5 Strange and Wondrous Techniques for Spicing up Your Writing

Chili Pepper Dancing

Happens to the best of us, you know.

We’ve all been told to let the words flow loose and easy and free, but instead, we stiffen up like a British banker before his annual rectal exam.

It feels horrible too. Instead of enjoying writing like we’re supposed to, we end up gritting our teeth through the entire experience, knowing something just ain’t right but feeling so uncomfortable that we can’t help sounding like a robot.

The good news is that deliverance is at hand. Like any good friend, I hereby pronounce myself ready to pry said stick out of your posterior, curing you of robotitus once and for all.

Let us begin.

The painful truth about why you can’t be yourself

It’s because you’re inhibited, dearie.

All of us are, to one degree or another, and thank God. Can you imagine what the world would be like if we acted on every impulse to pass through our little heathen brains?

Why, it would be a mess. People would be fornicating in church, passing out drunk in the wine aisle of the grocery store, murdering their children for failing to take out the garbage, and God only knows what else.

To protect ourselves from such ill-advised behavior, we all learn during childhood that there are Angels and Demons within all of us, and if we are to survive, we must encourage the former and discourage the latter. Or else.

But many of us take it too far

Instead of just ignoring our worst impulses, we ruthlessly stomp on any impulse at all. We go from being a thinking, feeling human being to becoming a robot, mindlessly following the script society gives us for “appropriate behavior.”

And the bad news?

Good writing isn’t in the script. Yes, you can write a set of instructions or a report about what happened, but there won’t be any life to it. It’ll just be information, pure and simple and boring.

If you want to make your writing interesting, you have to embrace the mess. You have to find the courage to look inside yourself and discover what you really think. You also have to feel, not just little blips of emotion, but buckets of it, drowning you in their intensity and power.

The good news is, just as you trained yourself to suppress those thoughts and emotions, you can also train yourself to unsuppress them. Not totally, mind you, to where you end up stabbing your boss with a letter opener, but enough to get them out onto the page.

Here are some writing exercises to get you started:

Exercise #1: Tell your mother to go to hell

Credit for this one goes to the legendary copywriter Gary Halbert.

Here’s what you do:

Write a letter to your mother explaining all the ways she has ruined your life. Call her names, describe her flaws in vicious detail, and be so downright hurtful you can imagine her clutching her heart and falling over dead.

And then delete it, burn it, or otherwise obliterate it from existence. Whatever you do, do NOT mail the evil thing.

The goal of this exercise isn’t to hurt your mother, but to quiet her voice within you. Most of us learned right and wrong from our mothers, and fear of their disapproval keeps us from ever being truly honest.

So, let her have it (figuratively speaking). You’ll be shocked at how much it helps your writing.

Exercise #2: Give a stranger an honest compliment

Not all inhibitions are of the nasty variety. You can be just as uptight about being nice to people.

If you doubt me, give this a try:

Go up to a complete stranger and pay them an honest compliment. Not the oh-you-look-nice-today lame assery most people spout, but a spontaneous gesture of appreciation, derived from real emotion.

If you see a car you’ve always wanted to have, for example, don’t walk up to the owner and say “nice car.” Go to them with wide eyes and a pounding heart and inform them they have the bitchinest ride in the universe.

See what I’m talking about?

Real emotion. Real expression. Real connection.

With a complete stranger.

If you can’t do it in person, it’s mighty hard to do it in print.

Exercise #3: Write a steamy sex scene

Were you brought up to believe sex is a private thing? Whatever people do behind closed doors and all that jazz?

Yeah, me too, but here’s the deal:

Our job as writers is to say the things other people are unable or unwilling to say. Sometimes that means being brutally honest, but more often, it means touching the taboo – subjects like cowardice, greed, jealousy, hate, and yes, sex.

Instead of running away from all those scary feelings inside you, cuddle up next to them and say howdy. Get to know them. Learn how they work. See them for what they are rather than what you feared they would be.

Yes, it’s hard, but this is what we do, people. We speak the unspeakable.

If you flinch at the idea of writing a steamy sex scene, how will you ever find the courage to address topics like suicide, double standards, and legacy? Those are the really tough topics, and the truth is, you’ll never be able to learn how to handle them with grace until you can feel something scary and not go running for cover.

In my opinion, sex is a good place to start, because while it’s dangerous, it’s also fun. Writing a steamy sex scene overflowing with lust-filled power words can and should be a helluva good time.

So get your freak on. I won’t tell anybody, I promise. πŸ˜‰

Exercise #4: Teach yourself how to say thank you

Sounds strange to say, but most people never really learn how to express gratitude.

Oh sure, we can squeak out a thank you over trivial niceties like someone opening a door or picking up a fallen pen. Maybe we can even send over a nice gift or two when the situation warrants it.

But when it’s bigger than that? When someone commits an act of kindness so selfless it warms our very soul?

Why, we fall speechless. The emotion is so strong, the gratitude so deep, we are unable to find words to express it.

The truth, though?

As a writer, you have to be better than that. Where others fumble about with clichΓ©s and platitudes, you must learn how to express exactly how you feel, to say exactly what you mean, transforming your thoughts into words and teleporting them into the mind of the reader.

A good way to learn how is to write a gratitude letter. Think through your life, pick somebody that changed it for the better, and then write a letter telling them how much you appreciate what they did.

When you’re done, ask yourself, “Is this what I really mean? Do the words match the emotion?” If the answer is no, toss the letter and start again, repeating as many times as necessary until you know it’s right, not just with your head, but also with your heart.

And then mail it to them, assuming they’re still living. If you get it right, and I know you will, the letter will touch them in a way few things ever have.

Exercise #5: Write a eulogy for someone you love

Ever seen an artist’s sketch that seems to capture what’s special about someone you know?

Not like a photograph, which is a snapshot of their physical features. Instead, it’s more like a glimpse into their soul, imperfect in its portrayal of how they look and yet somehow utterly perfect in its portrayal of who they are.

Well, that’s what this exercise is all about.

Grab a Kleenex box, and write a eulogy for someone you love. Maybe they’ve already passed, or maybe they haven’t, but imagine you’ve been tasked to stand up in front of all their friends and relatives and give a speech at their funeral.

Your job isn’t just to rattle off all their accomplishments, because, well, any old fool can do that. No, your job is to sketch their soul, to use your words to bring them back to life, if only for a moment, so everyone can say goodbye.

The big secret?

That’s what powerful writing is all about. Not taking “photos” of ideas, although I have nothing against photos, but sketching them, digging into their essence to reveal their essential nature and putting it out there for the entire world to see.

Do it for a loved one, and you can do it for other things too. Just give it a try, and you’ll see what I mean.

One word of warning, though:

This shit is hard, people

The great fallacy of the written word is that it’s about the words themselves. Choose the right ones, put them in the right order, and you’ll be fine and dandy.


As writers, we wrestle not with words, but with ourselves. Ideas, emotions, logic – those are the real building blocks of great writing, and if you’re to understand them, first you have to understand yourself.

It’s a tall order, one that will engage and challenge you until the day you die. Assuming you’re willing to try, of course.

And most people aren’t.

They’ll read the exercises above and think, “Lordy, I’ll have to start a blog and do that someday.” But they won’t. They’ll go back to their robot writing and forget all about it.

I’m hoping you’re different. I’m hoping you’re one of the few that’s willing to work at this and get good. I’m hoping you’ll one day write with such soul and power the words will tremble upon the page.

The world needs more writers like that. Desperately so.

Will you be one of them?

About the Author: Jon Morrow has asked repeatedly to be called β€œHis Royal Awesomeness,” but no one listens to him. So, he settles for CEO of Smart Blogger.
Jon Morrow

Jon Morrow

Jon Morrow has asked repeatedly to be called β€œHis Royal Awesomeness” but no one listens to him. So, he settles for CEO of Smart Blogger. Poor man. πŸ™‚

112 thoughts on “5 Strange and Wondrous Techniques for Spicing up Your Writing”

  1. First i thought that you’ll go to hell but I have to give that our mothers are responsible for ruining our lives. I’ll try that.

  2. Hey Jon,

    This post came just at the right time for me. I need to take my time to immerse myself in it.

    Keep up the good work.

  3. I really enjoyed this article, Jon. Especially the sex scene exercise πŸ™‚ I think I’ll get right on that one.

    Emotional writing has never been one of my strongest suits, but I’m gamine for giving a couple of these a go. It’s not all bad though, every message I write these days is to the person in my life I feel closest to – and more comfortable being myself with. It definitely helps – and my tome is much more natural as a result.

    Thanks for this.

  4. Anthony Sanna

    I think you did it.
    Well, ok. I did it, but with your help.
    I’ve fallen in love with writing.
    Writing in a way that “sounds” like me.
    Not like some Shakespearean actor with verbal diareah.
    Not some high school English teacher grammar nazi.
    But as me. My voice. My ideas. My jokes. My love of life, bad puns, grammatical bastardisation, Bon mots and so much more.
    I feel like a kid in a candy store who has no intrest in candy but can write so he’s really f*cking happy!
    Thanks a million for this inspiring and educational post.

    1. When I first read this comment, I thought it was a poem. Still could be, I think.

      Regardless, I’m honored to inspire you, man.

  5. Diane Ziomek

    I have bookmarked this post for future reference, plus shared on every social network listed. I did add a couple of sex scenes in my novel, but due to the genre I wanted to keep it relatively clean.

    I will be completing each exercise on the list, as I do have another novel in the works which will benefit from some of the advice you have given. I am generally a nonfiction writer, but NaNoWriMo 2012 sparked a new creativity in me I didn’t realize I had. This post will most definitely help with the sequel to my novel.

    Thank you for letting us know it is okay to step outside the boundaries in our writing, and for giving us exercises that will play on our emotions (which I am terrible at showing). I do need to lighten up, that I know – this could be just the thing to get me started. πŸ™‚

  6. Thanks for this Jon! Glad to know that I’ve accomplished some of this.

    #1 I wrote a really evil letter addressed to my dad. Still in my hard drive. I felt so better after it.

    #2 I could work in this one, but I once stared and told a cashier how great her skin was some weeks ago.

    #3 Hahaha! I ghostwrite erotic short stories.

    #4 I do this, though I think I should up my game.

    #5 I’m REALLY afraid to do this. I’ll be crying like an idiot just writing the first paragraph. I don’t look or sound good when I cry.

  7. If I weren’t on my way out the door, I’d be getting into tackling this list.

    I clicked through to the article from the e-mail I received, yet I really wondered, What more could there be to say on the subject? But then I didn’t get up from the computer- I kept reading. Now I’m gonna be late.

    1- The mom letter- just to get some shit out of your head and out of your way. Ooh, it sounds delicious.

    2- The stranger compliment- I’m on it.

    3- The steamy sex scene- I’M ON IT,

    4- Saying Thank You- Once I hemmed and hawed over a compliment someone gave me and my sailor-mouthed dad said, “Jesus Christ, daughter, when someone goes to the trouble to lay their soul bare and give you a damned compliment, the least you can do is shut the hell up and just say Thank You.”

    5- The eulogy- It’s always a little sad when you read someone’s obituary and find out all these cool things about them that you didn’t know till they died. Now the eulogy idea is on the table- what a great way to not only appreciate someone, but to actually notice them at all.

    Thanks, Jon, I love these crazy, risky ideas.

      1. We are blessed to have a high standard held up to us. I have noticed that any such people in my life have left a positive impact. No less You, Your Royal Awesomeness. A wonderful day to you! I suspect I will think four times before writing mediocrity the rest of my life.

  8. Sure thing John – Real emotion makes writing awesome. I have applied it continually to what I do and it’s been great.

    Writing that catches attention, piques the mind and triggers someone to flip his or her credit card and buy whatever you’re selling.

    But what’s your take about content marketing? I need an expert insight since you’re a part of Copyblogger media.

  9. This is the best yet! I had to tweet after the first few paragraphs lol

    Thanks Jon. I’m nowhere near that British banker but I do pull back. Weird, though, I don’t in my poetry (I’ve had a few controversial things published so I’m not afraid of people seeing it), and not in short stories or rough drafts of novels and whatever. The blog stuff though, yes.

    Hmmm! I have to look into this. What or who am I afraid on in the blogosphere if I’m not repressed in other areas? Huh.

    Thanks! I have to go back and read this again now that I’m not laughing so hard!

    1. The weird thing is you might not be afraid of anyone at all, but rather, you’re uncomfortable with yourself. That’s where most of the problems we have as writers come from, I think.

      1. Yeah, could be some of that. I think it’s also about how much of me do I want to be “out there” and also about branding–which parts of me do I want to be part of my “brand” and online reputation? Different from having off-the-wall stuff in literary journals where readers expect poets to write some crazy stuff :). Stuff I need to think about as, I suppose, plenty of people do.

  10. Well this was a dramatic and challenging post to read over my Cheerios, Jon. Thank you for pushing–no– shoving me into a day of writing.

    Strangely, the one that seems most unlikely for me is to actually say the words “bitchinest ride.”

  11. #1 – Mother already there
    #2 – I do this all the time. It’s obsessive.
    #3 – Read my mind, wrote one yesterday. Don’t know how I’d feel if you read my mind yesterday.
    #4 – It only works eye to eye. For me.
    #5 – Wrote three, one for a dog. Done for a lifetime
    Good post.

  12. Tell you are a young whippsnapper. Just let rip about your mother! I am the mother who would turn that around and let rip at the child and the other parent whose behaviour left a more than little to be desired at times. Life ain’t fair but do this in the wrong way definitely has the potential to make it worse, a lot worse. I know I’ve done it!

    1. Well, remember, you don’t actually mail the letter, so hopefully it shouldn’t make anything worse.

  13. Jon, I’ll start with Exercise #4: Thank you! Thanks for pressing the “send” button at the precise time you did – your post landed in front of my eyes when I needed it most. Many times, I ask myself “What would Jon say ?” – and this thought sets me on a new path. Although you’ve overcome writing problems a long time ago, you’re reaching out to those who are still stuck with limited beliefs. How stunning that 5 exercises when presented at the right time can make a world difference in someone’s life. Merci.

  14. I’ve been looking for a way to free up my writing and it looks like these wacky exercises will really do the job. I’m starting right now with the sex scene πŸ™‚
    Thanks a lot Jon. Here’s to unsupressed writing!

  15. Jon, thank you for this amazing piece of content!

    I clicked the link in your email because I knew that your stuff is valuable, but I have to admit it that I was thinking “Ok, here’s another post that explain how to use paragraph, headlines and so on…”.
    I was completely wrong. This post, is different, is helpful and it resonate a lof with me.

    While I was reading I remembered that all my best content come out when I expressed my true feelings and/or when I did something that most of the people would judge crazy.

    I already made #1 and #2, but #3, #4 and #5 are on my to do list now πŸ™‚

    Your are so damn right: as a writer it’s important to understand ourselves. I think that it’s one the most important parts in life, not only in writing.
    There’s a quote of Lao Tzu that says β€œHe who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still”.

    Thanks again Jon!

  16. OMG! My work is cut out for me now. These are stunning ideas and I love them! I really liked the one about writing a nasty letter to your mother. Gotta get busy on that one. And also, the eulogy exercise. I know that’s going to be a bit tougher. I did write my brothers eulogy when he passed away at such a young age of 45, but I don’t think I really expressed and conveyed exactly what I wanted to say. So, I’m on it. And the sexy scene? OMG! I’ve always wanted to do that! Wooo….getting on that one, too. Thanks, Jon. Awesome article

    Deb πŸ™‚

    1. The eulogy sounds like a great place to start for you. See if you can dig up any notes or anything from the original, and then go back and redo it. And if you’re really proud of it, send it to your family. Who knows, maybe they have Wi-Fi in heaven, and your brother will even get to read it. πŸ˜‰

  17. The mom one is a great exercise. really gets your emotions going. One thing that I do that I find helpful is when having a conversation with someone new is to ask a meaningful question, something that makes them stop in their tracks and think before responding.

    I was speaking to an elderly gentleman the other day while on vacation and asked him what has been the proudest moment in his life. It took him almost a full minute to respond and I could see his mind filling up with a lifetime of memories (he had 13 grandchildren and served in 2 wars). Ask the right questions and get really meaningful answers.

    1. “Mind filling up with a lifetime of memories” is such a wonderfully expressive way of saying that. And yes, I agree with you.

  18. Hi Jon,

    A tall order indeed! It all comes down to quietening the inner critic (Susie, in my case) and matching our words to our emotions.

    As for writing a steamy sex scene? I never thought of doing that before. Obviously it’s time.

    Robot writing, be gone.


    1. I tried to write a first-person scene as a man in the shower. I was having trouble writing with a man’s voice, and I thought this would help. Hearing his voice. Getting it right. The shower scene didn’t help. But, I have written some good male voices — I just listened carefully and did them without bubbles.

  19. Your Royal Awesomeness,
    You are just that. (I am reminded of something I read once: ‘give yourself a nickname before someone else gives you one you’ll regret’. Love yours!)

    Great tips. I feel freer already.

    Dutchess of Magificence.

  20. Good job, Jon. I opened my inbox this morning, saw the headline and laughed out loud. I can’t remember a time that’s happened before. (So often headlines might simply be intriguing … and the writer stops there.)

    1. Oh, that’s sad. You changed the title! No longer funny. But I must be among the minority. Clearly the headline needed adjusting for the majority. πŸ™‚

  21. Certainly great inspiration here, thanks Jon. The #1 letter to the mother, the#5 eulogy and #4 saying “thank you” often are already in my emotional well being tool box. Writing a steamy sex scene to learn to speak about the unspeakable is very creative idea, don’t know if that can work for me but will think about it πŸ™‚

  22. #2 is one of my favorite things to do.

    I started about 10 years ago, to pay strangers an honest compliment as well as thank a soldier for their service to our great country.

    Omgosh.. it was SO scary in he beginning.

    One of the first times, I was waiting in a nail salon and this gorgeous woman who happened to weigh about 300 pounds, walked in. I was terrified but I really wanted to compliment her..and I have to admit partially because I assumed (perhaps wrongly) that because of her weight, she was rarely complimented for her beauty.

    As she got up to go to her appointment, I said “Excuse me, I hope you don’t mind me saying.. but you are absolutely beautiful.”

    My heart was racing.

    Her eyes got real wide. She smiled and thanked me, and I was hooked.

    Hooked on sharing a part of myself and making someone feel good in the process.


  23. By the way, I hope you are continuing to feel better. I was worried about you, there!

    Anyhow, another piece of advice that came to mind. I read recently that rejection is often the best fuel for a writer. I just experienced this. I wrote just like you advocate in this piece. Rejection was mine. Now, I face new opportunities. In some ways, it has just added fuel to my fire to further refine my idea. I’m thinking of going hyper creative with my message, packaging it in the form of a fable. We’ll see if I can pull it off.

    1. I gave my writer’s group the assignment to take whatever they were writing at that moment and turn it into a fable, fairy tale or graphic novel segment. It turned into an insanely productive project! Good luck on your next piece.

  24. Jon: Let me guess the title you gave to the sex scene you wrote … Boost Blog Boners perhaps? πŸ˜‰

    Another classic Jon Tzu post! I’m all smiles.

    1. Ha! Actually, my sex scene was about a woman who was turned on by the way I write paragraphs. No kidding. See, I’m a total writing geek. πŸ™‚

      1. Steven A. Lowe

        I can only imagine the dialog – “Bolder! Boldest! Faster bullet points! More whitespace!”

        –A Minion of Morrow

  25. Hi Jon:

    You have inspired me to write a #4. To you.

    We have never met in person but I have read your words. Because you practice what you preach, that writing has truly revealed you to me. Thank you for that valuable gift that most people rarely give.

    I feel your honesty, your sincerity, and your love for people. In short, I BELIEVE you when you talk. That is quite the achievement in a world where we have to be on guard against every kind of conniving speech.

    I love how you can be vulgar without being, you know, vulgar. I hear the smile in your voice even if you are pushing buttons and shouting.

    You are one of my favorite marketers/writers/gurus. Keep doing that thing you do!

  26. Thanks, Jon. May I reproduce your article on my blog, giving full credit to your site? Now you’ve got exercise #6: Write a comment telling someone, politely but emphatically, they’re an insolent dumb ass and, no, they can’t. And if they do, you’ll sue them from here to Peoria. (But make your language so eloquently obscure they’ll think you’ve said “Of course, you can!”) πŸ™‚

  27. “Most people lead quiet lives of desperation”
    β€”Lisa Simpson

    Sometimes there’s wisdom in them cartoons. I agree with Lisa Simpson in this case. I also don’t think it’s a desirable way to live …

    I always look forward to reading Jon’s posts because acting on advice like this can make one feel less quiet and desperate. Thanks for the post!

    1. Steven A. Lowe

      Wisdom indeed. I think Lisa was paraphrasing Thoreau

      “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

      inspirational in any media format πŸ˜‰

  28. I love your style…you definitely write what you feel. Some of my most popular articles have been when I bared my soul and wrote from the heart. Thanks for this reminder to continue to do this. You couldn’t have delivered this at a more important time in my life.

  29. Hello again, Your Awesomeness,

    Have not read your blog for some time,been busy writing, but you really have to have a ‘inbuilt global satellite radar’ for a mind. You are truly awesome and I am again sitting at the feet of a great guru.

    ” True Liberty is the Right not to Lie.”
    “For if the reader can face the reality of your truth, they can face the reality of their own, not so?”

    # I I honestly did send my mother to hell,at the age of 3 when she sent me to an orphanage. She really put me through her hell from the moment I was born. She could not love me as I was her greatest ‘sin’ being a love child, so she gave me to strangers to ‘care’ for me, while she partied her life away. While I could not love her because she never let me know her, I forgave her and made sure I loved my children no matter what. When she died after I freed her of secret shame of cowardice, I freed myself, of her influence on my beliefs, and then looked for signs of her in me and buttoned them down. I beat myself up trying to be different, but acceptance is the answer, not difference.And learning from consequences of both alternatives, hers for making me bear the shame of her burdens and me for trying too hard to avoid being like her and correcting her mistakes in myself. Which of course affected my whole life. How did I survive without a mother or father? To hear the full story read my future novel called: Catalyst by Cat.A.Lyst.

    #2 Just recently I walked into a supermarket and there was a pensioner at the turnstile on a steaming hot day wearing the cutest turned up straw hat which suited her perfectly. It made her look like a little child. I complimented her on her hat and she told me she had sewn 2 material roses on to cover the holes. I love trying to ‘make’ someone’s day. You meet the most interesting people and hear the most interesting things that way, unexpectedly. I have got past the stage of caring that people think me odd for talking to strangers, I have done it all my life, trusting in the inherent ‘good’ in others, and I find it too.

    #3 Read 50 Shades of Grey recently, the trilogy, and if you want to ‘know’ the secret to ‘steamy sex’ it will open your eyes and explode the myth of perversion right out of the window. It got this ex-catholic girl actually facinated and made me cringe at my outdated and prudish beliefs. It was a bestseller for that reason, now everyone is reading it. Amazing what we accept as normal, in these times.

    #4 This is a difficult one as it really depends on self esteem,honesty and trust. How you evaluate yourself and others. Our truths are all different, so also it is a matter of trusting the graces that be.

    #5 This is one I have not tried, but I have a philosophy of treating the living well, your grieving will be short and acceptance of their death easier. Your conscience will also trouble you less, ask me, as I buried my mom after she died in my arms. When you are dead you are dead forever, so live every day as though it is your last, live on the edge, live raw, and be as natural and as overawed at the mystery of nature, which can teach us lots. When my children say to me things go so quickly, nothing lasts, I tell them to watch the lifecycle of a flower, only love lasts past death, the remembered frangrance of that flower. Only death is final, so celebrate the living, remember the dead and learn from their life and their death. There is no second chance, so I propose and try to be the best I can be to my loved ones while they are alive, unconditionally, whether they appreciate it or not as they have to deal with their own choices and responses, not me. This has perhaps made me very misunderstood, but so be it. I make no apologies. I sincerely believe we make our heaven and hell on earth, but it is my way of showing them they mean more than my very breath to me.

    John, you have inspired me as always, and I will give these much further thought. Thank you so much for making me dredge up the depth that life sometimes coats with layers like an onion, with each layer peeled a different tear appears to wash away our fears.

  30. SURPRISE. Again!
    Every time I click through I am surprised at the freshness of your approach. Today Its deja vu all over again.

    I am already energised just THINKING about the exercises – but I’ll follow through, for sure. Promise.


  31. Hi Jon,

    It’s interesting that you mention “Exercise #5: Write a eulogy for someone you love.” I’ve written eulogies for other people. Back in October 2012, a woman contacted me who needed a eulogy for her father-in-law; she and her husband were too upset to write it. The woman had written something but wasn’t happy with her writing so I wrote the eulogy for her. It was an interesting writing project.

    Anyway… I think writing a eulogy for a loved one is a great idea. Another idea is to write your own obituary or write one for a loved one.

    Thanks for this inspiring post!

  32. Hi Jon,

    It is so hard to show emotion and really share. After your guest blogging course I’ve continued the quest to improve my writing by hiring an editor whose sole purpose is not to pick out grammatical errors and cliches but to say that’s boring, no one cares about that and occasionally,that’s good, keep writing and picking at that scab. Sometimes you need someone else to push you.

    I’ll be doing these writing exercises because I’m sure some good stuff will come out of them. Thank you Senor!

  33. I’ve done all but 1 and 5. You’re right Jon, this Sh*t is harder than it looks. Inspiration will beat me silly in the shower but by the time I get out and towel off its gone faster than a golddigger spotting Bill Gates.

    Thanks again for this post.

  34. Well, geez, I am such a bloody robot, I’ve been blogging away with all my great (but dry) ideas. This post I think might just be the bit missing from my business model and be the difference between people, clients etc. engaging in my work and them ignoring me as a smart but boring intellectual.

    THANK YOU so much for this.

  35. THANK YOU, Your Royal Awesomeness! Starting Mother letter now and scheduled the rest in my diary, over next three weeks. I already regularly practice the giving strangers and friends specific compliments. Read that it sends their brains and mine a shot of feel-good chemicals. Seems like a useful addiction to me.

  36. Jon, I suspect that if you had this printed up you could sell it as a self-help book! Even people who don’t blog could benefit from these tips just to loosen themselves up. πŸ™‚ I’m gonna do them all!

  37. Damn Jon … you hit me right between the eyes … again. And I want to do the same to my inhibited self. I want him to go down like Goliath … the uncircumcised Philistine who took a stone to the forehead from a little shepherd boy’s slingshot.

    I imagine his last thoughts were … “who is this mangy little dog coming out to fight me … the Great Goliath” THWACK … lights out!

    Thanks for courage my friend. Your writing has once again given a big blow to the inhibited self.


  38. Hey Jon,

    You had me at “stiffen up like a British banker before his annual rectal exam” … πŸ˜‰

    … Oh, and then you let some other “colorful” phrases fly freely, so thank you for that. I rather enjoy salty language, in proper doses of course. You seem to have a knack for that.

    I’ll never say a bad thing about me mum, so I’ll just skip number 1, but a few thoughts on the others ..

    #2: This is honestly one of the easiest practices ever. Why? Because I have discovered and become friends with some extremely kind, talented and driven people. Folks who inspire in many ways. Funny, I came to know more than a few by complimenting them and telling the world (or the three people who read my blog) who super cool they are. So, more of a blogging practice than a writing exercise.

    #3: Getting you writing freak on might be the best advice of the day.

    #4: This is a really great idea. I’ve sent more than a few thank you cards, but a gratitude letter is on another level.

    But really, these are all practices that will help flesh out the artistry within. And you’ve inspired me Jon, for a while, really. I’ve been a loooong time lurker, and I would like to thank you for what you do.

    I only wish I had started blogging earlier, because I do so thoroughly enjoy the process. A daily writing practice started about 1.5 years ago has changed my life, honest.

    So, I like everything Stephen King (and you) have to say about the practice of writing πŸ˜‰

  39. “Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear you,” so says Emerson. I think it’s the same way with writing. However which way we try to “hide” our true selves through styles/ technique/ grammar, in the end, our “voice” will eventually reveal who we really are. So why not go all the way? Why not dig deep and let it all out. If as writers, we are actually “reporting” about who we are no matter what kind of writing we do, we might as well give the best and most accurate report.

    Thanks for pointing out what most of us already know but lack the courage to acknowledge the truth of and yes, try. πŸ™‚

  40. Great post, Jon. I wrote a eulogy for my mother because it looked like her death was eminent. She is still with us, but the writing helped me on many levels. I agree about going into the dark corners of the soul and writing about sex, pain, unusual behaviors, anger. That’s why I like fiction because I can still hide. But you are right, a blog post would be a bigger challenge. I need to do that.

  41. Jon, I never fail to learn something new from you. You know, a few weeks ago I actually had to eulogize my brother and I wrote about it for my blog. I poured my soul out in that post and I was absolutely flooded, I mean flooded with response. It’s been weeks later and I’m still getting personal emails from people who not only knew my brother but from people who didn’t and just wanted to connect. You advice is spot on and I plan to save this post to remind me to not take the easy, lazy way out. THANK YOU.

  42. Hey Jon,
    What struck me about this is just how relevant it is to living, not just writing..I get my clients to write to their mothers all the time πŸ˜‰
    Am going to give the rauchy sex scene ago because damn it I British and I am still so ingrained to not talk about even after years of working as a couples therapist. As for the eulogy I just want to do that because I think that my just be the perfect gift for someone special who has supported me all the way – so thanks great post as ever ..,:)

  43. Tessa,

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. I’m sure your book will help and inspire others who’ve experienced what you did as a child. It will also teach parents to love their children a little more than they already do.

  44. Thank you for reminding us to be bold and alive……! Loved this post – have started on your exercises. Hard & good!

  45. The timing of you post was perfect for me! Thank you sooo much! I am a total newbie and needed to believe in myself a little more! Yesterday I applied your advice , today I am making it happen! You Rock πŸ™‚

  46. Awesome exercises, Jon. But what struck me the most was this line: As writers, we wrestle not with words, but with ourselves. Ideas, emotions, logic – those are the real building blocks of great writing. You nailed it. And your exercises reach into the heart of emotions many people would rather not think about at all. Writers, real writers, must deal with them or our stories aren’t genuine. Great post.

  47. Great post, Jon. In my staff writing jobs, I had more than a half-dozen occasions where I had to do either eulogy articles for prominent people on my beat that had died, or what I like to call “Obituaries of the living” — retrospective articles summing up an elderly business leader’s career.

    Even scarier than summing up a dead person’s life for their family — and in many cases, knowing I was writing THE article the family would probably put in a scrapbook and save — because the subject was still around to read the piece!

    I can testify these are a terrific writing exercise…and a chance to ask yourself a thought-provoking question: “What will people write about me, when I’m gone?”

  48. Jon, Yesterday afternoon I found out that my 90 year old dad’s cancer we learned about last week is stage IV. I did the eulogy at mom’s funeral 8 years ago. I will also do this one. I started the process when I put together the presentation for his 90th birthday three weeks ago. Your assignment to describe his soul began to emerge as I worked through the pictures from his youth through WWII to now.

    This post comes at a crucial time for me. I appreciate the exhortation and will, through Christ’s help, dive deep to share the soul of my hero.


    1. Great list, Jon! I did the eulogy for my Mother’s funeral three weeks ago. When I finished, everyone clapped! At the time, I was stunned. I’d never seen that before. In retrospect, after hearing from many in attendance, I accomplished my goal of paying tribute to who my Mama really was. I came home, added photos to illustrate my remembrances, and posted it to my blog, if you’re interested. (Disclaimer: It is written as I spoke it, not intended as a writing piece.) http://dancingonthejourney.blogspot.com/2013/01/a-tribute-to-my-mother-betty-queen.html

  49. Jon,

    This post is really really out there, but in a good way! I would love to share this blog post on my writing blog. Can I, please? If so, how would you prefer I do it so you get the origin credit!

  50. For the good of the group, I’ll volunteer to review everyone’s sex scenes and check them for technical accuracy. It’s a difficult, demanding and thankless job, but someone’s gotta do it. πŸ˜›

  51. Jon, no blogger’s words stick with me like yours. You have a gift, and a powerful set of hard-earned skills. I appreciate how much you focus on the essence of great writing, as opposed to just the mechanics of it. Lots of bloggers are putting in the time, doing everything “right,” without managing to bring that extra spark, which is what truly makes the difference.

  52. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post! Amazing journey through wild and wicked ideas! And some rather amusing images in my head (that stuffy British banker, oh my!). LOL
    Truly a post that should go down in history as one of Your Very Best Jon! Thank you for sharing! – Stephanie

  53. Your Royal Awesomeness,

    Honestly, I don’t know why people can’t just cooperate with straightforward requests. I ask to be addressed simply as “Goddess” – nothing fancy – but you’d be surprised how feel people comply.

    Thank you for another great article, Jon!


    Tiela (aka, Goddess) Garnett

  54. Hello Jon,

    I’m relatively new to blogging, and your article comes at a good time. I’d already decided that the kind of writing that goes into instructional books is NOT the kind of writing that will engage blog readers. But how to strike the right balance between humor, light-heartedness, and useful information is a constant struggle. You’ve given me a few new things to consider. Looking forward to your next post.

  55. People think because they can speak, they can write. Not so. Writing isn’t the same as learning to change a tire, although if there were a class in that I would probably zone out and fail. I can, though, write. It is natural, sure. But it is a craft, it is a skill, you will not be able to learn how to do it overnight. If you have a large project that’s important, hire a writer. Writers are generally broke, or almost broke, so they’ll often write for trade. Don’t take on too much, do what you do best, and don’t kick yourself because you are not a combination of Nora Ephron and Ernest Hemingway. (Which is a good thing, since neither of them are on Hotel Earth anymore.)
    You can only do so much. Then ask for help.

  56. Kathy Robinson

    Jon thank you. It may take me time but I’ll do all these exercises. Some I’ve done such as writing to my mother (enjoyed that one) and compliment a stranger (did that last week). I’ll do them again till I can let that inner genius free.

  57. Hey Jon, these helps more than just writing beautifully.

    What you ask here is we have to fight our own fears. Stop acting like we really want to write better. It takes a lot more than just writing something interesting. It is bringing to the surface something vulnerable.

    You can’t touch the readers heart when you wear a mask and armor to hide your vulnerability, honesty and gratitude.

    It was a pleasure to read your post!

  58. I’ve been gone all day, but before leaving saw this in my inbox at 8:26 a.m., “5 Strange and Wondrous Techniques for Spicing up Your Writing.”

    First thing I headed to, after dealing with a cell phone issue (and shocking/surprising the person at the phone company for her tremendous help). She was speechless, but I’m positive it’s because I sounded so “dippyly” happy to get it straightened out (you sort of had to be there).

    I’ve written the eulogy before, for my dad. I couldn’t be there, but had a second cousin read it out loud for me. I poured my heart and soul into that one and I’ve never regretted “I wished I’d said more.”

    When I was young, late teens, for Father’s Day I just couldn’t think of a gift. So instead I wrote him a letter. Imagine my surprise several decades later (I was in charge of his “estate”) to find he’d kept it all these years.

    As for day-to-day, I love it! I strike up the oddest, most interesting conversations (some longer, most short) with complete strangers – and I believe we both love every second doing so.

    The steamy sex scene… haven’t written one down, though my brain has processed its fair share LOL! Now to see if what my brain does will plop out onto paper as easily πŸ™‚

    Oh, above all, thank you! I wrote an article recently that was torturous. Thank god my son was able to add some “spice” because I’ll be damned if I could find a single “spicy” thing to say LOL!

    As always you know you’re the King. And we all appreciate you so much!

  59. I know that you gotta dig deep for songwriting, and I suppose that goes for any art – if you want it to be good. It’s definitely in the messiness where people connect.

    If I was looking for an easier way out, I guess I should’ve picked technical writing instead of blogging! But no, this is more fun. πŸ˜‰

    For me, I think the mom exercise and the eulogy could be hardest to write. The wheels are already turning…

  60. Your return to more writing is a great source of joy and inspiration to me.

    I keep using you as an example of inspiration to those who continue put limits on themselves. You go for life with all you got.

    Peace and joy to you,


  61. Dear His Royal Awesomeness,

    You always manage to impart great wisdom with excellence in humor. Thank you. How about this for a twist of spicy: “Write your OWN eulogy”?

  62. This summer I had to write (and even harder, deliver) my mother’s eulogy. It was the single most difficult, heartbreaking thing I’ve ever written. In the end, it reminded me and, I hope, others, of the amazing woman she was before succumbing to the horrors of dementia and the physical devastation of Parkinson’s. I only wish she had been able to read it when she was well. So take on Jon’s writing exercise #5. Do it for someone you love and/admire – hell, do it for a bunch of people – and let them savour your words while they are still able. Do it.

  63. Oh how wonderful and true. A great exercise I haven’t done in a while. The hardest one for me was telling the owner of a hot car how much I liked it, until I did. I still struggle with sharing anger on the page, thanks Jon for a great lesson, again!

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