Bloom Where You're Writing! A Monthly Column by Noelle Sterne

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by: Noelle Sterne

Hello! So glad to start this series of columns at Coffeehouse for Writers. As an experienced writer and new Coffeehouse barista, I’ll serve you here jolts of motivation and how-tos to help you grow your writing from right where you are—to bloom where you’re writing.

We’re all at different levels, with different writing visions, goals, inclinations, and preferences. Whatever your writing stage and genre(s), I hope these monthly columns help you find inspiration, renewed drive, and improved skills. Please do feel free to comment and suggest topics you’re struggling with, curious about, and want to understand better.

So to begin . . .

* * * * * *
You may think it’s odd, even eccentric, to read a brand-new column with the first title “The End.” But when we take a long view, it can guide us throughout our entire writing life. We’re all probably uncomfortable looking at our birthdate and wondering what’s to follow the hyphen, but staring at that space can energize our writing.

How? By declaring our longterm writing goals. Do you have them? Maybe you’ve avoided this question, but facing it can give us greater purpose and momentum. For example . . .

Mystery writer Sue Grafton took on the alphabet. So far, she’s published 22 novels featuring her PI heroine, from A is for Alibi to V is for Vengeance. Going strong at 70, Grafton promises the rest, culminating with the 28th, Z is for Zero, in a few years.

On a blog, a writer lamented her low productivity and prodded herself: “Geez, I only need to do 20 books. That’s a career, right?” My longterm goals? Similar: 25 quality books (well, now 24 with publication of my first, Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams); a heap of writers’ craft pieces, spiritual articles, and essays as I observe life and decipher my 697 post-its; and poems as they emerge. Highly prolific paranormal mystery writer Aaron Lazar declared in an interview he wants to write 100 books by the time he dies. He’s currently at 16 and writing on schedule.

Confronting the other side of the hyphen sharpens our purpose, ambitions, and writing itself. Ask yourself: What, really, are my lifetime writing goals? Please, not the externals—you know, the big Fs: fame, fortune, and Fifty Million Facebook Friends. Rather, what satisfies you for more than half a day, what makes you soar when you’re alone and quiet? What makes you celebrate your creative self?

Aaron Lazar answered these questions in a moving essay. Despite his lifetime writing goals and many awards, Lazar describes a profoundly illuminating moment in his writing career. The mother of a writing friend became seriously ill, and in her last days the daughter read to her from one of Lazar’s books. Every time the daughter asked if she should keep reading, her mother nodded, and the daughter continued for hours. Lazar writes, “In a flash, I realized if one woman could be comforted on her deathbed by my books—I’d already reached the definitive pinnacle of success.”

Addressing all of us, he continues, “So keep writing and imagine the best. Not the money, not the fame, not the ability to quit that day job. Imagine affecting one solitary soul in their final moments on this earth, and you’ll have pictured . . . the ultimate reward.”

I’ve always cherished a related reward, expressed by George Bernard Shaw, who recognizes the importance of our purpose and commitment to it. Incidentally, he wrote 63 plays, several novels, many influential political and philosophical treatises, and kept writing until the other side of the hyphen at age 94:

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are

thrown on the scrap heap . . . .

Unsavory scrap heap aside, this declaration of being “written out,” as a colleague labels it, can sustain and invigorate us. More than likely, we’ll never write all we want to or transform every post-it and pebble of an idea into a polished gem. But when we identify our “mighty” purpose, in Shaw’s words, we fuel our writing and our lives.

So, what really compels you to write? What must you convey? What’s your writing purpose? Let it emerge gently, with words that become a refreshing and stirring reminder.

With your identified purpose, you can still declare a number-of-works goal. It doesn’t have to be your sole declaration, and you can change it at any moment. The two together will steer and steady you.

Here are some statements from other writers of their purpose in writing:

Capture the essence.

Share my gifts.

Help other writers.

Illuminate injustices.

Show human fragility and magnificence.

Acknowledge the possible; imagine and describe the impossible.

Celebrate the power of love.

And you?

As you ask your mind to reveal your purpose, it will come. You’ll know it’s the right one—at your present stage—by a great feeling of relief and peace, right peg slipping easily into right slot. Write your purpose down in big block letters and tape it to your refrigerator, prop it up in front of your keyboard, or splash it across your desktop. Your writing purpose will soak into your mind, spur all your work and their numbers, power your writing, and live joyfully with you until the end.

Author, editor, ghostwriter, writing coach, and spiritual counselor, Noelle has converted some of her post-its into over 250 published fiction and nonfiction pieces in print and online venues. With a Ph.D. from Columbia University, for over 28 years Noelle has guided doctoral candidates to completion of their dissertations. Based on this work, her latest project-in-progress is a practical-psychological-spiritual handbook, Grad U: Complete Your Dissertation—Finally—and Ease the Trip for Yourself and Everyone Who Has to Live With You. In her current book, Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books), Noelle draws examples from her practice and other aspects of life to help writers and others release regrets, relabel their past, and reach their lifelong yearnings. Visit Noelle at http://www.trustyourlifenow.com/


  1. Hello, Noelle. What a lovely beginning to what promises to be a long line of helpful and inspirational articles! Thank you for mentioning my personal goal and the experience I had re. a friend's mother. Since then, I've had a reader contact me and tell me my books "got him through his chemo treatments." Wow. Can you imagine a higher honor? I was and still am suitably humbled. ;o)

    1. Wow, what a compliment you received from that cancer survivor, Aaron! Keep on writing and inspiring.

      Blessings to you and yours....


  2. Thank you, Aaron. You are an inspiration yourself! Keep writing, as you say, like the wind.

  3. Jennifer Brown BanksJuly 18, 2012 at 8:35 AM


    I'm so excited to have you here. Thanks so much for adding your expertise and your unique "flavor" to the Coffeehouse experience.

  4. Thank you, Jen. A true pleasure to share with Coffeehouse sippers. My highest wish is to help readers/writers through their (our) writing tussles and emerge with victorious productions.

  5. Noelle, it's wonderful to see you here! I was thinking about this general topic this morning, actually, so this is timely food for thought. Thanks so much! :)

  6. Jennifer Brown BanksJuly 18, 2012 at 12:14 PM


    Thanks so much for joining our "coffee chat" here. I'm sure readers will enjoy the offerings Noelle provides.
    I appreciate your visit.

  7. Noelle, I think I'm discovering my purpose as I go along - looking over my shoulder so to speak. It doesn't look too bad so far - the past informing the future. Great food for thought.

  8. Jennifer Brown BanksJuly 19, 2012 at 9:12 AM


    Thanks for sharing this. Much continued success!

  9. Karen and Susan--

    Many thanks for your candor. Good point, Susan, on discovery as we go. Our purpose can (and maybe should) change as we become more aware of ourselves and our world and confident in our writing. As we discover more about life, our purpose may become plural and our interests expand. The key, I believe, is to listen to that Voice inside. Bless you both and your writing.

  10. Jennifer Brown BanksJuly 19, 2012 at 10:43 AM


    Very well stated. We're all a "work in progress".:-)

  11. Noelle,

    It's nice to meet you. Thank you for the encouragement and tips on focusing our writing.

    Like Susan S., I'm discovering my writing purpose as I go along, trying new things to see what fits. I'm finding my writing "spot," and it may just change as time marches on, but I'm ready for the variety! :-)

    All I know is that I need to write. It's the best part of my work day.

    I'm looking forward to reading more of your columns. Be well...



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