Ever sat there, not knowing what to talk about, or what to write? It’s something many of us struggle with, myself included. So, is there a trick or a process we can adopt that may assist us in these awkward moments? Well, the simple answer is… yes.
Many years ago I met John Marsden, author of the ‘Tomorrow when the war began’ series and I remember something he said about recalling moments from your past to add to your future. Sounds very poetic and deep, but it is actually ridiculously simple. It’s as simple as keeping a log and knowing the alphabet. The log is merely notes you can write any time of the day, about something you see. It could be ‘as I look out the window I realise as I am shackled to my desk, outside a gentle breeze dances with the tall grass,’ or ‘a black sedan with heavily tinted windows screeched to an abrupt stop and I recall the strong stench of burnt rubber,’ or ‘the cement was burning hot on my bare feet. I dashed to the sanctuary of a shaded patch aching for a moments respite’.
So, imagine you are sitting at your desk struggling for what to write. Glance through your notes and try to spot the letter A. When you do, add that sentence to your work. For example, I find the first memory starts with a. As I look out the window I realise as I am shackled to my desk, outside a gentle breeze dances with the tall grass,’ and the story begins. I can then look for the letter B. ‘A black sedan with heavily tinted windows screeched to an abrupt stop and I recall the strong stench of burnt rubber,’ Now all I need to do is link them into one story and so it goes.
This works well for awkward conversations too. Start something with the letter A. Perhaps you ask; I ate an awful apple the other day. I have found the fruit I buy from the supermarkets is often poor quality. What do you think? I end the statement with an open question, one that requires the other person to answer with more than just yes or no. Then, hanging off their response, which may be, “Oh yes. Sometimes they freeze the fruit for years before putting it out for sale”. Now you can respond with the letter B. Big companies probably do it to guarantee provision in the off seasons. When did you last have some bad fruit? And so it goes. Conversation and writing, as simple as ABC.