Dina Friedman's Monthly Writing Advice
Vol. 1 # 1, May 2001 - Getting Started
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It took us rather longer than we expected to get this newest tipsheet
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Thanks for your patience. and now, on to words of wisdom from our
resident Writing Coach, Dina Friedman]
Writing Tips--Getting Past the Blank Page
Whatever your idea--the great American novel, a letter to the editor,
an essay, even a diary entry--the hardest part is often getting
started. You stare at the blank page or computer screen, and suddenly
the words that seemed so clear when you were struck by inspiration in
the middle of a business meeting or driving home on the interstate
are gone, vanished, kaput!
So what do you do?
Don't fall into the trap of only writing when lightning strikes.
Persistent writers need to invoke the muse, and sometimes that means
plugging away when inspiration is nowhere in sight.
Here are some tips for jump-starting.
Start in the middle:
Don't struggle for the perfect opening line. In your first draft,
don't struggle for perfection at all. Sometimes the words just flow
like water over rocks. Most of the time, you have to heave boulders.
So find the thread that got you the idea and just go with it, even if
it's fragmented or hazy. The muse is likely to be hiding somewhere
within those jumbled thoughts. As you write, you'll notice the long
grass parting, the boulders loosening, a path unfolding.
Just like dancing, drawing, or playing a musical instrument, writing
takes practice. To warm-up, find a prompt. Pictures, objects, a
random word out of the dictionary, a line from a poem can all be
extremely effective in unlocking the words within. Start with the
images the prompt evokes and soon you'll be well into the images of
your own sub-conscious. Warning: don't edit at this point. Let the
Take Advantage of Inspiration When It Hits:
Buy a tape recorder for the car to keep track of all the brilliant
turns of phrase that get lost when you're driving home on the
Interstate, or a small notebook to surreptitiously jot down your
poetic insights at a boring business meeting. Carry the notebook
everywhere. Then inspiration will always be in your pocket.
Make Writing A Habit:
Set aside a daily time for writing, even if it's just for a few
minutes a day, and use the above tips to transform your raw, unformed
ideas into workable beginnings. Then stay tuned for next month's
column on revision to learn how to make them sparkle.
ABOUT THIS TIPSHEET:
Once a month, Dina Friedman sends out a Writing Advice Tip covering some
aspect of writing: overcoming writer's block, grammar and usage
hints, vocabulary builders, etc.
A prize-winning fiction writer, playwright and poet, she teaches in
the Speaking, Arguing and Writing program at Mount Holyoke College.
She is available for individual consultations either in person
(western Massachusetts) or online.
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A monthly tip covering writing technique, grammar, creativity, or
overcoming writer's block
Dina Friedman, M.S.W., has worked with
individuals and groups on issues for thirteen years. A
published fiction writer, poet, playwright, and journalist
and winner of several awards and honors, she coordinates
academic writing workshops for Mount Holyoke College. She
has taught rhetoric, English Comp, and creative writing at
the University of Massachusetts, Holyoke Community College,
and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
You can use our expertise for what you
need most: counseling on writer's block, an exercise to get
started or get through the stuck places, a thorough edit,
help generating ideas, a consult, or just someone to check
in with to keep your project going...
On projects involving business
marketing or large nonfiction, you may be working with Shel
Horowitz, author of five nonfiction books and more than 800
articles. Since founding Accurate Writing & More in
1981, he has worked with numerous business owners, students,
and employees to improve their writing.
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