t exclusive. A poem can be narrative, and every sentence of a novel can feel like poetry. The realist story is seen as traditional, and it’s been that way for awhile, but not forever. For much of human history we’ve told stories very differently.

It’s great to be interested in a variety of forms writing can take. Forms clue us into the way the brain orders information to honor the writer’s imaginative intent. Ideas come to us all the time, and it’s good to be practiced so you can do something with them.

Does the writing want to convey the intricacies of people and things changing and affecting one another through time and space? This is kind of what happens on the fiction side of things.

Does the writing want to enact this eternal moment of being? This is kind of what poetry does.

Poetry sings, story tells. Writers don’t have to be able to do everything, but it’s useful to have some distinction when it comes to intent. What a writer intends to be a poem might need to take the form of a story. Likewise, a writer might, in working to honor the felt experience of a story idea, be left with poetry and no other option.

 

PS. A vignette differs from prose poetry because it’s primarily impressionistic.

Write Just Beyond the Edge of Your Expertise

Dean paints what he sees and doesn’t try to make things up — it wouldn’t be as good. – Marty Avrett

Making things up. Storytelling is a kind of lying, but a lying that arrives at truth in the telling. The difference between the true lie and the made up is that when one tells what is before them they express their truth of the moment, which is to say a kind of relationship with the metaphors of being in the world. Making something up is a kind of reaching-against what is abundantly present.

Writing what is before you may involve memory or observation — both are imperfect in the judgment of objectivity, which is an idea that cannot be found anywhere, and so can be disregarded as a burden because it doesn’t connect with the search for truth.

Writing what is before you means to begin when the moment arrives to write what arises, and seeking to do so as freely as skill will allow.

Some believe that writing what is immediately present to you is like a kind of self-conscious observation. This may be because that’s been their experience, though even the intent to be self-conscious doesn’t need to negatively influence one’s truthtelling. Others assert that writing within the exact moment entails a kind of carelessness, and again this assumption may have something to do with their experience or how they’ve been taught. We like to justify our struggles by making them last a long time.

My advice to writers is to simply perform –as you are– just beyond the edge of your expertise, because that’s where you grow the most with your relationship to craft.

Should I Write About My Dreams?

Last night before bed I read Decalogue for a Young Writer by Carlos Fuentes. In it, he mentions that he usually plans the next day’s writing before going to bed. He then writes first thing in the morning, following the advice of Alfonso Reyes, who quoted Goethe saying: “The writer must take the cream off the top of the day.” Fuentes goes on:

But if this is the logical part of literary creation, there is another, both mysterious and unfathomable, that I do not relate to the vagueness of inspiration, a word often used as a pretext for postponing work while waiting for Godot–something, in olden days, called The Muses.

That mysterious part of creativity is dreaming.

I can plan, the night before, the next morning’s work and go to bed peacefully though impatient to get up and renew my writing. But when I sit down the next morning, the plan outlined by my literary logic goes off on a tangent, suffers too many exceptions, and is invaded by the totally unforseen.

What has happened?

It happens that I have dreamed. And it so happens that the dreams I remember are repetitive, commonplace, and useless. I cannot but think, then, that the creative hand that is guiding my own the next morning is the hand of the dreams that I do not remember, dreams doing their invisible chore: displacing, condensing, re-elaborating, and anticipating, in the dreamwork, the literary work.

One might simply regard dreams as natural sensed phenomena, in which case the same rules apply for dream-writing as for anything else.

Nicholas Virgilio put forth the following advice for writers:

  1. Always carry a notebook. Jot down notes on natural phenomena . . . human and non-human: experiences, things, plants, animals–anything that strikes you poetically, or simply interest you.
  2. Compose every day:
    1. Construct a word sketch, with respect to pictorial perspective; whenever possible, place the most prominent object first; always try to present a clear picture.
    2. With real and imagined experience as raw material utilize all your powers: fancy, imagination, logic, intuition, memory, etc.
    3. Experiment: use a new or borrowed technique in all possible ways, with all manner of material and experience until your own style comes into the fore. Remember, even originality is relative; you build on what has gone before you.

Masaoka Shiki said: “Use both imaginary pictures and real ones, but prefer the real ones. If you use imaginary pictures, you can get both good and bad haiku, but the good ones will be very rare.”