Make Your Mess Your Message

Last week, Robin Roberts, my fave news anchor, left Good Morning America to start a new chapter in her life. She is suffering from myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a disease of the blood that was once known as “preleukemia.” Robin needs a bone marrow transplant. Thankfully, her sister is a match. Many people aren’t that lucky.

Before Robin was able to proceed with her treatment, her mother died. Through the years, Robin’s viewers have grown to know and love her mother. I know I did. Her mother once told Robin, “MAKE YOUR MESS YOUR MESSAGE.” 


When Robin discovered she had MDS she made it her mission to educate viewers about the facts of donating bone marrow. She made her mess her message. She interviewed health care professionals and patients on national television, telling their stories, hoping to encourage others to donate. Robin made this her mission because it was something she felt passionate about it. She’s fighting for her life. What could be more raw or real?

Ask yourself today, as you’re standing in the shower, or driving to school, what is your MESS ? What do you feel passionate about? Is something making you grit your teeth, or laugh out loud? What’s your greatest fear? Who made you angry and why? Are you struggling with an addiction or someone who’s an addict? Is your grandmother dying of a disease? Is your best friend dissing you over a guy? Is your teen failing in school?

Mull over your mess as you sip your coffee, or sit in study hall, and think of how you can tell a short story that might motivate, elicit an emotion, persuade, or entertain someone. Use your mess as the conflict in your story. As you’re plotting in your head, add these FOUR questions to the mix:

  1. Who is your main character?
  2. What does she hope to accomplish or gain in the course of your story?
  3. What will the consequences be to her, and to others, if she doesn’t reach this goal?
  4. Who or what will get in her way?

Hopefully these questions will churn a movie in your mind and motivate you to write. Since it’s fiction you get to choose the ending, the conflict, all of it. (So, if you secretly want to ax someone, do it here.) When you finally put the pen to paper don’t literally answer these questions. Start ON THE RUN–in the middle of the scene, the middle of the conflict. Keep going without stopping. Tell your story. Give it a beginning, middle and end. Make the resolution an unexpected one, a funny one, or one that will make readers cry. You choose.

I promise if you make your mess your message your readers will feel your passion. Your writing will shine.

What is your mess today?




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  1. Great post!! I am an example of someone moved by Robin’s/her mother’s story. She spoke so openly and honestly about it; something we don’t see enough of in any kind of writing these days. Your advice is right on and I intend to work with this in my writing. Thanks!!

  2. Thank you for your lates post. You bring much encouragement to those needing an uplift. You have no idea as to how much this latest post has lit a light bulb above my head. Can’t hardly wait to get started.

  3. Johnny, You have no idea how YOU made MY day by leaving your words here. Thank you! I’m thrilled that this will help you. It has worked for me. I love to write novels, but in between the grind I find myself writing short stories about the MESS I’m going through and it really helps. It has helped me perfect my craft, gotten me published, and it’s helped me work through my mess at the moment. I hope you find the same success. I hope you have an awesome writing day!

  4. Great thought. Thank you. Worth sharing so I did. 🙂

  5. Thanks Diana. I appreciate the share. I hope the content here helps writers create life-changing stories. Robin’s mother would love that!

  6. Barb Cook says:

    I read this while sitting next to my husband’s hospital bed after he was involved in a freak accident. As a journalist I have been anxious to write about it but because of pending litigation I have to restrain myself. However, I am taking copious notes and lots of photos so when the time comes, I’ll be ready!

    Thank you for posting this!

    • Hi Barb
      I am sorry for you and your husband and your suffering through his feak accident. That must be difficult. I hope my tips help you write a story that will change lives. Please let me know when you have written it so you could share it here. (If you choose to.)
      I wish you the best and will pray for your hubby’s recovery.
      Best to you.

  7. Good stuff, thanks. Will I see you at ACFW?
    Hope so, blessings.

    • Hi Dee!
      No, I won’t be going to the ACFW this year. You must be going. Have a great time!
      I hope to go next year as it’ll be in Indy again–which is a few hours from where I live.
      Please let me know how it goes for you. I’ll be anxious to know if you sell anything.
      Are you finished with the story you subbed to the GENESIS? (The one I read and loved?)
      Thanks for stopping by to comment.

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