I am back from Nashville, y'all.
I went there to teach a workshop with my good writing friend Terry Price. We called it From Spark to Story, and planned it to be just that: a journey from gathering inspiration, to getting it onto the page, to shaping it into a story.
It worked brilliantly.
Well, okay, so maybe I exaggerate just a little. But the 17 people who were there (20 signed up but several had last minute snafus) seemed to enjoy it and get a lot out of it. And I know that Terry and I loved teaching it. Here are some of my main take-aways:
–15 minutes a day is all it takes. Both Terry and I came to this separately and planned to present it as a method to find your way back to your writing and, just as important, sustain a writing practice. It resonated deeply with the participants, and many of them tweeted and posted on Facebook on Sunday morning that they'd done their 15 minutes. (We created a hashtag for it if you're so inclined: #15minsday.)
If you were to, starting now, write 15 minutes a day every day you could have a novel written in a year. Really. I'm not kidding. Do the math. And the other thing is that often when you tell yourself all you have to do is 15 minutes, you get so engrossed that you end up writing longer. But that's not even necessary.
–Prompts are good. We worked some with a variety of prompts on Friday night and Saturday morning and our writers found them useful as portals to all kinds of inspiration and epiphanies. So often writers sniff at prompts as being the province of beginners, but I use them all the time (hence, my prompt blog). If you've not had luck with them in the past, try again. Just remember to keep your pen moving across the page. Its when you stop to ponder and stare out the window that prompts aren't as effective.
–Clustering can unleash you from your left brain. More often now called mind-mapping (I like clustering better), this technique was popularized by the late Gabriel Rico in her book Writing the Natural Way. To tell you the truth, I'd forgotten about it, but Terry is a fan and he made people try it. Since I was icing my foot (I had a terrible attack of plantar fascitis while there) I didn't do it in the workshop, but I've been playing with it since and I can see its value. Give it a whirl.
–Get thee to a labyrinth. Scarritt Bennett Center, where I stayed, and where we held the workshop, has a labyrinth modeled on the one at Chartes, France. It is a marvelous creativity jogger. You ask a question or think of a problem before you enter, walk to the center, pause to listen, then walk back out again. Note that a labyrinth is different from a maze. With a maze, you're trying to find your way out. With a labyrinth, you're finding your way in. Take a journal with you because you'll likely have an inspiration or two to write down. It has never failed me yet. To find a labyrinth in your area, try Labyrinth Locator.
I'm sure more thoughts will bubble up over the next few days and weeks and I'll report. For me, it was a rejuvenating experience to be back in Nashville and reconnect with a city I love and so many of the people I know and love who live there. Southern hospitality truly is the most generous in the world and I've always been welcomed so warmly.
And stay tuned–because we are cooking up a Spark to Story Part Two to be held in the near future!