Thursday, May 5, 2011

Where to Start?

Recently, I sat down to try to write my piece for the Breaking Silences Project.  I have a lot of ideas but I was not sure where to start.  So, I started by just doing a freewrite for ten minutes on things I may want to write about.   (In a freewrite you write without stopping for a period of time, without paying attention to the formalities or grammar.  It is a stream of consciousness brainstorm of ideas and thoughts.)  Through the freewrite I realized that although I had an “idea”  of a topic for my writing, I really didn’t know on what I wanted to focus.

Then I remembered my own words as a writing teacher – start with the specific and concrete.  Use your senses and describe fully an incident or event, because through it is through the specifics that we understand and relate to another’s experience.  When I say I was depressed as an adolescent what does that really mean?    

Describing how I used to sit in the dark, at my mother’s large desk and watch the snow fall when I was twelve years old, thinking that I could walk out into the wintery night and freeze to death, describes my suicidal feelings better than saying I was suicidal at twelve.  

Tip #1: Use freewriting as a tool to generate ideas.
Tip #2: Start with the concrete and specific
Tip #3:  Show not tell.  Give details not generalities.  Let the reader make sense of what you are saying.  Describe your unhappiness – don’t just say you were unhappy.  Use your senses.  What did you hear, smell, hear, see, and feel? 
Tip #4:  Don’t worry about essay structure or grammar in the first draft.  You can revise and edit later.
Tip #5:  Use your language.  Tell your story in your words.  Don’t worry about sounding intelligent or educated or polished.  You have your own voice – try not to censor it.

Remember too that if you want writing support for this project, you can always contact Christina or me and we will be glad to talk with you, respond to drafts, or meet (if possible geographically).