Make Time to Write — but Not Too Much Time
Belle wrote her whole first novel on Wednesdays. "I was in a writing workshop Wednesday nights and it was my day off, so that was my writing day," she says. But the idea of sitting in front of a computer for hours every day is enough to give any writer performance anxiety, she warns. "So don’t tell yourself, I’m going to write every morning from six a.m. until noon."
Break Down the Task into Tiny Little Pieces
"I settled on a main character, and I had her go on little adventures every Wednesday. When I gathered all those adventures or scenes or ‘bricks,’ as I call them, they all started to come together. Because if somebody asked me to build a house and then gave me all the construction materials at once, I wouldn’t know how to do it."
Start in the Middle
Whether you’re working on a toast to someone or a speech or a novel, writing out of order takes the pressure off and frees up your brain. "People sit down and they write ‘Chapter One’ and they freeze," Belle says. "Or they think they have to know what they want to say or they have to have a big thought. But all you have to have to start writing is a desire to express yourself. And then give yourself a little time."
How to Make an Entrance
"Slowly!" says Stephanie Braxton, who played Tara on All My Children. "Lag behind in the receiving line, in the elevator, wherever," and walk in alone. "It’s an old theater trick. On stage you always isolate the figure you want people to focus on." Silently acknowledge everyone around you. "This makes them your ‘audience,’ even if you’re just entering a conversation. It’s also very calming." Now focus on staying in the spotlight. If there’s a photographer, move into the middle of a group of men, advises Dallas philanthropist Heidi Dillon ("You’ll look like the belle of the ball"), and to the far right in groups of women (your name will be first in the caption).
How to Put Out a Fire — Literally
Here’s the short answer: Don’t. "Call 911!" says Cobb County, Georgia, firefighter Denell Boyd. And in the meantime:
If you check on the lamb chops you’re broiling and they’ve burst into flames…
"Close the door to the oven immediately and turn it off," Boyd says.
If you’re lighting candles and your sleeve catches fire…
What you learned in third grade still holds. Stop. Drop. And roll: "You want to take the oxygen away from the fire, so you never want to wave your clothes around."
If you’re cooking Thanksgiving dinner for your entire extended family and a small grease fire breaks out…
Put a lid on the pan. "Never put water on it; it will splatter and spread. Don’t lift the lid or the oxygen will start the fire up again." If you’re discreet and the stuffing’s good, no one will notice.
If your husband’s cooking Thanksgiving dinner and a large grease fire breaks out…
Grab the Dry Chemical ABC fire extinguisher you bought immediately after reading this article. Remove the plastic tie from the handle, pull the pin out and, aiming the nozzle at the base of the fire (but keeping the extinguisher upright), squeeze the handle. The fire-eating stuff should come out. Sweep the extinguisher from side to side until the fire is completely out. If this doesn’t work, back out of the room, direct your guests to the nearest exit, get the hell out and call 911. Then take everyone out for burgers. Charbroiled.
How to Put Out a Fire — Figuratively
Along with power and responsibility come times when everything goes up in flames. Personnel conflicts, budget shortfalls, marital strife, termites, teenage rebellion — your first impulse is maybe to grab a fiddle and watch it all burn. For policy analyst Nancy Soderberg, the fire raged from 1993 through mid-1994. "Somalia was blazing, Haiti was a mess, Bosnia was a failed policy, we were in the process of trying to get a cease-fire in Northern Ireland," she says of her early days working as staff director on President Clinton’s National Security Council. Okay, global upheaval trumps termites. But her strategies for foreign policy crises can be applied to your personal and professional lives.