Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Daily Writing - The Word

I am huge fan of Janet Fitch. Her novel, White Oleander is one of my favorite books of all time. I was thrilled when I found out she had a blog and even more excited to discover she posts her writing there from writing exercises.

Quite regularly, she posts short-short stories, as part of a semi-weekly series of short short stories base on a writing exercise, The Word. "Inspired by a simply word, chosen at random, write a two-page double-spaced story, using the Word at least once."

You can read Fitch's stories for inspiration and follow along with The Word prompts to write your own. Or, create your own prompt using a word that comes up in your day write from that.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Daily Writing - A follow up to Writing Down the Bones

After (re)reading Writing Down the Bones I have been making an effort to write every day.
I keep a notebook with me and try to fit in ten minutes each day of free writing.

It can be trying to take the time for ourselves to write daily. There seems to not be much time or opportunity for inner-reflection in today's world, but I think it is critical not only for me as a writer but for me as a person to stop and slow down for a few minutes each day, to think, to write.

In my attempts at daily writing, several times I've found myself at a loss, wondering what do I write about? Natalie Goldberg offers several suggestions in her book and I wanted to highlight a few of them here for other writers looking for inspiration:

  • Read her chapter, "A list of Topics for Writing Practice." Goldberg dedicates an entire chapter to topics. A few include, "Begin with 'I remember...' and "What is your first memory?" She suggests creating your own list of topics to keep handy whenever you are in need of some quick inspiration.
  • Goldberg suggests getting together with friends and telling stories. She says, talk is the exercise ground for writing. "Make a list of the stories you have told over and over. That's a lot of writing to be done." Read her chapter on story circles.
  • "Whatever's in front of you." Write about your home town, the house you grew up in, the house you're living in now. Go out into the streets and write what is there.
  • Read her chapters, "Spontaneous Writing Booths" and "Writing Marathons." and "Blue Lipstick and a Cigarette Hanging out of your Mouth."
  • When in doubt, write about food. Goldberg says, "If you find you are having trouble writing and nothing seems real, just write about food. It is solid and is the one thing we all can remember about our day."

Monday, February 6, 2012

Writing Down the Bones - Natalie Goldberg

Whenever I face a writing roadblock, I turn to my bookshelf for help. This time, to try to overcome my self-doubt, I went to my bookshelf and pulled down Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. There are a lot of things I can share about this book, but I will focus on the things that were most helpful for me.

Goldberg emphasizes writing as a practice, one that we should live out daily. She attunes daily writing to a runner who warms up before a race: just as a runner must stretch and warm the muscles, the writer must stretch and warm up the voice. It's part of what Goldberg calls "composting." She says,  "Our bodies are garbage heaps: we collect experience, and from the decomposition of the thrown-out eggshells, spinach leaves, coffee grinds and old steak bones of our minds come nitrogen, heat and very fertile soil. Out of this fertile soil bloom our poems and stories." Writing down our observations, thoughts and memories is what leads us to our poems our short stories, our settings, our characters. Not all of what we write will be good or useable but that's why its practice. Write about everything, write whatever moves you to put pen to paper. This is one bit of inspiration I am trying to incorporate into my writing life.

Another great takeaway from Writing Down the Bones is the importance of detail. Details breathe life into our stories. Goldberg says to be specific: "Give things the dignity of their names." Details bring us into the present, into the moment. Plus, she adds, "Tossing in the color of the sky at the right moment lets the piece breathe a little more." She goes on to say, "It is important to say the names of who we are, the places we have lived, and to write the details of our lives. ...We have lived; our moments are important. This is what it is to be a writer: to be the carrier of details that make up history, to care about the orange booths in the coffee shop in Owatonna."

The short chapters in Writing Down the Bones can be read sequentially or not, as they all stand alone so that you can open to any chapter and read it if you wish.

If you are feeling stuck, unsure of yourself or uninspired, open to any chapter that is of interest to you. You are sure to find inspiration within this book's pages.