The Elevator Pitch the Write Way

You’ve probably heard the term Elevator Pitch. According to Wikipedia, it’s “a short summary used to quickly and simply define a product, service, or organization… [and] should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes.”

At one Goddard College graduate residency we played on this idea in a getting-to-know-you exercise. We had to walk across the room and tell someone in about 30 seconds with no prep what questions we were researching (Goddard’s Individualized MA program is all independent study). It was very helpful for me to have to summarize the myriad ideas I was looking into and state my one main point of query. One year and much research and writing later, I find I need to do this again. The Elevator Pitch for both my research and my memoir synopsis is rambling around in my head and has become more of an “… and Into the Lobby and out onto the Sidewalk Pitch.”

I saw this link today to a news story from Fox 44 news in Burlington, Vermont posted by The League of Vermont Writers: New Writers Pitch to Literary Agents.

It recounts the League’s recent Writers Meet Agents Event at its biennial conference in Burlington, where wannabe authors pitched their ideas to literary agents in a kind of “speed dating” process. Just reading about this made my stomach turn. I immediately thought, “What on earth would I say (without coming across as a bumbling idiot)???”

Time to get out my journal.

Here’s how one way to focus your ideas, not just for others to understand exactly what it is you do all day, but, maybe more importantly, for you to focus. It gives you a way to gather the harvest of fresh imaginings, colorful memories and juicy research nibblets, and then single out what you need to make the tonight’s dinner (i.e. book, essay, project, etc.).

1. Write down ALL your ideas, angles/layers, questions or descriptions of your project.

Write them in no particular order. Maybe mind-map them. Draw lines between connected concepts. (A huge piece of paper and colored pens might come in useful.) (And, warning! Whole new connections and ideas may arise while doing this.)

2. Circle or make a list of which words, phrases or themes come up most often.

Put the top ranked word/theme (or top two or three, if they are close) at the top of a blank page.

3. Just write!

Start with a prompt such as, “My book is about…” “I am studying…” “The premise of my thesis…” “The theme of my memoir is…,” and free write non-stop for five minutes (don’t stop even if it means writing in ums and ahhhs or oh crap, I have no idea what I’m writing-s!) However, you may find that after mind-mapping all your ideas, your writing flows easier.

4. Chop. Dice. Boil down. Spice up.

Re-write until you have two or three sentences that concisely, creatively, and above all, passionately describe what you are writing (but please leave out the adverbs!).

5. Say it out loud.

Read what you’ve written and then practice saying it until it sounds natural, as if you have such complete and utter clarity about your work (which you do now, right?) that you are just able to reel it off without thinking. Time yourself to make sure it is within the thirty second to two minute range.

6. P.S.  This technique doesn’t have to apply to just writing.

Think Personal Mission Statements. Artist Statements. Life choices even. (You don’t need to end up with blurb/pitch for this one unless you want to, but the process of whittling down options can still be used.) Whenever you have a sense of confusion, overwhelm, and/or lack of clarity, get it ALL on paper and let the pen do its magic.

Photo credit: d3designs from

Jour du Journal: You WILL find something to say!

In workshops I facilitate and ones I have attended myself, comments similar to this are usually made:

I didn’t think I’d have anything to say.

I thought I would sit here not knowing what to write.

You have to trust your pen. It wants to write. It loves to run across the page in a frenzy of words. Give your pen a time limit and it will want to prove itself. Five minutes. Sprint!

Here is your starting block:

I’m proud of myself for…

Ready. Set. Go!

Please feel free to leave a comment – either about your journaling experience or to share your writing… I’d love to hear from you!

Jour du Journal! Getting to the truth.

Yesterday on my other blog I wrote:

…I almost feel angry at my innocent children for stealing them from me. That’s a feeling I try not to give voice or credence to…

That was a difficult statement to put into writing, for the “whole” world to see. But it is the truth – an uncomfortable truth, but nevertheless the truth.

Your journal is the one place you can face your own truths, where no one else will see them or judge you on them. You are completely free to say whatever you need to, to express it, to get it out. When you see your own truth in black and white in your own handwriting it is powerful. Once out in the open you can choose to accept it (rather than have it fester deep within) and take action – to make the changes in your life you may need to.

Kay Adams tells us that 5-minute sprints, where you write very quickly in a timed session, will allow you to “get to the truth faster.”

Set your timers. 5 minutes. Paper. Pen.

A truth I have been hiding is….


Please feel free to leave a comment – either about your journaling experience or to share your writing… I’d love to hear from you!