Tag Archives: writing exercises

Been There, Done That

The Prompt:

Today, page 48 of Room to Write asks us to write 101 places we’ve been or 101 ways to dance. The goal is to list them as quickly as possible, ideally within 15 minutes. I’m choosing to run with Places I’ve Been:

Response:

1 London
2 York
3 Edinburgh
4 Inverness
5 Bath
6 Dover
7 Calais
8 Paris
9 Nice
10 Cannes
11 Monaco
12 Vernazza
13 Corniglia
14 Riomaggiore
15 Monterosso
16 La Spezia
17 Parma
18 Rome
19 Venice
20 Florence
21 Salzburg
22 Munich
23 Dachau
24 Interlaken
25 Zurich
26 Barcelona
27 Berlin
28 Oberammergau
29 Dusseldorf
30 Amsterdam
31 Stockholm
32 Pula
33 Rimini
34 Budapest
35 Saalbach
36 Vienna
37 Besse
38 Les Deux Alpes
39 L’Alpe d’Huez
40 Geneva
41 Courmayeur
42 Pesaro
43 Anzio
44 Sermoneta
45 Mougins
46 Juan-les-Pins
47 Sevilla
48 Grenada
49 Malaga
50 La Mancha
51 Madrid
52 Southampton
53 Chipping Camden
54 Tywardreath
55 Fowey
56 Falmouth
57 Flushing
58 Devon
59 Woebley
60 Bristol
61 Manchester
62 Wolverhampton
63 Ashby St. Ledgers
64 St. Albans
65 Brighton
66 Canterbury
67 Cambridge
68 Oxford
69 Windsor
70 Portsmouth
71 Isle of Wight
72 Lewes
73 South Downs
74 Greenwich
75 Blackheath
76 Bibury
77 Stratford-upon-Avon
78 Chawton
79 Chicago
80 Disneyworld!
81 LA
82 San Simeon
83 Monterey
84 San Francisco
85 Carmel
86 Paso Robles
87 San Luis Obispo
88 Los Osos
89 Santa Barbara
90 Tamarindo
91 Buenos Aires
92 Torres del Paine
93 El Calafate
94 Rotorua
95 Queenstown
96 Auckland
97 Christchurch
98 Marrakech
99 Istanbul
100 Mumbai
101 Delhi

Reflection:

Wish I could say I got this one in under the wire, but it took me closer to 20 minutes–mostly because I kept checking Google Maps to verify spellings or remember names of places caught in my head–in which case, I should’ve just powered through with a description or best-guess spelling (as I’m sure I still managed to botch plenty!). I clearly ran with cities, as that seemed the easiest way to start out and made for some fun (albeit quick) reminiscing about past travels.

The point of the exercise is to stretch ourselves into our well of memory. Just when we feel frustrated because we can’t find inspiration from either imagination or experience, an activity like this can remind us of all we truly have to draw upon. Maybe it’ll dislodge an idea for a story setting. Maybe it’s an experience you had, or people you met, in that location that can figure into the plot or characters, or simply lend rich description for visualization and texture.

Who knows, but by the end, I actually felt disappointed that I’d already hit 101. I feel like I “wasted” spaces on places I’ve might’ve just made a train connection, not leaving room for more of those where I had proper experiences–but that’s how free association of thought works, I guess! When I delved into my memory well, I suddenly relived the sequence of certain travels, connections and all (which is some of the logistical nitty-gritty that could figure into stories, to add a layer of reality). I barely scratched the surface of my home country and state, for cryin’ out loud! ūüôā

Here’s my actual travel map:

Screenshot 2016-03-08 19.26.29

Actually, it would be fun to try this sometime and only focus in and around my hometown so that I’d have to branch out beyond cities and list things like schools and grocery stores and playgrounds. Or try the “Ways to Dance” option as a more imaginative exercise, as I figure at some point you just have to start making up moves. Um, which sounds amazing.

Well then, I’ve made my journey round the world in 20 minutes. Tag, you’re IT!

 


NaNoWriMonkey 2014

Hellooooo! And brrrrrrrrrr! The season has officially shifted—the temps are dropping, the days darkening, and lattes everywhere are getting infused with pumpkin spice whether they like it or not. I can smell Halloween in the air, and the day after that will be…National Novel Writing Month!

Now, I won’t pretend that I’m the most consistent, most winningest NaNoWriMo participant out there, but this year especially, I have a lot to be grateful to this event for. Those who’ve followed me awhile might recall my virgin yet Herculean (if I may say so myself) NaNoWriMo effort in 2011, when I first started in the middle of the month and still met my 50,000 words! The craziest thing about what I churned out over those couple of weeks is that I salvaged most of it as not pure and utter crap—I don’t credit my command of the craft for that so much as the OUTLINE I had going into it. I wasn’t writing purely off the top of my head but with specific plot points in mind for Manuscript #2, which gave me the destination to aim for even if the path I took was allowed to roam (which is really when the magic happens, I think…when you let go and just immerse and write, which leads to tapping into your storyworld so directly you almost feel like you’re just transcribing what already exists, not something you’re creating—see my NaNoWriMo follow-up post for more reflections on that experience).

In any case, what I salvaged from NaNo 2011’s 50,000 words can now be found in the novel that was published this year. So needless to say, I bow down to NaNoWriMo as a worthwhile endeavor no matter how ready or not you are. I’ve been itching to get back in the game ever since and attempted to last year, but I couldn’t knock my editing hat off to wear my writing one for long enough. And, granted, I wasn’t prepared with another WIP outline at that point; in lieu of that, I was going to try my hand at an anthology for all the miscellaneous paranormal ideas I have floating around. I did manage to write almost 8,000 words for¬†one of those stories, which was in response to a call for submissions that had opened at the time. The publisher was looking for urban legend retellings, so I cranked out¬†Bloody Hell, Mary!¬† It wasn’t accepted and certainly not the best I could do, but I appreciate the practice it gave me as I try to warm up my writing muscles for Manuscript #3…

…which is my NaNoWriMo goal for 2014. I still need to shape my next novel idea into an outline, but I’ve written a crapload of notes and wrote my first chapter yesterday. If I can start to find my groove over the course of October, I’m hoping November will be the month when Manuscript #3 gets officially underway.

And as for dear, sweet Manuscript #1…it’s hangin’ in there. I’ve revamped its opening chapters quite a bit and would like to tighten its second half around a more cohesive story arc. We’ll see. I know she isn’t going anywhere–which is both a relief and just what I’m afraid of. ūüôā

All right, gang, so who’s with me? Who’s planning to get NaNoed this year? Write on!


NaNoWriMonkey – Follow-up Reflections (Finally!)

Just over a month of recovery has transpired since my NaNoWriMo burnout. Like a Roman candle, the concentrated spew of writing was glorious, dazzling my eyes with a populated computer screen after a long stretch of spark-less procrastination. And then November ended and fffffzzztt. So did the writing. For the most part. Just like legs need a rest after a marathon, I needed to retrieve my eyeballs and fingers from where they’d fallen off onto the keyboard and step away from that project for a bit.

In the meantime, I’ve been tweaking my first manuscript and rewriting query letters over and over again to get ready for a much-delayed round of submission. I also headed Stateside for another two weeks for Christmas, which was crazy-busy but magical, just like the Disney trip before that. ūüôā Anyway, I’d promised to follow up on my NaNoWriMo experience, so let’s get on with it.

Writing 50,000 words in one month is a concept that makes folks wary, and understandably—for years I assumed it could only generate pure and utter crap; good writing is not to be rushed. But now having gone through it, there’s no question it was a useful exercise that I highly recommend, and here are some reasons why:

1. NaNoWriMo was like a writing enema. I’d been stopped up for a while in that respect, sitting on a story outline I’d completed in spring only to sputter out one chapter in summer and jack until November. It was shit-or-get-off-the-pot time, and NaNoWriMo was precisely the initiative I needed. So, to run with my disgusting metaphor, even if a lot of my massive brain-dump was crap, it was purifying to get it out of me. I did have an outline to keep me focused, but I think if you’re still in novel-brainstorming mode, it’s a perfect way to write your way into a storyline to run with beyond NaNoWriMo.

2. NaNoWriMo gave me discipline. For as much as I’ve preached on this blog that writing is a discipline, I still tend to fall in with the “I write when I feel like it” crowd. It’s incredibly difficult for me to establish routine in my writing, so having that NaNoWriMo goal was such a motivating force. Not only did my profile stats continually calculate how many words I had to average per day based on my actual pace, but punching in my new word counts and watching those bars climb on the chart was immensely satisfying. It pushed me each day to stick to a daily word goal and punch out a few more sentences just when I thought I had no words left in me. Contrary to such doubt, there’s always more waiting in the folds of our grey matter.

3. NaNoWriMo pushed me out of my comfort zone. There’s obviously no hard-and-fast “right” way to write. Some writers vomit out their stories first and revise later, and others revise as they write. I trend toward the latter category. It has merit, but I found it worthwhile to try a new approach, and the result broke some bad habits I’d naturally fallen into. One of the major flaws of my first manuscript was that its early drafts were overwritten. I pored way too much over every word and sentence and stopped writing new material in favor of revising finished chapters to death first. The writing needed to relax, and, what’s more, I hadn’t mapped out that entire story yet. To so painstakingly revise early chapters when I still had no idea where the later chapters were going was just stupid. It was only when I’d finished drafting the entire story that I realized what needed to change at the beginning to improve consistency. So, not only did I outline my second manuscript beforehand this time around, but NaNoWriMo forced me to keep driving this story forward and not complicate phrasing through over-thinking it—there simply wasn’t the time to. It’s not as though I had no opportunity for some thoughtful wordsmithing, logically thinking through plotting, or researching to enrich descriptive detail and authenticity. I simply mean that, overall, I had to write more off-the-cuff and to-the-point than I’m used to, a risk my writing in particular really needed to take.

4. NaNoWriMo powerfully immersed me in my storyworld. Curling up with a single story for so many hours of the day every day was the deepest sea-diving into my imagination I’d ever done. I was truly married to my characters, setting, and situations at that point; the level of commitment was tremendous when I promised to come back to them every day, and the short gaps between bouts of writing ensured I never really loved ’em and left ’em. It’s essential to at some point step away from a story and come back to it with fresher eyes (as I’m doing right now), but the benefits of sticking with it for better or worse in November included seeing my storyworld more vividly and improving its continuity—I remembered details more clearly and strung them together more efficiently since they were written only a matter of hours/days apart from each other.

5. NaNoWriMo was P90X for my brain. In view of all the aforementioned, my mind clearly got warmed up and broke a sweat trying to keep pace with my required daily average word count (~2,700/day thanks to my late start). The mind is a muscle, after all, and it needs to be flexed in order to grow. Pushing yourself to go as far as you can one day will strengthen you to do the same if not more the next. And haven’t you found that the more you exercise, the more you want to? In the same way, NaNoWriMo energized me to the point where I wasn’t writing because I had to. I wanted to. I honestly woke up every morning excited to get back to my computer to research and write.

Granted, there’s no way I could’ve sustained the intensity of NaNoWriMo beyond that month, but I do think the lessons it taught can be applied in realistic doses going forward on my project. I went into it with 10,000 words, came out with 60,000, and estimate I have about 15,000-20,000 more words to go until my first draft is finished. There’s no question I’ll have to revise the hell out of it, but I definitely don’t discount the earnest progress I initially made on it in a very, very concentrated amount of time—I think (*hope*) going into NaNoWriMo with an advance, focused vision of my story optimized how many of those 50,000 words actually have a shot at remaining in the final draft…the major ideas at the very least.¬† I tried my best to work smarter, not harder, so we’ll see one day what I have to show for it. ūüôā


Oh, Okay Fine. May as Well.

It seems inevitable that part of the aspiring author’s procrastination from writing consists of farting around with mocking up potential cover art. I suppose I might¬†have sort¬†of maybe¬†done this myself before…in which case, oh, okay fine. May as well share with ya.

I came up with two possibilities for my first ms. No, I’m not sharing my title yet (too irrationally afraid to), and, yes, I’ve used stock images with watermarks still on them (too cheap to pay for them). Whatever. Do you like them or not? Sorry, that came out more antagonistic than I’d intended. And I’m also sorry that I for whatever reason didn’t keep a file that would’ve allowed me to just delete (versus hideously black out) the title in the 2nd image. So just to be clear, my title is not “Graphic Leftovers.” ūüėČ

  РOR Р 

Have you ever done this, too? I’d love to see ’em!


WordPress Picked My Fleas – 2010 in Review

The stats helper monkeys [FaMo’s Note: I swear this is their phrasing, not mine…as much as I love any chance to exploit my theme] at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter‚ĄĘ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 4,500 times in 2010. That’s about 11 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 86 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 102 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 20mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was August 6th with 101 views. The most popular post that day was The FaMo Awards.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were blogcatalog.com, twitter.com, milo-inmediasres.com, WordPress Dashboard, and nickielson.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for the fallen monkey, fallen monkey, back to the future polish, cluedo, and cluedo board.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

The FaMo Awards August 2010
19 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com,

2

Monkey with a Mission January 2010

3

Human Persona May 2010
2 comments

4

The Shotgun-Shack Story: Nowhere to Hide August 2010
21 comments and 2 Likes on WordPress.com

5

If Truth Be Told… August 2010
22 comments and 3 Likes on WordPress.com

[FaMo’s Note: Well, guess I’m glad I used that Clue board photo in my “The Kitchen Culprits” post to get those Google referrals ūüôā. Am also amused that people have directly searched for me, unless I’m intercepting visitors for another fallen monkey out there…that poor, forlorn creature laying in the grasses somewhere for someone to see it has fallen, while instead they read my nonsense…At any rate, cheers to Milo and Nicki as well for the referrals! I had a hell of a fun year picking the grey-matter lint from the folds of my brain and piling it up here and look forward to more in 2011! Thank you, dear readers, for stopping by my tree.]


Swinging Into the Christmas Tree…

I’m going to be swinging from a looong vine tomorrow that’ll land me in arctic Chicago. My visits home are always filled with monkey business, but I’m hoping to still curl up at my parents’ labor-of-love dial-up internet connection and play with some writing prompts like I’ve wanted to for a while—very excited to generate new material of any sort after the long process of revising the same work.

No updates on that project in the meantime. I’ve submitted to two independent publishers so far, one in the US and one in the UK, so that I can go into the next two weeks of festivities with some semblance of peace of mind that’ll enable me to just play for while. On my return, I’ve got two US literary agents on my list to query as soon as their holiday hiatuses lift. And then, *gulp*, I’m going to attempt the challenge that brave Mister Milo has set out for aspiring writers: Write 1 Sub 1, for which we write one story and submit one story every week of the year! (I believe he and his partners-in-crime are offering a monthly variation, however, of which I think I’m going to take advantage). Microfiction counts, so I’m excited to monkey around with that again.

All this said, I’m pooped…and I haven’t even flung any yet today. Time to climb my tree and rest up for the big swing tomorrow morning—I love this time of year when I get to live in a Christmas tree, though I always get in trouble for eating and/or throwing the ornaments.

Happy Holidays, my lovelies!


From Sentiments to Sentences – Part II


Hiya! ¬†I’m back from where I left off yesterday. Hopefully I didn’t leave anyone in a great deal of suspense, as this post will only reek of anticlimax :).

What I was about to continue yammering on about last night, at any rate, was that sentimentality is not the only way my past informs my writing. ¬†To start, yes, I’ve had a lovely life—I’d be an ungrateful twit not to acknowledge that and count my blessings every day (I know, la-dee-frickin’-da, right?)—yet to be honest it concerned me this would hurt my writing, make it too naive, idealized, and anything otherwise be too two-dimensional and clich√©. ¬†And that’s a very valid concern…

I couldn’t help but peek ahead in my very-neglected¬†Room to Write book, where on page 90 Bonni Goldberg says:

“Where we come from influences both what we write and how we write. […] This is why six people can describe the same tree differently. Each person sees it through a unique set of experiences.”

And then she warns that:

“Clich√©¬†seeps into writing when writers forget or neglect to bring who they are into the piece.”

This reinforces what eventually got me over the above concern. ¬†Everyone’s life brings something to the writing desk, and maybe some of things I don’t understand first-hand consequently don’t have a place in my writing. Maybe this, then, helps me narrow down my focus, find my creative niche where what I do know can be optimized. ¬†OR maybe what I don’t know presents that extra intellectual-emotional challenge that could be enriching to explore further through research and imagination, as when a method actor immerses into a new role. ¬†In that way, I don’t have to be so pigeon-holed after all.

Then there is the simple fact that, despite general trend, my life of course hasn’t been entirely rosy! I know pain, heartache, depression, and have sharpened my teeth around anger and resentment pretty well in my day…I may idealize the past out of sentimentality, but I’ve also brought in the darker emotions from the tougher experiences I’ve had—case in point being the “writing-as-therapy” I mentioned yesterday. As a result, my protagonist shared in my own downturn, and in a way we worked through it together. ¬†Then, when I succeeded in pulling out of mine, I could outstretch my hand to lift her out of hers.

I’m not going to do the writing prompt today, but the exercise on that above-mentioned page from¬†Room to Write asks us to write about our origins, beginning with, “I come from.” In doing so, we’re to also consider the sensory details coinciding with our memories that, by virtue of experiencing them, have impacted who we are.

Now, to put my teacher-cap back on briefly, I can’t help but recall from this a poem I had to teach my sophomores during a unit on discovering our cultural identities and identifying how they shape our individual frames of reference:

Where I’m From, by George Ella Lyon

I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch.
(Black, glistening,
it tasted like beets.)
I am from the forsythia bush
the Dutch elm
whose long-gone limbs I remember
as if they were my own.

I’m from fudge and eyeglasses,
from Imogene and Alafair.
I’m from the know-it-alls
and the pass-it-ons,
from Perk up! and Pipe down!
I’m from He restoreth my soul
with a cottonball lamb
and ten verses I can say myself.

I’m from Artemus and Billie’s Branch,
fried corn and strong coffee.
From the finger my grandfather lost
to the auger,
the eye my father shut to keep his sight.

Under my bed was a dress box
spilling old pictures,
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
I am from those moments–
snapped before I budded —
leaf-fall from the family tree.

In ‚ÄúAn Interview with George Ella Lyon,” the poet says:

‚ÄúIf I weren‚Äôt from Appalachia (or from my family and my genetic expression and my experience — I don‚Äôt know how to separate these), my writing — and I —¬† might be bolder.¬† I might live in New York or L.A. and push it more. As it is, I‚Äôve chosen to stay close to home and to be somewhat restricted in what I‚Äôve written and/or published.¬† I anguish a lot about hurting or betraying family members‚ĶOn the other hand, if I weren‚Äôt from Appalachia, my work might not have the same support of noncompetitive colleagues, of a community of memory, and of strong voices from my childhood that still speak in my head.¬† Certainly it wouldn‚Äôt have its roots in the rocky creeks and high horizons, the enfolding spirit of trees that I call home.‚ÄĚ

Though kids inevitably groaned over reading and writing poetry, I always loved this activity because they’d surprise themselves—by recalling and isolating the simplest of images, smells, sounds, tastes, and textures, they’d craft their own “Where I’m From” poems that offered profound insight into who they were, and I think in the end they were proud, learning that if they seized the power to really know themselves, they could harness the power to write.

Such a simple exercise here, yet so dense as we draw out the good along with all the bad to build the organs and flesh around the skeletons of our characters and infuse them with blood and soul.

And YOU, my dears? How does your sense of self inform your writing?


The Fear Factor


The Prompt:

I love how Bonni Goldberg relates writing to medicine when it comes to protecting us against our fears:

“You take small doses of your fears in combination with written words and they create a kind of antibody: a cathartic human experience that authenticates your strength and fragility.”

Page 42 of Room to Write, then, asks us to write a list of our fears and describe one in more specific detail.

Response:

Some things I fear:

– geese

– clowns

– confined spaces

– death (mine, but mostly loved ones)

– being in any way “too late” for anything by the time I move back home

– losing my sight or hearing

– the debilitating effects of aging

– having children

– lack of purpose

– never finishing my book

– rejection

– regret

Okay, I think that’ll do.¬† Now, to pick just one…it’s tempting to go the route of writing-related fears, but I think I devote enough of this blog to that!¬† How about the “too late” factor, as I feel it’s one needing more explaining:

The fact that my aging parents continue to age in my absence while living abroad positively terrifies me.¬† I know many will find that irrational and say that I have to live my own life, but I will never, never forgive myself if something happens to either of them while I am an ocean away.¬† Just writing this right now is bringing me to tears.¬† It is something I really, truly cannot stand to fathom.¬† And I don’t want to miss out on my nieces’ and nephews’ milestones, nor do I want the littlest ones to not know their Auntie.¬† I am not the person who realizes what they have only when it is “too late”; I’m the person who has always known perhaps too clearly, which is why I would have never left in the first place if it were only up to me.¬† I don’t think of it as something holding me back; being with my family is actually part and parcel of my life’s ambitions, so anyone who thinks I should feel otherwise can suck it ūüôā

My own aging has started to frighten me as well.¬† I don’t consider myself to be old, but my husband and I have agreed to wait until we return home to our support network before starting a family, at which time I will most definitely be at the infamous cut-off age that younger mommies love to throw out there as the danger zone of higher risks and mandatory tests.¬† Gee, thanks for making me feel geriatric.¬† Sorry my last decade has been pleasurable and focused on my needs and catering to my own identity before I give it over so fully to a little person of my making.¬† I genuinely hope I didn’t just offend any mothers reading this—I think parenting is the most noble occupation for one to assume, but it’s not my fault that I didn’t get married until after my friends were already popping out kids and that other life changes have thrown me for a loop such that there’s a lot I need to get sorted before I feel I could do a remotely good job of it myself.¬† So I’ll put off applying for that particular position a bit longer; yes, I know, at my own risk.¬† *eyes rolling*

Returning to find that my old job (for which I was only 1 year away from getting tenure) is not remotely available to me anymore is scary. ¬†I moved the very week that the economy tanked, and what I’d considered a recession-proof job has still managed many layoffs since then, and some departments have frozen their hiring. ¬†Barring that, even if I can vie for a position, perhaps I’ll be judged negatively for my time away from teaching;¬†the powers that be may frown upon my rationale, not find value in how I’ve chosen to apply myself since then.¬† Even worse, what if I fear teaching itself?¬† After such a long hiatus, I’m no longer riding the momentum of consecutive years ramping up in the profession. ¬†The flexibility (and sleeping in!) of my present days will be lost, and never doubt the intimidation of staring down 125+ teenagers a day and, even worse, their parents who will too quickly point the finger at you for the consequences of their own lack of parenting at home.¬† Then again, if I end up not having kids of my own, teaching is a great way to play surrogate.

I think what is overall frightening me is the realization that my life at home did not simply freeze once I took off on that plane, preserved in its tableau of near-perfection while I have my fun and then return to reinsert myself seamlessly back into it.¬† I will not be entirely the same person either, after all; current experiences are carving me from a square to an octagon-shaped peg.¬† So I fear the transition that will be repatriation, after expatriation was already so difficult.¬† I fear feeling out of place in my own home and possibly acknowledging a discontent that wouldn’t have otherwise been there.

But, you know, so be it.¬† Rejoining my family, starting a family, returning to teaching…I cannot think of three things more worth facing that fear.

Reflection:

First of all, allow me to apologize.¬† Addressing personal fear just automatically lends itself to a whiny rambling of self-pity, so thank you for bearing with me through it if you’ve made it this far ūüôā¬† I don’t think this activity has brought out any special writing, per se…the fears are plain, so embellishment didn’t come naturally—the way I wrote it is not creative or revelatory.¬† It didn’t make me realize anything new about myself.

Maybe selecting a different fear or writing in another frame of mind would have made all the difference, but the one thing I can take away from this exercise is the fact that Goldberg was right!¬† When I started writing about this, as I said, it made me cry—it thrust me into my fear and made me tremble in the face of it.¬† And yet the more I wrote, the easier it was to pull out of this vulnerable state; putting it in writing made it very plain to see that, while my fears may be justified, they really aren’t as big of a deal as I sometimes let them be.¬† The more I wrote, the more my heart quieted and the more my mind said, “Poor you with the wonderful family and profession and wonderful period of creative flexibility and travel that you have in-between. ¬†To have had it as long as you did is a gift, and you still might get your cake back to eat it too—or even be okay if you don’t. ¬†So in the meantime, buck up.¬† Deal.”

In short, facing my fears was embracing my blessings.

And you, brave readers of mine?  What are you so afraid of? And how might your fears impact your writing?


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 ūüôā

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.

Response:

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.

Reflection:

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 ūüôā

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?


Same Difference

The Prompt:

Page 39 of Room to Write asks us to draw at least 25 comparisons between 2 different things: ¬†something that’s around you right now, and something else that’s either an object, person, or concept.

I’m going to compare the old Victorian church outside my window to marriage ūüėČ

Response:

1.  Soulful, can inspire

2.  Houses both joy and grief

3.  Immense, sometimes imposing

4.  Intricately constructed; always something new to see from a different angle

5. ¬†What appears outside is not always indicative of/relevant to what’s occurring inside

6.  Wears with time

7.  Built one brick at a time

8.  Requires faith and commitment

9.  Can be alive with song and community

10. Is empty when neglected, hollow and echoey

11. Fundamentally the same structure throughout time, yet must adapt the way it operates to change

12.  Needs to be scheduled into a busy life

13.  The lushness surrounding it periodically gets chopped away, but does grow back, and more lushly for it

14.  Is a vessel of new life, on varying levels

15.  You get out of it what you put into it

16.  Can house hypocrisy

17. ¬†Can’t please everyone all of the time

18.  Needs constant maintenance

19.  Provides sanctuary

20.  Provides education

21. ¬†Requires attentiveness—not just hearing, but listening

22.  Requires reciprocal communication

23.  Requires an open heart and mind

24.  Cannot operate without thankless hard work

25.  Comes around collecting, making you pay now and then

Reflection:

These were the first 25 things to come to mind, and I’m sure that some of them are redundant with each other—I found it getting really hard by around 18 or so! ¬†A very fun and brain-flexing activity, though, when trying to assess all that is similar between things otherwise so dissimilar to one another. ¬†Writing involves an abundance of comparisons, after all, as such devices as metaphor and simile help us communicate more vividly and stylistically, drawing parallels within the universe to illustrate the connectedness of all things.


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