Hi, there! Hope you enjoy this essay by my friend, Sarah Blizzard, as much as I have! Grab a coffee (or juice) and find out how she recommends you shake up your writing routine. 💕Cole
Spill the Juice
I’ve literally just spent the last ten minutes cleaning up pomegranate juice from the top of my writing desk.
As I was plopping down into my chair after organizing a few things atop my desk, albeit a bit too haphazardly, I saw the bottle teeter like it was in slow-motion. Half of the grape-colored liquid, acting like mercury, spilled before I could react. By the time I could rescue the offender, the purplish liquid had flown to the outskirts of my work space and puddled into a corner like a pure pomegranate flash flood.
Thankfully, none of the liquid invaded my laptop. Some of the paperback books I had stacked on the edge of my desk took on a light-purple haze only Jimi Hendrix could love, and became somewhat sticky. Two damp towels retrieved from the adjacent bathroom sink came to the rescue. I discovered several things a few days later: Not only did pomegranate juice not stain my towels—I must’ve soaked them soon enough–but the wiped-down paperbacks are restacked and dry now, and only make a slight sticky sound when you go to separate them. And to think I was going to expand on the virtues of drinking something as exotic as pomegranate juice (or any super healthy juice) before writing.
Leave the top affixed to your bottle until you’re seated at your work space and all set. And if you’re going to spill the juice and then write about it, have it cascade! The entire experience might even give you your double-meaning title, should you need one.
I’m guessing many of you are coffee drinkers. You like a splash of cream. Maybe sugar. Try changing up how you drink it before writing because we can sometimes spark our own creativity by simply changing up how we’ve been doing things.
Kick that right brain creativity into gear by changing up how you do a few things. Try dressing in totally unmatched clothing, shoes, wild socks, etc. Maybe even change up the route you normally take to the grocery/book/drug store. If you’re right-handed, you might try something as simple as putting your right shoe on first. (I’m so left-brain dominate, the very thought of switching how I don my shoes really bothers me.) You get my drift.
Learn to embrace the revision process. Here’s what Mary Karr, the author of The Art of Memoir has to say:
“As you start out in rough drafts, setting down stories as clearly as you can, there begins to burble up onto the page what’s exclusively yours both as a writer and a human being…You’re best at it because it sits at the core of your passions.” Your first stabs at writing creatively may be a jumble of words, some connecting, others not working. You’ll know, once you step away for a time and come back, what to keep and what to delete or to save for another time.
About us memoirists, Karr says, “Truth is not their enemy. It’s the banister they grab for when feeling around on the dark cellar stairs.”
Writing your truth can be a cautionary exercise. Sharing your writing with other, more seasoned ones, getting objective critiques is a necessary part of the process, if you plan to bring your work to publication. Listen closely to their feedback. Take the harsh realities along with pats on the back. Ultimately, writing your truth in a way that comes alive on the page, using sensory descriptions and grounding your reader in the scene can be a challenge. It is also cathartic as anything else you’ll compose.
I used dialogue throughout my memoir to achieve a certain presence. In my case, it has helped the reader pick up on the underlying tensions, when the situations call for it, as in the first 100 words of my memoir, AS A RESULT’s “dinner party scene.”
From AS A RESULT:
The party’s for couples. I show up alone.
“Where’s Grant?” the hostess asks when she opens the door.
“I have no idea. He never came home from work.”
The Japanese dinner party, which Beverly and her husband host in our neighborhood, is scheduled for six o’clock. I’ve lined up a sitter for our three-year-old. It’s dark when the sitter shows up—right on time—but Grant still fails to surface. I pull on my snow boots, grab my coat and scarf, and march with purpose down the sidewalk.
I half-expect one of the oncoming cars to be his.
Gather as much courage as you can! It took me over a decade of attending conferences, workshops; composing poetry, essay, short stories and profile articles to dredge up the nerve to write of my childhood, coming-of-age and marriage stories in my most authentic voice.
I like how The Writer’s Little Helper suggests you grab the reader in the first 100 words:
- Set the tone of the narrative, including vocabulary, attitude and harmony of language
- Establish a point of view
- Preview the mechanics of the story including sentence length and density of paragraphs
- Sketch in a suggestion of the setting
- Hit the reader between the eyes with an element of Oh wow! at some point in those first 100 words of your writing
Personally, I needed a lot of professional editing help. I took good ideas from many different sources and made sure I incorporated them.
From whence comes your help? Avail yourself of worthwhile guides, tips that resonate with you, those who encourage your writing, and help you progress. And be sure and thank the ones who truly helped, the ones who believed in you. Persevere and believe in yourself!
How do you like to shake up your writing routine? Tell Sarah and Cole in the comments.
Sarah’s works reflect her restoration from the effects of alcoholism and sexual abuse. Her 2018 memoir, “As a Result”, is her most important work to date. Sarah has had essays, short stories and poetry published in many different publications, including Outside Bozeman Magazine, Morgantown Living, and Heartwood Literary. She won the Grand Prize for poetry with the Greater Greenbrier Valley Foundation Poetry Contest in 2010, and an HM in the WV Writer’s contest, 2012. Her short story, “Donovan’s Intuition”, was selected for inclusion in a unique Diner Stories anthology, and is featured on page 86, the year she got sober. Sarah’s poems are found in Voices from the Attic Anthologies and her latest work, “Dead Promises” will be published in Ohio’s Appalachian Voices, “I Thought I Heard a Cardinal Sing” anthology in March, 2022.