Just Talking: What’s Stopping You?

The whistle is always waiting to be blown, and in some ways, it gets me to do better work.

Anne Lamott 

Kids, hubby, dog, cat, coaching, work, grocery-shopping, laundry, housework, yardwork, that’s what’s stopping you. Those are the exterior speed bumps to writing.

Then there’s the stuff that gets under your skin: The friend on the phone in mega-meltdown; the worry about that last conversation with an elderly relative who seemed just a little off, leaving you wondering if something should be done about that and whether you’re the one to do it; the news from an in-law that that your mother-in-law is pretty sure you stole her Tupperware cake-holder, uttered in a tone that lands in your ear as one notch shy of prompting you into a confession.

These are the proverbial bullrings through the nose that demand your attention, sometimes all of it, in the way that does a shovel to the skull, and sometimes in pieces, like an itch at the back of your thoughts, scab-like, a scratchy whisper nagging from the corner of your days.

Your task is to outwit these obstacles. Well, they’re not really obstacles, they are your life, the things that make it wonderful and perplexing, and much of those very things can fuel your writing.

Take the Disappearing Cake-Holder: What if your main character (not you any more, but an amalgam of bewildered daughter-in-laws everywhere) blithely tripped through her days telling everyone about the sunshine her mother-in-law brings into her life, and then suddenly the bearer-of-bad-news in-law casts a cloud?  Can you hear the tires screeching against the blacktop? Play with it. What if your character did steal the cake-holder? Or give the story another warp: What if that in-law stole it and she’s up to some mischief? Could the cake-holder be a murder weapon? The vessel of some last vestige of that mother-in-law’s own departed mother? Give that knife a good twist. There’s a turn or more to the story to play with and you can use this sort of small drama to warm yourself up for your more daunting project.

You’ve heard the saying “Write what you know.” How about this: Write what you live. Write what you love. Write what you hate.

That’s a start.



  1. Wow, Jo, your writing is so enchanting! You find all those nails to hit on the head. Thanks for sending Just Talking my way. You helped me to take my urge to paint seriously. Another house is being reimagined! Vic and Polly are steadfast cheerleaders.

    Xx Susan.

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