Friday, November 23, 2012

24 writing suggestions

I'm working on a book that encourages people in recovery to use forms of creative self-expression to support long-term sobriety. Today my task was to create 12 fun writing exercises. Here's what I came up with. Enjoy!

1. When Sally opened the door, a very tiny man stood there holding a very large duck. Write a short story that starts with this sentence. More: Make this the first chapter of a mystery novel.
2. Open a drawer in your bathroom and take out any three objects. Write a conversation between the objects in which they discuss you. More: Turn the conversation into a poem.
3. Spend a few minutes with a family photo album and choose a photo of a person whose face intrigues you. It may be of a relative you don’t know well or at all, it may be of an old friend, it may be of someone loved and lost. Write a letter from that person to you and a letter back from you (make up any details you need). More: Write a conversation (in dialog form) between you and this person.
4. Pick a simple common word (e.g., from, that, can, might) and write a 12-line poem where the end of each line rhymes with that word. More: Write one poem that makes sense and one that doesn’t.
5. Pull a novel off your shelf and open to a page that has dialog. Pick any line of dialog and write a 1-2 page story that ends with that question or statement. More: Write another 2 pages on the same story continuing from that statement or question.
6. Write 2 different paragraphs that start with same first five words. They can be variations on one idea or completely different from each other. More: Write 3 more with the same five words.
7. Write a love poem to your favorite food, favorite color, favorite scarf or pair of shoes, your favorite sports team, etc. More: Write a whole series of love poems to favorites.
8. Select a difficult moment from your past. Write it out as a scene in a novel or play just as it happened. Now rewrite the scene as you wish it had happened. More: Write a story or poem about someone who relived an event and changed the past.
9. Select an example of each of the following: a wild animal, a day of the week, a flower, a celebrity, an accident. Now write a story that includes them all. More: Write a poem that includes them all.
10. Make a short list of things that you hate. Choose one and write a letter describing in detail how you feel and what you want to have happen instead. More: Find the contact information for someone who might be able to do something about this problem and mail your letter.
11. Identify a problem of your own you would like to solve. Write a dialog between you and the problem. More: Turn your conversation into a skit and ask a friend to read your part and you read the part of the problem.
12. Begin to generate a huge list of ideas you could write about. In the spirit of fun, if you were going to write one of the following, what would the topic be? 
·        Broadway play
·        Broadway musical  
·        Novel
·        Book of essays on a theme
·        Historical romance
·        TV sitcom
·        Text for a coffee-table book of photos
·        Epic (book-length) poem
·        Biography of a famous person
·        Dramatic play
·        How-to book
·        Cookbook
More: Start one of the writing projects from this list of ideas. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Letting meaning trump mood

This morning I woke up pretty down. No particular reason except maybe low barometer or the big letdown that comes when I've been working furiously and suddenly all the projects are complete and I haven't yet transitioned into off-time. I had planned to go to the studio to paint today but I didn't feel like hustling, I didn't feel like having any plans at all. I needed a whatever's next day, just moving through the day with whatever strikes my fancy to do.

So I hung out in my pajamas and worked on the novel I'm getting ready to self-publish and wrote in my journal and read some of Penny Marshall's memoir (interesting but not well written) and then I remembered a a conversation I had yesterday with my friend Pam. I was telling her about one of Eric Maisel's teachings: that meaning can trump mood. That we don't have to succumb to depression or anxiety or any of the feelings that can keep us from doing our creative work. That we can put meaningful creative work ahead of our mood; we can make creating a priority.

I wondered what it would feel like to let go of feeling obligated to go to the studio (keeping my integrity with myself) and just go as the next thing in whatever's next. So I put on my painting clothes and went to the studio for 90 minutes. I finished a painting I'd been working on, cleaned up a little, and left feeling very much better, realigned with my life and what's meaningful to me.

I could have gone to the studio anyway. I could have forced myself to go, disciplined myself to go, but I'm not sure it would have had the same impact. Instead, it was okay if I didn't go and even better that I did. Next time you're not in the mood to do your art or writing, see what happens if you can step into what's meaningful instead of into your mood.