Friday, April 24, 2009

Warm Up To Writing Folktales

by Karen Pierce Gonzalez

Writers of all levels can jump right into writing family folktales. Because folktales are based upon the people, places, and things of your life, you already know something about whatever you choose to be your writing topic. Understand that they come out of your memories, which include feelings and sensations, and are not necessarily bound by the statistical data that genealogical accounts require. The folktale is the result of your perspective and your relationship to the topic.

In order to get the most out of your writing experience, it’s a good idea to warm up your writing muscles. This is especially true if you are new to writing or haven’t taken up a pen for quite some time.

Here are four simple tips to help you get the writing flowing:

1. Warm up is practice. It is not supposed to result in a finished piece. The goal is to build up your ability to write whatever you want to write.

2. Start by writing longhand. Writing with a pen or pencil and paper allows your mind to slow down so that it can synchronize with your body to get on the same page, so to speak. This reduces the push and pull of trying to rush the remembering and writing process. You become more involved in the writing process itself and in the long run that produces a strong connection between your stories and your ability to recount them.

3. Unlike what can happen when using the tools of modern technology (e.g., computer, laptop), you will not be distracted by spell checks, inserting or deleting changes, or even the way the folktale looks on the page (i.e., monitor). You are less encumbered and that frees you up to spend all of your attention on the writing itself.

• Note: However, if you find using your computer or laptop is easier for you, then do so. At least try to write your first draft by hand, so that you know what that more relaxed process feels like.

4. You will also need a timer. Set the timer for anywhere between five and fifteen minutes, and before you start writing, take a few deep breaths to clear out thoughts and concerns that may be occupying your attention. This is not the time to be wondering about what to cook for dinner or how to answer a business call. Tell yourself you can address these items after the writing session is over. You’ll be glad you did.

When choosing a warm up topic, consider writing about something that is easy to write about. This could include a magazine image, a postcard, a line from a favorite song. After a few warm up practices you may choose as your topic an heirloom or favorite relative. Keep the pen to paper even if it feels like nothing is happening. Even a laundry list of words or phrases can, over time, be developed into a complete folktale.

Whatever you write, it’s important to remember that the goal is to warm up your writing muscles much like you would do if you were going to an exercise center. Some muscles warm up more quickly than others so allow yourself a chance to get into the habit of using those muscles. After all no one knows your family folktales like you do.

Karen Pierce Gonzalez is the author of the newly released e-book Family Folktales: What Are Yours? and the workbook Family Folktales: Write Your Own Family Stories which will be available this summer from FolkHeart Press (

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