Monday, February 23, 2015

How To Write...

Odd title, right? Well, no. Not exactly. It came about because of a conversation I had yesterday at a fundraiser.

I'm promoting myself as an editor, copywriter and voice-over artist -- all of which I do, and I do them all quite well. As I was leaving (and managing to get the zipper stuck in my down coat, and it was freezing out, and someone had left me exactly 3" between my truck and their car - on MY driver's side...), she and I were chatting about writing. 

She said, "I wish I could write." I said, "It's as much a skill as it is an art." And it is. There are people who can string words together in absolute poetry even when they're writing prose. There are poets that can, even if you don't "get" poetry, make you weep. There are people who can write a grant to give your organization funding beyond your dreams. And there are people who can write up directions clearly enough so that you, too can build an airplane in your back yard. 

I know this. Because I can do some of it, but I know what I can't do. I can write decent prose. I can write compelling copy. I can write you the directions to build that airplane. 

I can't write a grant. I've tried. I have not been successful. But that's ok. Each of us has a gift with the written word - I'm sure of it. We just need to find it, hone it, and keep at it. 

For example, my brother is a very smart person. Seriously - he builds planes. For fun. But when we were in college together, he couldn't write a paper to save his soul - or his GPA! So I was able to help him on a couple of levels. First, he's my brother so I can say with brutal honesty that his writing was awful. To his face. And he was wise enough to know that if Big Sister is telling you that "you sound totally stupid," you should listen to her. 

He would panic when it was time for a paper to be written. So I helped him develop a method that I'm sure has a technical name, but I call it "BARF" -- there's no fancy acronym here. What I told him was "barf all of it out on paper and we'll clean it up after you're done." Which is basically what happens when you barf, right? 

He got more and more comfortable just dumping piles of information onto paper, and watching what I did to edit them. He learned the rhythm of words and phrasing, learned and grasped the finer points of structure, and got comfortable with his own writing voice. 

I remember how proud he was when he said, "Hey, I wrote a memo at work and I got really good feedback!" 

No, I'm not being patronizing. I'm being realistic. We went over and over this - for 2 years. Like I'm not familiar with the inner workings of a small airplane's engine, he was not familiar with writing something without a net, if you will. He had to learn. And I was happy to teach him. 

That trick also worked for my own kids and for Kid #2 when he teaches - he tells his students, "just get it on the page." 

I write, sometimes, when I have nothing to say. Just to keep getting the words on the page. It's practice. Just like I'm practicing 'Ode to Joy' on the guitar. I have to keep working at it to "get it into my hands" as my guitar teacher says. Getting the words on the page keeps the juices flowing. 

One of the best places to look for writing prompts is, surprisingly, Pinterest. Here's one. What would you say about this? Sit with it a moment. 

Think about it. Where does this lead? What does it stir in your soul? What sings to you -- or even better, what does NOT sing to you in this picture?

All of these questions lead to your putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys) and starting. Just start. Get it on the page. 

Then, my suggestion is to let it marinate a bit. Don't immediately grab your red pen or slam on the "delete" button. let it sit with you. Close the journal. Save the page. Go do something else. 

Then come back to it later. Maybe the next day. Set a time to sit with your writing. Look at your writing kindly. Give yourself credit for getting the words onto the page. Then, turn on a slightly critical eye. Did your words transmit your thoughts? Do you see where you might tweak it a little? Clarify a little? How's your structure? Look at the mechanics later... For right now, just get the words down and then review them with a sense of wonder for the ability to get it out there. 

And then try again. And keep trying. 

Healthy Sense of Irony...

Yes. This is what was on my dashboard the other day. You will please note the title of the song on Sirius and in the lower left hand corner the outside temperature. 

Yeah, I know it's all computer driven and this song just happened to come up on the rotation. But the sense of irony is quite delicious when you consider that I came to a sliding stop at the end of the alley on my way to a meeting. I wasn't exactly speeding either - I was making my way down an alley that had, a day before, been mushy. Then it iced over, care of the next round of deep freeze. 

I just had to laugh. 

It May as Well be Pretty...

If you have to eat celery, it may as well be on the nice china. Yeah, I'm not exactly a paragon of health these days. Thanks to Quinn, I had a minor altercation with 50 lbs. of Elkhound whamming into my knee. My knee lost the battle. I'm going to the doctor on Wednesday. 

In the meantime, I'm cleaning up my eating habits yet again. Sugar is a real stinker, and I have to cut way down on it. Now, mind you, I do like celery. And I love cream cheese. But I was in a mood the other day, and I thought, "If I have to live like this, at least I want to make it look nice." So I dragged out the china, which we got for a wedding present and have used a total of what? Five times? Maybe? 

It didn't make the celery taste any differently. And it wasn't any more satisfying. Hubby laughed. But at least I can say that I'm using my china. And I did enjoy the celery anyway. 

My Year in Socks...

No change here. Working away at the afghan and I haven't picked up the sock in a while. 


I'm onto the garnet red section of the afghan. Just plowing through a bit. It's a very easy pattern to memorize, and I can do it watching TV or in the evenings when I feel the worst temptation to chow down on a jelly sandwich (see the "gotta cut out sugar" thing above). 

Random Picture...

Just a little taste of spring for those of us suffering in the latest wave of "oh, man is it cold!" 

These are the bleeding heart from the monster that lives on the northwest corner of my yard. I love these. They're nearly 35 years old. They come up every spring like clockwork, and I wait for them every year. This year is no exception. While I love winter (stop - I really do), and I would like at least another 5" or so of snow (without the bone-chilling cold) so that I can get out on my snowshoes (if I haven't totally wrecked my knee, thanks Quinn), I look forward to spring. 

The bleeding heart is the harbinger for me. When it comes up, I know that life is all good.

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