2-Minute Prompts

Two minutes is a short amount of time. But a lot can happen. You can send an important email. You can break a heart. You can change your fate.

You can get stuck in traffic. You can listen to your favorite song on the radio. You can drink half a cup of coffee.

In my weekly writing group, we often end the session with a prompted two-minute free write. While it is far from the main-event of the evening, there is a certain magic about the writing that is produced in that time. The pressure is off.  Everyone is relaxed, or wired off too much coffee, or one too many cookies.

I thought it might be fun to share some of the prompts and the pieces I wrote to accompany them. It would be great to hear from other bloggers out there, feel free to write your own responses to the prompts, but remember, it can only take 2 minutes!

Prompt: Make a list of subjects NOT to write about.

Good things not to write about, depends on the audience. If it’s my mother, than anything that is, or could be perceived as violent, destructive, dangerous, sexy, or incestuous. I shared some of my writing with her, and have since stopped. She said to me one day, thoughtfully, after reading a poem of mine, that I was, “intense.” I wasn’t sure how to take that, I mean in regards to compliment, insult, general observation. I don’t like to write about things that are boring. I like to write about weird, messed up, violent, manipulative people, because isn’t that what’s real? No, your emotions, she told me. Your emotions are intense. I don’t think I was ever like that. We’re different, my mother and I. She thinks I write about things that are too intense, I think I write about things that are all too real.

Prompt: If you could have someone else’s bone and why.

I would like no one’s bones but my own. Maybe my body will fall apart. Maybe I’ll fall off a ladder and need to be put back together. And in those moments I will say give me whatever bones you have. But for the time being, I can’t imagine anyone else having bones that would go with mine. It’s not that I think mine are better or bigger or stronger. But they are mine. And the body is something which is so uniquely OUR OWN. I wouldn’t want that to be diluted with spare parts. And if I were to get Mother Theresa’s hip or Ringo Starr’s wrist, how would I live up to that? Would I have to become an excellent drummer? Would I suddenly become selfless? Maybe my bones will turn brittle and break, but I still think I don’t want to be anyone else but me.

Prompt: Group Leader asks for a random noun. One of the group members says “brick.” Group leader says OK, now start with the sentence, “This is not a brick.”

This is not a brick. And my road would certainly not be yellow brick. Black maybe or the rusty red of a typical brick. But then, this is not a brick. My road would be a dirt path maybe. Shady under thick green foliage. Hot summer sun somewhere above. Or a long wooden-planked boardwalk leading over hot sand. The ocean its reward. Or the back alley of a city street, all hot, steamy, stinky asphalt. Dumpsters and cigarette breaks and men sleeping in doorways. My way wouldn’t be brick. It would be leather studded kiss in the sand. It would be shag carpet up to my ankles. There would be no one in sight on this road. Men working. Out of order. Do not pass go. Hopefully I have a get out of jail free card lying around here. This is not a brick road. This is not wonderland. There is no Peter Pan, so I might as well stop waiting for him. I can stay young forever and I can do it on my own time. Image

Fish in the Sea

When telling people that I am an aspiring writer, I can’t count how many times I have gotten the response, “Isn’t it lonely?”

We are all familiar with the image of the solitary artist: locked up in a cluttered studio, wandering city streets, or scribbling away in a dark bar.  And while I have my moments of solitude, I truly believe that I wouldn’t be on the path that I’m on without the support of my fellow writers. 

I have had many wonderful opportunities to share my work. I’ve previously mentioned the writing groups I am in and how beneficial they are. In particular, I have been feeling very fortunate to be a part of Main Street Writers’ Thursday night group. I have been writing with the people in this group since March. Each week I use the time to write a scene from my work-in-progress. 

By now, the people in this group have gotten to know the characters and, while they haven’t gotten their information in a linear trajectory, they are able to piece together the main plot points. Their perspective has been incredibly beneficial as I continue to piece together the rest of my manuscript. Seeing them able to make inferences about personality traits and speculations about the plot has been encouraging. It gives me confidence that, one day, my readers will be able to connect the dots in the same way. 

In addition, I continue to participate in open mics throughout the Pioneer Valley. In the last two weeks, I have read at Wendell Spoken Word and Straw Dog Writers Guild in Northampton, MA. 

While the experience of reading my work in front of an audience is always nerve-racking, I find the benefits to be limitless. I am always surprised and encouraged by the response I get out of audience. Whether it is tense focus or casual laughter, when I get the intended reaction, it feels like I am on the right track

Perhaps the most encouraging part of the open mics is the feedback I get following a reading. I have had several people approach me afterwards not only to comment on my writing, but also to implore me to keep writing. 

“What happens? Do they ever find her?”

“Don’t stop writing, you’re on to something!”

“You’re going to do great things, I can tell.” 

I’m human, and just like anyone, these ego-strokes feel great. But more than that, it’s a wonderful to get hints that I am following the right path. Because, at the end of the day, when it’s just you and your computer, sometimes self-doubt comes creeping in. When you feel like one lonely fish in a big, wide, literary sea, our goals and aspirations feel intimidating, if not completely hopeless and far-fetched in the darkest moments. 

But when I connect with my peers, it helps me to realize I’m not alone but am really a part of beautiful, colorful, diverse school of fish, I  mean, writers (pardon the corny metaphor). Each one wonderfully unique in what they have to offer.

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For anyone out there struggling with their writing, I encourage you to find ways to connect! Join writing groups, go listen to other people reading if you don’t have the courage or material to read yourself. Visit the library. Visit a coffee shop. Open yourself up to these connections, and I can bet you will be feeling much less lonely in no time. 

As always, Happy Writing, Reading, Sharing, Connecting.

2 Month Marathon-Summer Procrastination

I’m not sure about all of you, but as soon as the weather turns nice, I am suddenly uninterested in anything that doesn’t involve being in the sun. This is good for my tan, not good for my writing.

Things I did today instead of writing:

-Mowed the lawn

-Filled the potholes in my driveway

-Sunbathed

-Hung out laundry on the clothes line

And then I wrote, for about 30 minutes. Needless to say, I am falling behind on my goal to finish my manuscript in two months. I’ve stretched it until the beginning of August, giving myself a few extra weeks, and still, it will be tight.

I haven’t been sticking to the four-hours-a-day policy that I was so enthusiastic and diligent with the first few weeks. I’m procrastinating. I even procrastinated on writing this post.

Healthy body, healthy mind. I’m hoping that by occupying my time with activities that make me happy, it will somehow positively influence my writing.

Anybody up for the lake?

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Why Do You Write?

In the book Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, she recommends the exercise of listing the reasons why you write. If ever you are feeling stuck with your writing, it is helpful to simply start with that question and see what answers you come up with.

I did this exercise myself a few months ago in one of my journals and then promptly forgot about it. Coming across it the other day, I thought it was pretty funny and wanted to share it with you all.

Why I Write:

I write because I’m hopeful

And I want to put myself through the wringer.

Because a desk job is just too painful.

So I can feel good about myself and others will too.

So I can feel bad about myself.

Because there has never been anything else.

Because of the feeling of pulling a story out of thin air

And turning it real.

Because of my friends who inspire me into creation.

Because it’s fun to make fun of people.

So I can create my own heroes.

To get through my own demons.

Because I still want my mother fucking yacht. 

I would love to hear other writers’ responses to this prompt! Feel free to create your own list and leave it in the comments.

Happy Writing-for any reason at all. Image

2 Month Marathon- Day 20-The Word Whisperer

My readers will know that I am in the midst of a big push to finish my manuscript by the end of July. At the start of each week, I begin edits on the next five chapters of the novel, in the hopes that at the end of the summer I will have a finished product.

I have hit a few bumps along the road. Last week was very busy for me, work-wise. In addition, I was helping my parents get ready for a cross-country trek. I wasn’t able to get my four hours-a-day in. I started to panic. 

Instead of driving myself crazy trying to jam the writing into my already packed schedule, I made myself a deal. Take the rest of the week off. Start fresh on Monday.

Yesterday, over a lovely dinner on the porch with my dear friend and fellow writer, I confessed my recent anxieties over my manuscript. It’s not good enough, it will never get published, I’ll feel like a massive failure in front of everyone I know.

My wise friend said several things last night which helped calm my fears.

1. It’s not only about the destination. The journey of writing a novel has been so valuable in itself. Even if I don’t end up with a manuscript that is deemed publishable, I have learned lessons in persistence and the pursuit of a passion, which are invaluable.

2. Don’t push it. Working on any creative endeavor is so different than most other kinds of work. Even in the editing/revision stage that I am currently in, I need to give myself and the novel, time to breath.

3. Be kind to the novel. Whisper to it, my friend told me. Ask what it needs to grow, to succeed. Listen. Be aware of the novel as an entity separate of yourself. 

4. Visualize success. As with so many things in life, the simple act of visualizing an outcome can help manifest it. Picture the cover, my friend told me. See the pages, each word, your name on the cover. Let that image guide you.

I want to thank my friend for giving me such great advice, and I felt it was my own responsibility to pass this along to other writers out there.

Whether you are struggling, or the words are pouring out, or you haven’t written in months. I hope that this advice can help you achieve your goals. 

As always, Happy Writing and Happy Whispering!

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Using Voice as a Tool

Olympus VN-7100- This is the recorder I bought and I highly recommend it.

Olympus VN-7100-
This is the recorder I bought and I highly recommend it.

As an aspiring writer, most of my life takes place on a computer screen. I see my words, how they look on a page. But hearing them spoken aloud is a whole different experience.

Last week I purchased a digital voice recorder as a part of my two-month marathon to finish my manuscript.

I have been reading each chapter into the voice recorder. I have a paper copy of the chapter in front of me as I read. Then, I go back and listen to the recording and make edits on the paper.

I have found the voice recorder helpful for finding awkward wording, repetitive phrasing, excessive adjectives/adverbs and generally unnecessary fluff words.

Sometimes it takes more than just seeing the words on the computer screen to be able to evaluate my own writing. Especially when it is a piece that I have been working on for almost a year!

Here are a few before and after sentences to show how the voice recorder has helped my writing:

Before: The DJ was dwarfed by the expanse of her loft. The cavernous ceilings were lined with large industrial piping; blank white walls shrunk her further.

After: Blank walls and cavernous ceilings lined with industrial piping dwarfed her.

Before: She wrote up the contracts and then sat behind a desk by the front door and interviewed long lines of eager candidates.

After: After writing the contracts, she sat behind a desk near the entrance and interviewed candidates.

Before: She was dressed in normal street clothes, but Crazy Woodsum could tell that her body underneath was salacious.

After: Her body under street clothes was salacious.

Several writers had recommended using a voice recorder as I go through revisions. Now, I feel like it is my duty to spread along this piece of advice to other aspiring writers out there.

Happy Recording!