Saturday, December 13, 2008

Writing workshop part 3 - final installment


This is the final installment in my series on writing. For Session 1 (first drafts) click here; for session 2 (editing) click here.

Words are so powerful. Anyone who has ever had an argument knows this. How you choose to convey your thought has a huge impact on the effect it generates. Use loving words that are not directed at a person to convey a criticism, and it will go over fundamentally differently then if you choose accusatory words that directly attack another.

For example:

Honey, when you don’t look at me when I’m talking to you, it makes me feel like you’re not listening to me and that makes me feel rejected.


You selfish self-centered jerk. You’re always so caught up in yourself and you never have time for me. Did you even bother listening to what I was saying? You never do!!

OK. So. Words matter. Words and tone matters. That’s a given. But how do you translate that innate human understanding into something you can convey on paper? Its not hard. Your mind already does this in your every day communications. Its just a matter of slowing yourself down, breaking down your steps, and then capturing them on paper.

I’m going to use this picture by way of example. We were outside the church during my cousin’s wedding last year.

1) Just the Facts Ma’Am

If you want a “just the facts, Ma’am” layout - then do just that. Time, date, etc. Something to simply “tag” your memory next time you look at your layout.


Outside the Church, J & V’s wedding, City, State, November __, 2007.

2) Take it Up a Notch

If that’s a little too dry, I can try to add a little bit of what we were doing. Notice that I’ve applied the rules from workshops 1 and 2 here to shorten my sentences, using active tense, etc…:


In the hour before the ceremony, we goofed off outside the church. We had fun.

3) A little more please

Still a little dry? OK. You want to convey more than that. Now, dig deeper. Pretend you are ESPN and have instant replay - slow it down - play by play. What happened? Do you roughly remember a minute by minute break down? What were you feeling? What triggered the event? Do you remember smells? Sounds? Dialogue? Quickly - jot down answers to these questions. Go back through the play by play again. Now, look at your keywords. Jot down any more keywords that have come to mind. Next, apply session 2 and refine. Build your story - remember - start, build, end. Next - pull up your thesaurus. I promise you. Its your friend!! Look at main words, and see if a better word more accurately conveys the emotions of that day. Look at any duplicative words you have, and see if you can find another for one of them.

When I look at this picture, the word that comes to mind is Happy. At, happy yields:

* blessed, blest, blissful, blithe, can’t complain, captivated, cheerful, chipper, chirpy, content, contented, convivial, delighted, ecstatic, elated, exultant, flying high, gay, glad, gleeful, gratified, intoxicated, jolly, joyful, joyous, jubilant, laughing, light, lively, looking good, merry, mirthful, on cloud nine*, overjoyed, peaceful, peppy, perky, playful, pleasant, pleased, sparkling, sunny, thrilled, tickled, tickled pink*, up, upbeat, walking on air

Oh… those words triggered more memories about how I felt and little details of that moment. I refine my first draft, then apply the tips from session 2:


“We had an hour to go before the ceremony started. C and A were in the wedding, and a little nervous. We headed outside into the crisp autumn air to run off some excess energy. C and A are so used to Daddy being able to lift them anywhere, they have a tendency to think everyone can manage that. Leaning down to pick up something, I suddenly felt a BOOM as C launched himself on my back like a little monkey. 3 seconds later, I felt A climb on too. As I worked to keep my balance, the sounds of their joyful giggles surround me, filling me with contented bliss at how lucky I was at that very minute. It almost didn’t matter that I was about to fall flat on my face.”

4) Go emo….

Sometimes, our layouts aren’t about the event, but rather about something much deeper. Feelings that go to the core of where we are at that particular moment in time - hopes, aspirations, goals, challenges. I have been going through one of those times in my life in recent weeks, and as I often do, I turn to my scrapping to help me sort it all out. This kind of journaling comes straight from the heart. What are you thinking about? What is your hope? aspiration? goal? challenge? Write it down. Its not easy. But give it a try. Look at what you wrote. Ask yourself? Is there more? Go back through it all again. Can you give it some more specificity? My goal: find some balance. OK. What does that mean to me? Details. Details. Details. I went back over and over and over til I got what felt like an exhaustive list of where I was at that moment. OK. You try it (this is Session 1’s exercise in the throw-up method of first drafts).

Now go through the exercises from session 2 for editing your draft - shorten, delete unnecessary words, match your verb tenses, add active verbs, pull your thesaurus and grab better words.


So, I was sitting next to L the other day, and we were talking about how we somehow kind of lost ourselves when we had children. Who-ever we were before kind of got subsumed into “mom” - that place where no one ever asks how you are any more, where you never again receive an independent gift - its all about the kids and we’re trained to think that it HAS to be that way. But there comes that day you look up into the mirror and think - who are you? can I possibly be me and the mom I want to be? When we were at the pre-union a few months ago, J later asked - what happened to you? and I thought at the time… hmmm. yeah? what? and that nagging sense of ?? has stayed with me since.

My work buddy gave me “I was a great mom til I had kids” and I finally got a chance to read it on the plane to Seattle. And then came the convo with L just a few days later. And I’m coming full circle to say - you know ? I love my life, I love my children, I love B, I love my family. I love my job, my friends, my colleagues. And you know, its ok to find my way back. I won’t ever be the same girl I was. But I’m done feeling fractured in who I am now, feeling insecure, accepting behavior from people towards me that makes me feel bad. I know I often write to others - why give someone else that kind of power over you? Its time to look in the mirror. No more dithering…. its time to get my groove back.

Here’s my layout (NOTE: I posted this layout a few weeks back... this is just a breakdown of the journaling part of it):

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