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“The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.” ~ Bertrand Russell

Halloween is my very favorite holiday. The days that follow, All Souls/All Saints Day, are equally celebratory. Still, I wonder why dressing up in various costumes, pretending to be scary monsters, has held such fascination for so many of us? Is it because we get to include what is called our “shadow” or a “disowned self”? Might it have to do with testing out a taboo version of ourselves, one that we’re not quite ready to include in our ordinary lives? Perhaps it’s just fun to play someone other than us for a night (or day). But, most important, what, if anything, does playing have to do with writing?

Playing has everything to do with good-enough writing. If we can’t start, we’ll never finish. Thus, I make writing anything into a game because I have a fairly simple kid within me who likes games and will take on any dare. I’ll say, “Hey, I dare you to write a really crappy version of that assignment you’ve been given (or have given yourself)!” Seriously, without fail, this invitation provokes me to give it a try. Why? Because I can’t fail at producing a really crappy version of anything and I hate to fail. What’s more, if there’s no version to work with, there’s nothing to share with the world (via publishing).

Such tricks (and their inevitable treats that follow) may get even the stuffiest intellectuals down on the ground with paint on their hands. When writing has no more at stake than finger painting, we’re all a bit more willing to throw ourselves into the game of creating. I know; I’ve been using this trick on myself since 1985 (graduate school at Princeton Seminary).

“I can’t write a book commensurate with Shakespeare, but I can write a book by me.” ~ Walter Raleigh, Sr.

Keeping your writing simple isn’t done just for you to get something out and down on paper, it can save your reader a lot of hassles. Consider this: if you cannot say what you mean in one page, you may need more time to keep writing in your journal (or on those pesky scraps of paper). Ask your inner writer, “What am I trying to share with my ‘just right’ reader?”

“Elevator speeches” can help, i.e., can you talk about your book project in the time it takes to go from the 1st floor to the 9th floor of a building? Using such a facile technique doesn’t mean the book will be thin soup for the reader, rather, they’ll have a sense that you’ve been working with a clear head and have a strong sense of where you will be taking them on their reading expedition.

Another trick I’ll use to stay connected to my reader is to keep in mind (as my imaginary audience) an intelligent and curious 8th grader. If I cannot connect with her, hold her attention, interest her, or help her flourish in a way that she’ll understand, then I’ll be missing most readers all together.

As a university professor and an academic writer from 1993-2005, I have developed lots of methods to impress my competition (the few readers of academic journals who love to find logical holes in other people’s arguments). While my skin got thicker every year, I lost my capacity to relate to my ideal readers.

Now, I write to connect, not to impress. My recommendation to you is this: “Have a non-academic friend read your book, preferably a teenager who loves to read. She or he may be your best test-reader and will offer you the most helpful feedback!” Of course, if you want further guidance and even more simple tricks-of-the-trade, give me a call.

Jennifer Manlowe, PhD is an author, educator, writing and publishing coach with over 20 years of experience helping people express themselves in ways that bring joy, self-sufficiency, good pay and a sense of contribution. She loves hearing from readers and writers and is eager to support them as they launch their creative work in the world!

Be sure to schedule a 30-minute complimentary phone consultation to see how this kind of coaching works. Make an appointment via telephone: (206) 617-8832 or email:


The decision to write a memoir is a big choice. Sometimes a memoir is written to help others through similar problems that you’ve dealt with successfully, but more often, they’re written just to say, “I have some good stories to tell, they may or may not enlighten or entertain you.”

Any kind of writing journey can be a challenge to navigate alone, and a memoir can have particular challenges. Having another author guide you can make all the difference!

Should you decide to get started on your own, here are some basic tools to support you:

• Some writing ability (or a professional ghost writer – something that I can be for you)
• Patience

• Word processing software

• A copyright

• Good publishing software
(if you are publishing it yourself)

• Someone to proofread it and give her honest & constructive opinion

• Photos, letters or drawings to add to your book for extra interest

• A bevy of memories to recall

What’s helped many writers to jog their memory is to keep a small recorder or a pad of paper and pen with them at all times to record a flash from the past. Even a few words will work – no need to write the whole story at this time. Save it for your morning exercises (10” a day of writing, what I call the daily data dump).

As a memoir author, you can get ideas by listening to some of favorite music from your past. Look at old photographs, magazines, movies, newspapers, or other periodicals of those decades-in-time. Your local library may have access to these vehicles.

Don’t forget to ask family members, friends and other people involved in your life (at different times) what they remember about you.

If you’re a little worried about having your stories stolen, speak with a copyright attorney (I know several). Too, they can help you determine if there are any facts that may be considered libelous.

Be prepared to be honest about your actions, thoughts, feelings and anything that happened to you or within your family. Make sure your emotions come through in your memories. People identify with your vulnerability not your triumphal or teacherly/preacherly orientation (my early lessons in this regard can save you oodles of time).

My strongest recommendation for would-be memoirists, don’t hesitate to get started today. Give me a call and we can see what’s possible as a team. Too many people wait until it’s too late.

Know that I got into this kind of coaching when a 40-year-old friend of mine on her death-bed told me that her only regret was not writing a collection of life-lessons for her daughters. Don’t put this off. I can help you get it done this year!