I heard an Angel speak last night, and he said, “Write!”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
A few years ago I was stuck in the middle of my story, bored with the direction it had taken and feeling stale. Nothing I wrote felt fresh or amazing. I didn’t care what my characters were doing or saying. It wasn’t that the story was bad or I was going in the wrong direction, it was me; I was stale.
One of the first things I did when I started writing was subscribe to Writer’s Digest and its affiliated book club Writer’s Digest Shop. While looking through the site one day I came across A Creative Writer’s Kit by Judy Reeves. It is a kit of writing prompts and practices for every day of the year and some cards to keep you motivated. I really needed something to kick start me again and perhaps this would be it. I bought the kit.
I have never been sorry. In the course of the last several years I have written on jealousy, explored loves won, lost, and won again, hidden characters in a dark hold while their ship was being searched. and watched the world go by from behind a lace curtain. I went on a Shopping Spree that turned into some of the best writing I ever did and became the first chapter for my current work in progress, now known as Energy Weavers. I’ve written about Shoes and Something Eaten, and A Borrowed Dress. This week I was inspired by the snowstorm that has hit the Seattle area and dumped ten inches of snow in my yard to write a story based on “A Cold and Snowy January Day”.
I’ve gone from a Regency period mystery to a present-day alternate world to far into the future and explored everywhere in between. These little prompts (for example, December 6 is “This is what she said.”) give me scope for all sorts of imagination. They are like a wind blowing through the sameness of my writing amd brightening things up.
Writing prompts and practices is what I call priming the pump. I don’t do it every day, but I do it often enough to stay fresh. Sometimes I use the prompts in this kit or other books and sometimes I just find other ideas around me, challenge myself to write a story out of mundane everyday objects: A pot, a pan, a knife, a hat. What about a hatbox? I just got one of those for Christmas. What would you do if you found an old trunk in an attic? Write a story about a blank piece of paper. I once wrote a story on an iceberg that had broken free — from the iceberg’s point of view.
Anything and everything can become inspiration for a story, a poem, a map, or an article. Sometimes it’s really good, sometimes it is just worth writing it for the exercise of it. The point is to write, write, write; whatever catches your eye, write about it for ten minutes, thirty minutes, whatever you have. I am always surprised by what comes out the end of my pen and rarely disappointed. I’m not looking for golden prose, just something new and different and fresh.
My question: How do you prime your writing pump? Do you use writing prompts or do something else?
It is still a cold and snowy January day here, but with the promise of a Pineapple Express coming in from Hawaii and dumping 3-4″ of rain on top of all our gorgeous snow. I feel a little storm writing coming on.
Happy writing, everyone.