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Write From Home
Kim Wilson
P.O. Box 4145
Hamilton, NJ 08610

E-mail: kim @ writefromhome.com

Off the Page...

Jumpstart Your Writing Engine
by Tama Westman

Do you want to write, but find no ideas springing forth? Sometimes it is difficult to get your writing engine started. When you find your creative muse has left town, try a few of these ideas to inspire its return.

Respond, refute
Get the paper, grab a few magazines and head to your favorite chair. Take some time to see what others are writing. Do you agree? Disagree? Are you drawn to the article for one reason or the other, yet feel there was more to say, areas left uncovered?

You have a couple of avenues open to you as your thoughts start flowing. You can respond or refute the article with the same publication, realizing that the topic is obviously one the editor feels worth publishing. Or, you might take the subject to a new market, with the knowledge that the topic holds current interest.

When several letters to the editor were submitted from both sides of the fence regarding the nativity scene placed at the town entrance, I was able to get my point across without upsetting those pro or con with my column, ďIs the snowman politically correct?Ē The town had a good laugh and the fury dissipated as my response allowed all sides to back down and carry on with Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, or plain, wonderful winter.

Get away from yourself
Do you ever get so bored with the same old thoughts, words and themes that your brain continually kicks out? I do. When I find that I have nothing new in the noggin, I go hang with those who are so completely different from me, that I can not help but become completely engaged or entirely opposed by their views.

You might find this straight-laced gal kicking back a drink at the local bar, lifting weights with brawn-builders or skating on the frozen pond with teenagers.

Allowing othersí ideas to ferment or fester inside gives you new things to write about. Plus, you get the total benefit of adding some spice into your life.

Change stations
This works, it really does, though it sounds wacky. When I am absolutely without word power, usually within an hour of a deadline, I crank it.

Turning from the serene background-supposed-to-relax-and-inspire-you music, I up the volume to something I can swing around the house to. It usually only takes a few minutes of aerobic singing, clapping and dancing to get the old synapses charging and ready to fire off the article needed in record time.

Reverse direction
Another great way to find the words for what you want to write is to start with everything you do not want to write. Letís say you are assigned to write about the local thresherís festival (as I was my first month as a professional writer). When you havenít a clue how to begin and are unsure of direction, write what you know you absolutely do not want in the article. List it.

Donít want: definition of threshing, history of threshing, what thresherís do and why, death of a tradition

Once you have written out your list of what you do NOT want in the article, your brain will not be able to stop itself from thinking of all the opposites, and you will suddenly be free to write the article needed.

If all else fails, stand on your head. It may not help, but at least youíll get the blood flowing. J

Tama Westman writes the Off the Page column for Write From Home. As a correspondent and columnist, she publishes news articles, feature stories and her column, Cuppa Thoughts, regularly with her local paper, the Chaska Herald. She has served as the editor of the award-winning literary magazine, Haute Dish. Her articles appear in several local newspapers and, nationally in The Gathering and Light & Life Magazine.

She teaches creative writing and poetry classes with the AHEAD program (Achieving Higher Education and Dreams) at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, MN, mentors high school journalism students, and teaches beginning and intermediate writers at conferences throughout the country. Married with two grown children, she keeps her balance with a cup of tea taken in the afternoon in her English garden. Further samples of her writing can be viewed on her Web site, http://www.tamawestman.com feel free to e-mail comments to tama@tamawestman.com









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