What’s on my bookshelf? The Writer’s Idea Book

From my bookshelf, The Writer’s Idea Book by Jack Heffron, published in 2000. [Note: There is also a 10th Anniversary Edition.]

It’s broken down into four sections: Bending and Stretching, Exploring, Finding Form, and Assessing and Developing.

To quote the author: “…the tone of the book will vary, from high-minded to playful to downright crabby.”

I really haven’t come across the crabby parts, which sound well worth tracking down.

Heffron–an accomplished writer and editor [Writer’s Digest Books, Story Press, and currently copy director at Barefoot Proximity in Cincinnati] provides over 400 different prompts to nudge, shove, cold-cock the reader into some fertile writing territory.

Some examples:

  1. A Day in the Life of a Writer. In this mindfulness exercise, “Your goal here is not to develop material for a single piece, but to plump your notebooks with ideas and details.”
  2. “You’re very old. You’re on your death bed…Family and friends gather around you. What do you tell them about life? What advice about living do you offer them?”

Apologies to the ‘absolutes’ police: With this book, you’ll never have nothing to write about…ever.

Writers Horoscope August 31: Reach out to your readers.

No matter the audience size, it’s a good idea to open up, to gauge your readership.

After all, you’re a wordsmith. A master of your message.

And your readers’ reactions? Wellll, it’s anybody’s guess.

gratisography with callout one guy sleeping one guy stressed how readers react

With that in mind…why am I doing this writer’s horoscope [WH]?

Not necessarily in order of importance:

1. This is a project that will keep my head in the writing game. I like to stay involved in the process and if I have to think daily about even one aspect of it, well, that’s helpful.

2. I’m writing for me. I’m facing up to a self-issued challenge and since I’m not a great finisher up to now, I want to see if I can finish a year of it. [I can hear the groans from the folks who read the WH and really, you’ve been great, but I’m guessing you might roll your eyes at the repetition of some of the topics/themes I explore, which brings me to…

3. I’m thinking that if certain themes keep rearing their ugly heads, well, that’s telling me something–namely, they are issues that I consider important, if for no other writer than myself.

4. Maybe a different reader/fellow writer happens upon [is force-fed] my blog, say, a month from now. They’ve missed all my other gems [just humor me on this] about sticking your neck out, but the one on their screen might just hit home.

5. Each time I click ‘Publish’, I’ve given resistance a small-scale whack on the side of the head and believe me, resistance deserves it.

6. I really do ascribe to Austin Kleon’s ‘Show Your Work’ principles two and three ‘Think Process, Not Product’ and ‘Share something small every day.’. It’s giving a peek behind the curtain because frankly, the WH is obviously a work in progress. I mean, really, depending on the day, is it really a horoscope?

7. Maybe some of those dominant themes will co-opt themselves into a different form later on.

8. It’s fun to look for the photos that cast a ‘tongue-in-cheek’ eye at the various themes.  [I’m sorry, but when the absurdity of that bizarre three-body-part-in-one phrasing popped in my head, I just had to go with it. Can you tell this is first-and-a-half draft material?]

9. Short pieces like this W.H. work for my limited attention span. In fact, this 450-word post is downright exhausting. [I can only imagine what an ordeal it is for anybody who has read this far.]

Okay, that’s nine reasons, with probably a couple more hovering out there.

So, feel free to keep reading and when you come upon repeated topics, just reassure yourself:   A] “it’s not you, it’s me.” [Thank you, George Costanza.] It’s my experiment. B] My own denseness requires plenty of repetition.


photo courtesy of Gratisography


Writers Horoscope August 28: Today, beware of overanalysis.

The dreaded ‘hypercritical eye’–set to 500x zoom–has popped in for a visit.

Second-guessing your every paragraph. Questioning your every sentence. Dissecting your every word.

Before you know it, your moments of genius fade into…

blurry text

Reach for the keyboard and pound out a quick 500 words, no matter the topic–though I might suggest a cathartic rant at your inner critic.

There’s nothing as satisfying as thumbing your nose at that loathesome toad [figuratively, of course. Not easy to type with one hand otherwise occupied.]. With apologies to all members of the Bufo bufo classification…


What’s on my bookshelf? The Wizard of Ads


Here is the first of an occasional wordinventions feature, What’s on my bookshelf?
I hope you like it.

Today: Marketing consultant Roy Williams’ The Wizard of Ads from the trilogy by the same name.

Quote: “Intellect is to be cherished. Please don’t think I’m trying to diminish it. I’m merely urging you to give intuition the credit it deserves. I hope to give you the courage to follow your heart. Sometimes the thing that makes the least sense is exactly the right thing to do.” [page 182]

I like this work because it places just as much emphasis on people skills and life’s intangibles as it does on effective writing.

I should have been writing. Instead…Fudgy Mocha Bars

There’s nothing I like better than seeing my wife drive off for a few errands–now, now, now, let me finish–so I can dive into a baking project.

The best part? When she returns, she is enveloped in the aroma of chocolate decadence at 350 degrees.

[Even better? When I have time to clean the kitchen before she gets back. Nailed it!]

The task at hand was Fudgy Mocha Bars from Dorie Greenspan’s Dorie’s Cookies.

fudgy mocha bar _2 with caption

I eased up a bit on the flour [adds to the candy bar effect] and pushed the cocoa [measuring? I don’t think soooo.].

The 30-minute cooling-off period [in other words, infinity] gave me some mulling time:

  1. Since when did manufacturers [aka the insidious “they”] start making chocolate chip packages ‘adult-safe’? Am I now so pathetic that I need to pack a trusty pair of scissors wherever I go? And am I now so lame that I’ll also need a scissors-holster? [“T, how many times have I told you?! No hobbling through the house with scissors!”]

  2. Since when did I drift into a parallel universe where I started dicing, spreading, and/or kneading along the edge of the counter? Have I suddenly forgotten gravity’s peculiar powers? I can see it coming– Roombas pre-programmed with: “Clean up at the east wing of the kitchen!”. 

Result on the Fudgy Mocha Bars: I broke off an ample hunk for breakfast. [Note: food tastes better in hunks. Well, except for soup…and salads…okay, you know what I mean.]

When I saw the photo of the Fudgy Mocha Bars, I wondered how different they would be from just plain brownies. And yet, there was a different, and welcome, consistency.

Speaking of brownies [and I can’t think of a reason not to speak of them], here is my favorite recipe: Best Cocoa Brownies from Alice Medrich’s Cookies and Brownies

Gotta tell you…these two ladies know their way around an oven.

Writers Horoscope August 25 : Today, you’ll have your eyes on a different prize.



© Tim Haag

And you will pay for it.

Three pounds later, 2000 words in arrears, you will resolve to turn it around tomorrow.

gratisography-faux superhero ready to take on the day determination

You will need twice the willpower to atone for your sins–a day of watercress/kale smoothies and 4000 words [you might as well riff on your day of decadence].

But hey, it was fun while it lasted, right?


Photo courtesy of http://gratisography.com/