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To Be Leah …

February 6, 2012

I attended an amazing writing workshop by author Drusilla Campbell as part of an Adventures By the Book event. Aside from a great discussion of her newest book, Little Girl Gone, Drusilla gave so many great writing techniques.

The first writing practice we did was called the “To Be” practice. Essentially, you use the words “To be” at the beginning of  seven sentences to describe yourself in different ways. By doing this, you learn so much more about people than the typical, “Hi, my name is …” All the workshop participants completed this exercise and read aloud.

Here’s my “to be” practice with a few more than seven sentences.

To be Leah … you must be a mother who loves her daughter so much it sometimes makes her cry.

To be Leah … you have to wonder how you can love said daughter so much yet you count the minutes until she goes to bed at night.

To be Leah … you know there’s an entire next chapter of your life waiting to begin.

To be Leah … you literally feel the power and happiness that words bring to your life.

To be Leah … you have to like pets because there are two dogs and two cats sleeping on your bed.

To be Leah … you know anxiety and fear are the best motivators.

To be Leah … you have to crave solitude and love the hours of 9 p.m. to midnight when the house is surrounded in sleep (with the exception of Leah).

This is also a great technique to try with characters you are writing. One thing Drusilla pointed out is how you start to see contradictions within the sentences. And contradictions are what make people (and characters) interesting.

So are you ready “to be” you? Let me know if you give it a try.

46 Comments leave one →
  1. February 6, 2012 4:58 am

    This was a great post, Leah, and I will definitely try it for the main character of my WIP — I really want to present her as real as I can, and this will help me do it! Thanks for letting me learn a little more about you and for giving me a great idea.

    • February 7, 2012 10:31 pm

      Thanks, Julia. I can’t wait to try it with a character too.

  2. Lena permalink
    February 6, 2012 5:41 am

    I LOVE THIS! I am going to borrow this technique, thank you for sharing! I also can relate to many of your “to be’s”, especially the first two, just swap out daughter for two sons!! 😉

    • February 7, 2012 10:31 pm

      I’m so glad you did this on your blog. Isn’t it a neat experiment? And I’m glad the first “to be’s” are not just related to me!

  3. February 6, 2012 5:59 am

    Ooo, very interesting. This could also be a nice technique to use with getting to know the specific personalities of my children. Score!

    • February 7, 2012 10:32 pm

      Yes, exactly! It’s such a versatile activity and can be used in many settings.

  4. February 6, 2012 6:49 am

    I wish I could have gone to that workshop. What a great opening exercise. Can’t wait to hear more.

    • February 7, 2012 10:32 pm

      You would have loved it, Shary! Drusilla was amazing and I’m already signing up for her next class.

  5. February 6, 2012 7:13 am

    What a great exercise. I could see adapting it for an opening introduction of a class I am teaching next semester. Thanks for sharing!

    • February 7, 2012 10:33 pm

      I think it would be a great tool for a “getting to know you” exercise for a class. If I ever end up teaching writing classes, I know I’ll use this technique. Can’t wait to hear about your teaching too!

  6. February 6, 2012 7:22 am

    I love this idea for honing characters, Leah, and I think I will soon learn what it means to adore my child so much and yet be excited when she goes to bed at night! : )

    • February 7, 2012 10:34 pm

      I think the part about wanting the kid to sleep comes when they get a little older. Not that you won’t want your sleep when she’s an infant. But it becomes quite different at 4!

  7. February 6, 2012 7:53 am

    Leah, it’s so great that you got so much out of Drusilla’s workshop, but more so that you are sharing it with others. I love that about writers – they are always willing to share what they learn to inspire others. I also loved hearing your To Be Leahs to learn a little bit more about you. And here’s to the next chapter of your life :>)

    • February 7, 2012 10:35 pm

      Thanks, Susan. And I loved hearing your “to be” statements as well. It was neat getting to know each other even better through writing exercises!

  8. February 6, 2012 8:43 am

    Sounds like a honey of a workshop. Drusilla sounds like a good teacher too.
    I enjoyed your list. I think I’ll add one for you..
    To Be Leah: you must have a blog where folks gather to share a smile or two. 🙂

    • February 7, 2012 10:35 pm

      Ah, thank you so much for the lovely compliment! That truly means a lot!

  9. February 6, 2012 11:09 am

    “One thing Drusilla pointed out is how you start to see contradictions within the sentences. And contradictions are what make people (and characters) interesting.”

    Thanks for passing this on, Leah, I think it’s really useful! I’m going to try it with some of my characters.

    I like E.C.’s extra To Be Leah…and i agree 🙂

    • February 7, 2012 10:35 pm

      Thanks, Cynthia! What a nice thing to say. And let me know if you try this with a character.

  10. February 6, 2012 12:20 pm

    Great exercise…and I have to say, you really nailed parenting with this sentence: “…you have to wonder how you can love said daughter so much yet you count the minutes until she goes to bed at night.” How is this possible? I relate!

    • February 7, 2012 10:36 pm

      I’m so glad it’s not just me! It’s such a fine line, isn’t it? Thanks for reading.

  11. February 6, 2012 7:53 pm

    Leah this is so wonderful, great writing exercise and also great way to find more about you.

    • February 7, 2012 10:36 pm

      Thanks, Ariana! I find that a good writing exercise also helps me learn more about myself too.

  12. Nicole Amato permalink
    February 6, 2012 7:56 pm

    I love this exercise and I love what you chose to share – it really says a lot about you!

    • February 7, 2012 10:37 pm

      Thanks so much, Nicole! I really appreciate your nice words.

  13. February 6, 2012 9:11 pm

    Fascinating writing exercise. I can see how it gets your creative juices flowing. Thanks!

    • February 7, 2012 10:37 pm

      Would love to read your “to be’s” as well!

  14. February 7, 2012 4:47 am

    I love, love, loved this! So honest — and … so you!

    • February 7, 2012 10:37 pm

      Thanks, MJ! I’m glad you think it’s honest and bears my personality as well. I appreciate that.

  15. February 7, 2012 5:01 am

    That’s really cool! I may steal this and put it on my blog!

  16. February 7, 2012 8:07 am

    Love the title of this post! What an amazing technique–can’t wait to try it out! Thanks for sharing, Leah!

    • February 7, 2012 10:38 pm

      Thanks! I hope you do try it out. I love how I’ve learned so much about people from this simple exercise.

  17. February 7, 2012 3:22 pm

    Love this, Leah. Learned so much MORE about you (and got a good giggle out of the four pets on the bed). 🙂 I am known to shift and move around to make THEM comfortable! I know what it’s like to be Leah in that respect!

    • February 7, 2012 10:38 pm

      Thanks, Melissa. Isn’t it crazy the things we do to make our pets comfortable? Oh well!

  18. Drusilla Campbell permalink
    February 7, 2012 4:28 pm

    Leah, I loved reading this post and then all the enthusiastic responses you got. You should do a post called Tips for Writing a Really Good Blog.”

    • February 7, 2012 10:39 pm

      Thanks so much, Drusilla! You were such an inspiration! I can’t wait to take your other classes. And look how much everyone loved it too. And thanks for the note about writing a good blog!

  19. February 7, 2012 11:52 pm

    This sounds like an awesome exercise Leah, and I plan to use it in a number of different ways. By the way, when I read all your: ‘To be Leah’s’ I felt like, “I just love Leah!”

    • February 8, 2012 6:26 pm

      Ah, thanks Elizabeth! So nice of you to say!

  20. February 8, 2012 5:51 am

    Great idea, Leah. Aren’t writing workshops terrific to get you stimulated and motivated? I liked your “to be” sentences. Some of mine would be similar if I had written them at your age, but they change with time. I’d like to try it with my characters , too, if I ever get back to my book.

    • February 8, 2012 6:27 pm

      You gave me a great idea — to write this list every few years and see how the “to be’s” change!

  21. February 8, 2012 7:18 pm

    Wow. Great questions for personal reflection and definitely for characters. I love workshops!

  22. February 9, 2012 6:36 pm

    I love it what a great exercise. Thanks for sharing your to be!

  23. February 10, 2012 7:54 pm

    What a fun exercise. I love picking up my characters and developing them with techniques like this.

    Stopping by from She Writes today.

  24. February 13, 2012 8:28 am

    Thanks so much for sharing this! Can’t wait to try it.


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