Writing From Scratch

By Laurie Epps

Every writer has had a moment, that even though vocationally we are writers, it is an act that eludes us. We either stare down the blank screen, or we simply don't take the time to write.  Natalie Goldberg addresses these issues in Writing Down the Bones


A List of Topics for Writing Practice
pp. 21-24

- Start keeping a small notebook with you, and every time you think of a writing idea, jot it down. This list will keep you from staring at a blank page or screen on those days you don't have an idea of what to say.
-This tip is a new idea for me, and is going to spin off into a new column. "Writing Off the Page" involves the use of a poetry book. Open to any page and put one of the lines or a stanza at the top of the page, and expand on it. You can use the same line over and over again if you wish. Each time, it will be made new.
-Be observant. Look all around you. Light is streaming through the window. Explain it, and in exacting detail. Live in the moment.

Please share with us below your methodology of idea storage, or time when you used your senses to write down a scene or other tool to get your writing going.

Fighting Tofu
pp. 25-27

Tofu is dense, bland and white. Fighting it will get you nowhere. It is just fruitless to fight tofu. This particular essay is about those moments when you don't want to write. Disciplining yourself to write at the appropriate time is a skill we all must master as writers.

Helpful Hints:
1. Get a critique partner. Make a date. You'll need to have work to show her.
2. Prepare work to teach writing groups, even if you don't have any writing groups yet.
3. Set a time to write with some allowed goof off time.
4. Go straight to writing when you wake up.
5. Reward yourself when you write. She used a cookie/croissant analogy.
6. Set a goal like fill a notebook a month. Don't worry about quality.

What techniques do you use to get your ideas down on paper? Please share them with us below.

Trouble with the Editor
P. 28

We always want to pump out real quality work without a lot of effort and it is just not realistic. When you can't get out one word, much less an entire paper, or book, we need to remember that the work will not magically appear if we are not actively writing. Sometimes to start the process, we need to disassociate the creator in us from the editor. Free yourself up to creating by just allowing yourself to create. Don't worry about if it is good or not.

I know I have done this. You have that brainstorming session that ends in frustration because you erase more than you write, and the editor slams every syllable. The creator has to separate from the editor for any work to get down on the page. Has this ever happened to you? If it has, please share it with us in the comments section below.

Elkton, MN: Whatever's in Front of You
pp. 29-31

Natalie Goldberg went to speak in front of a bunch of middle school students in Elkton, MN. Somehow, they came to discuss that Goldberg is Jewish, and from that moment on, she new as a former educator, that everything she did after that realization would be because of her being Jewish. 

Coming from an education background, it was only natural that she would grow to teach classes about writing. What surprised me though, was her improptu approach to teaching her students. Often, she doesn't have an exact plan of what she is going to talk about that day. 

Goldberg suggests we should start doing that with our writing. Talk about what you want to, and who you are in that moment. 

Do you have any rituals that help you be in the moment as a writer? Please share them with us. Just as athlete's need to be in the zone, we need that space and accommodation as writers.

Come back to see me next week, and we'll talk about pp. 32-41.


Laurie Epps is a non-fiction author, essayist, editor, and poet living in Anderson, South Carolina. A seeker of beauty, her is dream is to travel the world one day and tell the many stories of those she meets. To read more of Laurie's stories come back here for her column about Poetry on Thursdays, or follow her Tuesday column dedicated to writing on: http://thewriteconversation.blogspot.com   


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