free the pen, a blog for writers

June 28, 2011

So You Think You Can’t Write??

Filed under: Uncategorized — freethepen @ 2:07 pm

Most people I know take up the pen to write about something in their lives. They imagine their pen bringing them relief or allowing them to be creative with an idea. But often when they pick up their pen and stare into the blank page, their thoughts go numb like being on stage. I hear this comment often in the workshops I teach. Students want to know how to get started. When I ask them more about what getting started means they come up with what they expect the finished product to be; they really aren’t thinking about the first step. So how do you jump back to the beginning point when you are already thinking of the finished product? Here’s a tip: focus on your gut. Start with the first three words that come to mind.

soup, grandma, fun

Now take the first word. Expand on it.

It was the most fun soup I ever ate. Floating around the tiny orange pieces of carrot and moon sliced pieces of celery were macaroni letters of the alphabet. Grandma let me move them around in the broth to spell cat and dog and rat. Ewwwww – a rat in my soup.

Now take the second word, grandma.

Grandma makes the best soup. She said it was nurturing for the soul, but really that’s what grandma is. She makes everything fun. Wish mom could do that. Mom makes me feel like everything is a chore. Eating soup is not fun with mom and she doesn’t put in macaroni letters of the alphabet, just the boring things like potatoes.

Now take the third word, fun

It’s always fun eating at grandmas. Yesterday I had a banana sandwich. We mashed the banana on a small square piece of bread, the kind mom uses when she has company, then made a face with the cinnamon and raisins. I ate the eyelashes first and left the smile for last.

Okay, you get the gist of this. Then write the paragraphs together and build up from there. When you have something you want to write about- make it easy on yourself. Save your effort for the final editing. In the mean time, have fun with it. When I wrote The Breath of Dawn, a Journey of Everyday Blessings,, it was a difficult story to write because remembering brought me back to being paralyzed in the hospital at a time when no one understood what happened to me. There were no explanations or discussions from the doctors or friends. I guess because I couldn’t talk the doctors didn’t think I could listen about my physical condition which I slowly discovered everytime I went to do something and couldn’t, like wipe my nose. When it came time to write the book, after much rehabilitation and perseverance on my part, I had to learn how to manage a pen so writing was difficult on all ends of the project. When I thought back to the time I came out of my coma I only remembered flashbacks so I wrote out sentences and phrases of these memories in list form on paper, then cut up each one so that I had hundreds of tiny pieces of paper. Then I put them all in an envelope. Each day I pulled out one piece of paper and wrote only on the topic written on that scrap of paper. When I finished writing paragraphs or pages on each scrap, I layed them out on my living room floor in sequence. I had 400 pages of my story. But there is no way I could have gotten such an emotional story down without simplifying the process.

Even if your story is not of such an emotional nature, if you are fearful of taking up your pen because you just don’t know the first step-start with one word. Write that one word at the top of the page. And freewrite everything that you want to say about that one word, the memories, the people involved, the outcomes. Your english teacher is not watching. There is no grade for this. No one is going to comment on it unless you show them. You are in control of what happens to your writing. Stash it away, carry it with you, lock it up, tear it up — you can do anything you want with it. Just write!!!!!!!!!! Listen to your own internal voice — what a wonderful connection that is!!!!!!

Until next time, Jan

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