Mindy Hardwick's Blog

Author Mindy Hardwick Muses about Writing

Jumpstart Writing

on March 12, 2009

When I was working with the girls in juvenile detention, one young lady said, “I can never write unless I am in here.” Another young writer pointed out, “I need something intense to happen in order to write.”

I explained to the ladies in their orange jumpsuits that there were a couple things I do to “jump start” my writing.

1. Read. When I am working with the young men and woman at the detention center, we always read poetry before we write our own. Most of the time, we read from the books which have been created by the youth themselves and published by the Blanche Miller Trust. Sometimes we read from books published by WritersCorp or from some of the great poetry books edited by Betty Franco. Usually, I try to start with poetry written by youth about topics the kids can relate to. I do the same thing with my own writing. At home, I can often be found reading young adult and middle grade novels.  As I read, I am asking myself about the pacing of a story, studying the major plot points, and looking at how a character is created.

2. Mining Memories: It’s true. I am most motivated to write when I am fired up about something. But, I can’t live my life fired up about things. So then what? Lately, I have been “mining my memories” in order to find the emotion. To help me with this process, I am reading the following:

Writing the Sacred Journey by Elizabeth J. Andrew
Old Friend From Far Away by Natalie Goldberg
Writing as a Way of Healing by Louise DeSalvo

Each morning, I begin by using one or two of the writing prompts which take me back to how it felt to be eleven, twelve, thirteen, or fourteen, and then I can use that emotion in my current work in progress. Sometimes, I also get plot ideas from the writing prompts. For example, one of the topics said, “Write about a piece of furniture that you were in awe of as a child.” This took me to a large sideboard we had with a secret drawer, and suddenly that sideboard and secret drawer gave me a key plot point for my middle grade novel.

3. Working with Youth In the Community: As a writer, I do not seclude myself into isolation. Yes, I need solitude and quiet to write, BUT…not all the time. It’s very important for me to maintain connected to the youth in my community. I do this in a number of ways: volunteering with the youth at the detention center, doing art collages with youth at a homeless shelter or YMCA, attending high school basketball and baseball games, and presenting workshops to youth at libraries and school visits.

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