Bring Your Best Words to Life

Here’s one small thing worth doing after you finish recording your podcast or writing a blog post (or an article or a chapter or even a meaty Facebook post)…

For a few of my clients, I get to read through writing I’ve just edited or a piece they’ve already published, find the sentences that shine brightest, and then make social media posters from/for them.

This is way fun because it’s easier than it would have been just three or four years ago, as now there are vast libraries of free, no-attribution-required photos out there, like Pixabay, Pexels, and my favorite, Unsplash.

It’s danged satisfying when shiny words meet the right photograph.

The words become even more impactful, and the photo gains a context that may be totally different from the moment in which it was shot. I smile a lot while I play with these, and not only because it’s a pleasant break from working word-for-word.

And, ya know? When I can’t find a photo that fits, or I sense that the words would be somehow diminished or overshadowed by imagery, I create a blank canvas and let the words stand on their own. A simple layout with a good font and the text or background in a signature color can be just as impactful — and sometimes more.

Which is all to say: Sometime after you’ve recorded your podcast or written your blog post (or article or chapter or Facebook update), listen and look for those shining lines, yeh?

Don’t worry, you’ll know them when you see and hear them.

They’re the ones that carry an entire theme all by themselves. They raise a flag or ring a tone in your mind. You may even realize that the whole piece depends on that single sentence, that all you said leans on that one line.

When you find them, tuck them somewhere safe, make them into something, or both.

Those savory sentences are precious, really, and no less rare for writing more or more often. More writing doesn’t increase the odds of writing one, just the opportunity.

And if you re-read something you’ve written and don’t see even one great sentence, then pick a good one and rewrite it until it becomes great or compose something fresh and add it where it’s most needed — a powerful hook at the beginning, a powerful punch or twist in the middle, or a strong finish at the very end.

A reader will remember your work forever if you offer them just one great line to hold dear.

One of my favorites is from Josh Bazell, and it may not make sense out of context, but it’s stuck with me for years, particularly because of the compelling narration of his Beat The Reaper audiobook

Ahhh, youth; it’s like heroin you smoked instead of snorted — gone so fast, you forget you have to pay for it.”

There’s an entire book wrapped around that lament — his transgressions, the penalty, his penance, the payback, and his second shot at revenge. And, to my mind, the other 6 hours and 45 minutes (or 415 pages) are in support of that one line.

You have the whole story without having to read the book.


In whatever you’re writing or recording, however long or short, find that one prized sentence (or create it) and then hold it high.

Your readers will be compelled to read the rest, or they’ll know what they need to know even if they don’t.


Originally published on FB among Friends on May 1, 2018


the last minute

If you’re ready and willing to write, give this third warm-up writing exercise from the RE«MIND workshop a try.

The Why

Why am I sharing this writing prompt at this moment?

Because a family friend died over the weekend, and while we weren’t close, we knew each other for 25+ years, and I once helped her translate the terms of a too-good-to-be-true bank loan — which turned out to be both good and true — and then design the house she built with that funding.

So, Geri and I weren’t close, but the part of me that participated in her dream-building experience was tied to her forever, and I feel cheated on her behalf. She worked long and hard for that Caribbean home, and she’d enjoyed just a few years of full-time living there when cancer came out of nowhere and killed her within a month.

To add insult to injury, Geri was careful about what she ate, exercised regularly, did all her wellness checks, and her annual bloodwork results were perfect just 6 months before. It feels like her conscientiousness was worthless and wasted, but who can say? It might be why she lived as long as she did.

I’d write more about that, but 1) I need to save that juice for the workshop’s next writing prompt, which I get to conjure up today, and 2) I already wrote a letter about it for my patrons, and there’s not much more to say.

That letter writing relieved the paired pressures of grief and disappointment. I’m still deeply saddened and totally, totally pissed, and that’s valid and okay. The writing, the pressure, the pissedity — they’re all part of making my peace with it.

And as often happens, grieving the end of someone’s life got me thinking on the end of mine and, after a moment, yours.

The Writing Prompt

That brings me to the memoir workshop’s writing warm-up #3, which prods you to uncover what matters most and shape it into fewer than 400 words.

If you could use some focus or need to reset your priorities, this might help…

RE«MIND Warm-up #3:

When I heard this, I immediately thought of you—

“You’ve got a minute to live, fill it with words.”
~Tony Stark, Iron Man 3

In the movie, that line was delivered with great urgency, and the fellow on the receiving end was facing a loaded weapon.

Fortunately, we’re not that pressed, and the stakes nowhere near that high. We have some time to work and, compared to the Play With Your Food warm-up exercise, a heckuvalot more space!

Your eat tweet had room for just 15 or 20 words, but this time you can write up to 400 words, and I’ll explain why in just a bit. For now, here’s your exercise—

Your life will end in 60 seconds.
In the minute you have left to live, what would you tell us?

Say what needs saying in 120-160 words
or 200-250 words or around 400 words.

Download This Writing Prompt (Free!)

sample pages with click here to download button

Click here to download the PDF of the writing prompt package, no sign-up required. It includes—

  • The writing prompt
  • Some guidance on collecting secret messages
  • A second approach to the prompt, and
  • A level-up to the writing exercise

Write on 💙