writers’ bloc: The Writer’s Welcome Mat

By May 21, 2008 language No Comments

writers’ bloc features topics related to the writing craft and the writing life.

Previously in writers’ bloc, I associated a well-written piece to an act of hospitality. I’ve continued to ponder this analogy and found it to be rich! So here’s a bit more on that . . .

There is nothing more lovely than when a written piece beckons the reader forward. Well-crafted introductions draw the reader, taking them from the fringes out on the highway, on up the drive, up to the front door. Use of language and conversational prose carries the reader forward, inviting them to stay for a visit on the front porch of that idea.

As a reader, I love it when a writer does this with ease and joy and warmth. I feel wanted and prepared for and thought of. As a writer, I am in need of . . . some practice in this area. Opening chatter sets the tone for the entire piece, so it’s crucial to get right. Making guests feel welcome and at ease is the host’s responsibility.

So I must become a learner of this welcoming technique that often includes sharing a personal anecdote or pointing to another writer whose thoughts are parallel to the topic.

And there’s the problem at hand.

I have no system for organizing such tidbits and treasures, which makes rolling out the welcome mat more like a game of duck-duck-goose—I go around and around in circles, shifting through papers, looking for the magical reference that will make my readers feel at ease. I must find a better way.

In the past, I have jotted meaningful quotes and happenings into my journal. But now, after dozens of journals over a dozen years, this system is not working for me. [Sorting through pages of emotional processing and Bible study notes and half-completed grand plans is not the best use of a writer’s time.] So I must develop a organizational system.

After some searching on the Web, I found a few suggestions from fellow writers.

One was a modified version of my journaling technique. Mary DeMuth jots quotes of interest in her journal, but she also notes all the source info (something that never occurred to me) with it and even photocopies that page and the source page out of the book to file for future reference. But I am left to wonder: How is the filing system arranged? By topic? By author? I need to think this one out a bit more before giving it a whirl.

Jason Barker must be a techie, because his quote system is electronic. I like the accessibility of filing these on my laptop, but I have no clue how to begin finding or using such a program! I think that may be beyond my capabilities.

Like any other organizational system, the one that works (and sticks) is the one you make your own. I can’t simply copy what Mary or Jason have done; I need to do what works for me and my quirkiness—or the system will crash.

Here’s what I know about a system that will work for me:

  1. Making additions to the system needs to be easy and quick. [If it takes too much time to make an entry, I will procrastinate. It won’t ever get done.]
  2. Actually finding appropriate material when I need it is key. [If I can’t find what I need, when I need it, what’s the point?]

So I’m off on this little adventure! I hope to get a system in place in the next few weeks. I’m curious how other writers have tackled this act of hospitality . . .

Send along your thoughts. The suggestion box is officially open.

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