Writing --- Reading & Everything In-Between

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

MAYA ANGELOU – A life that inspires


“Easy reading is damn hard writing.”

I encountered this true statement by the late Maya Angelou, before I became familiar with her writings. One of the most distinguished women of our time, Dr. Angelou was a renowned novelist, poet, dramatist, filmmaker and actress. She was also an influential civil rights activist and educator.

In her lifetime, she won three Grammy Awards, the presidential medal of arts in 2000 and the Lincoln Medal Award in 2008. Wow! Isn’t that the dream of many creative personalities?

In 1993, President Bill Clinton requested the literary icon to compose a poem to read at his inauguration. She wrote “On The Pulse Of The Morning,” which she read live at the event while millions around the world watched.

Her memoir, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” first published in 1969, became a huge success. Time magazine has named it one of the ‘100 best non-fiction books of all time.’ With 30 bestselling titles and many honors and awards, she is definitely a woman to study.

Since her passing in May 2014, I have been intrigued by her inspiring life. I have read so much about her and discovered what made her such a successful person and influential writer.

Here are some lessons I garnered from her story.

She read and studied voraciously, mastering French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic and Fanti, a West African language. Maya learns that love for herself, the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned. 


Take it or leave it; you cannot be a great writer if you are not an ardent reader. Read works of great authors.


She said in an interview with Noah Charney on the Daily Beast:

“I keep a hotel room in my hometown and pay for it by the month.
I go around 6:30 in the morning. I have a bedroom, with a bed, a table, and a bath. I have Roget’s Thesaurus, a dictionary and the Bible. But I’ve never slept there… I’m usually out of there by 2. And then I go home and I read what I’ve written that morning, and I try to edit then.”


She took advantage of her mornings, which to me is the most productive time of the day. Serious writers set out a time to write, in a quiet place, away from distractions. Writing is serious business. It is not an activity you slot into your schedule when it’s convenient. If you want to be as successful as the likes of Dr. Angelo, you have to work it as a job and not a hobby.


She was also a diligent and committed writer.
She says: “Easy reading is damn hard writing. But if it’s right, it’s easy. It’s the other way round, too. If it’s slovenly written, then it’s hard to read. It doesn’t give the reader what the careful writer can give the reader.”
Her works are mostly a reflection of her childhood and other life experiences. Perhaps that’s what makes them so heart touching, so life-changing.

When writers write from their hearts, from strong and sincere emotions, readers respond from their hearts too.

I can’t conclude this article without this final question Noah Charney asked Dr Angelo, especially now that she has passed.

What would you like carved onto your tombstone?
[Laughs] “I did my best, I hope you do the same.”

Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well. Let’s do our best to leave a lasting legacy, a worthy foot print on the sand of time.

Enjoy God’s Exceeding Grace

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


You can be a productive person if you want, but it takes discipline. We all need to make ourselves do what we should do, at the right time, whether it is convenient or not. That is self-discipline and that is what makes a person excel in his field.
Here are two tips that will help you become a more productive writer.

What do you want? What are you trying to achieve as a writer?  What do you want to write about? Why do you want to write it? How are you going to get it written and read? If you cannot answer these basic questions, you are not ready for success. Write down the answers. Make them clear and achievable. I read in one of Brian’s Tracy’s report that the great billionaire H.L. Hunt once said, there are only two real requirements for success. The first is to decide exactly what you want. The second is to determine the price you must pay and then resolve to pay that price.

One of the ways you save time, energy and resources is to plan your day and time. Many things will happen to distract you, and if you don’t already have your time planned out, you may lose focus of your goals.
The renowned Christian novelist, Francine Rivers advises writers to keep their priorities in order – God, family, writing. This is achievable with proper planning. She says, Write a little each day. Even if you only do a paragraph, you will have a body of work by the end of year. One page a day means 365 pages in a year.”
You maximize your day as a serious writer by making sure your plan includes writing every day, no matter how little.
Image courtesy of Akarakingdoms/freedigitalphotos.net
Award winning writer, Irene Hannon, said in an interview:
“Set aside time to write – and do it on schedule. It’s way too easy to find other things to do, but if you have a schedule, you’re more inclined to actually produce.
I recall someone once asked a famous writer if he waited until inspiration struck before he sat down to write, and he said something like: “Absolutely. I make sure I’m inspired every morning at nine o’clock.”
That sense of discipline - of making yourself write even when the muse is hiding or you’re not in the mood –is to me, the sign of a professional writer, whether you’re writing full time or juggling your writing with a day job. Even an hour three times a week is a schedule and it signifies commitment.”

The Bible tells us in Proverbs 6:6-11 to plan and be diligent like the ant. Great achievements require great sacrifice. So, to be a successful writer, you must be ready to pay the price. You can be who you want to be and accomplish just about anything you want if you are willing to pay the price.

A day came when I realized there is always a price to pay anyway, whether for success or for failure. I chose to pay it for success. That is paying in advance rather than paying later.

Enjoy God’s Exceeding Grace

Friday, July 25, 2014

READ - The Big Deal About Reading

READ is out! I give all the glory to Jesus. What's the big deal about reading? That's the question the book addresses. The aim is to encourage people to read productively and expand their knowledge base.
This book is special to me for some reasons. First, it is my first printed work. I have published some of my writings online and won prizes for a few, but this is the first time I'm publishing in print.
Secondly, this work is special because it is independently published. I have closely followed the evolvement and growth of indie publishers online. Following tips shared by them, I decided to give it a try and here is the product.
Well, I'm not completely satisfied, but this is just the beginning. I like the cover which I and my graphic designer put together. There are some problems with the layouts and some typographical errors, but these have not in any way tampered with the message of the book which I think is life-changing.
From doing this book, I have learnt some more about taking steps towards achieving your dreams. You don’t get things done by wishing, you get things done by taking positive, productive steps.
If there is a book in you, I encourage you to write it. Write it now!
Enjoy God’s Exceeding Grace

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Monday, July 14, 2014


Tracy sat at the dining room table, peering at the mound of bills in front of her. It was the most dreaded time of the month  bill-paying time. Was it her, or was the stack in front of her growing before her eyes? It seemed that no matter how hard she tried, she could never get everything paid these days.

The hospital laid her off four months ago and Jim's construction jobs started dwindling soon after. He had to start traveling to get any work at all. To top it off, the twins had been sick with a cold for two weeks, adding to the already mounting doctor bills! She felt the weight of it all coming down upon her.

"Lord," she began as she picked up her checkbook, "I thank you for what you have blessed us with. Please help me to be able to get the most important things paid this month."

After an hour of "robbing Peter to pay Paul", Tracy placed the stamp on the last envelope and placed them all in a neat stack on the corner of the desk.
"Well, there you go." She then looked at the stack of unpaid bills. "Maybe I can get to you next month."

Tracy then made her way to the kitchen to prepare a meager dinner of chili and hot dogs for her family.

Later that night, Tracy tucked the twins in bed and walked down the hallway toward her bedroom. The weight of all her troubles hung around her like a steel blanket.

She walked to her bedside and knelt down.

"Dear Lord, I don't know what to do. I feel so overwhelmed. I know You will work things out for our family. I know You have great plans for us and I need to be patient. Please, help me with that, Lord. Help me to turn all the worry over to You. In Jesus' name, amen."

Tracy climbed in bed and willed sleep to overtake her, putting an end to this long and tiring day.

 Three days later she was fixing the twins breakfast when the phone rang.

"Hello." Tracy expected it to be the usual bill collector.

"Tracy Lester?"


"Ms. Lester, my name is Margie Stone and I am the Director of Nursing at the new nursing home in town. Mrs. Winston, your former supervisor, gave me your information. She explained that you were one of the unfortunate in the recent layoffs at Mercy General."

"Yes, ma'am." Tracy wondered where this was going. Her heart sped up with anticipation.

"Well, we are looking for someone to head up our acute care wing and Mrs. Winston feels that you would be perfect for the position. Would you be interested?"

"Yes, I would be!" Tracy fought to contain her excitement. "You should know up front that I am the mother of twin three year olds and my husband is doing a lot of traveling with his job. It may be difficult for me to pull weekend or night shifts."

Tracy knew from experience that this information was usually a deal breaker.

"No problem! This would be a weekday shift,  a straight forty hour week. Can we set up a time to meet?"

"An interview? That would be wonderful!" Tracy couldn't believe what was happening.

"No, Mrs. Lester, Mrs. Winston's opinion of you is all I need to give you a chance. You have the job, if you want it."

"Oh, my! You have no idea what this means to my family and me!"

"I look forward to working with you. Is it possible for you to come in this afternoon, say around three? And please, bring the twins."

"I don't know if that would be such a great idea, Ms. Stone."

Bring the twins. . . Really?

"It would give you a chance to see how they like the daycare center we have here. Employees get a wonderful discount."

This was too much!

"Well, alright then. The twins and I will see you at three."

"Great! I will be looking for you."
Tracy hung up the phone and hit her knees right there in the middle of the kitchen floor. Tears streamed down her cheeks.

"God, you are truly amazing! You have shown me once again, that there is always a bright and shining light at the end of every dark tunnel. Thank you!"

Article Source: http://www.faithwriters.com <a href="http://www.faithwriters.com">CHRISTIAN WRITER</a>

Monday, June 30, 2014


My pastor told us one day that a Christian who cannot boldly preach Christ and win souls have failed in his primary assignment.
“It was Jesus’ final call to all believers and if you are not winning souls for Jesus, you are like a fruitless tree. What did Jesus do to the fruitless tree in Matthew 21:19? He cursed it!  And in Luke 13:6-7, He ordered it to be cut down!”

This made me really restless. I was an introvert. I had been a Christian for close to five years and hadn't won a soul for Christ. I love God and His Word and all I wanted was to be a productive Christian. I began to pray for the grace for evangelism.

Weeks later, my prayers were answered. A 19-year old girl, Deborah, told me of how she and twelve other girls were kidnapped by terrorists while on field trip to Northern Nigeria. The terrorists informed them they were hostages to get the government to release three of their arrested members. They asked those who were Christians to lift up their hands. Deborah and four others did. Out of fear, two Christian girls did not indicate. The terrorists told Deborah’s group that they won’t be Christians for long.

While the other eight girls ate good food, Deborah and her group were fed with dry bread and water. They did the dishes and laundry. However, the terrorists did not rape them as they did the other girls, because to them, Christians were an ‘abomination.’

Through it all, Deborah said she was at peace. A pocket-sized Gospel of John which she always carried with her gave her hope. She had kept it hidden in her dress. In the middle of the night, she would sneak it out and read, using the faint light streaming through the windows from outside. Then she would pray quietly for their release. Soon, the other Christian girls joined in the secret reading and praying.

One of those nights, she heard one of the Muslim girls crying. She crawled to her to comfort her, read John 16 to her and prayed with her. In the next few nights, all the other girls joined the secret, quiet fellowship and confessed Jesus as Lord. They spent most of the nights reading the Gospel of John and praying.

Two weeks after, soldiers ambushed the camp and rescued all of them. They had read the Gospel of John twice. Deborah told me only two of the girls went back to Islam. The others are growing strong in the Christian faith.

I was challenged by her story. I asked her about the bible. She simply dipped her hand in her bag, brought one out and said, “The rule in my home is, ‘don’t leave the house without The Book.’ Since I was twelve, my mother taught me how to share the gospel with this.”

Deborah told me about the website - http://www.ptl.org. I immediately checked it out. What I saw was an answer to my prayer on evangelism.

Since 1893, the Pocket Testament League has been mobilizing and equipping Christians to read, carry and share the Word of God. Their free resources are a spiritual trove; free evangelism training that makes it easy for timid Christians like me to share my faith with others. I was particularly enriched with the Evangelism Boot Camp, a free, self-paced, 7-part online training course. It is simply amazing!

Two years of using their Free Daily Devotional have grown my faith, improved my relationship with God, and increased my passion for reading God's Word. I have received deep insights, especially from the Gospel of John, through the 21-Day Challenge.

Today, like Deborah, I can confidently witness, even to the most unusual people, in a variety of creative ways. The pocket-sized Gospel of John, for instance, comes in colorful cover designs related to people’s personal interest. There is a suitable cover for your boss, colleagues, that snubby neighbor, soldier, horticulturist, golf player or dog-lover - many attention grabbing covers in a variety of languages. I just hand them out freely, with loads of love and prayers. As they read, they make a decision for Christ. No words of man can be as effective for evangelism as the Word of God.

Since I encountered the Pocket Testament League, my spiritual life has grown amazingly.

Effective and rewarding evangelism tools are just a click away.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


I am currently reading an e-book titled About Writing by Michael LaRocca. It’s a great book for those who want to improve their writing. In it are some quotes by writers. Some are instructive, some comical and some downright ludicrous. I had to go on the web to check out the bios of some of those writers and see what made them impressive.  Enjoy the snippets.
"Everywhere I go, I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them." Flannery O'Connor
Mary Flannery O'Connor (March 25, 1925 – August 3, 1964) 
An American writer and essayist, she was an important voice in American literature. With two novels, 32 short stories, as well as a number of reviews and commentaries, her Complete Stories won the 1972 U.S. National Book Award for Fiction. She was named the "Best of the National Book Awards" by internet visitors in 2009.
  • I write fiction because it's a way of making statements I can disown, and I write plays because dialogue is the most respectable way of contradicting myself. Tom Stoppard
  • It is always a good idea, in any type of writing, to imagine what it's like to be the reader. Carl Dickson
  • An editor is someone who separates the wheat from the chaff and then prints the chaff. Adlai Stevenson
Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers. T.S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns Eliot (26 September 1888 – 4 January 1965) 

I encountered his writing for the 1st time at the university when we read one of his well-known plays, Murder in the Cathedral (1935). An essayist, publisher, playwright, literary and social critic, He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948, "for his outstanding, pioneer contribution to present-day poetry."
  • It has been said that there is no great writing, only great rewriting. Michael LaRocca
  • It is impossible to discourage the real writers - they don't give a damn what you say, they're going to write. Sinclair Lewis
  • When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing. Enrique Jardiel Poncela
  • Easy reading is damn hard writing. Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Writing comes more easily if you have something to say. Sholem Asch
I'm all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with typewriters. Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright(June 8, 1867 – April 9, 1959)

He was known more as a reknown American architect of his time. He was also an interior designer, writer and educator, who designed more than 1000 structures and completed 532 works. Wright authored 20 books and many articles and was a popular lecturer in the United States and in Europe. He was recognized in 1991 by the American Institute of Architects as "the greatest American architect of all time. one of his most popular architectural designs was the Falling Water.
  • I can't understand why a person will take a year or two to write a novel when he can easily buy one for a few dollars. Fred Allen
  • Writers have a rare power not given to anyone else; we can bore people long after we are dead. Sinclair Lewis

Enjoy God’s Exceeding Grace

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Many people are walking corpses, roaming the earth without knowing who they are.                

Image Courtesy of Master Isolated Images/freedigitalphotos.net
Ask yourself these questions:
1.      Who am I?
2.     Why am I here?
3.     What do I have in me? ( Gifts, Talents and Abilities)
4.    What am I to use them for?
Try answering these questions.

I have found out, in my years of teaching and counseling, that many do not have these answers. That is why successful people are much fewer than the unsuccessful.
Until you discover yourself, you cannot uncover your destiny. The best thing you can do for yourself in your youthful season is to know who you are. No one can do it for you; it is a personal responsibility.
No one knows who you are
Only God can tell you who you are
Only you can find out from Him who you are
You lose your personal identity by letting people tell you who you are or by imitating others.
Go to your maker and let Him show you who you are and why He created you, it is only then you can move on to the future on the right path.
 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” Jeremiah 29:11

You Are Made To Excel
Grace Greatman