A blank slate. That’s what we all want to start with, right? A new year, a new you! We start our New Year’s resolutions as a way to clean the last year off the books and launch the new year.
But for the writer, nothing is worse than the blank page. We tremble before it, wondering how we will ever fill it.
The solution for me is to never start with a blank page.
A blank page offers nothing. It has no context from which to draw out anything. So I reject the blank page. I take my pen and scribble something, anything, just to get the words flowing. Here are some good tricks:
From me: Draw a frame around a blank page, as if you were framing a painting. On each side of the frame, write a different word: Who, What, Where, When. Then fill in the frame with those answers.
From Stephen King: King is a master of asking the question “What if?” In his excellent book On Writing, he recommends asking and then answering that question. It’s a great way to jumpstart your writing. What if a tree could talk? What if people didn’t know how to enjoy their work? Can you answer your “What if?” question? It will lead to lots and lots of writing.
From Julia Cameron: This author of The Artist’s Way recommends Morning Pages, a technique of journaling three pages without stopping. It gets you writing without editing, without reviewing. Just move the pen across the page. You’ll find some gems.
From Anne Lamott: In her writing book Bird by Bird, Lamott recommends the value of “The Sh*tty First Draft.” Sounds funny, but she’s on to something. We don’t write because we’re afraid our writing will be bad. Lamott reminds us that it will be bad. But from that bad first draft may come something great.
Author Jonathan Franzen recently told Oprah that his current book came from a character in the draft of a novel he’d written that didn’t work at all, but there was something exciting about the character. He pulled that character out of the failed draft and created what critics are hailing “a work of genius.”
So don’t start this new year with a blank page. Start with some good old messy writing and see what develops.
Image credit: Pink Sherbet Photography
Martha Graham famously said, “Because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.”
It is not just your message that is unique; your perspective and style of presenting the message are gifts. There is truly nothing new under the sun, and what people were struggling with at the advent of the printing press is what people are struggling with today.
The thing that makes another book worth reading (and writing) is the one-of-a-kind infusion of you to the storyline. There has never been another you, and your perspective on a topic is of immense value.
The Gift of Your Process
Your writing process is your gift to you. Do you need to take pen to paper? Is it a legal pad, a spiral-bound notebook, or a Post-it® note? Do you need to type in the morning or late at night? Do you enjoy music or silence? Do you write at home or in a busy café?
My favorite poet is William Carlos Williams, and my favorite poem of his is El Hombre:
It’s a strange courage
you give me ancient star:
Shine alone in the sunrise
toward which you lend no part!
Mr. Williams was not only a poet; he was a pediatrician. He wrote his poems on a pad for prescriptions he kept in the pocket of his white lab coat. What a gift his process was! By embracing it, he produced great works, no bigger than a small tablet.
The Gift of Giving
If you obey Martha Graham’s direction, you must produce your work. Publishing your work, sending it out as letters, or posting it to your blog is not a selfish act; rather, it is a selfless act.
You are not feeding your ego by publishing; you are giving the gift of your perspective and your writing to another unique person who longs to hear something fresh, something inventive, something intriguing, or something motivating.
Do not deny the gift of your writing to an audience that is waiting to receive it.
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Some experts predict that 2010 holiday sales will be the highest since 2007, while others forecast a 9% growth in holiday sales. You can cash in on this rise in holiday sales by positioning your book as a gift. Here are five offers that attract gift buyers.
#1: Free shipping.
Do the math before you offer free shipping because you’ll have to absorb the cost. A book sent through regular U.S. mail takes up to 7 days and costs about $3 in postage. If your book sells for $9.95, then you would earn $6.95 from the deal. Of course the free shipping offer may spur more sales. And if you have hundreds of books sitting in your garage, this might be a way to offload that inventory.
#2: Free gift.
If your customer purchases 2 or more of your books, throw in a freebie such as a $5 gift card to a major retailer. Depending on your demographic, you could get really creative with your free gift offer. The key is to make sure the gift is easily available from anywhere. Gift cards are perfect for bundling with your books.
#3: Free autographed message.
If your customer purchases your book by a certain date, you can offer him a free autographed message from you. Set up a place on your website for customers to e-mail you the autographed messages when they order books.
#4: Free gift wrapping and tag.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other bookstores offer free gift wrapping. Ordering a tagged, gift-wrapped book that’s shipped to the recipient is hassle-free holiday shopping at its best.
#5: A combination of free offers for an incredibly sweet deal!
Create a time-sensitive offer by combining the free autographed message with free gift wrapping to bump up holiday sales.
The possibilities are endless! But you don’t have much time. Books need to be shipped by December 15th at the latest to be under the tree by Christmas. So make your holiday offer today!
Image credit: macinate