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Table for two

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Table for Two:

One Simple Step for Engaging Your Reader

I dread parties. 

Admittedly, this wasn’t always the case. When I was younger, I felt the pull toward social gatherings the way a lone creature feels drawn to a herd. Being included was important, essential for survival. But now, in my 40s, my identity is not nearly as tethered to the herd as it once was. 

The truth is that I am an introvert on the far end of the spectrum. Having to navigate simultaneous conversations and jockeying for attention is exhausting. I dread large unstructured gatherings – family reunions, work functions, holiday parties – well in advance, cringing as soon as they land on the schedule. 

It has nothing to do with the people who will be there. I might care deeply about them or not even know them … it doesn’t make a difference. It is the fatigue from the high levels of engagement that I will feel at the end.

I can only compare it to being a non-runner (which I am) faced with a required marathon. I’ll survive, probably. Maybe. Resuscitation may be required midway through. And again at the end.

As most introverts do, I would so much rather meet one person for lunch or a cup of coffee and get into the good stuff. I want to have real conversation, a certain level of true interpersonal connectedness. I want to be able to listen intently, and for both of us to be able to finish our thoughts uninterrupted. I want to be able to respond to words, facial expressions, and gestures in a genuine way.

I see this as a perfect metaphor for writing with your audience in mind … or not.

When we have an idea for a book, an essay, a blog, we tend to think first about the details of the story, the plotline. We think about the structure, and we fret about our own motivation and discipline to get it done. 

We don’t always identify our intended audience. 

Sure, we might have a vague idea of whom we wish would read it – someone like us, someone with similar experiences or of a certain age. We may even get a little more narrow, say moms or Mormons or women who want to travel solo. We may think of our audience in terms of where we hope to have this story published. Readers of this magazine or that genre.

But what if we pictured an actual person sitting across from us, listening as we told this story? 

This person might be a real human that you know, or someone you create from your imagination. 

What would happen if, as you wrote your story, you kept that person in your mind? 

This is the person you most wish could hear what you are trying to say. This is the person whom you think would benefit the most from your story. This is the person that most deserves your story. 

You don’t have to tell anyone who this person is. Keep it to yourself. But here’s what will happen. 

Instead of walking into a crowded party, not knowing who to talk to first, who to avoid, what to say, when to laugh, when to nod in sympathy, which details of your own life to share and which to keep close to your vest . . .

You will sit down at a table with one person who is ready to engage with you. You will share your story, gauging their reactions as you go and adjusting the details as needed to help them understand what you are trying to say. 

In the end, you will end up with a tightly focused project that has a clear message for a clear audience. And that will allow readers to feel the true, personal engagement you were trying to make … whether or not they were the person across the table from you as you wrote it.

No resuscitation necessary.

Photo by murat soyluoglu from Pexels
 

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Writing a childhood through an adult lens

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Writing a Childhood Through an Adult Lens

When I was a kid, I loved looking through our photo albums. I would sit on the floor and flip through page after page of the Kodak square images from the 1970s, depicting life with me as a baby, toddler, and preschooler, then later with the addtion of my younger brother. 

The images became so familiar, they were indistinguishable in my mind from actual memories. Did I remember playing on the backyard swingset? Or did I remember the pictures of me playing on the backyard swingset? 

This question never really mattered until I revisited those albums recently. Exhausted from revisiting the same stories over and over, I was trying to trigger memories for new writing. But the memory that was triggered was of me at age 12, 14, 16, flipping through these same albums. 

Something interesting did happen, though. 

As I looked anew at old pictures – me on the swingset, me on my bike, me wearing swim goggles with my nightgown on the couch (why?!) – I looked closely at my face. In almost every picture, I was grinning ear to ear; in some I was obviously belly-laughing. 

“Was I really that happy as a kid?” I asked my mom over coffee. 

“Yeah, you were,” she replied. “You were really happy.” 

This shocked me. I am an adult with decades behind me of overwhelming anxiety, depression, perfectionism, indecision, and running away from hard things. I rarely belly-laugh. 

You were really happy. 

Of course, many things might explain this change, hormones and experiences at the top of the list. 

But this struck me as a fascinating creative consideration, too. 

When I write about my childhood, I always look at it through the lens of my adult mind. 

There is no way to turn off our adult minds and revert to childhood perspective (although, what a joy that would be!)  But as writers we must remember that this is what we are doing. 

I am in the midst of a first draft of a memoir about my relationship with my father. The events I’m writing about mosty happened when I was a teenager. 

I am writing them through the lens of a 46-year-old, because that is the lens I have to work with. But I have to stay aware that this is what I am doing. I can’t insert my adult thinking into that teenaged version of myself. And I have to ask myself some questions with each and every internal detail I add.

Questions such as: 

  • Did I really think [this] at age 16? 
  • Did I believe he meant [this] then, or do I think he meant [this] now?
  • Did I feel [this way] then, or do I feel it in hindsight?

There is no one way to approach writing about long-ago memories. But I believe that if I can be open and curious about which perspective I am taking – that of the child version or of the adult version – and then intentionally choose my words to make this clear to the reader, the entire piece of writing will become more honest. 

Photo by Fancycrave.com from Pexels

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Blur

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Blur

a story by Stephanie Dethlefs

Your friends push you to dance with him, and so you do. The rhythmic pulsing of the club music moves the crowd on the floor like ocean waves, the bright blue shots you took from test tubes handed out by an exhausted waitress in miniature black clothing now numbing your limbs. He moves closer, hand on your waist, but dancing is your thing, and it doesn’t matter if he’s there or not. Each song bleeds into a new one and you forget where you are, the first night on a spring break trip to a desert town with girlfriends who now want to leave, except one, the only one as drunk as you, the only one also dancing with a boy whose face she can’t really see. The two of you sloppily protest that you have each other, you can find our way back to the condo you’ve rented. They go.

Photo by Maurício Mascaro from Pexels

You dance for another hour, closer to your partner with each song, kissing a little until the glaring lights come on, stripping you down to your sweaty hairline and smudged eyeliner. In this light he is not what you thought, looking more like a Picasso painting than a young Army soldier but he has promised you a ride home and so you follow him out the door clinging to your friend who will protect you, and you her, except that when you arrive in the parking lot you realize that the two young men you are walking with didn’t arrive in the same car, don’t actually know each other, and then you are alone with your soldier and his buddy slouched low in the backseat – “You remember him, right?” – but you can’t seem to recall having met him in the club and then you are on the road, streetlights blurring as he races through the town, your head resting on the cool window. It doesn’t occur to you what we see, cringing with the horrified anticipation usually reserved for scary movies, when everyone knows the monster is behind the door but the stupid girl (always a stupid girl!) opens it anyway; that he is going to keep driving straight out into the desert and…

You can’t really remember the way back to the condo, you think it’s this street but maybe that isn’t right, and he weaves his way through town – perhaps he shouldn’t be driving, but this hasn’t crossed your mind either – and his hand is on your thigh and suddenly you realize that you don’t know his name, but it’s too late now to remedy that social slip so you make up for it by putting your hand on his, fingers intertwined, and moving it half an inch up your thigh

 

while his buddy (you’d forgotten he was back there)

moans

and tells you to

 

roll down your window. Warm desert air floods the car, and suddenly you know where you are, you sit up straight and with sober intention but slurred words you direct him left, then right, then right again, and there is the sign for the condo unit – here, pull over, you say, and you climb out of the car and your friend is climbing out of a car parked a few feet away and you adjust your skirt and you clasp her hand and run, laughing wildly.

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This Story Hurts

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This Story Hurts

how to write when you are still emotionally attached

14 years ago, we lost a baby in stillbirth.  I have shared this story before, so I won’t go into the details here. 

“Writing has always helped you,” my mom said. “Maybe try writing about it.” 

I threw crumpled pages, journals, and even my computer keyboard on the floor.  I put my head down on the desk and sobbed. 

I wasn’t ready. Yet. 

Four years later, I realized that remembering no longer crippled me. And I sat down to write the story of our baby girl. 

Writing it was still painful. To write the story in its entirety, I had to remember some details – physical and metaphorical – that hurt to bring back to the surface. But I was able to recall the events of that day with enough emotional distance that I could keep going. I wrote that story with the intention of supporting other mothers of lost babies. And I sent it out into the world. 

There is a fine line when it comes to sharing a story that holds deep emotional attachment. Too much, and the feelings will overpower your ability to craft a readable story. Too little, and the emotion in the story may not resonate with readers. The sweet spot is there in the middle, where the emotion is easily accessible but doesn’t threaten to bring you to your knees. 

Every writer and every story is different, so there is no amount of time or distance from the events that I can prescribe. However, as someone who has written many times about deeply personal topics, I can offer a process to move the story through. 

Step 1:  Journal. Every feeling, every detail you recall, put it all on a page where no one will ever see it. Let out all of your anger, your irrationality, your fear. Write about who else was affected, and how you think they feel. Write it ALL. 

Step 2:  Breathe. Cry. Scream. Throw things. Take a nap.

Step 3:  Ask yourself  Am I ready to be objective about this?  Becaue the truth is, if you are going to write the story with the intention of it finding an audience outside of your immediate circle, you are going to have to be at least somewhat objective about what stays and what goes. If the answer is no, let that be okay. If the answer is yes, then…

Step 4:  Map it out. I will be the first to admit that I often start writing a story without a clear plan of where it is headed. But the truth is that stories we are still emotionally triggered by will trick our brains into thinking that we need to include every background detail, every bit of backstory. because those things matter to us. But they may not matter to your audience. Do we need to know that you were eating a meatball sub when you first laid eyes on the man who broke your heart? Probably not, unless the story is that of your meeting him in the first place. If you map out your story, you will not spend time writing a description of the sub sandwich which will eventually be cut out. Decide how you will structure the story, who your audience is, and what you want to say to them. 

Step 5:  Start. Write until it’s finished. Put the first draft away (and see step 2.) Come back to it later, and finish. 

Writing can be incredibly theraputic, and sharing our stories is a wonderful way to connect on a human level about difficult topics. It is really important, before we dive headfirst into an emotionally triggering story, that we ask ourselves if we are truly ready to share it. And if we are, we have to know why. 

Photo by burak kostak from Pexels

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Break It Down to Build It Up

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Break It Down to Build It Up

I am the Queen of the Land. 

Not all of the land, though I wouldn’t turn it down! No, I am the Queen of the Land of Procrastinators. 

Now, you might argue with me that the title belongs to you … yes, I know that there are many a procrastinator walking among us. 

But no, my friend, I am the Queen. I have procrastination down to an art form. I’m so smooth a procrastinator that you would never even know I’m procrastinating.

I am so good at looking busy that you will think I am actually … busy. But I’m not. I am procrastinating. 
 
Just today, before I sat down to write this blog post, I agreed to my daughter’s request to play on this computer. And my son, who had already taken a turn on said computer, blurted out, “Yeah, because you’re procrastinating, right?”
 
Oh, yes, I am the Queen. 
 
However, I do manage to accomplish writing projects, and that’s because I have a very simple trick. 
 
I break it down into really small steps, and I put every single step on my calendar. And I do it. I show up for my writing the way I show up for my mammograms (though admittedly I procrastinate on making those appointments.)
 
The reason I do this is because I have decided that my writing is essential. It is not indulgent, and in the time I’ve alotted for it, it is the first priority. 
 
So I break my project down into the smallest, most manageable of pieces. I set small, small goals. And I accomplish those goals one small step at a time. I assure that this will happen because I put them on my calendar. If they are on my calendar, they become appointments. 
 
The perfectionist who thinks she’s the Queen of the Procrastinators is also highly Type-A and would never skip an appointment for fear of letting someone down. 
 
So if you are like me, and you are arguing with me over who wears the crown, try this hack for a couple of weeks. Break your project into manageagable tasks and put those tasks on the calendar as appointments. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish. 
 
 
Photo by Bich Tran from Pexels
 

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10 reasons to write about your life

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10 Reasons to Write About Your Life

My current project is a memoir in micro-essays. The topic is one that I haven’t spent much time thinking about for years (although as with any experience that shapes us it is kind of always … there.) 

I know that this is the right project at the right time. But man, I am having trouble sticking with the first draft. Just staying in the seat in order to generate words – any words at all will do! – is so, so hard. 

And I keep asking myself: Why am I doing this???

In search of inspiration, motivation and some new thoughts to think about this project, I grabbed my copy of Why We Write About Ourselves:  Twenty Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature edited by Meredith Maran. Here is what I found:

1

Memoir writing isn’t therapy – it’s better than therapy. It opens out your life to the world and lets the world in.

– Kate Christensen 

2

Trust yourself. If you’ve remembered something very well – a fight, a kiss, a plane ride, a certain stranger – there’s a reason. Keep writing until you figure out the significance of your most vivid memories.

– Kelly Corrigan

3

I want my story to be an engaging story that just happens to have happened to someone they may not know at all when they start to read the work but feel like they’ve known all their lives when they’ve done reading.

– Edwidge Danticat

4

To me, writing personal narrative nonfiction should be an act of generosity toward the reader. It’s an invitation. The writer is saying to the reader, “Come along with me while I tellyou a few things and explore a few ideas.” The writer is saying, “Come a little closer and I’ll confide in you about a few things.”

– Meghan Daum

5

Finding courage may be the hardest thing about writing. First I had to find the nerve to voice myself at all, to find that place in myself and follow it. Then it became about the courage to write authentically. To think and act outside of the confines of the world that shaped me, to express my own truth and my own voice.

– Sue Monk Kidd

6

The reason to write memoir is to put something important out into the collective consciousness, to distill one human life as you’ve come to understand it.

– Anne Lamott

7

When you tell your story, other people start telling theirs. It gives everyone a bigger span of experience than just the ones they’ve had. When anybody tells a candid story … it tends to make the world bigger and safer for everyone.

– Sandra Tsing Loh

8

Pretty early on I learned that for better or worse I was going to use my life in my writing … Not because I think my life is more interesting than anyone else’s, but rather I was going to use the self as a means to write stories that feel universal. The only way I know to do that is to plumb the depths of my own heart, mind, body, and spirit.

– Cheryl Strayed

9

You get the most powerful material when you write toward whatever hurts. Don’t avoid it. Don’t run from it. Don’t write toward what’s easy. We recognize our humanity in those most difficult moments that people share.

– Jesmyn Ward

I found both comfort and discomfort in these words, which is only a small sample of wisdom and honesty collected in Why We Write About Ourselves. (It also includes a fair amount of advice on writing and the writing life, if that is of interest to you.) 

The main thing I want to remind myself as I work on my project is that my story can be used to hold space for others to share their own stories. That the connective tissue between my own work and future readers of it is my own willingness to be vulnerable and truthful. 

And if you find yourself in a similar quagmire with a true, personal story of your own, let me reassure you: 

10

YOUR STORY MATTERS. It’s that simple. 

–  Stephanie Dethlefs (that’s me!)

photo by Kaboompics on Pexels

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Your mother called to say “Stop it”

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Your mother called to say, "Stop it."

I’ve been plagued by anxiety since adolescence. I worry endlessly about things over which I have no control, and also things over which I do. My mind becomes a tornado, everything in its path drawn as evidence to support the working theory of the day. 

These theories are usually some version of: 

I am doing a bad job at _____. 

I’m not good enough at _____. 

No one cares that I _____. 

The two people who bear the brunt of my tornadoes are my husband and my mom. 

My husband, as many husbands do, usually suggests fixes to the problem. 

My mom, on the other hand, listens intently and then tells me to stop it. 

When I first realized that this was her pattern of response to my drama, I was equal parts confused and annoyed. Didn’t she know that I would stop it if I could?  And, also this:  I want to just stop it, but I don’t know how.

For the past few months, I’ve been intentionally studying and changing my thought patterns, and I’ve learned that she was right. 

Yes, Mom, you were right. 

Not only is it possible to just stop it, it is the only way to move forward and feel better.

A tornado is a weather event that will trample over everything in its path. It is not stoppable. The only thing to do is allow it to wear itself out. 

In the past I treated my thought tornados the same way. I let them run themselves out, leaving me hiding under the covers sobbing. But the thing is, thought tornados are stoppable. 

Here’s an example: 

Let’s say I’m spinning about not being a good enough parent. Perhaps my child is struggling with someting at school. I’ve collected heaps of evidence from past and present that show me how I’ve created this problem. I didn’t teach her how to handle this situation or I solved problems for her. 

Now, let’s say that I catch myself thinking I am not a good parent. First of all, simply noticing the thought presses the pause button, and the tornado freezes in place. I change my thought to I am a good parent. OR, if that feels like a stretch, I am a parent.

Sudddenly all of the evidence I’ve collected is no longer relevant. The wind in the tornado is no longer whipping. The whole thing disappears. 

You might be asking what any of this has to do with writing. Well, let’s take a thought I’ve explored in previous posts.

My stories aren’t interesting. 

Evidence: other writers have interesting stories, my essays have been rejected, etc.

Pause the tornado.

Alternative thoughts: my stories are interesting. OR I have many stories. OR I have stories.

The tornado dissolves, and you are ready to write. 

If you are struggling to get started, or struggling to find the time, or struggling with the blank page, I guarantee there is a thought tornado ramping up. 

All you have to do is stop it. 

Photo by Designecologist from Pexels

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Where Home Was

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Where Home Was

a story by Stephanie Dethlefs

I am the city of my childhood.

Entering my hometown from the north, the damp fall day seems to brighten, the air changing as it enters through the window, swelling into my arms, my legs, my head. Warmth settles into the very core of me, enigmatic yet familiar. It happens every time.

I tell my children stories about the beautiful and complicated city where I lived until I was 25, but they will never know it as I do. Or as I did.

Photo by zoe pappas from Pexels

It is who I am.  Or it is who I was.

The familiar skyline beckons as I follow the interstate. The once towering beacon built for the 1962 World Fair is now dwarfed by skyscrapers, but still stands alone as the defining icon of this city. Past the university, lakes embrace the traffic from both sides. I look to the old Gas Works, where we used to climb high on the pipes above a concrete floor in a way I would never allow my own children to do. Memories flood my brain.

There is where Mom used to work.

There is the spot where Dad took us canoeing and a duck bit my little brother’s finger.

There is the parking lot where, on a Saturday night with nothing else to do, my posse of girls from high school opened all the car doors, blasted ‘80s hip-hop and R&B, and danced under the moon.

There is the waterside park where a young man I loved and hated and loved begged me for another chance.

There.

There.

There.

 *

I now live 100 miles away in a sleepy liberal college town. Six degrees of separation was a cliché until I began to meet people and realized that the adage is born from a nugget of truth. Everyone knows everyone else here.

Nestled neatly between mountains, water, and the Canadian border, it is a mecca for outdoor sports. Its citizens are active, traversing the trails on foot, bike, or skis, skimming the water’s surface in kayaks.

It is beautiful.

I want to love it in the same way.

I long for layers of complexity.

Or maybe I am just homesick.           

*

I moved to my current town for graduate school. I would have applied to the university in my home city, but I was hurt and angry and confused and needed desperately to get away from that young man and everything that would remind me of him.

Everything I owned fit in the smallest of U-Haul trucks. My mom and younger brother and I made quick work of the move, and I was left alone on the doorstep of a one-bedroom apartment, my only company a neurotic cat.

I knew no one, but it was fine. I needed to be on my own. Besides, the plan was that in two years I would be student teaching back at home, in the public school system where I became myself.

That was the plan.

For the first six months I spent every weekend driving up and down the freeway. I stayed at my mom’s house, or at a friend’s apartment. I went to clubs, to movies, to the mall, to all of the old familiars.

*

The challenge with friends you make in graduate school is that they leave.

My first friend here was a smart black woman with whom I shared a research office. She reminded me very much of my friends at home, and for her I began to stay back on the weekends. But after a year, her program ended, she graduated, and she was gone. 

My next friend came first in the form of a love interest, but after a handful of dates we realized we were better as friends. With him, I discovered the local nightlife and began to expand my understanding of the town beyond the campus. But he left, too.

Others came and went, but my real life was back home. Even my cat made the trip back and forth in the car with ease, hating more to be left behind and fed by the neighbor who smelled like her Jack Russell terrier.

I filed my internship application, requesting to be placed in Seattle, and counted the days until I could return where I belonged.  

 *

Two local guys threw a party. There was barbecue and a lot of beer. I was invited by another tenuous friend from school.

I spent the night laughing with one of the hosts, and within days settled into an easy relationship which lasted into and through my final quarter of coursework.

After extensive internal debate and endless anxiety, my need for love trumped my need for home. I put in for a change with the internship office to stay put for the time being, to see where the relationship would go.

*

We moved inch by inch down the freeway on the way to an extended family gathering. The drive requires us to traverse Seattle from one end to the other.

“Ugh, I hate this traffic,” he moaned, his knuckles strained white on the steering wheel.

I looked out the passenger window, my heart connected by taut string to the brick houses which line the interstate, the roof of my high school visible only if you know where to look, tall buildings below which all my memories are scattered in the streets.

“When are we going to move here?” I asked, teasing, but not teasing at all.

“Never,” he said. “I could not deal with this every day.” He was talking still about the traffic, but I had moved on.

“You know,” I said, my voice thick with what felt like adulterous baiting. “I could have moved back here. After I graduated last year.”

“What are you talking about?” he said, genuinely confused. “I didn’t make you stay.”

“But I wouldn’t have stayed if it wasn’t for you.”

“What do you want me to say to that?” he asked.

I didn’t know. I sighed and looked back out the window as we inched along.

*

We talked last year about whether we should sell our house, where we’ve lived together now for close to two decades. I meandered through other neighborhoods, eyeing old Craftsman-style houses which creak with history and stories of families that lived there before, scouting for For Sale signs in their tiny yards.

We disagreed on these neighborhoods for one simple fact: the houses are too close together for my husband’s liking. He preferred bigger yards, more space, room for our children to roam free like the backyard chickens that populate this town.

I dug in my heels. This is what I want.

Why?

Because they remind me of home.

In the end, we decided not to move. But still I drive by those houses, longing.

*

In the pockets of time between passion and apathy where the true work of a marriage lies, I have fantasized about returning home to Seattle, settling back into my old life with a community of friends and family to wrap around me like a thick blanket.

But my hometown is the one who talks me out of this. It reminds me that I look different now, and so does it.  None of my friends live in the city proper anymore. Nor do my family members.

The cost of living there is far too high.

*

On a summer morning, I take my two children on a road trip. We visit the old Gas Works park and explore the concrete shelter, only to discover that it is mostly used now by some of the thousands of homeless residents of the city. I steer my children around a hypodermic needle lying on the ground and we return to the car. We visit the bagel café where I worked for a summer in high school; they prefer the bagels at the shop near our house. So do I, if I’m honest. I drive them around my old neighborhoods only to discover that my elementary school is being torn down and the restaurant my family frequented for breakfast is now closed. The pool where I lifeguarded and first fell in love is gone.

“Can we be done with this now, Mom?” my son says. “I want to go home.”

Home.

The nooks and crannies I remember don’t exist anymore, having been absorbed by upscale retail and business and technology conglomerates.

My memories only exist in the deepest places, excavated when I need comfort.

Which means that my hometown is not a place anymore.

It is me.

*

My daughter and I are en route to her school on a Tuesday morning. It is a straight line of road three miles or so, passing apartment buildings, houses, and a small strip mall. We joke about the six stoplights between our house and the middle school; all green lights predicts a good day, all red means doom approaches. On this day she is grumpy and we are late, and being stopped by a red light is almost more than she can bear.

“Why does there have to be so much traffic?” she complains. “It’s taking forever!”

I reflexively bristle. This isn’t traffic, I think. Back home…

But this is what she knows.

This is her home.

And so it is also mine.

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Build Your Story One Brick at a Time

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Build Your Story One Brick at a Time

My daughter had a big writing project due this week for her 7th grade Language Arts class. She loves writing, but only when it’s on her own terms (a.k.a. only when she feels inspired. Sound familiar?)

The assignment had a lot of moving parts. Required types of entries, illustrations, charts and graphs, cover pages, peer editing…the whole gambit. 

Needless to say, as the deadline approached, she was feeling pretty overwhelmed. 

I, of course, pulled out the Anne Lamott standby. “Just go ‘bird by bird’, honey. One step at a time,” I encouraged.

I’m pretty sure she rolled her eyes. Such is being the parent of a 13-year-old. 
 
But the truth is that Lamott’s classic Bird by Bird has been a must for writers and creatives for years for a reason.
 
There is no way to build anything without breaking it into small steps. 
 
If we don’t do this, we get overwhelmed. Overwhelm leads to anxiety.  Anxiety leads to … well, I suppose it’s different for everyone. For me, it leads to Netflix and cake. But it doesn’t lead to productivity, there is no doubl about that. 

Even if your story is small – perhaps a single blog post or an essay – the simplest way to tackle it is one small piece at a time. 

Maybe this looks like an outline, or a bulleted list. Maybe it is a word count goal (in the next 30 minutes, I will write 200 words.

What the bricks ARE is up to the writer. But it will be sanity-saving and far more productive to take the big vision and then take a look at the pieces that need to be arranged. 

Action steps: 

  1. Envision the story as a whole. Understand your themes, intention, and audience. 
  2. Take it apart. What pieces need to be created? 
  3. Set a schedule for when each piece will be created. 
  4. Write. One. Piece. At. A. Time.
  5. Stand back and take in your masterpiece. 
If we allow overwhelm and anxiety to persist, it guarantees that we will never get this story out into the world. And that would be a tragedy, in my opinion.
 
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4 Steps to Start Writing NOW

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4 Steps to Start Writing NOW

It is harder to eat the junk food than not to eat it. 

This is a statement I heard on a podcast about weight loss. The basic idea is that I will expend more energy getting the food and putting in it my mouth than not doing that. 

Makes sense. Of course what’s hard about not eating the junk food is all of the urges, cravings, social pressure, and saliva filling my mouth at the mere mention of certain items. (doritos? wine? chocolate truffles? yes,yes, YES.) 

It feels like a lot of work to not eat that stuff. But I know that the work is in my head. 

I would offer that the same is true for not writing vs. writing. 

We spend a LOT of energy on not writing, don’t we? Buying new journals, reading books about writing, talking about writing, taking classes, reading blogs (ahem)…

saying someday, someday, someday…

What if we just sat down and just … did it? 

Here are your four steps. It will take you less than a minute to do them if you don’t argue with yourself. (oooooh, that’s harder than it sounds, I know. But give it a try.)

     Step 1:  Decide to. I am going to write today. 

     Step 2:  Decide when. I am going to write today at 1 p.m. for 20 minutes. 

     Step 3:  Decide what. I am going to write today at 1 p.m. for 20 minutes about the time I went roller skating with Donna. 

     Step 4:  Decide to follow through.   It’s 1 p.m. There are a million reasons why I might not write right now. 

But I said I would do it so I’m going to do it. 

What would happen if we just … write?  What dreams are possible? What goals are achievable? 

Go forth and write. Your stories are waiting.

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