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Something Borrowed

People who love to sew know the allure of a bolt of beautiful fabric, and most of us have a fabric stash to prove it. Someone once explained it this way: when we look at the fabric and rub it between our fingers to feel its weight and texture, we can already see the finished garment. It’s already there, just waiting to be shaped.

For writers, notebooks and journals can have the same attraction, and I believe for a similar reason. When we look at the blank pages, and rub them between our fingers to feel the weight and texture, we can already see the words. They’re already there, just waiting to be revealed.

I speak from experience though, when I say that sometimes it’s easier than others to help those words reveal themselves. I also speak from experience when I say that keeping your writing muscles flexible helps a great deal. There are a number of different ways to achieve this, and one exercise I recommend involves borrowing a sentence.

Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Pull a book… any book… off your shelf or open it on your e-reader.
Step 2: Without looking closely, point to a spot on the page before you.
Step 3: Read the sentence you’re pointing at.
Step 4: Copy that sentence on the top of your blank page.
Step 5: Follow that borrowed sentence with a dozen of your own, then a dozen more.

The key here is not to think too hard once you’ve transcribed the sentence. The key is just to write… to allow that borrowed sentence to inspire a train of thought, and then go with it.

At the end of the exercise, you will have to give the borrowed sentence back of course, but that’s fine because it has served its purpose and it wasn’t yours to keep anyway. You’ll also have 24 new sentences of your own.

By the way, I couldn’t resist opening a book as I was writing this. I chose Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson which, appropriately, is on my iPad. The sentence I pointed at? “You did the impossible, because you didn’t realize it was impossible.”

Guess I should now go exercise…