On the Borderline

Oh goodie, this is a fun one—a game of sorts for those days when you fear the tap to your creativity has run dry and you just can’t write.  Well, you can.  Given some direction—rules, if you will—you might be surprised when you spring a leak 🙂

The Prompt:

Page 41 of Room to Write asks us to choose one of the following words:  fence, road, boil, or fall.  Then:

1. Write the first words that come to mind when you think of your chosen words.  Write them in a list form until you hit the bottom of the page (or your computer screen…I decided to do 20).

2.  Keeping the list in the exact same order, develop a story in which every line uses one of these words.


He rode the fence on the issue.

Sure, he realized the importance of establishing boundaries,

but was this something to fall under such restriction?

He was already on the border of sanity as it was.

One thing he was never good about was choices,

options that left him speculating which path to take and leaping to cynical conclusions as to what menaced him ahead on each.

In this way, even the gift of choice wound barbed wire round his psyche

and threatened to strangle his pride with the chain-links of fear he entangled himself within.

He never was a man of conviction, willingly crossing picket lines to not rock the boat with authority

and practically tying their strings onto himself as if he were some wooden puppet,

his thoughts and actions the property of someone else, always.

Facing the crossroads that he was now, he tried to envision vast farmland

dotted with livestock and caressed by the open breezes.

In this vision was also a garden; yes, there must be a garden in the back,

serving as the division of pleasure and labor,

where his legal troubles could be checked at the gate and all he would know of the world was a blooming fortress.

He then frowned at the way even his fancies imposed a natural barrier around him,

and wondered if he wouldn’t constantly need something to hold him back—balancing on the precipice of order and chaos as he was—

yes, something that would keep him penned in for his own protection and the safety of the world below.

He struck a match against the brick ledge, the final demarcation he would draw.


Today is definitely one of my days of feeling groggy and uncreative—there’s so much to take care of on all levels of my life, so my preoccupation with it all is almost paralyzing me into doing none of it.  In light of these kinds of days, I really appreciate an activity like this that confines me within a short set of rules; for as much as I think I’m a creative spirit, I’ve always functioned well within parameters.  Maybe that’s why the word “fence” is the one that leapt out at me 🙂

Anyways, if you ever find  yourself in a writing funk, I can promise you this is a good way to shake up your stagnant creative juices; there’s no pressure to how this sort  of piece will turn out, just that you follow the rules and keep on to the end.  Maybe it’ll go straight to the rubbish bin, maybe you’ll actually pull something from it to recycle in another work.  Who knows, but this took me less than 10 minutes, so surely you can afford that little bit of time to see what results.  It also has potential as a good lesson in working with motifs/extended metaphors in following through on a theme.

So, obviously I use these writing prompts to get me going, but I’m curious about YOU.  What is it that gets your brain-blood flowing and inspired to write again during periods of creative dormancy?


About thefallenmonkey

Primate that dapples in writing when not picking others' fleas or flinging its own poop. View all posts by thefallenmonkey

14 responses to “On the Borderline

  • Agatha82

    I seem to recall doing similar exercises when reading some Writing “How To” book that bored me because it had TOO MANY exercises and me, being me, is rather impatient and couldn’t be bothered to do them all. However, I tried a couple and found it quite fun to have to write a story using certain words. Certainly gets the mind going.

    For me, I usually read, or listen to music or go for a walk. I seem to find inspiration externally instead of trying to get it from my own head 🙂

    • thefallenmonkey

      I can definitely see a “How To” book would become quickly dull, when there’s so much to writing that ought to come organically as well.

      I like your sources of inspiration very much! Do you ever feel too trapped in your head sometimes? I definitely do and just want to shake it out and actually live life instead of writing about it sometimes. Perhaps it’s terrible for me to admit, but I think I felt more liberated before I started writing more seriously. I mean, it’s a freeing outlet in so many ways, and I wouldn’t trade it in for anything now, but I remember a time when my mind was not muddled with sorting through characters and plots and feeling guilty for not writing. I think I should take your cue and go for that walk 🙂 It’s all about balance.

      • Agatha82

        It’s funny, writing for me has become an outlet for my frustrations, I feel much calmer now that I am writing because I throw all my emotions into my stories 🙂

        Yeah, one can certainly feel trapped in your own head. Hard to escape certain thoughts and all that and that’s why I go for a walk often. If necessary, I will even run, but that’s only when I am feeling VERY troubled. It seems to help me so give it a try and go for a nice walk 🙂

        • thefallenmonkey

          Thanks, lady, I sure will 🙂 I think it’s wonderful that writing has brought you such peace of mind. I think it’s mainly my self-imposed deadlines of late that are causing me to stress, once I saw it as a project rather than an outlet. At the beginning when I was just dappling, it definitely helped me sort out some raging emotions that were going on and proved very therapeutic.

  • Nick

    Is this one based on anyone one I might know?

  • Milo James Fowler

    Cool exercise!

    For me, reading inspires me to write, as does watching an episode or two of my favorite TV series (no joke!) — sometimes all it takes is a tense scene or a unique turn-of-phrase to send my mind down new creative avenues.

    But you’re right about living life instead of writing about it. BOTH would probably be best. =]

    • thefallenmonkey

      Ooh, good ones! I definitely think reading and watching TV are good ways to jog the ideas—when I catch myself in the middle of enjoying something, I try to determine why it is that I like it so much. After all, aren’t we all aspiring to write something we’d actually like to read? And TV is a great way to do it as it lends the visual quality that is fun to try to replicate in words, and, not to mention, is just a nice way to unwind.

      And agreed that BOTH is best—as they saying goes, writing is our way of tasting life twice 🙂

  • Lua

    Wow- this was no easy prompt! But you did an excellent job and glad it made you feel creative again. I know what you mean by ‘those days’ when you feel like you lost the creative cells of your brain. I take long walks, read a book I love and write character profiles to get me going.

    • thefallenmonkey

      Thanks, girl. It was a fun and very non-time-consuming one, which I liked. This is just a week when I’m feeling super preoccupied – am hosting visitors for 10 days as of tomorrow and just trying to get the place prepped and figure out when the heck I’ll get any writing done. Netbook to the rescue if I need to duck out to a cafe or pub to escape!

      I like your character profile idea. Do you end up planting them in stories soon after, or just accrue a “cast” of them that can each “audition” for stories as they come up in the future? 🙂

      • Lua

        Haha I accrue a “cast” of them that can each “audition” for stories or sometimes I just write short scenes and see how different characters would act in same situations. It’s a fun exercise when I just can’t get inside the story I’m supposed to be writing, so I’d take an hour to create various characters and if I like them too much, they may even get their own short stories 🙂

  • okconfucius6

    I think the best way to work through writers block is to try and write about something different than what you usually cover. IE: I like to experiment with different types of poetry when I’m struggling to write an article on a current event. Switching gears can really help to get them to start turning again on their own. Try it sometime and let me know how it goes!

    • thefallenmonkey

      I certainly will try it, okconfucious6—thanks for the tip! I think you’re right that experimenting with a different form of writing is an effective way to refresh. Thanks for stopping by! I just swung by your blog to give it a quick scan and am already giggling—looking forward to following 🙂

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