Peace…peace and tranquility, peace and quiet, peace be with you. Let the word settle over you like a blanket and wrap you in solitude. This time of year we may be so caught up in all the preparations, we’ll be too exhausted to actually enjoy what we are preparing for! Take a few minutes of whatever gives you peace: sitting quietly with a cup of tea, working on a craft project, taking a walk in nature, listening to some soothing music, writing in your journal, sitting in a hot tub with a glass of something bubbly, or whatever calms your jangling nerves. Above all, remember to be present in this moment. You will never have another one like it again. May you be at peace.
Whether you are a seasoned writer, or new to the world of words, we all dread getting started. We share the stress of finding exactly the right words, organized in precisely the right sequence to convey the thought we want to express. The motivation to write is different for everyone, but for simplicity sake, I will give you three options. Start at the beginning, start at the end, or start in the middle. What? That doesn’t make any sense, start in the middle? Start at the end?
Starting at the beginning is scary because it is a blank sheet of paper or an empty computer screen. In that case, the only thing to do is begin. Julie Andrews sang, “When you read you begin with A, B, C. When you sing you begin with do re mi.,” in the Sound of Music. Well, put your pen to paper, or fingers on the keyboard and begin. Start already! Then you will be out of the freeze frame of inaction and actually writing. Give yourself permission to have a lousy first draft. Set the timer for five minutes and let the words tumble out. Make a list of words or phrases associated with your topic. Remember, if you edit as you write, it will take a very long time to complete anything. Jump in and do it!
How does one start in the middle? Pretend you have already written the entire piece and talk about the heart of the matter. Explain your viewpoint with every detail you can possibly include in the argument. Perhaps you tell a story to illustrate your point, or include a favorite quote. Allow your readers to accompany you in your thought process and learn how you came to your conclusion.
If you start at the end, write your conclusion first and then create supporting statements. Yes, this is backwards. Think of it as knowing your destination before you start out on the journey. You have already determined where you want your readers to end up, now you simply present a logical map for your readers to follow.
I often begin by writing in my journal to get ideas about my theme, quotes I may include, and what my first sentence should include. Once I know that first line, I’ve got a tone and a direction for the entire piece. But, that’s just me.
Regardless of the method to your writing system, whatever gets you writing is the best darn system on the planet.
Now, go write…
Your Writing Mentor
Mary E. Knippel
P.S. I’d love to hear your writing system.
May is Creative Beginnings Month and today is a perfect day to start something you’ve been thinking about but never seem to get around to doing. Is there an idea or project that’s been waiting in the wings for you to find a few minutes to do some research? Are you ready to tackle a challenge…fly-fishing, watercolors, knitting, journal writing, gardening, cooking, or baking? What’s been lingering in the corners of your mind until you decide it’s time to actually bring it into the light. No, I realize you can’t just pick up a new skill in half an hour. However, you can flip through a magazine, surf the web, or just kick back, plant the seed, and imagine the possibility.
They say February is for lovers. So focus your love close to home. February is Boost Your Self-Esteem Month. Boost your self-esteem with demonstrations of self-love because you are most deserving of your own attention for affection. Consider observing boosting your self-esteem; not just as a temporary indulgence on Valentine’s Day, but as a way of life. Don’t wait for a special occasion to wear your favorite pair of earrings. Put on make-up in the morning even if your reflection in the mirror is the only face you’ll see all day. Give yourself permission to indulge in a special chocolate treat, splurge on a favorite meal, soak in the tub with lots of scented bubbles and a new paperback, or eat popcorn for dinner and watch a movie on a weeknight (no, don’t fold laundry and empty the dishwasher – sit down and watch the whole thing without multi-tasking).
Writing a journal entry about a specific accomplishment or milestone is a major self-esteem booster. I’ll share one that has been seven years in the making. I have volunteered for several years for The San Francisco Writers Conference (www.SFWriters.org), a prestigious 3-day conference and the brainchild of legendary agents Elizabeth Pomada and Michael Larsen. It features blockbuster keynote speakers, award winning workshop presenters, and attendees in the hundreds from all over the world. The first year my comfort level only allowed me to babysit the purses in the Volunteer lounge. This year, I was invited to chair the “Book Doctor Panel.”
This is a conference-long marathon event where attendees spend five minutes one-on-one with Independent Editors. I am no longer content to relegate myself to the shadows. As the Book Doctor Coordinator, I claimed my position as a professional sharing my expertise with eager attendees, and as a peer with other writers awash in the wealth of knowledge shared at the conference.
Successful writers confident in their literary skills intimidate me. Many speakers and workshop presenters over the weekend impressed me. I made up my mind to show up in my life and go after my dreams rather than stay in safe situations. This year, instead of wishing I were brave enough to be like the speakers and presenters, I sat up front, engaged with them during their talks, gave them positive feedback, and asked for advice. Do you know what they did? They gave me advice and thanked me for showing up!
Let’s all keep showing up!