Chapter One

Discover Your Keyword

To see a world in a grain of sand.
– William Blake

In the 1991 comedy, City Slickers, a trail hardened cowboy named Curly (Jack Palance) shares his philosophy of life with a city slicker named Mitch (Billy Crystal):

Curly: “Do you know what the secret of life is?

Mitch: No. What?

Curly: This.” [Curly holds up one finger.]

Mitch: “Your finger?”

Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean. . . .

Mitch: But, what is the one thing?

Curly: [He smiles.] That’s what you gotta figure out.

Make the discussion about writing and words, and Curly provides us with the first step for writing nonfiction:

Curly: Do you know what the secret of writing is? This. [Curly holds up one finger.]

Mitch: Your finger?

Curly: “One word. Just one word. You stick to that and the rest falls into place.”

Mitch: But, what is the one word?

Curly: [He smiles.] That’s what you have to find out.”

That one word “you have to find out” is called your keyword. Knowing what you want to say, and knowing how to say it, starts with discovering this essential word.

Your keyword is not the same as your subject. Your keyword is the word that unlocks your subject and all of your other words and ideas.

Cover of Words - How To Write Essays, Reports, blogs, presentations, books, proposals, memos, and other nonfiction