Jumpstart, Anyone?

imgres It’s that time of year again when I begin my Sanibel writing workshop. I’ve been leading this workshop for several years now and call it “Jumpstart Your Writing.” It’s for writers, beginner to advanced, who need a jolt to rev up their writing lives, the way a car needs a jumpstart when the battery is weak. Actually for those of us who write or who aspire to write, the battery is never really dead; it just needs a little juice to get it going again.



v. t. 

To start (the engine of a motor vehicle) using a temporary connection to supply electrical power from another vehicle or another source of current; – an emergency procedure used when a vehicle’s own battery has insufficient power to start the vehicle normally.


To provide a speedy start to (an activity) using the assistance of some external impetus; to re-energize (an activity proceeding sluggishly); – accomplished by application of a stimulus not normally used in the activity.

The word can be a noun or a verb, but it is the verb that I like best. I also like the idea that some “external impetus” is needed “to re-energize an activity proceeding sluggishly.” What that external impetus is will vary from writer to writer, but for me, one battery charger is the company of other writers–not just any writers, but writers who believe in “the practice school of writing.” (See Natalie Goldberg’s chapter “Writing as Practice” in Writing Down the Bones.)

For several years now, I’ve been a part of a group of poets. We meet every Monday morning in the home of the gifted poet and teacher, Deborah Keenan. Without her gentle guidance, her selection of wonderful poems and poets and the writing suggestions she nudges out of the poems, as well as the inspiration of  the others in the group, I would have a very low writing battery. Bringing my poems to this group has nourished and enhanced my writing life, which was almost extinguished after the completion of my MFA. (That’s another story.)  I enjoy these opportunities to create and craft my poems. Somehow the ego washes away, and the little bubbles of writing that emerge in my notebooks become poems.

So as we start these next few weeks, here on Sanibel with this group of writers, I hope to re-create a little of the same spirit. We’ll use writing from others as models and inspiration and also create our own envelopes of writing jumpstarts. I’ll be bringing some of what we do to these blogs. So those of you not on Sanibel can take the workshop along with us.

There is always the question: Can writing be taught? Maybe, maybe not, but it can be practiced–the way one practices the piano or yoga.  And through practice in the company of others engaged in a similar practice, it is my hope that the writing becomes better–as the practice itself remains enjoyable and always challenging.


IMG_6241I like to re-read Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones when I start a new workshop. Way back in 1985 or ’86, I took a workshop in Minnesota with Natalie. She had just sent the galleys of Writing Down the Bones back to her publisher. She was, and continues to be, an inspiration. “What are your deep dreams?” she asks in one chapter. This will be the way I’ll start the class on Monday.  “What are your deep dreams?” One of mine was to write a novel. So maybe it is time to go back to it and see what I still have to say. It’s never too late.


Writing Jumpstart:   What are your deep dreams? Go for ten minutes. What is that spark that ignited your desire to write? Ten more minutes.


6 thoughts on “Jumpstart, Anyone?

  1. Hi, Vicky. Will your workshop still be
    held in March? I’ll be in Sanibel around March 20-31! Thanks.
    Jen from Michigan

  2. Vicky – As you know I’ve enjoyed your workshops – attended twice – as they were so informative and challenging. I highly recommend them. You may recall I always added the “dark side” to the daily prompts. I have since published two novels and am working on a third in the series. Thanks for your advice and encouragement. Hope to see you in Sanibel. Bob P.

    • Great to hear from you, Bob. Congratulations on your novel publications! Maybe you’d like make a cameo appearance in the workshop this year. Or write a guest blog entry?
      You would have enjoyed the Key West Literary Seminar this year. The focus was “The Dark Side: Mystery, Crime, and the Literary Thriller.” Lee Child, Gillian Flynn, Laura Lippman, Joyce Carol Oates, Les Standiford, Alexander McCall Smith, Carl Hiassen, and more–a wonderful, entertaining session. Lots of fun! Although writers attend, the seminar is for readers who enjoy hearing what writers have to say. Lots of readings, panels, talks, and parties–all in a great setting.

  3. Have a great time with the workshop! Your participants are so fortunate – I wish I could be one of them. I am certainly fortunate in knowing you and receiving your support. Thanks for all you do for all of us, Miss Vicky.

    • Thanks, Janet! Even though, you’re out there in Kansas, you can still follow on the blog. I’ll read your poem from the anthology in the workshop this year. It’s such a good example of using humor in a short, focused piece. Also I’m enjoying following your blog and appreciate your last e-mail. Response on the way!

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