Who the hell is Rebecca T. Dickson?

This site, and really my entire existence, is about helping you take the knowledge you already have and translating it onto the page. Everything here – from simple free-writing exercises to private writing sessions – has been painstakingly designed to help you get your words flowing.

No one needs a guide to become a “real writer.” You are a real writer the moment you say you are and take steps to make it happen.

What you need is an internal permission slip. You need to say yes to your voice, to develop a recording in your head that says, “I am allowed to be happy.” “I am allowed to do what I love.” “I don’t care what anyone else thinks. I want to write this, and I am going to fucking write it.”

But who am I to tell anyone how to “Just Write”?

Niko_mom2_101372I did it. I wrote for my life. For my living. For my sanity. I found myself in a place where my choices were either to become the best goddamn writer I could be, or lose everything.

I was the single mom of an infant, going through a divorce, learning to be a reporter at a prestigious newspaper – a highly sought after position. My colleagues were Ivy League graduates or college newspaper stars. Though I earned my BA in journalism, it was long ago. I was approaching 30, alone and terrified. If I didn’t write, if I didn’t succeed as a reporter, I had no idea how I was going to take care of my son.

Reporters aren’t allowed to have writers’ block. They don’t miss deadline.

Sometimes you just do a thing because you don’t have options.

You “just write” so you can eat.

Most people do not have agendas nearly so dramatic. Maybe you want to write but feel stuck, hampered, uninspired. Maybe you’ve always dreamed of writing but don’t know where to start. Maybe you have something in progress but lost your motivation. I’m here to tell you getting the words out is easier than you think.

You can do this. Start by navigating around this site.

Who the hell is Rebecca T. Dickson? The smart, sassy coach for people who dream about writing, but think they don’t have the time, talent or energy.

You can and you do.

(The photo? Me and my boy on my 40th birthday – last year. We made it.)

So there

Today, we’re talking about sentences that begin with the word “there.” There is. There are. There was. There were. There have been. There will be.

Can you feel me cringing?

Technically, it’s not wrong to begin a sentence that way. But it is bad style. Using “there” phrases is passive. It’s boring, often confusing, and unnecessary. You can help your writing and your readers by elimination the word entirely.

so_thereYawn: “There is always a way to eliminate the word ‘there.’ ”
Better: “A way to eliminate the word ‘there’ always exists.”

Passive versus active
Everyone recognizes good writing as that which sucks you in. We’re beside the old man in line for the guillotine. We cry with the 9 year old boy who lost his mother to cancer. Or we get seasick alongside Orange Juice (read “Life of Pi.”) But readers don’t generally get there with passive voice. It’s too easy to leave out the person or thing doing the action.

Yawn: “There was a car accident.” (And?)
Better: “The neighbor crashed his car.”
Best: “The neighbor crashed his black Toyota Tundra into a stop sign up the street.”

The last sentence tells you who did what, and where. It holds plenty of detail, yet won’t overwhelm the reader.

It’s boring
Please, please, please tell me your story. Carry me right down into it and hold me the entire time. If you’re not concise, I’m bored. Quickly.

Yawn: “There was no way I was going back in there.” (Huh?)
Better: “I was not going back in there.” (Oh.)
Best: “I was not going back into that house.” (Got it.)

It’s confusing
Don’t make your readers guess. Don’t leave blanks for them to fill in. The whole point of reading is to escape. Don’t force us to imagine our own scenario. Details, please.

Yawn: “There’s something about the way he looks at me.” (Like what?)
Better: “Something about the way he looks at me steals my breath.” (Ah.)
Best: “The way he looks at me, crouched down and hungry, steals my breath.” (Goosebumps.)

When we use “there” phrases, we set up a sentence with a subject and verb, and a “dummy” subject. The dummy subject – the word that is NOT the subject at all –is the word “there.” And it confuses the reader. Writers clarify by being specific, adding detail. Our task is to make it better.

Eliminate “there.”

Want more? Try removing “there” from the following:
•  There are three characters in the play that are very important.
•  There have been a few unsuccessful attempts at imitating his style.
•  There was a brown bear in one of my favorite books as a child.
•  There are several tall pines near the rusty cemetery gate.
•  There was a bright full moon smiling at them.