All You Have to Do is Write

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Writing, at heart, is simple.

All you have to do is put pen to paper, one word at a time. As Margaret Atwood says, “A word after a word after a word is power.”

And yet, we make it hard. We resist that power. We make judgements about ourselves and our pages. Which, of course, just makes it harder.

I’m pondering all this because I’m taking a class called The Devoted Writer from Cynthia Morris. The heart of the class is free writing for 15 minutes every day. She provides a prompt, and we write to it. Simple, right?

Well, yeah, it is, actually. There’s a lot of great supporting information about free writing and mind mapping in the class (I’m only two days in, so I’m excited to see what else she covers) but the heart of the class is, I repeat, free writing for 15 minutes a day.

I know free writing. You know free writing. You set a timer and move your hand across the page without stopping, no matter what. If you get stuck instead of stopping and staring off into space you keep writing. No matter what.

I’ve used free writing a lot for brainstorming and idea generating, warm-ups, stuff like that. But I’ve never used it for my “real” writing–when I’m working on a novel or a blog post (like right now). Because, you know, those things are real writing. Serious. Important. Too serious and important for silly ole free writing.

But here’s what Cynthia Says about free writing:

“This is the method to write anything, anytime, for any purpose. And, this practice powerfully, yet simply sets aside the inner critic to bring you into a writualistic space.”

(She adds a “w” to the word ritual, to make it writual, which I love.)

When I started the class, it was with the intention to do the free writing exercises to help loosen me up, nab ideas, all the usual suspects. I had no intention of using it for anything else. But Cynthia’s enthusiasm is contagious and so I’ve been experimenting with it.  I gotta tell you, it is pretty magical.

I’ve always been a proponent of fast writing–or at least the idea of it. But it is too easy for me to fall into the rut of fast writing for a few minutes and then taking a break.  Because there’s fast writing and free writing.  With free writing, you are committed to keep going until the timer goes off. With fast writing, you can stop yourself any time. But applying the guidelines of free writing to any kind of writing project is really quite liberating. And efficient. My God, with concentrated bursts you can get a hell of a lot of writing done.

You need a prompt to free write and there are tons all over the internet. You can also make up your own–which is especially helpful for when you are engaged in a novel or story. (This morning I needed insight into a character’s issue. I started with the prompt, Amos has a problem.)

So go try it right now, even if you’ve tried it before and think it is stupid, or only for journal writers, or whatever. The key is to keep your hand moving across the page or fingers clattering across the typewriter.  If you get stuck, I find a useful phrase is “and then.” Just write that over and over again until you get back on track. And remember, go with what comes out. Your words don’t have to relate to the prompt at all. It is just a starting point. Start with 15 minutes and then experiment. For writing chapters or scenes, maybe 20 or 25 minutes might work better for you. The key is to keep your fingers move across the keyboard, or the pen moving across the page. Do not stop! I cannot stress that enough.

And please do try it on whatever project you’ve got going. I used it for this blog post. Nailed it in one session–though of course I did need to go back and edit. Because, of course.

Let me know how it is working for you or if you have any questions in the comments. They’ve been wonky in the past but seem to be okay now. One note: you do need to click on the individual page of the post in order to comment.

Thanks for reading!

How About Some Writing Prompts?

Many moons ago, I used to offer a ton of writing prompts. I wrote a tumblr blog called Inventive Writing Prompts (nobody ever said I was good at names, oh and I just checked and it is long gone). I’ve written a writing prompts book (please go look at it because nobody else ever does). And, if memory serves, I had a writing prompt Saturday feature for a couple of years. Gah! How did I ever keep up with that?

But, in my newsletter this week (you can sign up to the right if you’d like to get it–it’s a love letter about all the aspects of writing) I had a moment of panic when I thought nobody was reading what I was writing. That turned out not to be true, thank you all my lovely readers. And in that same newsletter I asked for suggestions. One lovely person suggested writing prompts. Duh! The light bulb went off in my head–I used to do writing prompts in my newsletter, too. I’m not going to do them there, but I am going to try to do a writing prompt post here fairly often (that’s me refusing to commit to a regular schedule in case you hadn’t guessed).

So, herewith, some writing prompts:

“What on earth happened to you?” he said to his wife.

If only it hadn’t rained, none of this would have happened.

Don’t ever say that to me again.

Write about the first time you got kissed–a real kiss.

Last night.

Wait, what?

Let’s try this again.

They sat in the charming bistro, arguing.

Write about something you (or your character) will never do again.

Your (or your character’s) favorite place in the whole world.

Okay, there you have them! Ten writing prompts to get those words out onto the page. If you feel like it, share the results in a comment. Or share: do you like writing prompts or hate them?

Because I Know You Love Them: September Writing Prompts #4

And here you have them: the last set of writing prompts for September.  Hope you’ve enjoyed them, and stay tuned for news of the release of a writing journal of prompts soon!

–Not in this lifetime.

–If ever I should leave you….

–What are the parameters of your main character’s world? Is he an international traveler, or someone who has always stayed close to home?

–Whatever. Just don’t expect any help from me.

–When was the last time you got to say, I told you so?

–They ate pie for breakfast, brownies for lunch and cake for dinner.

–I love staying in hotels so much that I think I was raised in one in a previous life. How about you? Do you have any feelings about how you lived in a previous life?

Enjoy!

Of Course You Can Do It: September Writing Prompts #3

September is Writing Prompt Month! Actually, I have no idea if that’s true, but it sounds good, doesn’t it? Here are your prompts for the week:

–What a fool he was. Yet still she was in love with him.

–Rise and Shine! Bright, shiny new day!

–Oh God, do I have to?

–They argued all day and all night and then got up the next morning and argued some more. What are they arguing about and why? Figure that out and then write a scene.

–He had the most unlikely business idea. And yet, it was brilliant.

–What is scarier: clowns or mimes?

–And when it is all over, at last I’ll be able to….

Okay, go to it! And have fun.

No Excuses: September Writing Prompts #2

I’m in a prompt kind of mood (or at least I was when I wrote this post, before I left for France) because later on this fall I’ll be coming out, with a wonderful co-author, with a writing prompt journal that you will be able to hold in your very own hands! Exciting, no? But in the meantime, because its Monday and you need to write this week, here’s a week’s worth of prompts for you. Go to it.

–He never knew that his aunt had turned into a hoarder, but now he edged along a narrow path that skirted the huge pile of junk in the living room.

–It will all be over soon.

–I don’t like you, but I love you. Seems like I’m always thinking of you. (With thanks to the Beatles.)

–The pile of notebooks threatened to topple over at any second.

–But, after all….

–You main character’s favorite way to spend her free time.  Drinking wine, pursuing a hobby, watching TV, having sex, hiking, reading, what?

–My neighbors collect gnomes and have them all around their yard. Sometimes they find new ones that friends have left in odd places. What do you collect and why? How about your main character?

Okay, you’ve got your marching orders for the week. Go to it! And if you write something you want to share, put it in the comments!

To Keep You Busy While I’m Gone: September Writing Prompts #1

pencil_notebook_writing_237689_lJust in case you were thinking, while the cat’s away, the mice will play, no such luck.  To give you something to do other than sit around and sob about my absence, I’ve decided to set up writing prompt posts for every Monday in September, with seven posts for you. One for each day.

You know the drill. Set a timer for 10-20 minutes, and write without stopping. Use the prompts as a warm-up tool, or to inspire you, or when you are blocked. Okay? Here goes:

–Pink, yellow, purple, brown. Mary shook her head as she sorted the yarn her mother had chosen.  She’d suspected it for a long time, but now she was certain: her mother had to be color blind.

–The road trip was tedious, especially when they got stuck in traffic for 30 minutes and Kevin started telling her to be patient.

–The small child turned the item over and over in her hands, then looked at the person who had handed it to her. “It’s called a watch. You tell time with it.  People used to wear them all the time.”

–A group of brightly colored hot-air balloons sailed over head. She was so delighted with them, she ran through the fields, chasing them.

–He was a mean, ugly person with a twisted sense of humor. Yet still she loved him.

–Down the rain fell, harder and harder.

–If there was one thing your main character could change about the place she lives, what would it be?

Okay, have fun. Look for a guest post coming up soon. And look for another edition of prompts next Monday, September 12th.  Oh, and here’s a little teaser–there just may be something in the way of a prompts journal coming up later on this fall!

Happy writing!

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #55

It is Saturday! Time for my weekly prompt round-up, with prompts taken from my Tumblr blog.  Pay special attention to this one, because I'm taking a brief hiatus from these posts for the duration of my time in Europe.  But there's almost 400 prompts on the Tumblr blog, so head over there if you need a hit of writing inspiration.

#386 Does your character like to dress up?  Do you?

#387  What is the one thing your character will not tolerate, the thing that is a deal-breaker for her or him?

#388  Try something new.

#389  When the smoke cleared, what they saw was…..

#389 When I was a teenager, my best friend told me of her habit of fantasizing elaborate scenarios wherein she was stuck in a cabin in a blizzard with a dashing man.  We started calling our daydreaming bouts “blizzardizing.” Does your main character blizzardize?  What about?

(Yes, I know there are two #389s.  Its because I like that number so much.  Not because I'm a dork who can't count.  Really.)

#390 When he looked outside, all he saw was a sea of _______________________.

#391  Use the word cheese, red car, and curtain in a sentence. Now use that sentence as a prompt.

#392  Wishing and praying doesn’t make it so, but ___________________ does.

#393  And then they came to the end….or was it?

Happy writing, everyone!  

 

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #54

Ah summertime….I've been on vacation, I've been slacking…no scratch that last one, I have not been slacking since I got home.  There's much to do to catch up from vacation and get ready to be out of the country for three weeks.  Awk! The thought of it makes my heart pound–in a good way and a bad way. Anyway, all this is by way of saying that this week on my Tumblr blog, I missed a few days.  Blame it on brain overload, but I thought I had a bunch of prompts scheduled to run and then I came home and realized I didn't.  Alas.  But I did publish two prompts on one day to make up for it!  So here you go:

#376  The look on her face said it all.

#377 There was nothing she could do but quit worrying about it.

#378  Write about what happens when your main character travels.  Is she intrepid, an adventurer? Or does he hate leaving home, needing everything to be just as he likes it?

#379  How does your main character want others to see her? How does she see herself? Are the answers to these two questions the same? If not, explore the rich space in between.

#380  What is your very first memory?  What is your main character’s?

 So, yeah, a bit sparser than usual.  But there should be enough to keep you going for a little while. How is your writing proceeding? 

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #53

Here is the latest collection of prompts from my Tumblr blog, minus one because I, um, forgot.

#363  Write about how your character reacts in an emergency.  Cool and composed, the one everyone else can count on? Or the opposite?

#364  Use the words sunlight, sailing ship, and stained glass in a sentence.  Now use that sentence as a prompt.

#365  What a difference a year makes! It had been a year since ________________.  She found that hard to believe, because ________________.

#366  Here’s to beginning again….

What has your main character had to start over and how many times? 

#367  The noise! The smell! The glare! It was worse than he thought…

#368  Write about a time your main character recovered from something–an illness, a broken limb, an accident, a break-up, a loss.

 How is your writing going? Feel free to share, or share a response to a prompt in the comments!

 

 

Inventive Writing Prompt Round-up #52

Here we go again with our weekly collection of prompts from my daily Tumblr blog.  Enjoy and write a lot, will you please?  It would make me happy.

#357  Use the words umbrella, metal and sunlight in a sentence.  Now use that sentence as a prompt.

#358  He couldn’t understand a word she said.  

#359  Write about your character experiencing a storm.  Is he/she scared or exhilarated?  Eager for it to end or happy to let it rage around her? Does it energize her or tire him?

#360  Who is the love of your main character’s life?

#361  “I’d stay another year if I saw a teardrop in your eye.” Heard it In a Love Song,by the Marshall Tucker band.  Write about what’s going on here.

#362  It was over.  Thank God.  She breathed a huge sigh of relief.  But then….

#363  Oh, the exhilaration of it all!  

There you go! How is your writing going this week?