The Talking Cure

This is a great strategy to use when you're about to start a project, and you want some guidance. I've also used it when I've been in the middle of writing something and felt stuck in a hole. Here's how it works: you contact a friend. You ask if you can meet. You tell her that you need to talk out your story. You ask if she would be willing to listen and take notes. If your friend is a writer, you make a deal that you will be happy to do the same for her when she needs someone to listen to her work.

In the meeting, the writer tells the story—no reading from text, no notes. She just tells the story. When I am the friend in this scenario, I write “mind map” notes. I jot down key words that the writer uses in her story, and I put bubbles around each word. I connect words with lines. If it feels right in the meeting, I may ask questions while the writer presents her story. Other times, I wait until the story is over, and then I will ask if anything seems unclear or if I want to know more about something. I may make one or two general comments, usually about themes or patterns.

At the end of the process, the friend hands the writer her notes. The writer now has a map for her project, one that is built out of her own words, one that was always there for her. It just needed to be pointed out. And that's it. Then the writer goes home, cranks up her favorite writing music, and puts the words on the page. It's a fun, effective way to write.