Monday, December 12, 2005

Start Short

In response to BB's post about how to get motivated to write down the ideas and thoughts that she/he has every day but never gets around to putting on the page.


Keep open spiral bound notebooks around the house or in your office--wherever you tend to hang out. (My husband and I share one that lives on the kitchen counter.) Always have pens around. Take 3 x 5 cards out and about with you.

When you have a thought, a story, a memory, or you hear something on the radio you might want to write about--or at least remember--jot down a few relevant words in the book or on the card, even if it's only a word or two.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Crack Up" is an alphebetical list of short entries about all sorts of subjects. Here's the beginning of an entry:

Notes on Childhood:
Make a noise like a hoop and roll away.
She's neat ha ha.
Grandfather's whiskers.
Aha, she laughed.
Annex rough house.
Hume against Locke.
Changing Voice.
Hot dogs. . . .

Other entries are longer, written anecdotes, overheard conversations.

So now, forget about Fitzgerald and practice putting your pen to paper.

Ths is how writing gets started. You put words on the page or on the screen.

Can't Take That Away From Me

A woman in a local prison had to drop out of the inmate's writing group because she got "written up," meaning she did something wrong. Because of her transgression, we wouldn't be seeing her in the writer's group for several months. I imagine she was denied other freedoms too--like outdoor exercise and smoking rights. But they didn't make her hand over her journal.

In a card, she told me she'd be out of the group for several months but that it was OK. "They can take me out of the Writer's Group," she wrote, "but they can't take writing out of me!"

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A Moment's List

Last night I taught a writing workshop for breast cancer survivors at Rex Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina. One of their favorite exercises was to write a gratitude list. Do it every day, I told them. List 5 things you're grateful for. Research has shown that people who do this are happier. Listing even the tiniest things can help us be in the moment, pay attention, appreciate being alive. My list for right now:

I'm grateful for my comfy pen, a Piot G-2 07.
I'm grateful for the bird I hear tweeting outside my window.
I'm grateful there's a heater blowing on my chilly feet.
I'm grateful for today's breeze.
I'm grateful for my cup of coffee; a friend calls coffee "the black hope."

Try this exercise any time--when you're getting impatient waiting in line, for example. You'll probably be waiting in lots of lines this month. Pull out your journal, a scrap of paper. Write on the Banana Republic bag you're lugging around, carrying the shoes you volunteered to return for you daughter. Grrrrr.

Look around you, listen, touch something. And make your list. Let me know what you come up with.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Sweating it out on the Page

People spend hours a weeks working out--lifting weights, taking shape and sculpt or Pilates classes, working up a sweat on tread mills, playing tennis, taking brisk walks, doing yoga, swimming laps.

But we devote so little time to toning our minds. The brain needs to work out too. In a journal we can track thoughts, ponder on the page, explore our feelings, get in touch with our motives, listen to our inner voices, capture a slice of life, recreate a conversation, vent, quiet the raging voices, track dreams--reflect.

Exercise increases endorphin output and makes us feel better. So does writing. I wish I could start a writing room at my gym.