How to Unblock Writing with Photos

Come on WordPress

Inspire me!

Right now is the first time I am drawing a blank in the creativity department.

The well is dry.

The rag is wrung.

The floor is mopped.

Come on  guys, help me out?  – Sixeighty Writing – Author

Every blogger wants to leave a legacy, a piece of themselves. Is it easy?

No! Have you ever had Sixeighty Writer’s experience – Blank Screen Syndrome?

Thoughts clog up and constipate even Patrick and Pamela Problogger’s brains when they first face the white screen, the blogger’s kiss of death.

GOOD NEWS! Unless the screen is caused by a computer malfunction, there are quick fixes to turn that blank screen into your online legacy.

Cure Brain Cramps with Pictures

“Photography is the story I fail to put into words.” Destin Sparks

Many bloggers jumpstart their brains with pictures. Phones, iPads or small digital cameras dominate social gatherings as small as a blogger’s unaccompanied trip to Burger King. The proverbial thousand word picture, found in the drawer, box, computer files, on Google, at the antique store, or in a carousel of old slides, can spark your writing. This article suggests  ways to use photos to support two genres of writing, Memoirs and Poetry.

Take a hint from the Probloggers. Let photos eliminate the white screen of death on your “New Post” page.

Writing Memoirs

“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” ― Shannon L. Alder

Remember your last family gathering? The women rummaged through Grandma’s boxes of loose photos, grabbed a photo and started laughing and telling the back stories? Soon the men investigated, and joined the fun.

People blog to tell their personal perspectives, not to repost the latest news.

My brother and I took a 2,000-mile train trip back to our home state of Indiana for his sixtieth birthday. He brought a huge suitcase packed with seven or eight old family albums. After touring all day, at night, we laughed and puzzled over old photos. The photo albums, animated by our stories about them, entertained us for hours.

But where do you start to write those posts? What story do you tell?

EASY – let the pictures tell their own stories.

“A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away.” Eudora Welty

 

Uphill Both Ways

As a blogger, I started reading J. T. Weaver’s blog because the pictures reminded me of my childhood in the 50s and 60s.  He turned his blog into a book, Uphill Both Ways. During an interview on my personal blog, he shared how he did it.

“At first, I just began writing a story.  … Then I found the picture album my parents had made for me and wrote a story about one of those pictures.  I honestly was just fooling around with it.  As I was writing, Karen and my college roommate John were both reviewing each piece. … They thought these stories were better than I did.  At one point John said that he thought he was looking into my soul, and because he knew me so well, he was a little uncomfortable with it.  … When I published (the) letter (to his children), the blogging community took notice and my readership exploded.”

Stories fly around the coffee table photo albums. Pick them up when you need an idea.

  1. Do not worry about telling stories in order.
  2. Tell your favorite stories. Let your passion and enthusiasm shine out.
  3. Name names, even if you have to change them up to protect the innocent.
  4. Grab the details behind the scenes.

Try This!

Next time you go home turn on your smart phone and record the voices and laughter. Capture the conversation about the picture. When you get back to your computer, you have a collaborative story just jumping onto the page.

  1. You can record with your phone or computer.
  2. If you need to edit your audio file, download a free program called Audacity.
  3. Edit out “umms” and dead time. Audacity also has numerical markers to make each word easy to find.
  4. To transcribe your mini podcast, try Speechlogger, a free online program. It does not catch every word, but it can save you some time.
  5. You can pay between $.75 – $1.00 a minute for transcription services.

The audio or video compliments Patrick’s personal blog effectively capturing the moment.

Follow the Patrick and Pamela Probloggers’ great advice! Narrate and share your photos to build your online presence.

Summary

Bloggers leave legacies. They write memoirs, create poetry, stories, travelogues, tell their experiences. Pictures prime the pump and build a blogger’s public persona post by post.

More writing tips

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To encourage all bloggers
To encourage all bloggers

Contact me by email at marshajustwrites@gmail.com. Twitter @marsha.ingrao Facebook Just Write

 

Writing What You Know: The Why of Self-Publishing

The world came almost never saw this video of Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon on July 20, 1969. No, it was not top-secret! Engineers could transmit sound from the moon to the earth. However, the technology to send video recordings through space was not available as astronauts prepared to walk out onto the surface of the moon. Shortly before the great event Charles H. House invented an electronic device that made it possible for the world to see those first steps for mankind.

Today, instead of Neil Armstrong, I have the privilege of introducing you to Chuck House, the innovative engineer whose work inspired many young people to become scientists after they saw the historic first steps on the moon.

Chuck grew up voraciously reading and writing. His literature as a child was a borrowed set of Britannica Encyclopedias, which he read volume by volume. As an engineer he wrote engineering textbooks. After thirty years of working in the field, he decided that someone ought to record the history of Hewlett-Packard, the leading electronics company in the world at the time. In this first video, he talks about the process of publishing a book with a University Press.

The HP Phenomenon

You might be publishing your doctorate, or writing to gain tenure to a university. Listen as he describes the publishing experience made him consider other avenues of publication for the sequels that his fans wanted him to write.

Today it has almost been 47 years since that historic walk on the moon. Technologies stemming from that event have altered our lives in more ways than we can count. Publishing a book is one of them. In the next post you will see the second part of the interview. In Video #2 you will learn how and why Chuck self-published his next books.

Writing to a Prompt Is Necessary for Everyone to Know How to Do

The WP Prompt: Take a complicated subject you know more about than most people, and explain it to a friend who knows nothing about it at all.

If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water.

Ernest Hemingway

writing with students

 

Writing an Essay to a Prompt

Writing to a prompt is a complicated task even for adults. As I think about my professional life, I probably spent more time writing than almost any other single activity either writing essays myself or grading students’ and teachers’ essays for over 20 years. Writing professionals have boiled essay writing down to a few steps which can be easily explained to someone who doesn’t write. While most people THINK they know how to write if they can put words down on paper, it has been a shock to me to realize how many people, including me, struggle to write even a simple five paragraph essay to answer a prompt.

Steps to Writing an Essay

Essays usually convey information and not to tell a story, although they may use facts to persuade or convince readers to take action as well. New writers need to know that an essay consists of only three parts:

  1. an opening paragraph,
  2. the body,
  3. and the conclusion.

Simply outlined, the opening paragraph restates the prompt stating three or more examples or facts. The next three paragraphs expand on the three or four facts stated in the opening paragraph. The concluding paragraph points back to the opening paragraph and summarizes how the paragraph addressed the stated prompt.

Tips to Start Writing to a Prompt

These steps sound simple enough. However, often a prompt asks the responder to write about a topic about which the writer has to search the depth of his memories to create a coherent response. Usually, there is no time or material with which to research a topic. Other times the writer must research the topic to write an intelligent essay. Notice that the first thing that I did to prepare for THIS essay was analyze the prompt or break it into pieces. I didn’t just start writing. I asked myself questions such as, “Of all the complicated things I CAN do, what ONE thing can I do WELL? Of those possibilities, what can I write about in a few paragraphs?” Next the prompt asks me to explain it to a friend, so I asked myself, “Who is my audience?” Before I write anything I take a few minutes to ask myself questions about the prompt. I usually jot down some notes in an informal list or outline.

Now Get Started

Writing to a prompt is complicated for many reasons. An author who does not know much about the topic may cut corners and merely copy the prompt word for word, and preface it with the words, “Today I am going to write about…” This might be acceptable in first grade, but beyond that, writers need to display more sophistication in their writing. It would be better to start with a quote or a definition instead.

On the other hand, if the author has too much information about a topic, writing becomes complicated. In this case, writing can take many turns and twists because, according to the brain laboratory at UCLA, people have more than 70,000 thoughts per day. One short essay can’t utilize all these thoughts, so the next step is deciding which thoughts are keepers. When writers struggle with this, the result is that their writing is unclear. That is the reason if I am writing under pressure on a topic I begin with brainstorming, then move to an outline. I may do this in my head, but it is more effective if I write it out.

Finish Work – Clean It Up

Finally writing to a prompt is a formal process. Vocabulary and style become issues. My blogging style is rather informal, uses simple vocabulary and sentence structure, and is often funny. My formal writing style as I would use in a writing prompt differs from that in several ways. I use a more academic lexicon or vocabulary, and vary my sentence structure, and I am usually more serious. Each sentence starts with different words. For example, after I have written this essay, I will go back over it and circle all the initial words. If I have more than two of the same beginning word, they need to change. Examining how many of the same words I use within the sentence helps as well. Word processing programs, as well as the internet, have dictionaries and a thesaurus at the writer’s fingertips, so there is no excuse for repeating the same word multiple times.

Summary

Once I have thought out my topic, analyzed the prompt, brainstormed facts, organized the facts into similar paragraphs I started the actual writing process. Next, I wrote a clear and concise opening paragraph. Following in next three or four paragraphs I developed the topic. Finally, I closed the essay with a summarization. After writing, I checked to make sure that I didn’t repeat myself or use all the same type of sentences. I proofread my piece one last time before considering it complete. If you do these simple steps, you will have a passable essay for any exam or job application. Although a writer may not be a best-selling author, he or she can follow some simple steps to become an expert in writing to a prompt.

More writing tips

If you have other tips please share in the comment section or link to one of your own posts.

Find this helpful? Please share! 🙂

 

An Exercise in Writing Description

First a Technology Tip:

Before we start writing, let me save you from my posting disaster. Write your posts somewhere else – Word, Dropbox, Google Docs. OR Save posts often. OR both!  Will I never learn? I deleted a picture from my blog post, and SOMEHOW the entire post disappeared.

writing, fiction, Visalia, Sarah's house, Beverly Glen1

My husband Vince sells real estate. Yesterday I rode to Visalia with him to take pictures of places to describe in my book, Girls on Fire. I am not good at writing riveting descriptions. I get lost on the cracks or shadows in the road, and miss the important details. Or my mind focuses on an imaginary conversation between me and a real person, two imaginary people, or me and someone imaginary, who might be real, but would never say the things he or she says in my mind. This takes so much of my attention that I probably should never drive. Vince asks me if I remember going places. Sometimes I wasn’t with him, so I have a good excuse for not remembering, but just as likely, I sat right next to him having an internal conversation.

blogging, books, Visalia, Tulare County
blogging, books, Visalia, Tulare County

Since I struggle with descriptions I rely on others to help me. George Pilling wrote a great book, A Walk Around Visalia. He’s told me what trees grow where, which neighborhoods my characters would choose, and what’s around them. He had a gorgeous picture of the house I pictured for Sarah, a character in my story, Girls on Fire. Yesterday Vince and I found it.

However, sometimes descriptions are not exact. Here are some descriptions that I borrowed and reworded from a children’s book I just read by Polly Horvath. I like how she uses descriptions of one thing to describe something entirely different. I just used a few of her words to write these descriptions.

Troublesome thoughts seemed to ease away when I walked up to the door and knocked. There was nothing remarkable about the home, but it was plain in a way that is beautiful. The way Shaker furniture is beautiful.

“We’re finally home,” Mom sighed as she picked up my sleepy brother and carried him inside, his chocolate mouth resting against her clean white blouse.

The old shake house, perched on the edge of cliff overlooking the beach seemed to look down on us with its large glassed-in eyes beckoning us up for a glass of lemonade and some salt-water taffy.

I remember as a child walking by Mr. Colvert’s house feeling a bit of a chill as I passed it. It was a grim, old narrow, gray thing,  parched, slit-eyed, and as suspicious of us as we were of him.

I spent about 20 minutes writing a detailed description of this picture. I ignored the cracks in the road – this time.

How would you describe this house picture, or would you ignore it and describe something else that made you feel the same way the house makes you feel? Do you use metaphors? Does it remind you of a home you knew well in your childhood. Would you write about the interactions that did or didn’t take place on the front lawn?

writing description.

Either copy the picture and create your own post, or just write in the comment section. Tell us what techniques you like to use when you write descriptions.

 

 

Daily Life of a Writer

None of this post is a lie, I swear. Well, at least no more than an exaggeration, I promise. I read on the Internet, where everything rings true, that “NASA is currently tracking 1,400 ‘potentially hazardous asteroids’ and predicting their future approaches and impact probabilities.” Predicted by non-experts not from NASA, something big was supposed to hit last September. That would have wreaked havoc on our scheduled lives, wouldn’t it?

Peggy and Marsha

If I only have a short time time left to live before a giant asteroid flops down in my yard, I wonder if I should bother to plan anything. (I’ve been doing this all my life – wondering if I should waste time planning and preparing for  – well anything actually)  Eventually I usually decide that maybe planning one little day won’t hurt. I’m not convinced yet that aliens will come to earth and do my work for me. Isn’t that what happened at Stonehenge?  Given the choice in life what do you do most often, plan or chill?

In October I attended a new health clinic grand opening in town representing the Chamber of Commerce because I’m retired and everyone else works, so, of course I have time. I went up and introduced myself to the doctor’s wife who was so bored that she had begun reading my book, Images of America: Woodlake, which I gave the Clinic as a gift. As we talked, she asked me what a typical day looked like for me as an author, and wondered if I had time do lunch.

There’s nothing I like better than having lunch with an interesting person, especially one who liked my book, but that was in October, and it’s already nearly February. I should have sent her a link to this post.

asteroid
Should I plan for tomorrow or check my insurance policies?

Typical Day in the Life of This Writer

  1. Exercise with my trainer (daughter of a friend who is amazing) Melissa for an hour or until I complain effectively enough that she takes pity on me and tells me I can go home early.
  2. Write my blog for the day.  Wait!  Who’s commenting to me now?  I’d better check my WordPress, Facebook, Twitter and email notifications.  It might be important. No, I’m not ADHD, I saved my draft first before I checked my comment box.
  3. I would like to finish the two books I’m reading this morning.  What?  It’s 10:15 already!  How did that happen?  I’ll finish Blue Willow first because it’s shorter, and I have to read it for the Reader’s Student Event at Tulare County Office of Education.  Then after I write a review of that one, I’ll head back to April in Paris Rendezvous with my Mother by Chuck House, and write a review of that.  I don’t think I can get both of them finished.  hmmm  OK, put Chuck’s book and the other fourteen children’s books on my week’s goal.
  4. Finish unfinished projects:  different organization’s assignments, knitting, photography, new posts  Ops, too ambitious…
  5. Go visit my blog friends – the ones I didn’t get to already this morning.  Write lots of comments, steal ideas get inspired.  That’s doable because I started at 5:15 this morning.
  6. Take a lunch break.  I’m hungry already.  I forgot to take my vitamins.  Maybe I’d better stop now and start fixing lunch! I wonder if V wants lunch yet?  It’s almost 11:00. a.m.   OK 10:15, but that’s close.
  7. Spend some spiritual time with God.  Maybe He will consider removing the asteroid threat.  I’ll ask anyway.
  8. Plan my next trip before the world blows up.  I’ll do that this evening.
  9. Keep up with household chores.  V said he would vacuum this morning. I don’t hear it. OK, he’s going to do that, so I can cross that one off.
  10. √Get dressed for the day.  I’ll bathe later.  If Ralph only needs 3 baths a year I guess skipping a day or two won’t make any difference, huh?  Better find out if V has started your shower yet. He likes to go first so I can clean the shower when we are both done.  Yep, he’s in there now. OK, I have to wait till he’s done anyway, so I’ll skip that one.  No, I’ll go ahead and leave it on the list.  I probably SHOULD get dressed.  Let’s see my clothes I wore yesterday are right here on the laundry basket.  sniff, sniff  Yeah, they’re clean enough.  I’m going for a walk later, and I’ll get all sweaty. There.  I can check that off.
  11. I’m back.  I decided to take a bath after all. I’m going to need to take a nap this afternoon so I can stay up and blog all night when I get free gigabytes.
  12. Take Puppy Girl for a walk.  That should be number one. I thought  V took her out this morning.  She should be good until after lunch.
  13. V ate quite a bit of cake yesterday.  I don’t think he will want dinner.  I can cross off making dinner.  Good.  Back to my book.
  14. Oops, I forgot I need to write a book for third graders about Woodlake by the time the new Museum opens on February 27. I need to get that started. A few pages each day, and I’ll be done. Sally said she would help. I’ll text her now and see when we can get started.
  15. I need to make reservations for a hotel in Hawaii for the raffle tickets we are going to offer through the Woodlake Chamber of Commerce. Something is not working on the website. There are no options available. I’ll call them this afternoon to find out what’s going on.
  16. I need to go to the store to make soup for tomorrow night’s Kiwanis meeting, and type up the minutes for last week’s Chamber of Commerce meeting. If I forget those, the world will come to an end.
  17. I want to start pulling out and organizing my blog posts to create a book to self publish. That should only take a few weeks. The stuffs all written. I don’t think it will take much editing. The last one only took me two hours. I do not get that. I thought it would be easier if I just cut and pasted.
  18. Darn, I just remembered that I promised to start editing my NaNoWriMo book I wrote in November. I should at least look at it. Or not.How do you spend your days as a writer? Do distractions bother you, too?