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Writing lessons from the heron outside my window

writing lessonsHe shows up at the pond day after day, sometimes in the still morning, often at sunset, and once I saw his outline in the reeds after dark. Stealthy on his stilt-legs, he seems to glide through the brown water, step after slow step. He’s fishing, I assume.

Now, I have never seen him catch a fish. (I’m sure he has, but I have not yet seen it.) I only see him showing up and stalking. Day after day.

Showing up

That kind of discipline is perhaps the biggest difference between “writers” and professional writers. Professional writers know that you can’t just write when you feel like it, or when you’re inspired, or when the topic is interesting. Professionals show up at the keyboard day after day. They know the chances of getting inspired are much higher there than anywhere else.


Professionals also understand that writing is a process. Very rarely does a novel or a fundraising letter or a website pour forth from your fingertips as if you are taking dictation from your personal muse. More often it’s tedious work that involves plodding through the brown waters of research, sorting through reeds of data, slowly marching around the same pond of nouns and verbs over and over again.

Writing lessons, illustrated

In fact, thanks to William Holmes, my effort to photograph the heron is a fitting allegory to the process of writing:

writing lessons

Many of my photographs look like this—blurry, dark, indistinguishable.

But I keep trying—different lighting, different lenses, different approaches.

But I keep trying—different lighting, different lenses, different approaches.

writing lesson

And sometimes, after showing up and stalking this heron time after time,
I get a decent shot.

Professional writing

My heron photos aren’t great yet. And I’m not a professional photographer, so maybe they never will be.

But I am a professional writer, so I apply this level of discipline to all my clients’ projects.

To get the results they’re fishing for.

Contact me:




Behind the screen: a look at the LifeLines office

LifeLines office

It has been too long since I posted a new blog, and I attribute that to a digital move as well as a physical move. My last post foreshadowed my website's move to InMotion Hosting (which I may post more about later). This post offers a glimpse of the physical move of the LifeLines office. [...]

Why I’m changing web hosts

FatCow review

For several years, this blog and website have been hosted at FatCow was recommended to me by a fellow blogger, and for a long time I was very happy with the service. I even recommended it to others. No longer. There had been a few occasions when my interactions with customer service gave me [...]

Simple and deep: a book review of Hyperbole and a Half

Hyperbole and a Half

I was first introduced to the writings and drawings of Allie Brosh when a fellow blogger sent me a link to Allie's post about "the Alot." After reading it, I immediately subscribed to her Hyperbole and a Half blog. Allie didn't blog on a regular schedule, but each time her gently piercing cartoons arrived in [...]

Summer reading: Business by the Book (a book review)

book review

The copy of Larry Burkett's book that I'm reading was published in 1990, though it joined my business library only a few years ago. I don't remember where I got it, and when I was cleaning my office a few weeks ago, I almost put it on the "thrift shop" pile. But something made me [...]

[Story Break]
Summer fun with puns


What could be more fun than puns? Here are three clever plays on words to make your brain smile this summer: Ernie Slattery was an incompetent cabbie, but he had a lot of charm. Occasionally a passenger would arrive in Glen Ellyn instead of Glenwood, but listening to Ernie's delightful chatter made the roundabout ride [...]

Summer inspiration

Summer is a good time for writers to find new sources of inspiration. Or revisit old sources of inspiration. If you find yourself in a writing rut, take some time to review these inspirational LifeLines posts: Being an inspiration A type of inspiration pʍoɹɔ ǝɥʇ ɯoɹɟ ʇno puɐʇs Resources to help you flourish Or if [...]

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