top of page

Tips, Exercises, and Classes

A longtime student in my Wednesday home group emailed saying that he cannot find the inspiration to write and wonders what to do. I reminded him as I remind my students week after week when I’m in their faces that inspiration doesn’t arrive by UPS and if he waits for inspiration or the muse, he will be a waiter not a writer.

A woman who took my Writer’s Conference workshop a few weeks ago and enrolled in my fall New School class emailed me to say she misplaced my handout with the tips and exercises. So as we get ready for the school year, here’s a revised handout for her, my stuck student, you and Cosmo Topper.


  1. You can get ideas from your family, romances, work, friends, struggles, obsessions, births, losses, mishaps, from what you read, and from the world outside your door.

  2. Keep a journal.

  3. Write every day, preferably at the same time. Start with 30 minutes.

  4. Be simple. Be bold. Don’t second-guess yourself. If it moves or scares or tickles you when you’re alone, that’s reason enough to say it.

  5. Be courageous. Trust your gut.

  6. Be direct. Cut through the clutter. Call a spade a spade.

  7. Let yourself go.

  8. Do NOT discuss your writing with your loved ones (big chapter in my book, WRITING FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE). It’s not good for your work or your relationships. If you want feedback, take a great class. If you need ego massaging, get it massaged from something else.

  9. Get rid of your internal and external critics and naysayers.

  10. Get it all down.

  11. Then revise.

  12. And revise.

  13. Show. Don’t tell. Telling is for your therapist. The difference between self-revelation and self-absorption is the difference between “ah ha” and “oy vey.”

Writing Exercises

The below topics should open the floodgates:

  1. an addiction or abuse (yours or someone else’s that has touched your life)

  2. a place where you feel comfortable

  3. a place where you don’t

  4. a memorable childhood incident

  5. a family member with whom you’ve struggled

Those along with the writing exercises I give in class and throughout my book were—and continue to be–springboards for my published essays.

My Fall Workshops

1. New York University, Getting Personal in Print in Print–2 sessions: Thurs. 6:30-9pm, Oct. 16-23 or call 212-998-7150.

2. Hunter College, 1 session-Oct. 9-Thurs, 6-9 pm. How to Write and Sell the Personal Essay. Register at the Continuing Education department (212) 650-3850.

3. New School, Writing Your Personal Story-5 sessions: Tues, Sept. 30-Oct.28-4:00-5:50,NWRW

*My New School class has only two spots left.


Join our mailing list

Never miss an update

bottom of page