Writing Tip: Stuck? Here’s Some Things to Write About

Never forget that you can always write about your past.  Just ask yourself some questions.  Like these (and don't forget to share):

Almost everyone has an experience of a disaster – a fire, flood, hurricane, earthquake, shipwreck, train collision, car crash, explosion, etc. And everyone has a story too. Tell the story of your brush with disaster. Write about the heroism you saw – the kindness, courage, generosity, tenacity of people coping with disaster. Or write about the greed and selfishness you saw, if that was your experience. How did your disaster experience change you? How did it change your perception of others? What did you do after the disaster that you hoped would keep you safe from another one? Did you move away? Did you campaign for better safeguards?

Compost: I Forget

I forget where I’m going sometimes because I’ve been in such a hurry all my life I’ve never  been able to arrive anywhere. I forget the real meaning of life because it has rushed by in a blur – oh horsefeathers, the meaning isn’t rushing by, I am.  If I wasn’t rushing, would I know the meaning of life?  I remember writing on the beach and while my fingers were busy rushing, my eyes saw a seagull flying high above with a clam in its mouth. The  seagull dropped the clam on the rocks below, squawking its shrill triumph to the crows, who were playing in the shallows, ruffling water through their feathers and dancing in the cold winter air. I forget where I was going with this, but I think I saw a piece of meaning – death for the clam, victory for the gull, exhilaration for the crows. If I hadn’t slowed down to watch those birds (and let’s not forget the clam), their world of meaning would have passed me by too, never to be remembered.

Writing Tip: Stuck? Here’s Some Things to Write About

Never forget that you can always write about your past.  Just ask yourself some questions.  Like these:

Write about a book that influenced you, such as Catcher in the Rye, or For Whom the Bell Tolls, Gone With the Wind, The Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mockingbird, Catch-22, The Color Purple. How old were you when you read this book? Did this book change your opinions or beliefs? What did it teach you? Did it motivate you to action? Did it challenge you, or did it affirm and resonate with your own experiences? Did it surprise you? Did you recommend this book to others, or discuss it with others? Was this book recommended to you? Or was it a “forbidden” book? Did the book live up to your expectations, or surpass them? *

* Excerpt from Making History: how to remember, record, interpret and share the events of your life. More lists of questions like this can be found in that book.


Writing Tip: Another Critic – Meet Cousin Irene

A couple of days ago I wrote about how to make your internal critic go away by writing about them, and told you that my critic was named Ed.  But Ed is only one of them – like most of us, I have several internal critics, all of them nasty.  Here is a piece I wrote about Cousin Irene, the voice inside my head who is in charge of procrastination, laziness, and all the addictive distractions there are.  


Cousin Irene lurches into the room, trailing leavings from her purse – a dried-up lipstick, a wallet with a broken zipper, a scarf that has gum wadded in it, and of course those old used Kleenexes. She doesn’t pick anything up, because that is my job. She plops down on the most comfortable chair in the room. Her bulk overflows the cushion and her dress rides up on her thighs; she is wearing nylon socks that only reach halfway up her meaty calves. She tells me it’s too hot to write today, and besides there is nothing interesting to write about, and even if there was something interesting, I would not be able to find it. She demands a glass of wine, even though it’s only two in the afternoon. She asks what’s in the refrigerator, and then says I should make her a plate of something, whatever is there. She turns on the TV; it is Judge Judy, which suits her fine, she likes to sneer at all those stupid people. She spills her wine on the front of her dress but doesn’t bother to wipe it off. 


After I wrote this, I asked Cousin Irene to leave. She gave me a sly look out of her piggy little eyes and promised to visit me again tomorrow.  Oh joy.

Writing Tip: How to Get Rid of Ed

We all have internal editors or critics. That's the voice that tells you that you are stupid, a bad singer, clumsy, boring. It's the voice that critiques every piece of writing you do, every conversation you have, the way you dance. This voice often shows up when you sit down to write. He, she, or it leans over your shoulder and whispers mean things in your ears. My voice is named Ed. He used to tie my fingers up in knots and breathe dry ice into my brain. He doesn't do this so much any more, because I found out that I could diminish Ed's power by simply — writing about HIM.

Write about your internal critic. Give it a name. What gender is it? Is it human or animal or a black scary cloud, like the monster in Lost? What does it look like? Is it tall, short, fat, skinny, pock-marked? What does it wear? Is it sloppy or tidy? Does it speak in a loud booming voice, or hiss like a snake? Does it wear too much perfume, or sweat profusely? Is it older and wiser than you, or is it one of those know-it-all popular teenagers who used to inhabit your high school? You know your critic doesn't admire you, so who does it admire? Who does it hate? Finally, ask your critic — and then write down its answer — why it says the things it says.

You can do this exercise as many times as is necessary. Eventually it will become clear to you that your critic is not on your side. And then maybe you will stop listening to it.

Take a Quiz, Maybe Win a Book!

Are you a History Whiz?  Test your knowledge of history with this fun multiple-choice quiz. If your answers are correct, you will be entered in a drawing to win a free copy of Making History: how to remember, record, interpret and share the events of your life. Email your answers to kim@primary-sources.com before March 20th — the drawing will be held March 21st, 2008.  Here you go:

1. In 1933, Frances Perkins became the first woman to:  A) swim the English Channel; B) serve in the President's Cabinet; C) give birth to sextuplets; or D) wear a bikini.

2. John F. Kennedy appeared on national TV in 1954 on this program: A) What's My Line; B) Hopalong Cassady; C) The Tonight Show with Steve Allen; or D) Meet the Press.

3. In 1952 a rebellion against the British in Kenya was referrred to as: A) The Maori Rebellion; B) The Mau Mau Rebellion; C) The Viet Cong Rebellion; or D) The Boxer Rebellion.

4. Louise Brown was born in 1978. Who is she? A) The world's first test tube baby; B) A computer virus that attacked the Pentagon; C) The first heart and liver transplant recipient; or D) The first child to die of AIDS.

5. In 1968, North Korea seized a US Navy ship while it sailed in international waters. What was the name of the ship? A) The USS Abalone; B) The USS Monitor; C) The USS Arizona; or D) the USS Pueblo.

6. In the 1940s, when you talked about your hinges, you were probably talking about one of your personal belongings. This was: A) your car keys; B) your money; C) your elbows; or D) your parents.

Of course, ALL of the answers to the above questions can be found in my book, Making History: how to remember, record, interpret and share the events of your life.  More history quizzes will be coming on this blog — about one every 6 weeks.