writerly Wednesday, dead

Today's exercise is a J-school standby: Write your own obituary. You can write it as if you dropped dead right now or as if you lived another 100 years. Your call.

I'm always surprised at how many students balk at this one. You will die, I tell them. This I can promise you. I cannot, however, promise that you will pass this class, either the literal one you are currently in or the larger, metaphoric one. 

Usually, they then just stare at me until I tell them, "nevermind. Just write it."

writerly Wednesday, fog

Before I get to the exercise, read this post by Neil Gaiman. He couldn't be more right.*

Anyhoo -- the exercise.

This is a classic and one of my favorites: write directions to your house, starting from wherever you'd like to start from. 

Sounds simple, yes - but there is great potential here.


* Also, I am so very jealous that he can go away and write for a week or two. Right now, I'm working on a full-length fiction thing (just to see if I can do it) and would give a not insignificant amount of money to get away from my life** and just write.

** (and I really love my life, it's just that I'd like to fall into what I'm working on but can't quite do so because I'm always aware of the time and where the kids are and where they need to be and the papers that need grading and the cats and the laundry....)

writerly Wednesday, one inch

A quick one for you, since the kids have a snow afternoon* and I can only wrangle access to my computer in wee little bursts.**

This is stolen from Anne Lamott.***

Imagine a picture frame. This picture frame's opening is only one inch on each side.**** That's it. That's all you can see. Start here. And when you start to feel overwhelmed with what you're working on, when it all starts to feel like it's too much, focus on your frame. 

So pick up your frame and describe your view (exterior or interior) right now. 


* They were dismissed early because there should be sleet later, which, given the couple of inches of snow we just, should make driving really exciting.

** Yes, I let them play on my computer. So far, they seem undamaged. My computer, however, is full of crumbs.

*** Steal from the best, I say. You need proof? Go here.

**** You can do this with a real picture frame if you'd like. I'm assuming you don't have on handy.

writerly Wednesday, staring at strangers

For today's exercise, go someplace where you are surrounded by people you don't know. Pick a candidate. Describe him/her using active verbs and without adverbs. How did he/she get here? Where will he/she go next? What is his/her biggest joy? Biggest sorrow? Write that down. 

No, it doesn't matter one bit if you are correct. Just do it.


In other news, I am pondering a kickstarted campaign, one that would be about talking to spinners and knitters about hot button issues, like faith. Any thoughts? Anyone other than me find this interesting? And, yes, we would be knitting/spinning while talking.

today is, in fact, Wednesday

Remember what you did last week? Assuming of course that you have chosen to play along. If not, well, why not?

On the top of blank document, pick one your WHATs and write it at the top. Pick a WHERE and write it under the WHAT. Pick a WHO. Your WHO is alone on stage, talking to him/herself. Write for five minutes.

Then a second WHO walks in. Write for ten minutes.

When you get stuck, think about your WHAT. What does that bring up for you?

Read the result aloud -- or paste it here.

pretend today is Wednesday.

I meant to post about this yesterday but the lingering illness made thinking so hard, y'all. But it's slightly easier today.*

Until Lisa/Figs comes back, I thought it could be fun to post little writing exercises on Wednesday. You can play along if you wish. Or not. You are adults and can make your own decisions.**

Feel free to post your results in the comments. Or not. Again.

EXERCISE THE FIRST: Who/Where/What.***

Who: Number from 1 - 10. Beside each number, write a name. Then an age, ethnicity, gender. What is he/she wearing? What can the audience first see?

Where: Number from 1 -10: Beside each number, write a place. Then a time of day, indoor or outdoor? What is in the space that is unexpected? 

What:**** Number from 1 -10: Beside each number, write a couple of words. These are the words you'll keep in mind as you write part two, which I'll talk about next week. 

The important part at this stage is to generate lists, not to worry about how those lists intersect.

For example --


1. Josie, 12, caucasian, female. She's wearing a headband with a big flower on it, pink shirt, capri pants and jelly shoes. She's chewing gum.

2. Bo, 50, really white, male. Flannel shirt, jeans, gimme cap, boots. He's carrying the Financial Times.


1. Kitchen, 2 a.m., one overhead light.  No stove; only a hot plate and a coffee maker. Spotless, you could do surgery on the floor.

2. Ballroom, 9 a.m., bright sunshine through windows. Empty but for a short stool.


1. Touching home.

2. Quarterback sneak.

3. Loose arms.

4. 15-Love.

5. Breakthrough.



Now go.


* For relative values of easier. For the record, I'm feeling less bad. And will try to keep my whining to a minimum. 

** I say this a lot to my college students. Sometimes, they need the reminder.

*** This one is borrowed from Jean-Claude van Itallie, whose The Playwright's Workbook is awesome.

**** "What" is slightly more difficult to describe. Bear with me.