About 10-12 years ago I found myself sitting in my corner wanting to write something but with absolutely no clue how to start. You might not know but experienced writers will describe this as a blank page syndrome. Writing had always come easily to me, no matter what I was writing, but at this point I needed to identify a subject/goal/purpose that made sense to me.
One day I sat at my trusty computer and Googled “writing”. While playing around various sites I came across one that stood out. A writer in Chicago ran the site and his sole purpose was helping new writers. I quickly recognized the value of my find and what my goal should be – learning to write for the reader. And so began a period in my life that was almost magical. I met and interacted with people from all over the world faced with the same challenge as me. Our Leader, a published writer in his own right, taught fiction writing and developed his approach over many years. He was selfless in the amount of time he gave to getting the best out of list members, while providing consistent, essential encouragement and guidance.
New writers very often start with an objective that is not only daunting but usually doomed to either complete failure or a product that is mediocre at best – to write a book. Although they may have either the story or elements clearly in their mind they have no clue about all the variables that would impact a reader. So first things first … we were encouraged to go one step at a time and choose our material carefully. We were encouraged through projects to write what we know, not what we think or imagine.
The following was one of my first projects:
AN OBJECT THAT BELONGED TO MY MOTHER:
I can still see Mother dusting and standing back to appreciate the beauty of her Balloon Lady, a Dalton figurine that always sat in a predominant place in our living room. The lady was old, dressed in rags with a scarf on her head, and sat on her chair holding her balloons for sale.
In retirement my Mother followed a longtime dream and opened her own gift shop in a small tourist town. She and Dad lived in the back of the house on Main Street with the shop in front. Customers would come and easily drift into their home as guests, after business was done out front. These customers and friends would see some of her personal treasurers and always ask, “is that for sale?”. One day an offer too good to refuse was made for Mother’s Balloon Lady and she succumbed. It was very difficult for her to say “no”. I’m sure she cried that night. Long after the shop closed and Mother’s efforts were exclusively directed at looking after my Dad I found a miniature Balloon Lady by Dalton to give her for Christmas. She cried then too.
AN OBJECT THAT BELONGED TO MY FATHER:
As a teenager I had a keen desire to burn my Father’s favorite toy. It was a small drum set. Dad was not musically inclined but he truly enjoyed banging away on this instrument whenever the opportunity presented itself and that opportunity was routinely Sunday mornings. My Father’s work prevented him from active participation in normal household routines but on the weekend you could count on two things. His precise and thorough grounds keeping activity and Sunday morning breakfast. The breakfasts were memorable and took a lot of effort on his part. Often guests would come to partake.
The wonderful smells emanating from the kitchen would drift upstairs and under my door being just enough to rouse me from a deep sleep. Not, however, enough to get me or my sister out of bed. Dad, having gone to this supreme effort was not about to be ignored. He wanted everyone down to the table. Since good food wasn’t the answer he would calmly bring out his favorite toy, set it up at the bottom of the stairs and begin the most annoying, monotonous drum roll. This would continue until all the sleepy faces appeared and committed to the ten minute deadline.
Burning may have been too good for this object of pain.
If you’re interested in writing – you might enjoy these exercises.
Consider the following subjects as well: Something you’ve lost, something to get rid of, something that burned, the oldest item you own – they all have potential.
Let me know if this interests you.