Don’t think of a purple giraffe (and what else not to say)

giraffe-skin-background-purpleA company I admire allowed an employee to blog, “You probably don’t want to come to our conference, but here’s why I think you should.” Really? I don’t want to come to your conference? Now that you mention it–I guess I don’t!

Are you telling people what you don’t want them to think, or don’t want them do? And then are you surprised when they (your customers and clients, your children, the general public) think and do the opposite of what you wanted?

When we tell a child, “Don’t touch!” what does the child do? And at lightning speed?

Toddlers hear our command as “Touch!” The “Don’t” does not register. Grammatically, that is the imperative. And our tone makes it an urgent command. To negate what we commanded–do NOT do what we forcefully said–is linguistically sophisticated, over their tiny heads.

Even mature brains take longer to process a negative, thinking, “This–no, NOT this.” And even if ignored, negative words retain subliminal impact: “You probably don’t want to come to our conference.” “These are not the droids you are looking for.”

If we want people to understand us, possibly even do our bidding, then tell them what we want them to do, not what we don’t want.

Say your cat or your antique vase are endangered by tiny hands. Guide the tiny hand as you say and demonstrate, “Touch it gently. Gently.” You might want to supervise and remind, “Gently,” or remove the object of interest, but the child’s joy and cooperation will amaze you.

Sometimes we need to warn. If it is a hot stove, we can say, “Hot! Owie!”

ADOT (Arizona Department of Transportation) used to warn, “Don’t drive drunk!” That message includes “Drive Drunk!” That is like telling a toddler, “Don’t touch that stove!” I wanted to scream, “No! Tell them what TO do–like Designate a Driver!”

Not long ago, ADOT switched to “Drive hammered, get nailed,” which prompted at least one attorney to post billboards: “Got nailed? Call us!”

And finally this week, ADOT got it right. The signs now read, “Designate a Driver. Avoid a DUI.” YES! Give that reviser a raise! I expect the revision to prove more effective than checkpoints alone.

It’s easy to write, “Don’t think of a purple giraffe,” and forget what happens in the reader’s brain. What’s your favorite Purple Giraffe?

Resharpen as needed

Among the cartoons responding to the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, several illustrated that a pencil cut in half can be resharpened or even become two pencils. Devastation can sharpen us, even multiply us, especially if we keep applying the power of the pen. 

Write Your Book This Year: Give Me Ten

Are you waiting for your retreat, vacation, sabbatical, or retirement to write your book? Uninterrupted time sounds luxurious, and then it can be overwhelming. Whenever I reserve a day for my own project, I celebrate, then usually flounder and remember Julia Cameron’s metaphor, comparing uninterrupted time to a bolt of antique silk. It can be hard to cut into.

As I thought of that recently, I remembered a PBS show, Sewing with Nancy, featuring “10-20-30 Minutes to Sew.” Nancy showed viewers how to create even a fully tailored jacket in tiny pockets of time. She recommended identifying each step, prepping materials the way a chef preps ingredients, and systematically advancing a project day by day.

Sewing with Nancy 30 Years screenshotAnd get this: Nancy is still on the air. It’s the longest running sewing show ever. Teaching her audience to fit hobbies into busy schedules must be one key to her success, and this approach probably renews her own creative stamina.

For her McCall’s patterns, Nancy says, “I don’t have hours to spend sewing every day. Just a few minutes here or there can quickly add up to a finished project!” Go, Nancy!

Few people would wait for a sabbatical to piece a quilt. You don’t need one to write a book either. So drop everything and give me 10, only 10.

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Text © Gwyn Nichols 2013. All rights reserved. WritersResort.com

Screenshot of Sewing with Nancy from Wisconsin Public Television

Write Your Book This Year: Got Fear?

Fear of writing, or fear of publishing, can be a healthy thing. It means you care. Daring to tell the truth, wanting to say it well, overcoming your fear of failure and your fear of success–those are wonderful ways to grow. Make a list of your fears. Which ones can you do something about? Which ones melt once you look at them?

Write anyway.

Related Book:

Steven Pressfield, Do the Work

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Text © Gwyn Nichols 2013. All rights reserved. WritersResort.com

Write Your Book This Year: How to Write Right Now

"God Calling" © DarkCloud, iStockPhoto #7909523
“God Calling” © DarkCloud

Are you trying to squeeze your dream into your life, or will you fit your life into your dream?

If you are waiting for magical writing time to appear on the horizon (perhaps after you retire), then you, like me, will discover that mirages cannot be caught. Instead, when we stop where we are, and dig deep, time appears and expands. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Calendar the upcoming week. Block out the set commitments and routines. Outline the available hours for everything you want to do. Designate some as writing time.
  2. Begin and close each planning and writing session by connecting with divine guidance, in whatever way that works for you. Ask that your writing be of service to others and meet your own needs.
  3. Carry a journal or notebook around. Steal moments, capture ideas.
  4. Keep Morning Pages. Julia Cameron suggests three pages written first thing. It works best half asleep, and scribbling. These don’t count as writing. It’s usually the second half, after I run out of ideas, when ideas begin to flow.
  5. Count the ways you’re already writing. E-mailing, blogging? Copy those notes into one file. Plan ways to share your book in segments.
  6. Next week, we’ll talk about fear. Until then, write anyway.

What helps you fit your dream into your life? Or your life into your dream?

_______________________

Text © Gwyn Nichols 2013. All rights reserved. WritersResort.com

Photo “God Calling” © DarkCloud, iStockPhoto #7909523

Write Your Book This Year: Pick Your Partner

Do you dance alone? Write alone? Some can. Some learn faster and more gracefully with a partner. Some clients send me work as soon as they write it. If you don’t have a writing coach as you write your book this year, at least enlist a writing buddy. You can check in to announce your day’s modest goal and check back later to celebrate its achievement. You can meet at a library or cafe to “work and ignore” or to swap pages you wrote earlier. Some writers rack up a draft before showing it to anyone; others require reader support before they can write more. Dance to your own drummer.

One partner every writer needs is a favorite pep talk. There’s a wonderful collection on the NaNoWriMo site; I keep a copy of Daniel Handler/Lemony Snicket’s in my planning folder:

“Think of that secret favorite book of yours—not the one you tell people you like best, but that book so good that you refuse to share it with people because they’d never understand it. Perhaps it ‘s not even a whole book, just a tiny portion that you’ll never forget as long as you live. Nobody knows you feel this way about that tiny portion of literature, so what does it matter? The author of that small bright thing, that treasured whisper deep in your heart, never should have bothered.”

Read the whole essay here.

More of the NaNoWriMo pep talks are here.  And last year’s here.

Who helps you write? Living, dead, fictional? Friend, inspiration?

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Text © Gwyn Nichols 2013. All rights reserved. WritersResort.com

Write Your Book This Year: Clear the Decks!

yellow notepad and papers
© Jonathan Werve, iStockPhoto #231838

Incoming ideas! Have you made enough space for them? Clear your desktop, literal and virtual. Clear other clutter around your work and living spaces.

Most importantly, do this with the joyful intention of welcoming your muse.

Then please let the rest of us know what happened as a result.

_______________________

Text © Gwyn Nichols 2013. All rights reserved. WritersResort.com

© Jonathan Werve, iStockPhoto #231838