Wake Up And Smell The Coffee

Dear Writer, That’s you. Me. So yes, I am writing this to myself too. I am at the 2014 Write-By-The-Lake retreat teaching a class on writing a captivating book from personal experience. This is my first year at WBTL. The invitation to teach here is a wish-fulfilled.

This morning my class will explore clichés. Dead metaphors. Where once a cliché may have served a purpose they lose meaning with overuse. When we use them in writing we are being lazy. When clichés remain unchallenged in our “off the page” life we are giving up originality for convention.

Last night I took a walk with Kathy Steffen, another WBTL instructor. We ate too much at Portabellas. (We were happy to find the restaurant still there along side the new condos going up on State Street). After dinner we walked along the lake and deliberately tried to talk in clichés. (Kathy won).

In my work with writers I recommend we explore concepts on and off the page. Whatever we explore and experience “off the page,” shows up somehow on the page. This is especially true with autobiographical pieces. Since we are writing about our experiences, who we are shows up on the page. If we write about a personal experience but doubt it’s value, this doubt will find its way on the page. Then, the reader will doubt us, or our message. Or both. If we live a life of clichés we are bound to write in clichés.

So living consciously and intentionally translates onto the page.

Back to my walk and talking in clichés with Kathy.

Kathy may have won the count but I landed the big fish in the little pond. I found a cliché that may take a hold of my life and run with it. If I believe this cliché, I may come to be this cliché. This cliché doesn’t set sail for another year. A year that will likely pass in a blink of an eye. So, I better nip it in the bud before it blooms.

An exploration in class this morning will be to identify one “off the page” cliché to transform. I thought mine was, “don’t talk to strangers.”  But that one has long run its course. The one that gets me sweating blood is

The empty nest.

It’s a cliché that has taken ahold of a lot of people. So powerful this cliché we view it as a syndrome. The empty nest syndrome.

I will be exploring how to turn this old dead metaphor into a living, breathing experience as my daughter of 17 enters her senior year of high school.

I am shooting for the moon.

Thanks for reading; that’s a load off my mind.

Sincerely yours, Julie

PS Why can’t we have our cake and eat it too? 

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