Thursday, December 21, 2017

Writing Exercise (For Days of Little Time/ No Muse)

Hey Toads,

Karin Gustafson, a/k/a Manicddaily, here first to say that I am sorry to have been so absent. It has been a difficult year; I have missed you. 

Today's prompt is a writing exercise for those who are stymied in their writing.  It can also work well for those who aren’t blocked, but may like a little stretch.

I first learned a version of the techniques I use in these circumstances from a book called Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.  

When I feel like I would be much happier writing, but just can't come up with anything (am muse-less, as some like to say),  I find my most useful technique is simply to MAKE myself write; i.e. put a pen to the page.

Pen works better than sock.

Of course, one could put fingers on a keyboard as well.  But if I am really stumped, I find the physical act of writing far more approachable than typing. First, I happen to love the physical flow of cursive; secondly, my handwritten words are too illegible to fully leer back. 

Yes, I know--pen and page and even a ton of will power are sometimes just not enough!  Inevitably, you need something to get you going, a jumping-off point. When I am really stuck, a simple theme is often the best-- a word, a color, a food, a season.

In one of the hardest parts of this past year, I ended up writing a series of short pieces that each “jumped” from a letter of the alphabet.  I would take a letter, let a word beginning with that letter come to mind, and then jump off from that word.  My ultimate piece often had little to do with the jumping off word; it was just a useful starting place.  

So that is my suggestion for today.  Take a letter, let a random word beginning with that letter arise in your mind, and then.... follow my other rules below! 

OTHER RULES!  To give the jump momentum, I rely on a couple of other techniques, which I’m calling “rules” today---(i) on your first draft, keep your pen (or typing digits) moving.  (This is incredibly important if you are “making” yourself write.)  

Also on this first draft: do not cross out; do not go back to fix; simply keep your pen (or fingers) moving ahead. 

Keep the flow going for a certain span of time. Five minutes, ten minutes. It will be useful to set the time in advance.  Do not make your time too long--ten minutes max--otherwise you are asking for too much discipline.   

(Ten minutes later.)  Now, you should have your first draft.  Of course, you should feel free to revise it!  You absolutely should revise it!  At this point, you may turn it into a poem, prose poem, short short story, or (if you are not Shay), even boil it down to a haiku.  Your revisions may take hours, with lots of crossings-out. 

Keep in mind that the point of this prompt is really the exercise, not the particular theme.

So, first, remember that your piece does not need to have anything much to do with your letter or that word that came to mine.  These are only jumping-off points.

Second, please try to use the technique to write something new, and do not use the breadth prompt as an excuse to post a pre-fabbed holiday poem.  (Of course, your piece can be about the holidays!)

Having said all that--have a happy holiday!   

(On the personal front, I have recently published another children’s picture book called “Good Light Room” available on Amazon.  This is my third book of the year!  Other two--Doggone! and Does Melanie Like Melon? --please check them out and my other books as well! Thank you so much!  Finally - all art work here is mine--please do not use without asking!)  


hyperCRYPTICal said...

Cheers Karin for an excellent prompt. Have a wonderful holiday!
Anna :o]

Kim M. Russell said...

Nice to see you back, Karin - I missed your pictures, too. Thanks for a fun prompt and have a great Christmas!

brudberg said...

I will write something later today or tomorrow... this is a technique I've used before a few times... and it's usually a great way of getting it down... (and somehow sieve some thoughts into poetry)

Magaly Guerrero said...

I did the alphabet challenge some time back... By the time I reached the last letter, I seriously considered self-eye-gouging. But once in a blue moon is not bad at all. Thanks for the prompt, Karin. :-)

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Cool exercise. Thanks, Karin.

Vivian Zems said...

Lovely,Karin! Welcome back😊. This took me straight to my nemesis - I try to ignore him....but he's always there.

Sanaa Rizvi said...

Loved the prompt, Karin💞 I chose the letter 'H' and ran with it😊

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

Great prompt, thank you, Karin. My poetry-making has been a bit stymied of late and now that I am on holiday I've been trying to resurrect it with 'small stones'. This seems to have done the trick! (And I am a devoted fan of 'Writing Down the Bones', which is both inspirational and practical.)

Greetings of the Season to everyone!

Gillena Cox said...

lovely prompt

much love

Susie Clevenger said...

Hello everyone... I hope all are ready for the upcoming holidays! Thanks for the prompt Karin!

Outlawyer said...

Hi all, sorry to have been late in responding--very busy at work! k.

tonispencer said...

I am not a draft writer nor am I one of those "write" down writers. I keep it in my head until I have revised it internally. But still I enjoy reading about people who do write in notebooks, on paper, and with pens. Thank you for this so interesting prompt! said...

Congrats on your new book! Love your drawings, and mention of Writing DownThe Bones. That is one of the first writing books I have read,
And found it very helpful. Merry!