Flat As a Shadow

shadowMy write brain feels flat and gray as a shadow.

If I were writing on paper, the wastebasket would be overflowing with crumpled blog post drafts. Since I’m at a keyboard, cyberspace is awash in electron static whirling off my hard drive as my brain spins and my fingers flail, trying to gain purchase on the page.

Each of those posts began with a great idea that I may eventually find a way to develop. Right now they are flat. Flat as a pancake. Flat as a board. Flat as stale beer. Flat as the hat an elephant stomped. You get the idea.

I think I know the problem: I’ve been reading blog posts and advice articles with titles like 7 Tips for Captivating Readers, or Bore into Readers’ Brains for Keeps. (Don’t go searching for these articles. I made up the titles. Besides – why would you go looking for something I just described as trouble?)

The advice wasn’t bad. The concepts they espouse are solid and useful. Maybe. Sometimes, for some people. Trying to follow those formulas drained all the life from my words, sucking them dry. The resulting posts sound like they came from fill-in-the-blank templates. They are preachy and BORING. They sound like I’m determined to write until I reach a certain word count.

The problem is they lack passion. They lack heart. They take someone else’s idea and try to embellish it beyond what it deserves and that makes them preachy. You deserve better.

They violated a key rule in the first chapter of The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing:

There is no write way to write.
Try lots of things. Find what works
for YOU, and run with that.

Obviously there was one key piece of advice missing from all that wisdom:

Write from your heart first, then apply the craft.

If that sounds like a formula, it is, and it’s the exception to the rule. It’s the one formula that will prevent blog-by-number posts and same-old, same-old stories.

That’s the story, that’s the message, and that’s all that needs to be said.

Write now: strip a story down to its basics and write those, only those. Don’t embellish in any way until that story is finished.

12 comments :

SuziCate said...

Write from your heart first, then apply the craft.- that is probably the best writing advice I've ever been given, and when I don't apply it shows.

Sharon Lippincott said...

Thanks SuziCate. You must delete the posts that don't come from your heart. Your blog is totally heart-full.

Valorie Grace Hallinan said...

Very well said. Sometimes I've felt the same way about what I read in blogs. And sometimes it's a challenge for me to write in a fresh, authentic way. Sometimes I think we feel pressured to generate too much content online.

Susan Silver said...

I had a novel idea for years that I put off. I brushed it off and now I am blogging it. 1,000 word of nonsense every day. Writing from the heart There is plenty of time to morph it into something once there are actually words and a story to build on. But, I ignored the very truth you speak of in this post. You just have to write and polish later.

Sharon Lippincott said...

Fresh, authentic content. Yes, always a challenge. Many veteran bloggers are going to once a week. That works well, because readers are overwhelmed too. Thus all the advice about sharpening the hooks in the first sentence.

My philosophy? The people who are meant to read what I write will find it. But only if I write it.

Sharon Lippincott said...

Susan, best wishes on that novel. Will you finish before NANOWRIMO this year? Blogging your basically raw daily output is a daring idea. If performers are told to break a leg, should we be telling each other to break an arm? You go girl!

Samantha M. White said...

Brava, Sharon! I find writing to be a highly developed form of conversation. We can write what we think and feel, then go back and polish it. That is the GREAT joy of writing . . .when I speak, I often don't express myself in the most cogent, accurate way, and often wish I could go back and say, "What I MEANT was . . . ". That's where writing is so great . . . we don't have to publish a first draft, as we usually do in spoken conversation. First we "speak" from the heart, then go back and "listen to" (read) what we just said, and find ways to say it better. But to be good, it MUST start from within. But you knew that.

kathleen pooler said...

Sharon,
You really strike a chord here- write from your heart with passion and forget all the rules in the beginning. Get to the core and let yout story unfold.The rules will get in the way. I love it and needed this reminder. Thank you!

Sharon Lippincott said...

Samantha,

I'll bet you actually DO go back and say "I meant ..." I know I do. Great point about not having to do that in writing. You've probably heard that trial-and-error analogy of throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. Some days my walls stay clean as a freshly bathed baby while the floor is cluttered with spaghetti manuscripts. Other days the first toss sticks.

Sharon Lippincott said...

Kathy,

We all need this reminder now and then, especially moi!

Belinda Nicoll said...

What I love about a flat landscape is the beckoning horizon.

Sharon Lippincott said...

Wow, Belinda, what a creative and refreshing perspective. But not surprising from creativity maven. :-) Thanks for sharing it.