So you want to write…

But you do not know where to begin.

Coffee Cups Notes, R. Nial Bradshaw

If this describes you, or someone you know, then read on!

The desire to write may be a deep yearning you have felt for a long time. People you know have told you that you must write your story down. You have a story to tell, but the whole huge process of writing a book (yes I said the words) feels like an epic undertaking; a mountain to climb, and you do not know where you would even begin.

Daunting, intimidating, overwhelming, even frightening; these words invade your mind whenever you consider trying to begin your “book.” Somehow it does not even feel real to you.

Your ideas are vivid and intensely felt, and you feel like all you have to do is put pen to paper, or start tapping out the story on your keyboard. But once you physically try to start, you freeze! You crack open that inspiring orange notebook, and have your favorite pen in hand, but you have no idea what to put down first.

What word would you begin your book with? Sheesh, that is a big decision.

A Seemingly Daunting Task

Approaching the creation process from the perspective described above is likely to make anyone trying to write clam up. It feels like you have to move from zero to one thousand, and that is just too huge a jump to take.

What you need is a bit by bit approach that will help you break the process into manageable and actionable pieces. So we don’t want to start with thinking, I will write a book, but with I will put words on this page today.

This is where you need to begin on your quest to see your story on the page! You must start at the beginning to reach the end.

Your big dreams can be achieved if you begin at the beginning with simple tools that will help you take the first steps to getting words down on paper.

As a writer and editor I have been working at all this for more than half of my life, and I can tell you that this type of work is a continual journey of learning. That truly is what makes it so exciting, infuriating, and ultimately rewarding. I LOVE what I do.

Write now!

So today I give you a technique, an approach, a way in to thinking about writing exactly what is trapped up inside your creative mind.

Here we go…

I am currently taking a class on memoir writing to help me begin a book that I have had incubating for about 6 years (yes, sometimes ideas need ample internal creative time to begin their metamorphosis onto the page).   A classmate spoke of a writer named Pam Houston, and a technique she uses to write consistently called Glimmers.

Pam Houston is a writer whose work sometimes falls between the cracks of fiction and nonfiction or creative nonfiction, whatever you’d like to call it. She writes from real life but also sometimes fictionalizes what’s going on.  I immediately picked up her most recent book titled Contents May Have Shifted, and my brain has been cracked open by reading it. The way she writes is so new and brave and different from what I know that it has immediately kicked up my writing production.

My understanding of a Glimmer, from my reading and exploration of Houston’s writing, is that it is a bit or piece of an experience that resonates with you. And it can be anything you encounter, and it seems the more mundane the better (that is my assessment).

This may seem vague, but let me try to explain more here by giving you a short example.

A glimmer can be:

Me driving through the Denver 8th avenue neighborhood on a spring day an noticing that a magnolia tree is in bloom, and then the rest of the drive I scan every inch of the landscape for more magnolias. I remember being at Regis University in undergrad, and the huge magnolia trees on the campus, and the year I picked several branches off one tree covertly one evening after a late lecture, in the dark, the spring wetness in the air, and the light pink of the magnolias slightly greyed by the twilight. I took a handful of branches home, and woke the next morning with an incredible allergy attack.

That is a rough and short example. But that is something that shone in my memory seeing the magnolias the other day.
Now you write

Can you write, and let your mind make little links, putting the words down on the page, letting them flow together no matter how disparate they may seem? I find thinking of memories and ideas in terms of Glimmers helps me to bypass the over-zealous and meticulous editor that also resides in my brain. This “way in” to writing is extremely exciting to me, and I am going to begin using it regularly.

So…This is your task. Write one Glimmer and post in the comments below. I would love to hear if this inspires you in any way, and see the result of this tiny creative kick in the pants! And while you share your work, please read the work of a couple others, and offer your experience of reading their work.

Here are a couple links to hear from Houston about Glimmers:

Check out this blog by Patricia Harrelson on her site Editeyes
I also listened to this nice long podcast from Brad Reed on his site Inside Creative Writing

So whether you want to write a blog post, an essay, or a whole book, I think if you can begin by creating a Glimmer that is an excellent good place to start.

Coming Attractions: I will give you some insight into the process I use to help guide and mold your creative ideas. I call this process Book Growing.   You will learn why creating a blog is the first step to seeing your ideas take wing in the world, and how it also helps you create a following!

I look forward to your Glimmers!

Happy writing,

Click here to learn more about what I do



A Quest to Evangelize for Poetry.

My blogging has not been consistent, but I think I found a cause today…it is an old cause, but a worthy one.  Poetry.

In my work as a writer and editor (for a small content creation/publishing company) I get to interact with words and craft language on a daily basis. I love my work… I really do. However it does fail to satisfy my needs personally, as a writer.

I write poetry.  Sometimes compulsively, and because that is how the language comes out of my head.  In writing a blog or book, I realized lately that the work is to fit my thoughts into proper sentences.  I can do it, but it is not how language flows best in my brain.

I have always written poetry, as long as I have had language in my brain.  I have a tiny fabric covered notebook that my mother gave me when I was maybe 3, and although I could not quite spell, I could express ideas phonetically. I started putting together stories of my pets, and poems about my daily life.  It is really funny to read, and I try to read it about once every year to see if I can still make it out.

I know that most people do not read poetry, and in fact do not like it…or so they think.  I believe that if readers were required to get through Song of Myself by Whitman, their opinion would change for good. I know that poetry is my most clear form of communication.  There is a distillation of language necessary in poem writing

I began 2014 trying to participate in a challenge of creating one Small Stone a day.  A small stone is a snapshot thought, and observation about the good in each day.  Haiku’s work well, or Ginsburg’s American Sentence form. I have liked trying to fit it into the 140 character count as I was posting them on Twitter too.   I did well for a bit, trying to write one every day, but then January was over.

But looking back on what I did write, I like it. I say this not out of arrogance, but out of the intense hatred I often feel toward anything I put on the page.  What I do like about the small stones I wrote is that they are distilled down to the least common denominator of words.  I can be a heavy handed wordy writer, but when I get into my poet brain what is necessary and good becomes clear.

My work here is to take that language distillation process and apply it to everything.  Yes, easier said than done, but I can do it, so why not do it more often?

Back to poetry love.  I read a blog this morning talking about the power of the spoken word, and the national Poetry Out Loud contest and program.  My classmate Andrea wrote this piece and her points on Whitman and the power of the spoken word are inspiring.  She talks of the iPad Air commercial with Robin Williams (as John Keating from Dead Poets Society) speaking Whitman.  The commercial is powerful independent of the product it is promoting.  And the words grab me out of the coma induced by the television every time.

She included a quote from the movie by Williams as Keating:

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.”

I know this and feel this truth deep inside. But how to we help more readers come into the fold, into the cult of poem lovers?  What I know about poetry I want to help other people understand it to, to convert as many people into poetry followers as possible, but it is difficult. Giving kids early exposure to poetry is certainly a powerful tool.  The Poetry Out Loud program is certainly a good start. Maybe I can find a way to get involved next year.  I wish there was such a thing when I was in school.  But there is always time. We have every day to do better and to do more.

Yesterday I made the inspiring discovery of a rock artist who released her first album in 1970, and is about to release her second, at age 70. And she sounds incredible!  I was so blown away. I guess time is not running out, unless I decide that to be true.

So here is to having all time I want to have,  and making good art, writing good words.