Wisdom in writing

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Storyteller Daniel R Bernstrom

My name is Dan, and I'm the author of One Day in the Eucalyptus Eucalyptus Tree, and more books soon to come from Harper Collins. This is my personal blog. Feel free to read as much as you want. Take care.

The Hope and Habit of Today

The Hope & Habit of Today

When my dreams don’t come true I am tempted into despair. Believe it or not, I am not a positive person. I struggle to find meaning each day. Some days I wonder if I can get up. What is the point to all my trying, all my writing, all my work?

A wise man once said, “Vanity, vanity all is vanity […] there is nothing new under the sun.”

This sums up my despair. Why try when all is meaningless?

But the same wise man also said. “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you may die.”

In such a saying there is so much hope. The wise man says to me, “Find joy in today. Find joy in habit of living.”


Steve Jobs, the businessman and creator of the Macintosh Computer, the iPod, and iPhone once made a similar remark in his commencement speech to Stanford University.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day like it’s your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and ever since then, for the last 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

I have so many things to be grateful for. I am the husband of an amazing, beautiful woman. I am the father of three healthy children. I work for an amazing employer. I am living the dream of being a published writer. I have parents who love me, friends who support me, and a faith that sustains me. Which makes me wonder, isn’t joy found in the simple every day doings — the reading of the morning paper, the cozying up with a hot mug of Columbian roast coffee. 


And too many times each day I enslave myself to anxiety. I need a better house. I need a better car. I need to be the best writer in the whole world. There is no joy in these anxieties.

Instead, I wish to live for today and look for the little joys sprinkled throughout my life. And perhaps the greatest joy I have been given is the joy of habit. The habit of waking up and creating, writing a few words every morning; the habit of kissing my wife good day and hugging my children; the habit of exercising; the habit of chasing the good in life.

“Joy is found in the simple every day”

I don’t believe the wise man means for all to specificlaly eat and drink and be merry. I know his words inspire me to write, create, and dwell in life’s daily joys. I see in his advice the joy of habit. And, over time, habit, like a seed, can flourish into a strong and healthy tree that is not tossed about by storms of life; a tree that remains stalwart and able to give shelter to many.

Seasons Dreaming

As surely as the sun will rise, dreams will spring to being.
As surely as the earth does turn, will summer warm such dreams to gleaming
As surely as the the leaf will fall, will Autumn harvest dreams come ripe.
And as surely as death does call, will winter creep in frosty nights
And winter tuck our dreams to bed,
‘neath blankets white our dreams our led
And bade to rest till rising light
Till winter sleeps and sunshine bright.

Proverb: The Writer and his Blood

When I write I imagine myself laying on bed with an IV in my arm and the blood flowing out of me. I tell myself that one day my words will save someone. My pain will heal someone. My fears will quiet a terrified soul. And as I type, the words are stored up in a bag, collected, cooled, and shipped off to a blood bank where it will one day be sued to give another soul life.

One day my words will be collected in a manuscript, bound up in a book, and stored in a shelf on a store or in a library until the right time comes when that book is selected from the shelves and my blood is poured into the willing reader in order to give them life.

If you want to be a wordsmith, purpose to have the right tools in your toolbox in order to work the words the way you wish.

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When I write in the morning I find that I get the rest of the day to think about my story, and I probe my heart for the answers to my problems, surprising plot twists, characters. In my day I think about my story and how it all works together. I get to daydream and daydreaming is fun, especially when you poke around all work day in a magical world you’ve created. It’s as if I get to spend the day with my characters. They are in book time and book time is not like my time. So if I could give a proverb. Write in the morning book-time and then you can write all day in your time.

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I thought I was getting nowhere in my book editing. My word count seemed to yoyo – Up and down – 41,000 then 31,000 – Words cut, words added – Scenes changed, scenes cut, and scenes added. It all seemed useless as if this would never end and this story would die from the millions of little cuts.

But I looked back at all the small changes and days of hundreds of words typed during silent morning, and saw that it had made a difference. The story was there, and it’s shape was leaner and faster and tighter. And my heart at last told me …

this was the story you were trying to write but didn’t know how to. This was the story you were afraid to tell. And in all the bad writing days where you wrote word by agonizing word, it has all come down to this – truth and light and warmth shining in dark frozen places.

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