Seems like everybody’s talking about writing schedules, writing habits, and writing challenges these days. Newsletters from the many blogs and podcasts I follow are cramming my inbox with topics like how to draft an outline in xx days, why you’ve fallen off the writing wagon, or how to fulfil your writing dream.
And that’s exactly what I’ve been thinking about lately.
What stops you from writing?
Have you “fallen off the writing wagon?” Do you have a regular writing schedule or daily writing habit, even if you don’t have a WIP (work in progress)?
I suspect a lot of you have been busy or even overwhelmed with events of the past year. Politics and campaigns, the pandemic, changes in your work or loss of a job, kids home from school, or maybe you’ve been sick or lost loved ones or friends (my heart goes out to you if that’s the case).
It’s been a tough year for everyone. But things will get better. And if you’re in the U.S., the news will get boring once again, so if you’re anything like me, you won’t have that distraction taking away your writing time.
What else stops you from writing? This applies to fiction and non-fiction, although I’m mainly thinking about fiction and creative writers. What stopped you from writing a year ago, before events of the past year wreaked havoc on everyone’s ability to focus? Or anytime?
Think about it. Just do it.
Seriously. That’s a cliché and an old Nike advertising slogan, I know. But it works.
Grab a pen and paper or any device you want. Sit. Write.
Fine. You sit. But your mind is a blank.
If you don’t have a WIP, even one you haven’t worked on in a while, what should you write?
Anything. The thing is, you have to use your imagination (see photos above and below). And if you haven’t exercised your imagination muscles lately, you might need some help.
Here are 10 prompts to get you back on the writing wagon.
Set a timer for 15 minutes, and just write. Don’t worry about typos, grammar, perfection or anything near it. You can delete it or throw it out when you’re done. Burn it or shred it so nobody will ever see it. Don’t forget to shut off your phone!
Just do it.
1. Characterize a neighbor or anyone you don’t know well, even a stranger walking by, who seems unhappy, nervous, worried, or maybe a little unusual. What does he or she look like? How can you tell something is troubling them (facial expressions, body language, for example), and what could the problem be? Or why is this individual unusual?
2. Describe your town, city, neighborhood, or rural area in detail. Start with basics, then focus on a single aspect. Any haunted houses or buildings? A park that seems mysterious? A run-down area that used to have better days? What stories would an elderly person (or a ghost from xx years ago) tell about “how things used to be” or “back in the day?”
3. Write about life from your dog’s perspective, your cat’s, or any animal’s viewpoint. Write in first person (I did this, I did that).
4. What’s it like to be a flower? Use first person and imagine being a seed that’s been dropped into soil. What happens? How does it feel? Or maybe it’s the end of summer . . .
5. What would it feel like to nearly drown in a sea of honey? (credit to Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea, which I’m currently reading). Start at the beginning — where is this sea of honey, and how did you fall in or get in too deep?
6. What was the happiest or saddest day of your life as a child?
7. Describe an episode in the life of someone who can read minds or move things telekinetically.
8. You’re walking along a trail in the mountains, and you come upon the opening to a cave or tunnel. You decide to explore. What do you find?
9. You witness a robbery, an assault, or someone in danger. You’re the only person around. What do you do? You can write in third person singular, if you like (he, she) or third person plural with third singular as needed: They stopped in front of a ____. “What’s going on?” she said. “I don’t know. Looks like trouble.” He grabbed her hand as they watched.
10. Someone is facing a challenge at work, home, or personally. What steps must he or she take to overcome it? Non-fiction writers (bloggers, for example) can offer direct advice in second person (you should do this or that) or write an essay or op-ed column in third person about a current social problem. Fiction writers can imagine a character contemplating options and making decisions.
Bonus idea: Who lives (or used to live) in the attic of one of the buildings in the photo above? What are those structures behind the building? Why are the buildings tilting? (Pretend it wasn’t the way I held the camera 😀 )
Comments and questions are always welcome!