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Ask a Luminary

“I have listened to every episode of Inspire Me Today because I just can’t resist the daily dose of optimism and inspiration. I am inspired by all that these luminaries (and you!) have accomplished. I would love to follow in their footsteps but the thing is, I don’t know how. 

I’m going to be graduating college soon and I still only have an inkling of what I want to do with my life. I love writing, and I would love to inspire people through my writing, but I don’t know how. I love helping people and animals, but I don’t know where to even begin. I feel like I have a voice vaguely summoning me towards something great and fulfilling, but I’m so lost in the fog trying to find it! Is there any advice that you could give?” ~ Erin

Dear Erin,

You are not alone. There are plenty of techniques that can help you start writing, find your voice, and share your wisdom. Here’s a place to start.

Write down the prompt, “I remember…” on the top of a piece of paper. Set a timer for 10 minutes and write whatever comes to you. Don’t judge. Don’t correct. Don’t worry about spelling. If you hit a roadblock, start another line with “I remember…” Finish the sentence. Keep going.

When your timer rings, read what you’ve written. Underline whatever you would like to explore further.

Once you’re done, change the prompt to “I don’t remember…” set a timer for 10 minutes and free write. Once again, write whatever comes to you. The same rules apply. Write; don’t judge. When you’re done, underline the parts that have energy for you. Those are the parts you’d like to explore further.

Once you have a few free writes, take a look at your subjects. They will show you themes you can explore, ideas you want to share, and issues that keep coming up. Keep writing. When you feel ready edit the pieces you like most. Make these writings part of a story, or to post it on a blog.

There are lots of things you can do with any piece of writing, but first you have to start. Once you start, the words will flow. If they don’t, start again with the same prompt, and go wherever the writing takes you. Trust yourself. Trust the process.

Here are 8 more sentence-starts to get you going:

  • I want…
  • I don’t want…
  • I know…
  • I don’t know…
  • I understand…
  • I don’t understand…
  • A year from now…
  • When I heard…
  • If only…
  • Because…

Would you prefer to start with a sensory stimulus? Look at the way the sun makes a path on the carpet, the way steam rises off a cup of coffee, carrying the aroma of morning with it. Listen to the high pitched whirring of an omnipresent machine, the tick of the kitchen’s black-and-white, kitty-cat clock—any image at all. Start there, and go wherever the writing takes you.

Write about a specific image you see or hear. Include sights, sounds, movements, smells, and the feel of the air. Describing the immediate environment will start your writing again. Don’t worry if it’s not related to the suggested topic, because topics are only suggestions. Go wherever an image takes you. Explore fearlessly.

Some people try to write for at least fifteen minutes a day at least five days a week. Others try to write 750 words a day. Pick a method that works for you.

If you can find an Amherst Writers and Artists group in your area, the leader will help you get started and find your voice. Visit their website and click on “Write With Us” to find a group near you.

Start writing. Start anywhere. Start today. Set a timer, take 10 minutes (or 15 or 20), and write using one of the sentence starts above. See where the writing takes you. Go back and underline what you most like.

If you want more techniques, I have them. I’m a writing and manuscript coach. Write me privately at Lgood67334 AT Comcast DOT net, or visit my website.

Writing begets writing. So start now, and if you want to send me what you wrote (750 words or less), I’ll be happy to write back and tell you what resonates with me. What are you waiting for? Start writing!


B. Lynn Goodwin

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B. Lynn Goodwin is the author of You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers, available on Amazon. Her stories and articles have been published in Voices of Caregivers; Hip Mama; the Oakland Tribune; the Contra Costa Times; the Danville Weekly; Staying Sane When You’re Dieting; Small Press Review; Dramatics Magazine; Career; We Care;, Friction Literary Journal, and The Sun.

A former teacher, she conducts workshops and writes reviews for Story Circle Network and InspireMeToday. She’s working on a YA novel and brainstorming a memoir.

She’s the owner and editor of Writer Advice. Writer Advice recently celebrated its 16th year and runs contests for aspiring and published writers as well as sharing useful tips from experienced writers.

For more information, please visit

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This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for saying that, Susan. Sometimes I feel like I have writer’s block, but I don’t really. I have tools. Maybe that means that some kind of fear drops in to cloud my vision?? Or I have momentary hardening of the attitude?

  2. Lynn- you are so right. There are times I just can’t think of a thing I want to write about. Using some of the prompts you have provided gets me going every time. Thank you so much for your wisdom and support.

      1. P.S. Not sure what you want to write about? Finish the following sentence: Today I want to write about… OR Today I believe… OR Today I wonder…

        Finish the sentence, keep going for 10 minutes, and see where the writing takes you. You’re welcome to publish what you write here, if you wan to. =) FYI, I’ll only say what I love in the writing.

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