Daily Writing Tip 75 of 100, Put Your Heart on the Page

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Put Your Heart on the Page

Source – What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter

Too many writers avoid their own strongest feelings because they are afraid of them, or because they are afraid of being sentimental. Yet these are the very things that will make beginning work ring true and affect us. Your stories have to matter to you the writer before they can matter to the reader; your story has to affect you, before it can affect us.
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The Exercise

Make a notebook entry on an early childhood event that made you cry or terrified you, or that made you weak with shame or triumphant with revenge. Then write a story about that event. Take us back to those traumatic times, relive them for us through your story in such a way so as to make your experience ours.

The Objective

To learn to identify events in your life that are still capable of making you laugh and cry. If you can capture these emotions and put them on paper, chances are you will also make your readers laugh and cry as well.

It takes courage to do this. When the letters of strong old truth start the fall onto the page, the Resistance wells up and is strong. This must be fought through. This fight is the essence of living a worthwhile life.

Energy, Focus, and Courage

“The energy of the mind is the essence of life.”

—-Aristotle

“Goals provide the energy source that powers our lives. One of the best ways we can get the most from the energy we have is to focus it. That is what goals can do for us; concentrate our energy.”

—-Denis Waitley

I don’t have a belief problem, I have a focusing weakness. I focus on what’s loudest instead of what feels best.

—-Abraham-Hicks

Focus on where you want to go, not on what you fear.

—-Anthony Robbins

For man’s greatest actions are performed in minor struggles. Life, misfortune, isolation, abandonment and poverty are battlefields which have their heroes – obscure heroes who are at times greater than illustrious heroes.

—-Victor Hugo

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

—- Dune, Frank Herbert

Energy, focus, and courage.

I have a giant frightening project and deadline coming up at work. It has me scrambling. Even though the weather has been beautiful outside, as rarely beautiful as it ever is here in Texas, I have been cooped up in my office cube wishing I was somewhere or someone else.

As I fight my way toward the finish three words keep coming up in my mind. These three words, the more I think about it, are what I need — are what I’m looking for. The three words are

  • Energy
  • Focus
  • Courage.

Energy, Focus, Courage. I’m not sure where the words came from – they didn’t really pop into my mind… it’s more like they grew there, like from little imaginary seeds. I have been thinking about these three words, repeating them to myself like a mantra, until I think I’m beginning to have an idea what they mean.

I have come to the point where I think they all three mean the same thing… no, that’s not it… obviously the words don’t mean the same thing. What I mean is that the three words represent a view of something larger, or more complex, or crystalline – something that a single word can’t describe. That thing, that unnamed thing, is what I am trying to understand – but I don’t have the tools to view it directly. I can only see its shadow – a shadow that looks different when viewed by a light that shines in a different direction.

The shadow, from three different directions, spells out energy, focus, and courage.

Energy is power, power from exercise, cardiovascular and strength. Energy is passion, both the wild random volcanic passion of youth and the desperate focused passion of age, tempered by the terrible knowledge that time is running out. Energy needs its opposites – sleep and rest – to recharge. Without rest there is no energy. Energy is clear clean powerful and focused.

Focus is organization, planning. I think of Steven Covey and his four quadrants, of the important but not urgent.This is focus from a satellite, the view from far above and far away. Then there is getting things done, the minute by minute management of a day. Life itself can be thought of as a string of seconds (an average life is, what? 2,207,520,000 seconds long, a little over two billion), every one a tiny decision, “what do I do now?” Add these up and you have your life. Focus is a laser pointer. Focus is like a lens that takes the light from the sun and burns a little brilliant dot onto the sidewalk.

Focus is saying “no.” Focus is priorities. Focus is saying “yes.” Focus is making a choice. Making a choice takes courage.

Courage is not the opposite of fear, like most people think. Without fear there is no courage. The brave must face their fear, swallow it, feel it, and keep on doing what they need to do. Fear is that gnawing in your gut. Courage is looking at the point of no return and stepping right into it.

There is that moment when you have faced your fear, ignored your doubts, and stepped ahead. That moment when everything is set in motion, but nothing has moved yet. You have bought your ticket, opened your mouth and started to speak (the heads are all turning toward you), taken that step, dialed that number, hit send, swung the bat, released the Kraken, or whatever it is that you chose to do… that calm feeling of excitement – the sudden extermination of fear (how can you be afraid now, now that nothing can be done, now that your fate is decided) – that is the moment of pure courage, of focus, of energy.

That is the moment that life is lived in.

But Jeez, I sure have a lot of work to do.