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Meeting Yourself on the Page with a Writing Practice

By Deb Cooperman

Click on the title to go to the Sparker of your choice (Feel free to reprint our Sparkers in your newsletters or send to clients just be sure to attach the copyright info and the link)

Lower Your Standards
Every Picture Tells a Story, Don't It?
People-watching - writing practice gold
No Ideas Necessary

Start Where You Are
A gift
Getting the whole thing down
Embrace Resistance
The #1 Myth that Stops Writers
Critics on Parade
Your own Declaration of Independence
Write or Die
Writing is Like Riding a Bike
When a Dear John Letter is a Good Thing…
Get to the Truth by Lying
There Is No Such Thing As Writer’s Block
Go into the Dark Places

Lower Your Standards

By Deb Cooperman

A writer friend told me a great story recently: He once took a workshop with the poet William Stafford, and a fellow participant began lamenting about how hard it was to want to write, only to be faced with insecurities about the finished product. What should he do, the participant asked Stafford, when everything flowing out of his pen seemed so horrible?

Lower your standards, Stafford told him.

Brilliant advice, I say. Absolutely.

So often wanna-be writers stop before they truly begin because they think they should be able to write remarkable prose right away. The ability to take the alphabet and make words is not enough to make a writer. (does dancing in your living room make you tina turner?)

Writing takes practice: you need to write through the doubts, write through the less-than-perfect prose and work with what shows up. And the great surprise (which i'm sure stafford knew when he told his frazzled workshop participant to lower his standards) is that we rarely write as badly as we think we do.

In my writing groups I always ask new participants to start out by writing a brief description of something simple - what they had for dinner the night before ... what their first car was like ... or the last vacation they took. And I always finish with the caveat that they are to write as BADLY as possible.

”Write badly? What does that mean?” they usually ask me. “Just try it,” I say. "Write as badly as you can. Whatever 'badly' looks like to you.”

Amazingly, by lowering their standards and TRYING to write badly, they usually discover that it's really hard to write badly. And even their attempted bad stuff has a couple of interesting descriptions or funny bits to it; by swinging out and allowing "failure" it's easier to let loose.

And while their work might not be publishable on the first draft, (when is it ever?) ... it seems to free them up to just give it a go.

So the next time you're staring at a blank page longing to write and feeling like you're about to write badly, lower your standards. And embrace writing badly. I'll bet it won't be that bad.


Sparkers - Journaling the Journey © 2008 Deb Cooperman for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved. Find more Sparkers by Deb at


By Deb Cooperman

I moved recently, and in the process of packing I discovered all sorts of hidden treasures– things hiding in the back of a closet, a receipt from a special dinner that had fallen behind my desk (i don’t move it to vacuum, i admit it ...), photos I’d forgotten about, a playbill, a matchbook from a hotel where I’d had a luscious get-away. Over the years, I’ve learned to build extra time into the packing process because I know I’ll want to sift through the old treasures, soaking up memories and seeing what insight I can draw from the physical evidence of my life.

It’s the same with old writing. If you’re already a journaler, then I don’t have to tell you about the treasures you can uncover when you look back at your old writing. But if you’re just toying with the idea or you’re pretty new to writing, try this experiment: get some paper, put the date on it, and then write a note to yourself by finishing the following sentences:

The things that most concern me ...
The things I’m proudest of ...
The challenges I face ...
The things that delight me ...

Don’t think about it too much as you write – don’t worry about composing perfect sentences; lists or phrases are perfectly OK ... you might even want to time it to about 10 or 15 minutes. When you’re done, put the page(s) into a stamped, self-addressed envelope and give it to a friend. Ask them to hold onto the envelope for at least a month, but no more than four ... and then have them drop it in a mailbox.

When you receive your letter you’ll discover what we journalers have at our fingertips all the time: a record of what matters ... what was on our minds, what was in our hearts and what was challenging and supporting us at various times in our lives.

I do this exercise with the women in my writing group a couple of times a year. It’s always a hit. Give it a try; you might find that it’s a habit worth getting into. (or if you’d prefer: email your note to me and i’ll email it back to you down the road: ...)

... and enjoy meeting yourself on the page,


Every Picture Tells a Story, Don't It?

By Deb Cooperman

If you write, you've probably experienced times when it’s hard to get going. Even if you've read all my Friday Spark offerings, you might still get stuck. (not that i can relate to such a thing.) (alright, ok ... i confess: this column is inspired by my own recent experience of being in a stuck-rut ...)

During my recent rut, I spent time with a friend who had just returned from a vacation, and while showing off her photos, she’d stop at each one to say what was happening when it was taken ... and I remembered that old Rod Stewart song: Every Picture Tells a Story ...

And it does.

So here's what you do to get some photo inspiration:

Open a photo album ... or just imagine a photo ... it could be of you; it could be of family or a friend. It could be from a magazine ... a photo of someone you don't even know. Just take a deep breath and see what images float to the surface - don't try too hard - and once you've got a picture in your head, use this line to start and just see where it takes you: In this picture ...

(trust me, it'll tell a story ...)

... and enjoy revealing yourself on the page.


Note: I’m going to post one of my “picture stories” on the Coaching Toys Blog in the comments section and I invite interested writers to play along too. Post your efforts in the comments section, or on your own blog and then link to this post.

Sparkers - Journaling the Journey © 2006 Deb Cooperman for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved. Find more Sparkers by Deb at

By Deb Cooperman

Laughing on the bus, playing games with the faces. She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy. I said "Be careful his bowtie is really a camera …”

People-watching is a delightful pastime, and it’s one a writer ought to indulge in often. Like Paul Simon’s characters in America we make up stories about the people we see all the time, without really thinking about it.

Waiting for a friend in a restaurant recently, I noticed a man in a business suit across the bar –drinking a beer, munching on an appetizer and glancing at the television above the bar from time to time. He’s a businessman, I thought. He’s away from home and probably didn’t want to order room service again, but he’s clearly not comfortable sitting in a restaurant alone. Or maybe he’s meeting a lover – he sure seems edgy – and he keeps glancing around the room. Is he on the lookout for people who might discover his soon-to-be infidelity?

My story lines went up in smoke as a woman with a little boy who was dressed in soccer gear came rushing up to him. “I’m so sorry we’re late,” she said, “the game started late and …" "And I got a goal Daddy!

So he wasn’t a business man, or a soon-to-be rendezvousing lover. And he was not a spy with a camera in his bowtie. But any of those options could have been true.

If you think you have nowhere to start with your writing, go do some people watching. Look around you and see how many life stories you can make up. If you write down what you notice – and what you make up about what you notice – you’ll have a rich collection of possibilities to draw from for your writing practice.

Get out and look around. Play games with the faces. Tell their stories. Tell yours.

And enjoy revealing yourself on the page.

Sparkers - Journaling the Journey © 2006 Deb Cooperman for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved. Find more Sparkers by Deb at

No Ideas Necessary

Recently I had the opportunity to hear former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins give a talk on the craft of writing.  

The conversation wound around to the dreaded “writers block” topic and Collins – showing the qualities that earned him the Poetry Foundation's first Mark Twain Award for humor in poetry – said that writers block was simply an excuse to do other things.  “But where do you get your ideas?” the audience member asked.

“I don't have ideas,” he replied.  “The theory of relativity is an idea.  I have notions ... opinions.  I don't have ideas.”

This was about the most brilliant encapsulation of what I've tried to say about writing for years.  You don't NEED an idea.  You don't need to know where you're going before you start; you just need a “notion” as Collins said.  You need to follow a train of thought without attachment to outcome to see what you have to say.  

Is something driving you crazy about your job?  Start there.  Did you change the channels on the television only to catch Tom Cruise's Jerry Maguire saying: “You complete me,” and did it piss you off?  Start there.  Is the coming of winter filling you with dread or delight?  Start there.

No need to have a brilliant idea.  What could you create if you gave up the idea that you had to start with an idea and instead started with a question ... a notion ... an opinion?

Enjoy revealing yourself on the page ... Deb

Sparkers - Journaling the Journey © 2006 Deb Cooperman for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved. Find more Sparkers by Deb at


Start Where You Are by Deb Cooperman

I' ve been going through a big transition lately, and ha ve been feeling so FULL with the changes and adjustments that I' ve been avoiding writing articles for my blog , and I really procrastinated writing this article.  I'm journaling as usual, but the more ‘public stuff' has been challenging for me. I just hav en 't been ab le (or willing) to pull something from the skillions of things going on in my life and in my head to write about them for the blog or to use them as fodder and inspiration to “spark” you writers, dreamers and people who long to pick up a pen.

But what I know from years of experience is that it doesn 't matter that I was having trouble picking a place to start. One of the themes in my ‘writing evangelism' is that anyone can write, and they have plenty of stuff to say … but sometimes they need to stop thinking so damn much and just pick up a pen and get started.

So along the lines of 'physician, heal thyself' (' faciliator , follow thy own lead.') I thought I ought to try that for this article … which is what I' ve done. And I suggest that you a ll do the same. The topic is starting where you are. If you head is fu ll , start there. You don't need to know where you're going, because if you keep on writing, you' ll get where you're supposed to go.

Enjoy meeting yourself on the page.

Til next time, Deb

Sparkers - Journaling the Journey © 2006 Deb Cooperman for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved. Find more Sparkers by Deb at

FLYING by Deb Cooperman

Flying at 30,000 feet the woman next to me commented about my journaling: "I should do that. I always wanted to write," she said.

I wasn't feeling chatty, so I just smiled and turned back to the page as politely as I could.

Undeterred by my Airplane Body Language, she asked: "Have you been doing it long?"

"Since I was a kid," I said without looking up.

"Wow, really?" she said. “Mm hm,” I mumbled. Then she told me about a book she'd read about writing and how inspiring it was.

Then, in spite of myself I looked up: "Did it get you writing?"

"No; I never have any time," she answered.

I couldn't help myself then (the poor woman didn't know she was talking to a writing evangelist): "How about now?" I suggested.

"I wouldn't know where to start," she said.

I ripped some pages from my notebook and offered: "How 'bout starting with the word flying and just see where your thoughts take you."

She looked at me as if I were slightly nuts, but took the paper and said: "Just start?"

When the pilot came on: "We've begun our descent into Newark …" she looked up from her page: “Wow; that time flew; I didn't realize I had so much to say …"


To stretch the evangelist metaphor to the breaking point – in just 30 minutes or so, this woman saw the light and was changed. She saw that it didn't take preparation to get the gifts of a writing practice. It's simple and so powerful and in no time you'll slow down enough to hear your true voice bubble up from under the chatter.

Now it's your turn. Start with “flying,” and see where it takes you.


Sparkers - Journaling the Journey © 2006 Deb Cooperman for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved. Find more Sparkers by Deb at

A gift by Deb Cooperman

As the year begins and many people have just celebrated holidays by sharing gifts with each other, I thought I'd share a gift with you Sparker's readers.

As you're well aware (you're reading a personal growth ezine after all), there are skillions of pathways to personal growth. There's meditation and feng shui, art therapy and Reiki, coaching and chakra regeneration (and if there isn't there should be). There are so many different ways in , and I highly recommend that you find your favorite way(s) and go.

And if you're even remotely called to write, pick up a pen and write today .

It doesn't matter where you start – randomly pick a word from the dictionary; write about the weather; the meaning of life; your favorite food; the song that you can't get out of your head; the one that got away; what you want; the last news story you heard on TV that pissed you off; the first time someone you cared about died.

Give writing some time and attention and it will bless you exponentially now and in the future.

I read in a book somewhere (if only I could remember who said it*) that writers live twice – once when it happens, and again when they write. I'd add one more life to that list: we live our lives again when we re-read our stuff.

What an amazing present: to unwrap your life again and again through your writing. Old writing can help you solve problems, de-stress and get perspective. It can amuse, educate, enlighten and comfort you. It can remind and inspire you. Writing is an amazing gift.

Go ahead, give yourself a present.

Happy New Year,


Sparkers - Journaling the Journey © 2006 Deb Cooperman for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved. Find more Sparkers by Deb at

Getting the whole thing down by Deb Cooperman

‘Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down.'

~John Steinbeck

I've often sat in my writing practice workshops and watched participants stare into space searching for a word. Mind you, these groups are about writing practice …just keeping the pen moving. But there they go, searching for the perfect word when they could be throwing things on paper.

When you stop writing even for a minute when you're in the ‘throw it down' stage, you allow room for the internal editor to talk you out of whatever you're writing. “There's got to be a better word…” or “You're really going to write about that ?” Those editors will suck your inspiration right out of you if you let them. So move fast.

Don't worry about making things pretty at first. Try “writing badly” the first time out. Ignore the rules of grammar, create run on sentences…let it fly without putting restraints on what you're doing. Explore ideas without a specific destination in mind. You might discover side roads/topics that jazz you and give you a place to look that you hadn't considered before. And you'll also see how hard it is to write badly.

Think of something you've wanted to write about. Or something you have to do that you've been putting off because you think you can't do it ‘right. Set the timer for 5 minutes and throw the whole thing on paper. You can always edit later. Ready? Go.

Enjoy meeting yourself on the page,


Sparkers - Journaling the Journey © 2005 Deb Cooperman for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved. Find more Sparkers by Deb at

Embrace Resistance by Deb Cooperman

I subscribe to the "Outback Steakhouse School of Writing Practice" - No rules, just write. But I also know that there's a lot of information for our growth in our resistance to writing.

A client of mine recently committed to spending 5 minutes every day on his writing practice. A week later we spoke again, and he'd written just two days.

He berated himself, saying if he couldn't do that teeny amount, how would he ever finish the projects he'd dreamed of? "Writing is my #1 priority," he told me.

But it isn't. If it was, he'd be doing it.

And that's not a bad thing, it's just a thing. A thing to notice.

In marketing, they're called "revealed preferences" - when you say you want one thing (to write/get fit/end a relationship), but you do another (anything but write/eat only junk food/stay put). What you want to want and what you do may be very different.

If you're not writing, pay attention to the resistance. It probably has something to tell you. What comes up when you think about writing? Do you have assumptions about how writing is supposed to be, or how you're supposed to do it? Have you set yourself up with goals that are too huge? Is there something else in your life that needs attention before you can make writing the priority you'd like to make it?

Pay attention. If you listen to your resistance, you may find a genuine desire to get your life, your thoughts and your heart on paper on the other side.


Sparkers - Journaling the Journey © 2005 Deb Cooperman for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved. Find more Sparkers by Deb at

The #1 Myth that Stops Writers by Deb Cooperman

I know how to write, so I should be able to write a book/article/newsletter/website ___________ (insert your dream here).

Can you sing? Ride a bike?

Probably. But would you think about facing Simon Cowell or taking on Lance Armstrong without some serious practice?

Then why would you think you could write for publication without it?

I know I've often said that if you can tell a story you can probably write one. And while that's true, it doesn't happen overnight; the thing about moving from being able to do something to being able to do something well is practice. For writers, practice requires picking up a pen or putting your fingers on a keyboard without attachment to the outcome.

Make a commitment to practice.

If you don't know where to start, think about things you talked to your friends about this week. Write a list. Then pick one thing and write for 15 minutes without stopping. Don't worry about spelling or perfect sentence structure.

Or pick up a book and use the first line to jumpstart your own story. Don't worry about perfect logic or perfect anything! This isn't for publication, you're just pedaling, running the scales. Have fun with it. Swing out.

For every "Da Vinci Code," "Harry Potter" or "Joy Diet," there are thousands of great ideas that never see the light of day because the writer gave up before s/he got going.

Don't give up before you start. Practice.

The way to write is to write.



Sparkers - Journaling the Journey © 2005 Deb Cooperman for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved. Find more Sparkers by Deb at

Critics on Parade by Deb Cooperman

I' ve been feeling challenged when it comes to writing about writing for this issue.  I've been extolling the joys of developing a writing practice for a while on these "pages" and I felt like I was saying the same thing over and over again.

I was afraid I was getting stale.

So I wrote about it for a while. 

After a while of saying : is this stuff of value to these readers? Do I have anything original to say?  -  I realized something: my critics were the only ones talking.

Until I wrote, I couldn 't see that the messages that were getting the most "air-time" were the critics. 

It wasn 't until I let them "talk" that I saw how insidious their voices could be and how they' ll do their best to run my life if I don't expose them for the deceivers that they really are.

And, while we're on the subject of "nothing new" - I' ve learned this lesson a kazillion times, and I always get the same sort of "ah ha' when I get those suckers down on paper and can see th em in black and white.

So now it's your turn.  Are you up against a challenge that you're having trouble moving on?  Write about it.  What are you afraid of?  What are the prevailing messages that are keeping you stuck?

Let the critical voices out - let ' em parade by you in their most glorious nastification.  Once they're out in the light, notice th em for the judgers and party poopers they are.

Then, throw a party of your own for your immense fabulosity .  
See you there. - Deb

Sparkers - Journaling the Journey © 2005 Deb Cooperman for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved. Find more Sparkers by Deb at

Your own Declaration of Independence by Deb Cooperman

In a report released on July 5th by The National Commission on Writing (established by a college board), it says that U.S. state governments spend nearly a quarter of a billion dollars a year on remedial writing instruction for their employees, and that the costs of poor writing hurts private businesses in equal dollar amounts.

It seems pretty damn sad that after learning how to diagram a sentence, create powerful topic sentences, and outline (in order to provide solid supporting documentation to those stellar topic sentences), a large part of the population can't write. 

Oh, wait a second...maybe that's WHY.

Maybe the life has been sucked out of our writing with all the technical junk we think we have to do in order to write.

I can't tell you how many people approach me saying: "I've always wanted to write, but I'm not very good at it."  Or, "I used to like to write, but now I kind of suck." (or some variation on that theme that usually ends in: "but I 'm no good at it/it's so hard for me/I suck at it.")

Here's a little news for you gang:


You've just been trained out of your natural ability to express yourself.

Maybe you're worried that there's a right way to do this writing thing, but somehow you didn't get the instruction book.  Or you got one, but it was defective.  (Maybe you think YOU are defective?)

None of this could be farther from the truth.

To quote Yoda (who I love - yes, I admit it; I am a 'Star Wars' geek.)  (Well, of the original trilogy anyway...) in order to write "You must unlearn what you have learned."

It's time to trust the force within kids.

Because, the truth is simple: If you can talk, you can write.

When you talk do you use a topic sentence? Must you outline your conversations before you have them? I should hope not - how totally borrring !

Don't write; try talking on paper. Write without a topic sentence.  Don't worry about supporting sentences.  Just get started. Grammar and spelling can get handled AFTER you've got the thoughts out. (Why do you think they invented spell check?)

Write a letter declaring your independence from writing rules...and see how much you don't suck.


Sparkers - Journaling the Journey © 2005 Deb Cooperman for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved. Find more Sparkers by Deb at

Turbulence by Deb Cooperman

I don't like to fly. Yes, I know it's just as easy to die in a car crash or from a heart attack or choking, but these thoughts do not help me when I'm 30,000 feet in the air and there's a strange rattle or bump. Because that's when I recall that there is nothing between me and the ground but tons of steel and technology.

About two months ago I was on a flight where we experienced “extreme turbulence” for nearly 25 minutes. The plane shook; it dipped up and down, seats rattled, stuff fell from overhead bins and everyone was strangely silent, gripping their arm rests in that universal motion that vainly attempts to keep the damn plane aloft.

I can barely read what I wrote during those 25 minutes from all the bouncing and rattling - and my own shaking – but write I did.

Later, when the bumps in the air-road evened out the captain made an announcement to calm our rattled nerves, the woman next to me said: What were you doing then? Were you writing?

I told her I was, and she looked at me like I was a wack-job and reached for her vodka tonic with her still shaking hand.

Perhaps I am a wack-job (and if I am, may I never recover), but here's what I know – in moments of stress, writing helps better than a vodka tonic ever could.

Writing slows down the scary, fearful thoughts and keeps me in the moment. When I observe and notice what is here right now – rather than project – I feel empowered and safe.

Even if I'm being kept aloft by a wing and a prayer, writing has helped me survive more turbulence than any plane can produce.

Try it yourself…

When you experience turbulence in your life, write through it. Observe, notice. Write about what IS. Then go ahead and write about your worst fear. Write about the odds of that worst fear being realized. Write about ways you can cope. Write about how it feels.

And when you get through it, write about what helped you ride out the bumps so you'll be better prepared next time.


Sparkers - Journaling the Journey © 2005 Deb Cooperman for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved. Find more Sparkers by Deb at

Write or Die by Deb Cooperman

“It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop." ~ Vita Sackville-West

I was recently interviewed for a radio show about the health benefits of writing. At the end of the program the host asked if there had ever been a time in my life where it felt like ‘write or die.'

I'd never thought of my writing practice in life-or-death terms, but I do know that a life that includes a writing practice is one that invites more life in . Writing has become such an integral part of my days; I can't imagine the journey without it.

I write to make sense of my life, to find meaning in the events, relationships, and choices that come daily. I write to pour out my soul; I write about worries and dreams, achievements, setbacks and gratitudes. I write about the joys and the tears and the things that make me laugh so hard my stomach aches. I write to remind me of who I am (and i read what i've written sometimes when i forget).

I don't think I'd die if I didn't write, and I know I'd feel a hell of a lot less alive if I didn't.

How ‘bout you? Why do you write? What are the gifts of your writing practice? Where has it taken you? How has it supported you? Surprised you? Made you feel more life in your life?


Sparkers - Journaling the Journey © 2005 Deb Cooperman for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved. Find more Sparkers by Deb at

Writing is Like Riding a Bike by Deb Cooperman

Remember when you learned how to ride a bike? If you were like me, you watched others…thinking you might avoid the scrapes, bumps and embarrassment of trying and crashing to the ground if you paid close attention.

But for all of the watching and thinking, nothing compared to getting a feel for the pedals, the road, and your butt on that seat. You had to get your body to hold steady, survive the tumbles, and pedal on until you found your balance.

Writing is like that.

You’ve got to hold a pen and get the feel of thoughts moving from your mind to the page. You’ve got to get over the stuff you learned about logical outlines and perfect sentence structure. You’ve got to get over your expectations of immediate brilliance and/or the belief that whatever you create will be crap.

You’ve got to get on the bike and ride.

You’ll learn that a bump in the prose road and a bruised ego isn’t the end of you. You’ll get up, brush off and get back on the bike.

Keep riding/keep writing. Write imperfectly, write about the bruises, write about the attempts. Let the bumps lead you somewhere.

…Write about how you approach new challenges. Do you watch? Do you wait for perfect conditions? Do you jump right in? Does this serve you? Where might you stretch?

…Write about firsts. Write about learning to ride a bike. Write about a first date, first triumph, first big mistake.

Get on the bike and ride…see where the road takes you, and enjoy meeting yourself on the page.


Sparkers - Journaling the Journey © 2005 Deb Cooperman for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved. Find more Sparkers by Deb at

When a Dear John Letter is a Good Thing… by Deb Cooperman

When you long to write but you think you have to ‘write well,’ a Dear John letter (or Dear God, Dear Snookums or Dear whoever else you want to talk to) is a great way to get the pen moving. Because when you start by ‘talking’ to someone familiar, it’s easy to start deep and go deeper. When you’re writing TO someone, it’s easy to be relaxed and conversational and by-pass the hang-ups you might have about ‘writing well.’ Your friends won’t get on your case about perfect prose; they just want to know what you have to say.

So, think about something that you’ve wanted to get on paper. Something that ticks you off or a challenge you’ve been having, perhaps. Write about change or the coming of spring (or both). Write about forgiveness. Write about something you’re excited about. Write about something you fear. Write as a letter to a friend, God, or yourself 10 years from now. Or write to me; you don’t have to send it, just write.

And enjoy discovering yourself on the page.


Sparkers - Journaling the Journey © 2005 Deb Cooperman for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved. Find more Sparkers by Deb at

Get to the Truth by Lying by Deb Cooperman

Sometimes, in an effort to get the facts ‘right’ when we write, the emotional core of an experience is obscured. So if your memory isn’t what it used to be, or if telling the truth in your writing is hard, painful or scary, try a little creative lying (sometimes known as fiction!). Rather than writing a blow-by-blow account of your relationship with an abusive ex, or recreating the exact words that were said when you heard the dreaded diagnosis, let the truth of the experience surface through fiction. Take a significant event in your life and write about it in the third person. Instead of having it happen to you, have it happen to someone else. Or write it in the first person, but change details – make the players in your story younger or older, in a different city or with a different eye color. If the boss was gentle and kind when firing you, but the end result was that you still felt like someone had punched you in the stomach, write the boss as a raging schmuck, and get the anger out. If you didn’t get to say good-bye to a beloved relative, write the conversation that you wanted to happen and allow the emotions to surface in the story.

See how it feels to free yourself from the facts, and uncovering the essence of truth.

Sparkers - Journaling the Journey © 2005 Deb Cooperman for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved. Find more Sparkers by Deb at

There Is No Such Thing As Writer’s Block by Deb Cooperman

Yep, you read that right: no such thing as writer’s block. It’s radical, I know. There are workshops, seminars and books about how to survive it, but it doesn’t exist.

What most people call “writer’s block” is really too many ideas to choose from.

Sit at a blank page and lots of thoughts are going to surface. Rather than choosing something – anything – and seeing where you can go with it, do you wait for that just-right first sentence or the perfect mind-blowing profundity that will encapsulate all the existential questions of the universe?

Give it up.

It won’t happen. The challenge - and beauty - of writing (and life!) is when faced with abundant options, you get to make choices. And it doesn’t matter where you start, because whatever you’re supposed to birth is bound to surface if you give it time and attention.

So start. Choose the first thing that pops into your head. If several things are ping-ponging about in there, pick one. Or combine them and play with what shows up.

As ‘Bright Lights, Big City’ author Jay McInerney said: “I actually have to write to discover my ideas. I think you could allow yourself to never get started if you tried to guess in advance what was going to inspire you.”

So say goodbye to writer’s block once and for all. Choose, write, get inspired. And then write some more.

Have fun meeting yourself on the page.

Sparkers - Journaling the Journey © 2005 Deb Cooperman for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved. Find more Sparkers by Deb at

TALK ON PAPER by Deb Cooperman

Talking about wanting to write isn’t writing. But writing can be almost as easy as talking.

If you’re stuck on what to write about, take a moment and think about the last few conversations you had with friends. What did you talk about? Politics? Your family? A personal challenge you’re having?

The things that you talk about can be great springboards for your writing.

Start with a list. Make it as long as you like, jotting down even the most “insignificant” things you talked about. The mystery stain on your shirt that you can’t get out. The can’t-look-away-train-wreck that is VH1’s Surreal Life TV show. Why is it so hard to find a good mechanic?

Give yourself at least 10 minutes to do this. When you’ve got a list, pick one topic that feels compelling and spend 15 minutes expanding on it. Or pick one that’s annoying or seems trivial and write about it. Don’t worry if you get off track a little (you probably do that when you talk too!), just have a conversation on paper. See how things change when you address your conversation to your best friend, a parent, co-worker, someone you admire, or a person you just met. Talking about the everyday stuff, you’ll find a wealth of topics to mine for your writing.

Sparkers - Journaling the Journey © 2005 Deb Cooperman for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved. Find more Sparkers by Deb at

Go into the Dark Places by Deb Cooperman

There is always a moment in scary movies when the hero stands before a door and we in the audience are thinking: “Don’t go in there…the monster is there; are you crazy?” But in they go, oblivious to our warnings and sure enough, GRRR! out comes the monster and our hero is caught in the fight.

In our own lives, we often stand by the door of the dark places thinking: I’m not going in there, no way! Who wants to wrestle with ghosts and demons?

Well, if you’re open to personal growth, you probably do, because you know that when you open the scary doors and expose those shadowy monsters to the light there’s growth and richness there.

So try this: Make a list of the “scary doors” in your own life. Behind them might be past traumas that haven’t completely healed, worries and fears, anger you’ve held in or grief that needs more expression. When you hit on something that holds a particular charge, take a deep breath, be brave, open the door and write. You don’t need to tame the monster, ‘fix’ it, or come to resolution, just being open to explore what’s behind the door.

Or try these:
- Write about the movies that scared you. Is there a theme that lies beneath them?
- List five things you have feared and the things that have comforted those fears.
- Write about what keeps you up at night.

Sparkers - Journaling the Journey © 2005 Deb Cooperman for Coaching Toys Inc - Sparkers, all rights reserved. Find more Sparkers by Deb at

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Sparkers Creative exercises, while mostly fun and enriching may occasionally tap into unresolved issues or discomfort. This may signal some healing to attend to. If this should happen for you and you feel you need help contact a professional counselor. Coaching, while powerful it is not a substitute for therapeutic intervention.

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