Monday, October 29, 2012

The Art of Observation

Heighten Your Awareness & Strengthen Your Writing
by Ann Baldwin

When we read a good story or watch a great film, we’re being transported to a different environment through the use of our sense of sight and sound (either externally with our eyes and ears or internally with our mind’s eyes and ears), along with the use of words (either written or spoken). As writers, being aware of our surroundings and the effect our environment has on us is a valuable asset to our writing skills.

Sharpening our senses through the practice of writing down what we see, hear, smell, taste, and feel in our current surroundings will bring more depth, clarity, and emotion to our writing; this will allow our audience to better experience what we’re trying to convey. For example, when we hear a siren, our hearts beat faster with the anticipation of danger and a life or death situation at hand or when we see an eagle soaring across the sky, it brings an uplifting feeling of freedom, expansion, and peace.

Being able to re-create any type of environment or setting for our audience to experience is done through our own ability to describe in detail what a scene really looks, sounds, smells, and feels like.

While our sense of smell is directly connected to the part of our brain that triggers memories and emotions, we don’t use our nose, when reading a story or watching a film (although smell-a-vision films have been attempted a few times in our history). However, reading the words “homemade bread baking in the oven” or watching a movie scene of “fresh baked bread coming out of the oven” will trigger memories of our experience of smelling fresh baked bread, and our emotions and salivary glands will usually be stimulated.

Here are three quick exercises to fine-tune your senses and get their impressions into words on the page.

Exercise #1: For ten minutes, sit alone somewhere outside or inside with the windows open (if possible), where you won’t be interrupted, bothered, or disturbed by others. Now, listen to everything you hear and just write it down as you hear it. For example: a hammer pounding on wood off in the distance, a large commercial plane flying overhead, the wind blowing through the trees, a clock ticking, a dog snoring, etc.

All you’re focusing on is the sounds you hear and writing them down. Don’t worry or think about spelling, grammar, or punctuation; it’s not about creating the perfect description of what you hear (that will improve in time with practice). This exercise is about paying attention to your surroundings through your ears, listening to the sounds, and writing them down (close your eyes, if it helps, to listen more clearly).

Exercise #2: For ten minutes, sit alone somewhere outside or inside, where you won’t be distracted or interrupted by others. Now, look all around you and write down what you see, that’s it. For example: a seagull flying by, the ocean waves crashing on the beach, trees swaying back and forth, a garage door opening, a few people jogging down the road, a healthy green lawn, etc.

Just focus on the sights you see and write them down. Again, there’s no need to think or worry about proper sentence formation or finding the perfect words. This exercise is about paying attention to your surroundings through your eyes, looking at the sights, and writing them down (plug your ears, if it helps, to see more clearly).

Exercise #3: For ten minutes, sit alone somewhere outside or inside with the windows open, where you won’t be bothered, interrupted, or disturbed by others. Now, listen to what you hear, look at what you see, smell any scents, and notice how you feel, then write it down. For example: The sky is grey with dark clouds looming near, the wind is whipping through the trees, and it feels cold and gloomy. The sun broke through the clouds and put a beam of light on my face, birds are chirping, I feel warm, comforted, and hopeful. My cat is walking across the living room, meowing, and entered into the laundry room, I hear her frantically digging in the kitty litter box and litter hitting the wall and floor, I dread going in to clean up the mess. An angry-looking man is stomping down the sidewalk, he’s holding something heavy in his pants pocket, I feel a chill up my spine, and the hair is raised on my skin. A vine of new honeysuckle blossoms surrounds the gazebo and fills the air with a sweet aroma. A child is across the street eating an ice cream cone, humming a happy tune; I’m craving chocolate ice cream, etc. Again remember, it’s just an exercise about observing and paying attention to your surroundings and writing down what you see, hear, smell, and feel.

Here are a few more fun exercises following along the same lines (doing them blindfolded will heighten your other senses): A) Put a few different shaped and textured objects in front of you, touch each one of them with your hands, and write down a description of what they feel like. B) Place an assortment of different herbs, spices, condiments, or foods in front of you, smell each one, and write down a description of the scent and how you feel. C) Do a wine tasting or food tasting with an assortment of different kinds, smell and taste each one, and write a description. Have you ever smelled or tasted chocolate wine or garlic ice cream? They’re incredibly delicious and the aroma hypnotizes you (kind of like the scent of buttered popcorn in theaters or Mrs. Fields chocolate chip cookies).

The more you practice these exercises, the more aware you become of not only your surroundings, but the details of what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel; which will strengthen your writing skills. You’ll find these exercises to be of value to you in other areas as well; they will quickly bring you into the present moment (the here and now) and help to stop the mind chatter that all of us experience, because we’re either thinking about the past or anticipating the future.

Play, have fun, and enjoy the experience ~ 

 The following 10 minute video by Louie Schwartzberg on gratitude has the most stunning images of Nature, meaningful message, and is the perfect companion for my article ~ Enjoy & Be Present!!!


Friday, August 3, 2012

The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write

by Mark David Gerson

Book Review by Ann Baldwin

Mark David Gerson is a screenwriter, director, award-winning author, and creator of the Q’ntana Trilogy of fantasy novels and films. The MoonQuest, the first book in the trilogy, won multiple awards. His latest book, Acts of Surrender: A Writer’s Memoir, was recently released. Mark is also an editorial consultant, creativity coach, writing-workshop facilitator, artist, photographer, broadcaster, and popular public speaker on topics related to creativity and spirituality. In his award-winning book, The Voice Of The Muse: Answering The Call To Write (LightLines Media 2008), you will open clear channels of communication between yourself and your muse, find ease in facing the blank page, and gain freedom, creativity, and confidence in your writing.

Creative writing isn’t about forging, molding, or forcing our characters and stories onto the page; it’s a natural way of allowing them to come to us to tell and show us who and what they are. All we’re doing is recording their lives onto paper or screen for them. We’re basically acting as a medium or channel through which they can come and giving their voice a way to be heard. It’s a matter of us learning to get out of the way, by getting out of our head, feeling with our heart, and being aware; so, we can be more receptive to hear their voices, see their images, and feel them just the way they are. Mark will lead you through simple, powerful, and effective techniques to achieve mastering this fine art of listening, observing, and transcribing.

Mark will help you gain a deep understanding of the whole writing process from inception through delivery. You’ll learn what ‘Writer’s Block’ really is and how to over-come it. You’ll also come to realize the true value and importance of every word you write. He teaches the use of discernment, rather than judgment, in the editing and revision stages of your writing. And, he explains how to go about getting healthy feedback on your writing.

Don’t expect to breeze through The Voice of the Muse in a hurry, because even though you can’t wait to read his next page, Mark has an incredible gift of luring you to the blank page to write; this is the true intention of his book ~ Mission Accomplished!!!

Writing is mainly a solitary occupation, so it’s nice to have a positive, encouraging mentor and companion (whom you can call upon anytime of day or night) to support and guide you along your journey. I highly recommend The Voice of the Muse for all writers; its one book you’ll want to keep close at hand in your writing library.

To learn more about Mark David Gerson, you can visit his website at and purchase a copy of his book The Voice of the Muse at his website and Amazon.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Fuller View

By L. Steven Sieden

L. Steven Sieden has been a student of and advocate for Dr. R. Buckminster Fuller since 1981. He worked on Fuller’s Integrity Days with him and since Fuller’s death in 1983 has been working with The Buckminster Fuller Institute to produce events using a portion of Fuller’s vast recorded archives. His research lead to the 1988 biography, Buckminster Fuller’s University (currently Basic Books 2000). In Steven’s newest book, A Fuller View: Buckminster Fuller’s Vision of Hope and Abundance for All (Divine Arts 2012), he shares the life-work, philosophies, and visions of Buckminster (Bucky) Fuller, so you can gain insight into what you can do as an individual to improve the quality of life for yourself and others and make our world one that works for all humans, animals, and Mother Nature.

Bucky’s life was a “documented example of what one, average, healthy person can achieve when he or she has a clear intention, an open mind, a broad perspective, and the integrity to follow his or her heart”. He wanted to show what any “individual with no college degree and no money could accomplish on behalf of all humankind that could not be achieved by any nation, business, organization, or institution no matter how wealthy or powerful”.

What we are currently experiencing is what Bucky envisioned for our future well over fifty years ago. When individuals come together with a raised/higher-consciousness, a major shift begins to happen ~ it’s called, collective consciousness, and we are making this shift right now/present day. The world’s people are becoming more aware of just how out-of-balance our world has been; “we the people” are realizing it doesn’t have to be this way and we can do something to change it for example: the Occupy Everything Movement from New York to Los Angeles and across the world as well as the people that have over-thrown their dictator-run governments. The majority of the world’s people are saying “this is enough; we won’t tolerate the actions of the world’s few, wealthy people in power at our expense any longer”. “We the people” have a voice and the ability to change our world and make it a better place that works for everyone.

We are basically waking up from a nightmare of a world that was primarily masculine-dominated, competitive, fear-controlled, scarcity/greed driven, war-torn, and “you or me” mentality to a more balanced culture where feminine is equally respected in the management of the earth. We are now entering a new era of “you and me” mentality, cooperation, peace, and prosperity for all. We are becoming more connected and inclusive in our thinking, feeling, being, doing, and living.

Steven Sieden covers numerous topics such as government, politics, corporations, religion, education, Mother Nature, natural resources, design-science, raising children, housing, food, computers, technology, and the internet; most of the areas in life that affect all of us. He includes over 45 guest commentators who contribute their understanding of and experience with Bucky’s views about how to make this world one that works for everyone such as Lynne Twist, Werner Erhard, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Stephen A. Schwartz, Marilyn Schlitz, Gary Zukav, Michelle Levey, and Kevin J. Todeschi.

Lynne Twist says “If you let go of trying to get more of what you don’t really need, which is what we’re trained to want more of, it frees up oceans of energy to pay attention to what you already have. When you nurture and nourish what you do have and begin to make a difference with it, it expands before your eyes. In other words, what you appreciate appreciates. That is true prosperity.” She goes on to say that “humanity is now on a path of doing so much more with so much less, which is the heart of human innovation and creativity”.

A Fuller View is one of the most enlightening and empowering books that I’ve read and I highly recommend for everyone who wants to know the few, simple things they can do to make a positive difference in our world, so it is a better place and one that works for all humans, animals, and Mother Nature.

To learn more about L. Steven Sieden you can visit and purchase a copy of A Fuller View at Michael Wiese Productions, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Positive Energy

by Judith Orloff, M.D.

Judith Orloff, M.D. is a world-renowned leader and pioneer on the forefront of Energy Medicine, who specializes in Energy Psychiatry, which deals with subtle energies also known in the healing arts as ‘life force’. She is a psychiatrist in private practice and an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller Emotional Freedom as well as Dr. Judith Orloff’s Guide to Intuitive Healing and Second Sight. She is an international lecturer and workshop leader on the interrelationships of medicine, intuition, and spirituality. Her work has been featured in O Magazine, Newsweek, the Wall Street Journal, Self, Cosmo, The Washington Times, and the New York Post and she has appeared on The Today Show, The Dr. Oz Show, Good Morning America Health, CBS Early Show, CNN, A&E, PBS, and NPR. Judith is a blogger for the The Huffington Post and Psychology Today. Her national public television special “Emotional Freedom Now!” is based on her book Emotional Freedom. In her book, Positive Energy: 10 Extraordinary Prescriptions for Transforming Fatigue, Stress, & Fear Into Vibrance, Strength, & Love (Three Rivers Press 2005), Judith takes you on an exploration into the world of subtle energy and shows you how to claim your energetic power in all areas of your life from the foods you eat to environments you live in to people you communicate with.

In order to take full ownership of the powerful energy that we have, we must first understand this often elusive life force; with Judith’s firm grasp and clarity on the true nature of subtle energy, she’ll illuminate it for you. You’ll gain awareness of it’s presence within and around you, so you can connect with it and be the master in control of your own.

Judith teaches intuition and the sensing of energy fields. Everyday, we’re in constant flow of energy. We come into contact with both negative and positive energy; understanding how you relate to and process these energies is key to helping you keep the current flow of energies in and around you more positive (much healthier vibes for yourself and those around you).

You will learn about the energizing and healing powers of creativity and inspiration and how to open yourself up to their flow. You’ll learn how films are used in Judith’s Positive Energy Program as an energizer, a catalyst for healing, and conduit through which we experience creative energy. She explains the energetic qualities of films, what really happens to us when we watch them, and why she sometimes prescribes movies as medicine as they can be very therapeutic.

On a similar note, music can also replenish us. Judith states, “Sound is energy. It vibrates through your blood, organs, bones, and also your subtle energies.” While certain music can be energizing to some, it can also be agitating and depleting to others; so find, listen to the sound, and move to the rhythm of the music that best resonates with your larger self and makes you feel more alive.

Judith is “a big prescriber of laughter in Energy Psychiatry”. You’ll not only learn the powerful healing effects laughter has on us, but she’ll help you to re-connect with your inner child and find your funny bone again.

She covers a full-range of energy zappers to be aware of to include: the energy vampires, those people in life who suck all of the positive, life energy right out of you. She’ll show you how to protect yourself from them.

Through-out her book and at the close of each chapter, Judith interviews several entertainers and notable figures such as Rosa Parks, Kenny Loggins, Jamie Lee Curtis, Quincy Jones, Amy Gross, Goldie Hawn, Norman Lear, Shirley MacLaine, Larry King, and Iyanla Vanzant regarding their relationship to energy. Each chapter includes a few easy-to-follow techniques and exercises to help you experience first hand, what she practices herself everyday to transform negative energy into positive energy.

I’ve read all of Judith’s books and find her to be one of the most insightful, interesting, enjoyable, and helpful authors; I highly recommend Positive Energy for everyone who wants to connect with the positive energy in life on a more frequent basis and improve the quality of their life.

To learn more about Judith Orloff, can visit her website at Dr.Judith Orloff and purchase a copy of Positive Energy from her website or Amazon.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Letters To Young Filmmakers

Creativity & Getting Your Films Made
by Howard Suber

Book Review
By Ann Baldwin

Howard Suber has taught generations of screenwriters, directors, producers, animators, and film scholars at UCLA’s celebrated film school and his former students are today creating films and television programs. During his 46 years at UCLA, Suber has taught over sixty-five different courses in film and television. He created and chaired UCLA’s current film and television Producer’s Program and is author of The Power of Film. In his new book, Letters To Young Filmmakers: Creativity & Getting Your Films Made (Michael Wiese Productions 2011), you will learn the answers to the questions that arise in the process of becoming a professional filmmaker.

While most filmmakers spend only a fraction of their lives actually creating films, they spend far more time trying to get their films made. Howard explains the difference between being active and engaging in effective actions, making you more aware, so you can produce results. He helps you to distinguish between motivations (internal), where a person is coming from, and objectives/goals (external), where a person is going.

He shares a strategic concept called Triangulation and shows you how to use it to get around challenges and obstacles that arise, when trying to get your films made; he gives a great example from the process involved in getting Gorillas In The Mist made, where most producers would’ve walked away, this producer took the high road and succeeded.

Howard discusses where inspiration comes from, how we connect to creativity, and what creative people experience, when they’re completely into their work. You’ll learn how great stories are created the way great wines are. He reveals one of the most valuable tools of the creative person; what you gain from it is a special kind of ‘knowing’ that you need that is not gained through experience or research. You’ll also learn the single most important element that audiences respond to.

He adds a priceless gem to your filmmakers treasure chest that will help you discover the emotional flow of your screenplays; the audience wants to experience their feelings, they want to be ‘moved to tears, outbursts of laughter, sighs of desire and the entire range of human emotion’. Howard states “Our medium might just as well be called ‘Emotion Pictures'.

I highly recommend Letters To Young Filmmakers for all creative artists in the film industry, who want to gain a better understanding of the process of creativity, getting your films made, and becoming a professional filmmaker.

To learn more about Howard Suber, you can visit his website at UCLA
and purchase a copy of Letters To Young Filmmakers at Michael Wiese Productions, Amazon, The Writers Store, or Barnes & Noble.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Animation Unleashed

100 Principles Every Animator, Comic Book Writer, Filmmaker, Video Artist, and Game Developer Should Know
By Ellen Besen

Book Review
By Ann Baldwin

Ellen Besen has been working in the field of animation for over 35 years and is a former (15 year) faculty member of Sheridan College’s School of Animation. Highlights of her career include directing award-winning films for the National Film Board of Canada. Her films have been shown in multiple international festivals and at such institutions as MOMA, and her film analysis workshops are featured regularly at the Ottawa International Animation Festival. In her book, Animation Unleashed: 100 Principles Every Animator, Comic Book Writer, Filmmaker, Video Artist, and Game Developer Should Know ~ Illustrated by Bryce Hallet (Micheal Wiese Productions 2008), she takes you on a fun adventure into the wild land of animation, where you’ll expand your vision on and skills in the craft of storytelling and filmmaking.

She will show you some of the hidden worlds, where you can uncover ideas for your scripts. You’ll learn one of the simplest methods for writing a great animated script, which also applies to writing live-action feature films. She shares many techniques for creating suspense, mystery, tension, and emotions in your audience.

You’ll explore every nook and cranny on your journey with Ellen as she covers such topics as caricature, movement, fantasy, reality, props, sound, backgrounds, special effects, and more. She uses hundreds of wonderful illustrations and films such as Toy Story, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, Monsters Inc, Fantasia, Bug’s Life, Lady and The Tramp, and Finding Nemo as examples.

Ellen states that “Action doesn’t communicate unless it can be seen.” She reveals a quick test-method to ensure that your character’s actions will been seen clearly by your audience. You’ll also discover one of the most powerful tools and key elements for communication that will give more meaning to your character’s actions.

Just like children, animated characters are great at not only expressing emotions on their face, but showing you how they feel as well; so much can be learned about creating memorable characters and stories through the art of animation. I highly recommend Animation Unleashed for all animators, filmmakers, and screenwriters, who want to gain the use of valuable techniques and learn a simple language for communicating to their audience with ease.

You can connect with Ellen Besen on Facebook at and purchase a copy of Animation Unleashed at Micheal Wiese Productions, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.