“Inspiration often emerges from our work; it doesn’t precede our work.” – Madeleine L’Engle (author of A Wrinkle in Time)

A client emailed me to say she was having a hard time making progress on her book.

I sent her the following message – and thought it might have value for you if you’d like to get in that delightful stream-of-conscious state where the words are flowing out of your head so fast your fingers can hardly keep up.

(Name of client) . .. please keep giving yourself props for writing, writing, writing.

E.L. Doctorow was asked what it was like writing a book.

He said, “It’s kind of like driving a car at night: you can only see to the end of your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Keep driving to the end of your headlights.

Keep producing pages and getting your thoughts on paper.

They don’t have to be perfect and they don’t have to be right.

Just getting your thoughts down will trigger more – which will trigger more – and before you know it, your book is out of your head and on paper.

THEN – you can go back and start cleaning it up.

Don’t try to think up what you want to say. That keeps you in your head. Blocked. Stymied.

Just get your thoughts written down. That keeps you moving forward. That produces a momentum where your writing takes on a life and pace of its own.

All the best-selling authors at Maui Writers Conference – from Mitch Albom to Frank McCourt to Nicholas Sparks to James Rollins to Jacquelyn Mitchard – agreed.

Ink it when you think it.

Jot the thoughts when they’re hot.

Muse it or you’ll lose it.

If writing is hard, it’s because you’re thinking too hard.

Free up the flow.

How do you do that?

Get out in nature. Go somewhere the sun is shining. Fill yourself with the fresh air of a beautiful day, the serenity of deep, calm water, the eternal beauty of green trees or a sweeping vista of towering mountains. Drink in the quiet but powerful energy of that place.

Now, ask yourself:

“What do I passionately believe?

What do I feel is important?

What have I learned – the hard way – that might have value for others?

Who is my target reader? What is that person’s name? What is their story? Man? Woman? Married? Single? Kids? Working 60 hours a week? Out-of-work? What are they going through? What’s keeping them up at night? What are their doubts, fears, hopes, dreams? What could I share that would keep them going, help them deal with their challenges, put hope in their heart?

Fill your mind with that person. Picture him or her in front of you.

Now, reach out to that individual with your words.

Put your pen to paper – your fingers to keys – reach down into your gut – and start writing to THEM.

Pour out your heart, mind, soul and insights to THEM.

Make writing a outreach to that man or woman.

No fancy language. No struggling how to say it just so.

Write and reach out to them with your words until you see the light go on in their eyes.

Writing is not meant to be an intellectual execise where you are in your head, thinking, “What can I say?”

Writing is meant to be a communication – a bridge between our experience and expertise and our readers. The question is, “What would they benefit from hearing?”

Write to connect.

Write to share what you know, beleive and feel in a way that might add value for anyone reading your words.

When you do that, you free yourself up to to serve.

Writing is simply a way to pour out, “Here’s what I’ve experienced, observed, learned . . . and I’m sharing it with you in the hopes it might be of benefit.”

Write on.

Go a sentence deeper

Go a sentence deeper

I just had an ultimate compliment from a consulting client.

We’ve been working on his book and he said, “You’re my muse. You always encourage me to go a sentence deeper.”

What he meant by that is that we often gloss over an idea or experience.

When we stay on the surface, people read or hear what we said and move on.

That means it had no enduring impact.

If we want an idea or experience to truly reach our listeners/readers and resonate with them on a visceral/emotional level, we must “go a sentence deeper.”

For example:

How did you FEEL about what happened?

What did you SAY to yourself or others when this happened?

What were the exact words of what they said in response?

How did that impact you, exactly?

Put us there in the scene so we see and feel it right along with you.

Now you are creating interactive communication about the human experience that transcends the page and stage.

What you have written or said just made time and distance a non-issue because we are experiencing what you experienced as if we were “there.”

What are you writing right now? What presentation are you preparing? Go back over it. Did you stay on the surface?

If so, go back and go a sentence deeper.

Everyone will benefit – including you.

em>“You can make more money and more friends, but you can’t make more time. That’s why it’s the greatest gift you can give someone.” – Captain James Key

A couple summers ago, I was so immersed in writing a book, the weeks flew by, September came, and I never went swimming once.

Yikes. I promised myself that wouldn’t happen this year. I’ve vowed to swim at least 4 times a week – either in the lake or in one of the 22 (!) community pools in our community of Reston.

So, yesterday, I wrapped up a day of consults and went “pool shopping.” I found myself driving past an inviting pool, tucked back under some shade trees. I impulsively parked and went in, armed with my goggles for some lapping and a towel for some napping.

As soon as I walked in and saw the fountain in the shallow end packed with kids, moms and a few dads, I realized I’d found the “family” pool.

As I settled in on the only available chaise lounge, a father walked in, still in his business suit, and was met with a thrilled chorus of “Dadd-ee” from his 3 kids who ran-walked (lest the lifeguard tweet her whistle) to greet him.

He walked over to the woman on the chaise next to me, gave her a peck on the cheek and went to change into his trunks.

Five minutes later he was in the pool, surrounded by his adoring brood, playing Marco Polo. (How comforting to know people still do that.) The mom watched with a proud smile while the kids vied for their Dad’s attention, “Look at me, look at me,” showing the the strokes they’d obviously learned from their swim lessons.

It did my heart good to watch this Walton-like tableau unfold in front of me. This happy family basking in the innocence of a summer afternoon brought back fond memories of my sons and I reveling at Keawekapu.


beach during the “golden hour,” that magical hour while the sun set, the Maui trade winds died down and we had the ocean all to ourselves

Then, the father stopped and looked up at his wife as if something had just occurred to him. He said, almost in a state of awe, “Hon, Why don’t we make this our default? Why don’t we just meet here after work every night?”

I have to admit. I held my breath. I looked at her, thinking, “Please say yes.”

She looked at him, smiled in agreement and said, “Why don’t we?”

That simple decision to “change their default,” which took 5 seconds to make, could turn this into a fond family ritual everyone remembers as “the summer we met Dad at the pool every afternoon.” The summer of glorying in each other and the gift of time.

What’s your default? What do you automatically, mindlessly do – that’s not serving you?

What could you replace it with – a new behavior – that could reap a summer, a lifetime, of fond memories?

This casual visit to a local swimming pool reminded me that intriguing “material” is everywhere – if we just look around and keep our emotional antenna up for what moves us.

If something gets YOUR attention and captures your imagaintion; it will probably get your audience’s attention and capture their imagination.

Re-enact what happend so we’re there with you – and then “hook and hinge” your aha back to your audience so it becomes their aha.

Why should we jot the thought when it’s hot?

I’ll always be indebted to former National Geographic photographer Dewitt Jones for teaching me why it’s smart to ink it when we think it.

Hall of Fame speaker Dewitt (who lives part-time in Hawaii and can be found online at http://www.DewittJones.com) and I were enjoying a walk/talk along a Maui beach discussing the topic of intuition.

What is intuition? Where does it come from? Why are those intuitive nudges never wrong? How can we capitalize on them?

Dewitt was doing something that puzzled me. We’d go about 100 yards and Dewitt would stop, whip out a little notebook and pen from his pocket and write something down. We’d go another couple hundred yards and Dewitt would stop again and scribble something else down. He kept doing this until I finally asked, “Dewitt, what are you doing?”

He said, “Sam, I used to get ideas and think, ‘That’d be an interesting tidbit for my next column,’ or ‘I’ve got to include that in my keynote tomorrow,’ but then I’d get caught up in other things and forget all about it.

I realized I make my living from my mind and I was throwing away these golden insights that were being gifted to me. I promised myself I’d start writing down ideas the moment they occurred to me so I wouldn’t lose them. Now, it’s become a habit.”

How many times have you gotten an intuitive flash – a whisper of an idea – and then gone about your day and forgotten it?

If there’s anything I’ve learned in twenty years of researching, writing and speaking about the fascinating topic of creativity, it’s that this is how our best thoughts occur. They POP! into our mind. And if we don’t write them down, they’re gone.

From now on, realize that if you want to make your living from your mind, you need to record those flashes of brilliance in a notebook you carry with you everywhere you go so you can explore their potential later.

Carry a digital recorder, call yourself on your cell phone and leave a message, DO SOMETHING to capture those ideas before disappear.

Remember, they don’t call ’em fleeting thoughts for nothing.

You may not know where this idea, thought seed or phrase fits into your work. Just trust that it will.

Our greatest minds, from Einstein to Mozart, have understood and honored the power of the “muse.” As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Learn to watch that gleam of light which flashes across the mind from within.” Bestselling authors know if they’re fortunate enough to be gifted with a revelation, it’s their responsibility to write it down. If they don’t, it’s gone, perhaps never to be recovered.

I call this, “Muse it or lose it.”

When you take the time to record ideas as they occur to you, they will be there waiting for you, days, months, years later when you’re ready for them. You will have captured those gleams of insight and will be in a position to capitalize on them (and set up SerenDestiny in the process.)

As Saul Bellow said, “I never had to change a word of what I got up in the middle of the night to write.” From now on, INK it when you THINK it and MUSE it so you don’t LOSE it.

Sam Horn, America’s Intrigue Expert, and author of POP! Create the Perfect Pitch, Title and Tagline for Anything (Perigee-Penguin), helps individuals and organizations create one-of-a-kind ideas and approaches so they break out instead of blend in.

The 17-time Emcee of the world-renowned Maui Writers Conference, she has helped thousands of people get their ideas out of their head, onto paper and out into the world where they’re making a positive difference for others and a prosperous living for their originators.

Have your ideas dried up? Has your creative project come to a screeching halt? Are you staring at your computer and the words won’t come?

You’re in the right place.

I love to write. There are many times when my mind’s on fire and it’s a joy to have my fingers flying on the computer keys, trying to keep up with the flow of thoughts pouring out of my head.

It was a surprise then, when I was working on my book Tongue Fu! for School, and writing became hard work. I was grinding it out because I had to turn my manuscript in to my publisher at the end of the month, but I wasn’t liking what I was producing.

I would re-read what I had written (I know, a fatal error) and would go “Euch.” I knew it didn’t sing, knew it wasn’t “alive,” but I kept slogging it out because I had this deadline to meet.

I was creatively procrastinating one morning (reading the newspaper instead of writing) when I came across a fascinating article in USA Today about David Kelley, Hollywood’s former “Golden Boy.”

The article pointed out that, for a while, writer/director Kelley could do no wrong. He was the first person to receive an Emmy for Best Comedy (Ally McBeal) and Best Drama (The Practice) in the same year. Incredibly, Kelley was writing and directing BOTH shows at the same time – a grueling, almost unimaginable feat.

Then, for some reason, his pilots were getting cancelled and his shows were tanking in the ratings. The reporter’s opinion was that his plots were getting increasingly bizarre and middle-America viewers were having a hard time relating to his unrealistic story lines.

When asked why Kelley seemingly couldn’t do anything right, a TV critic said tongue-in-cheek, “Of course he’s lost his golden touch. He’s married to Michelle Pheiffer, he lives in a $15 million dollar home, and all he does, 24/7, is write, drive to the studio, direct the shows, and drive home. He’s become disconnected.”

A light bulb went off in my head. Here I was trying to write a book about dealing with difficult people in schools – and I wasn’t spending any time in schools. I had lost touch with my audience and writing had become an intellectual exercise. I was trying to think up the book instead of accessing my target audience and asking what THEY thought, what THEY wanted, what THEY encountered.

I got up from my chair and drove over to my sons’ school. That day I interviewed several teachers, the principal, a guidance counselor, and a few of Tom and Andrew’s friends.

Sample questions included, “What do you do when a parent accuses you of not caring for their kid? What do you when teachers complain that they’re not getting paid enough (which is true)? What do you do when a fellow student bullies you?”

By the end of that day, my mind was filled with the angst, frustration, mini victories and mixed feelings of pride and powerlessness that are a fact of life for many educators and students.

I sat down to the computer that night and the incredibly compelling stories I had heard, the confrontations I had been told about, the insightful responses they shared poured out. One afternoon of re-connecting with my intended audience renewed my passion for my project and brought it alive – because I had gotten out of my head and into the world of my readers.

Has your creative project come to a screeching halt? Have the ideas dried up? The passion disappeared?

Perhaps you’ve allowed this project to become an intellectual exercise. Perhaps you’re grinding it out because you’ve got a deadline and you’ve become completely detached from your topic, audience, and purpose.

That doesn’t work because that’s isolated creativity. That’s simply purging what’s in your head – without intent. If your intent is simply to finish your project, you can accomplish that – but that won’t make it sing. You will have a completed project, but it will be lifeless and working on it will be joyless.

For creative work to become transcendent, we must have a clear intention of how it will deliver tangible value for people. We need to visualize individuals in our target audience and imagine how this project, product or program will solve a problem they’re facing. We need to get up from our chairs and go out into the field and talk with our readers and customers and ask what they think. Find out what keeps them up at night and then go back to work with their voices, issues and concerns in your mind so your project, program or product reflects and meets their needs.

Do you have a suggestion on how to keep those ideas coming? Have you developed a way to beat writers block? If you’re one of the first three people to share your idea-generating suggestion with these blog readers, I’ll send my CD I Can’t Believe I Wrote The Whole Thing to you, free.