With a Little Help

From time to time, I go on retreat. I’ve found a special place and I invite a few special friends, and we hide in an old farmhouse owned by a convent. I’ve posted several times about my retreats, but today I am posting about that well-loved tradition of using your writing friends as guinea pigs.

st francis

Inspiration comes in many forms.

Writing prompts come in all shapes, colors, sizes, and themes. This weekend, Delaware poet Jane Miller and I are offering a “Fall into Writing” workshop at an historic home–the Judge Morris Estate in Newark, Delaware. We’ve been gathering or creating prompts that focus on the five senses, on how objects can be used as metaphors, on inspiration from images, on our legacies as writers. It will be a full day and I hope a beneficial one for our attendees.

One trick for a successful workshop is to try out the prompts or exercises in advance. When you’re together for a week in an old farmhouse with no TV, iffy Internet, and spotty cell phone service, what’s a better time to try out prompts on your captive audience?

Here are a few ideas for creating and using writing prompts:

  1. Keep instructions simple
  2. Time the writing portions
  3. Know the general make-up of your audience
  4. Use a general theme or idea for cohesiveness
  5. Offer prompts that are specific but broad enough to explore
  6. Provide minimal guidance or leading
  7. Remember there are no wrong answers
  8. Encourage sharing but make it optional

If the audience is a mix of poets, prose writers, screenwriters, etc.

  1. Use prompts that will work with all writing forms
  2. Team up un-like artists for exchange exercises
  3. Use external inspirations like objects or photos or music

For any type of prompt or exercise:

  1. Try it out on a living audience
  2. Pay attention to what works and doesn’t
  3. Be willing to revise, change, or pitch a prompt that might be a dud

At retreat, we tried out three of Saturday’s prompts-to-be: on senses, on the unknown, on places from our memories. Each try-out revealed a necessary tweak that will make the prompt more effective. On the flip side, the prompts were a good break from the long days devoted to WIPs. The brain works best when you poke at it a bit.

We even left with a testimonial!

I want to thank you for sharing a few of the writing exercises with us this week at retreat that you and Jane Miller plan to use at the Fall into Writing workshop next Saturday at the Judge Morris Estate. I’ve been able to clarify writing goals, and now I see how I can incorporate observations from the five senses to make my writing come alive. These exercises have made such a difference to me, and I know they’ll be valuable to workshop participants. – Jean Davis

If you are a Delaware author, I hope to see you Saturday at the Judge Morris Estate for a day to honor the change of seasons—and write about it among friends. If you are interested, there is still time to register.

To Maria, Jean, Kim, and Jane–thanks for playing!

40 Days of 3 Questions – Day 40

Congratulations! If you are here, you’ve completed 40 days of 3 Questions. I hope the questions made you think about writing, your career, your goals, and yourself as a writer.

If you posted your responses daily or haphazardly, I thank you! When I started the project, I knew I would be away several times during the 40 days and would be unable to respond to individual comments. I did read every response, and many of them made me think about my own place in the tribe. It was gratifying to see the shares, and enlightening to read your answers.

If you answered the questions privately, so did I. Never ask a question you’re not afraid to answer, right?

The final set of questions is for you, but also for me. I may do this project again, or one similar to it, next year. Let me know what worked, or what I missed.

Day 40 Questions:

  1. Why did you answer 3 questions for 40 days?
  2. Were you looking for anything in particular about writing or yourself as a writer?
  3. Did you find it?

Thank you for participating in this project.  My final message–not questions–is a request, or a command. You can take it either way.      Write–your way, for your reasons. No one else can tell your stories, and no one else will do it for you. You can. I hope you will.

Namaste.

thank-you-for-answering-my-questions

40 Days of 3 Questions – Day 39

Welcome to 40 Days of 3 Questions!

For the next few weeks, meet here every morning with a notebook or document to answer three questions about writing, about your status quo as a writer, or about the writing life. You can answer briefly and go about your day, or you can use this as a warm up exercise before your regular writing schedule. Whatever works for you, works for me.

Day 39 Questions:

  1. Why do you write?
  2. Why do you write what you write?
  3. What other artistic or creative outlets do you pursue?

You may post answers in comments or keep your thoughts private–your choice!

And here is today’s pretty picture:

art-it-matters

Truth.

40 Days of 3 Questions – Day 38

Welcome to 40 Days of 3 Questions!

For the next few weeks, meet here every morning with a notebook or document to answer three questions about writing, about your status quo as a writer, or about the writing life. You can answer briefly and go about your day, or you can use this as a warm up exercise before your regular writing schedule. Whatever works for you, works for me.

Day 38 Questions:

  1. What writing “rule” would you like to blow to smithereens?
  2. Why do you hate this rule?
  3. Do you reject this rule or respect it?

You may post answers in comments or keep your thoughts private–your choice!

And here is today’s pretty picture:

cop car

Never convicted!

40 Days of 3 Questions: Day 37

Welcome to 40 Days of 3 Questions!

For the next few weeks, meet here every morning with a notebook or document to answer three questions about writing, about your status quo as a writer, or about the writing life. You can answer briefly and go about your day, or you can use this as a warm up exercise before your regular writing schedule. Whatever works for you, works for me.

Day 37 Questions:

  1. What’s the most daring (to you) story you’ve ever written?
  2. Why is it so daring—subject, style, switch of genre?
  3. Do you think of yourself as a brave writer, a safe one, or in between?

You may post answers in comments or keep your thoughts private–your choice!

And here is today’s pretty picture:

horse

This daring horse is leaping across candles on my fireplace mantle.

40 Days of 3 Questions: Day 36

Welcome to 40 Days of 3 Questions!

For the next few weeks, meet here every morning with a notebook or document to answer three questions about writing, about your status quo as a writer, or about the writing life. You can answer briefly and go about your day, or you can use this as a warm up exercise before your regular writing schedule. Whatever works for you, works for me.

Day 36 Questions:

  1. Do you feel like you have to reinvent the wheel every time you begin a story?
  2. What writing lesson have you learned that you never have to relearn?
  3. What writing lesson still gives you trouble?

You may post answers in comments or keep your thoughts private–your choice!

And here is today’s pretty picture:

owl in ice

Owl Who Slipped on Ice (I warned him it was slippery. Did he listen? No.)

40 Days of 3 Questions: Day 35

Welcome to 40 Days of 3 Questions!

For the next few weeks, meet here every morning with a notebook or document to answer three questions about writing, about your status quo as a writer, or about the writing life. You can answer briefly and go about your day, or you can use this as a warm up exercise before your regular writing schedule. Whatever works for you, works for me.

Day 35 Questions:

  1. How do you know when your draft is final?
  2. How many revisions or editing passes do you make?
  3. Do you use critique partners, beta readers, editors to get to the final final draft?

You may post answers in comments or keep your thoughts private–your choice!

And here is today’s pretty picture:

hand shelf

If a hand is going to come out of your wall, shouldn’t it be holding a vase of flowers?

40 Days of 3 Questions – Day 34

Welcome to 40 Days of 3 Questions!

For the next few weeks, meet here every morning with a notebook or document to answer three questions about writing, about your status quo as a writer, or about the writing life. You can answer briefly and go about your day, or you can use this as a warm up exercise before your regular writing schedule. Whatever works for you, works for me.

Day 34 Questions:

  1. Did you write a practice novel (one that taught you how to write)?
  2. Is that story in a drawer or did you make it workable?
  3. Is there a story you’ve written that you hope never sees the light of publication?

You may post answers in comments or keep your thoughts private–your choice!

And here is today’s pretty picture:

VCCA paper manuscript

Practice and Post-It notes- how to get it done!

40 Days of 3 Questions – Day 33

Welcome to 40 Days of 3 Questions!

For the next few weeks, meet here every morning with a notebook or document to answer three questions about writing, about your status quo as a writer, or about the writing life. You can answer briefly and go about your day, or you can use this as a warm up exercise before your regular writing schedule. Whatever works for you, works for me.

Day 33 Questions:

  1. If you could only write one more story in the rest of your life, what would it be?
  2. Why that story?
  3. Why aren’t you writing it now?

You may post answers in comments or keep your thoughts private–your choice!

And here is today’s pretty picture:

keep calm write on

Every day.

40 Days of 3 Questions – Day 32

Welcome to 40 Days of 3 Questions!

For the next few weeks, meet here every morning with a notebook or document to answer three questions about writing, about your status quo as a writer, or about the writing life. You can answer briefly and go about your day, or you can use this as a warm up exercise before your regular writing schedule. Whatever works for you, works for me.

Day 32 Questions:

  1. Apart from your protagonist, could you kill off every other character in your current project?
  2. If you had to do a Game of Thrones type slaughter, which killed-off character would most hurt you?
  3. Which killed-off character do you think would most hurt your readers?

You may post answers in comments or keep your thoughts private–your choice!

And here is today’s pretty picture:

dead toothpick guy

RIP, toothpick holder guy.