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The Heart Of A Good Story

“Never so still has winter stood…” wrote George O’Neil on what might have been a gray, early February day many decades past.

Yet a silver lining gleams in February’s darkest clouds through the poet’s artful placement of those few simple words. Such is the power of this time of year to inspire good writing.

If you have ever wanted to be a wordsmith, February in Kentucky is a perfect time and place to begin.

Perhaps no other month is so wonderfully suited for the quiet introspection needed to transform our thoughts into poetry, a short story, or even the beginning of a novel.

Cupid must have slipped Valentine’s Day into the heart of February, knowing it would be the ideal time for composing love notes.

You may never have entertained thoughts of writing professionally, but maybe you should consider compiling a collection of your life’s stories and observations for posterity. Many years from now, one of your children or grandchildren, or even a researcher, might consider them a treasure.

These snow-clouded days and frozen nights should not all be wasted reading pages of someone else’s writings, whose stories may not be nearly as interesting as yours. Nor should they be squandered on television shows that, I once heard it said, “allow us to remain stupid without finding it dull.” No, a few hours of these dwindling winter days should be used for drawing dividends on your own experiences.

So I suggest you find a cozy corner—like the one I’m sitting in now—and just start writing.

Use your heart instead of your brain in the beginning. You can fix the punctuation and spelling later. If your hands are too unsteady or your fingers too twisted to write, ask a friend to help you record your stories.

If you think your life has been dull and colorless, go back to those magical childhood dreams of what you hoped life would be, and start at the beginning. Trust me, a story will emerge.

You may want to write long letters to your children, or short stories about the happiest or saddest or most unbelievable days of your life: your funniest or proudest moments, your most profound regrets, or life lessons you’d most like to impart to others. This Valentine’s Day, write a story about the love of your life.

Remember always that the heart of a good story lies in vivid details. You don’t need big words, but you will often need to use your most distant, tiny memories of senses and emotions to bring the reader to a time and place, and, maybe if you are lucky, into your soul for an instant.

If you aren’t in the mood to write, search your bookshelves for an author whose work is inspiring, and read until the spirit moves you.

Often, it only takes a few words, such as, “Never so still has winter stood…”

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