Writing Prompt Pit Stop: A Writing Pep Talk

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! The weeks just fly by, and all of a sudden it’s Wednesday again. It’s funny how that happens! It’s also now officially summer, and we’ve certainly had the heat and humidity here…but I’m not complaining after that horrendous winter we had here in Toledo, Ohio. I teach a few classes in the summer, but for the most part, it is a more relaxing time than the rest of the year. So, why does it seem like I’m always so busy? Well, I facilitate a few writing groups besides those classes, I write art reviews and artist interviews for another blog; I also write daily…working towards poems, plays, or essays, and I also draw and paint.

It might seem like I’d get burned out on writing with all of it that I do and the writings that I read for others, suggesting edits, etc., but for whatever reason it just gives me more fuel to keep going. If you hadn’t guessed it already, I enjoy writing, and I like helping and encouraging others in their writing endeavors. However, I didn’t get here the easy way (believe it or not writing at one time was a nemesis! That is an essay that I’m working on), as for years I felt that writing never came easy, nor did I think I’d be a writer (or a teacher, for that matter!) when I grew up – nevertheless, I’ve always been a storyteller. So, I sure empathize with those that are in my classes or workshops that want to tell stories or write poems, but aren’t sure that they can do it. All they have to do is listen to my “story” and believe that they can write too, if they want to bad enough.

A lot of times others will tell me they don’t have the ideas, they don’t have the time, or they’re afraid of not being good enough; the fears and excuses go on and on. I’ll let you in on a secret. Sometimes I feel those things too, but you know what the difference is? I sit down and write at least 10 minutes everyday. No, it might not be a gem every time (and it probably won’t, but eventually something good will come), but I do find that when I sit down to write…and especially those times when I don’t think I have anything else to say…that’s when some of the most interesting things fall out onto the page! If I had not bothered to take the time to write, I never would have come up with this poem or that, or this character for a play, or that idea for an essay…. You see, if you just think of ideas in your head and never write them down and explore, you will miss out on the joy of finding where your writing might take you…!

Here are a couple of quotes from William Faulkner that I like to use in my classes and workshops:

“I never know what I think about something until I read what I’ve written on it.”

“Don’t be ‘a writer’. Be writing.”

So for this week’s prompts we’re going to keep it simple to “Be writing:”

“Words Falling Out on the Page”

1) In your daybook, write down the first thought that comes in your mind…then write on that for 10 minutes. So what if it seems silly or mundane at first? I bet with a little more writing something will come out of it…even if it’s a word pairing or a phrase that surprises you.

2) I mentioned it was summer, write something using these three words in it: Sizzle, sweat, snorkel.

3) Follow Faulkner’s lead and choose a topic, any topic, and write on it until you discover what you really think about it.

4) Pick anything that is sitting near you and write a poem or story about it.

5) Have fun and just keep writing! If you get something good, revise it into something better.

Even better, share it in the comments here!

See you next Wednesday!

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Writing Stop Pit Stop: Word Exchange Play

Welcome to Writing Stop Pit Stop! How time flies! I started blogging with WordPress two years ago today, but I’ve consistently posted every week or more starting a year ago with this format of fueling some ideas for writing. I know I’m always looking for prompts – in everyday life, or by seeing what other writers put out there that work for them. An unexpected “prompt” has developed from writing this blog, and by participating in Oulipost 2014 in April. Through that challenge a few of us Ouliposters began following one another on WordPress, and after our stint in April was over, Lewis Oakwood, from England, who writes the blog, The Thought-Sphere World, began posting quite regularly in my comment section. What he was posting was my own words from that particular week’s blog as a poem. What he was doing fascinated me, not because he was using “my words,” but because his poems really expressed in a really cool way what the blog had been about that week.

Naturally, I enjoy a challenge and went to his blog and tried my hand at reusing some of his words to see how that turned out. It was also interesting because he was posting his own short poems, or in one instance a twenty syllable two-line sonnet. Once I wrote my poems from his words, I posted my efforts for him to see on his blog and it has started a nice back and forth in our comments section.

Here are a couple of Lewis’ poems (you can peruse through past blogs to find more…or to see what he did) using my blog:

That $$ Thing
 
Come to terms with that $$ thing
you know what I’m talking about,
no money = money woes.
 
– How to get out of these money woes –
 
Don’t make money a taboo subject
talk openly about it, face it
that $$ thing.
 
– Don’t hesitate to develop the things that you truly love to do –
 
Put in the hours,
it make things a whole lot easier in the long run.
What’s the story there?

If Death Pulled Off A Surprise

At this point in life,
– at this moment –
what would you do
if death took a loved one?

ponder the relationships
of those nearest to you.

Here’s a couple of my poems using his blogs:

The Morning After

Slow half step, then another,

very slow another:

hungover.

Here’s the twenty syllable two-line sonnet effort:

As I Sat, I Sang The Alone Song

Songbird fairyland sonnet in fair, stare

there watching the wildcats naked with care.

What we’re doing is a version of found poetry, but it also is a good exercise in word play. And, if you haven’t played with words (or don’t think of it in that way) that’s what I’m going to challenge you to do this week! So, for your 44th prompt try some word play:

“Stealing Words & Making Them Your Own”

Disclaimer: I’m not advocating plagiarism! You should always acknowledge who you took your words from…in an epigraph under the title, or somewhere if your work gets published. If you followed my stint as an Ouliposter, you know that I always gave credit to the Toledo Blade and any of the writers whose columns/articles I used. With that said, have some fun:

1) If you’ve not perused any other blogs, this might be a good time to do that. Find someone that speaks to you, someone who is writing about something you’re interested in, or is using language that you like. Then don’t copy their work word for word, but extract a few words out of their blog and formulate your own poem.

2) It might not be easy to come up with a finished piece by doing this challenge when working in other genres besides poetry, but something that I learned many years back…is that you might find words that you like (or want to utilize in your own vocabulary). Make a list of those words as you discover them and then try to consciously implement them in your essays, stories, or plays. For example, I’m a big Kurt Vonnegut fan. I’ve read all of his books, sometimes more than once. I’ve also had my daybook near me as I’ve read his works before and when I’d come across words he used that I liked, I compiled a list of them. Then if I need a word in a poem or play and I’m not liking what I’m coming up with, I utilize my lists of favorite words.

3) Just play with rearranging your own words from your own works. Maybe something that hasn’t worked in the past – play with word order, omit words, use a thesaurus, be silly…sometimes that’s when something serious comes!

4) Take any of your word play pieces and revise. Revision is always important, you’ve heard me say that before. Also, if you do like what you’ve come up with and plan on sending it out in the world, do give credit to the person who inspired you in some way. And, if you’re up to the challenge, strike up a writing friendship through your blogging/sharing words experiences…and post in their blog comment section if you dare.

Don’t hesitate to share, in the comments section, what your writings with word play brings about.

See you here next Wednesday with another writing prompt! (And, we’re an hour into Thursday…but it was Wednesday when I started writing! :-))

Writing Prompt Pit Stop: Money

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! This week we’re going to explore money. A taboo subject for many people to talk openly about. But, it sure would be nice to have more of. I know, as an adjunct instructor, this time of year is really lean with less classes to teach…not to mention there’s sometimes a whole month without any steady income because of the break in between semesters. Sure, I have all kinds of odd jobs to help me make ends meet (even when I have more classes during the rest of the year) – but it sure would be nice not to have the added stress that living from paycheck to paycheck brings. Nevertheless, if it weren’t for making less money than is deserved for time spent working in and out of the classroom (and face it, most all teachers from K- tenured professors don’t really make what they should – and I’m talking about all of us out there that truly love to teach, love our students, and do put in the hours…not the ones that give the rest of us bad names), I am happy with my life. As just mentioned, I love teaching and my students. I’m grateful for good health, wonderful family, friends, cats, my talentsso much. It’s just that $$ thing that I need to come to terms with.

Maybe you know what I’m talking about? Or maybe you’re someone like the one I dated briefly last year that felt $ was more important than anything…including a relationship. A person that said that “teaching should be a secondary job.” A person that when I said “money isn’t everything,” said: “spoken like someone who doesn’t have any.” Certainly, I agree money would make things a whole lot easier, but I don’t measure my happiness and worth by it…and I learned a long time ago, that even though it’s stressful to have less money – it’s even worse to go to a job you dread everyday just so you can have money to go on cruises or live in an extravagant house.

They say money causes more divorces (and break-ups…see above paragraph) than anything else; not to mention how money can tear families apart after a death in the family. Yet, we all need money to pay our bills, buy decent groceries, buy gas for our cars, etc. So, no matter whether you’re living comfortable and have no wants or struggling to make ends meet – we all have our own ideas, beliefs, and values where money is concerned. As poets and writers, money can be an interesting subject. Here is your 43rd prompt:

“No Money = Misery, No Misery = Money?”

1) In your daybook write about a time that you struggled with money issues; maybe you were newly married, maybe you ran up too many credit cards, maybe you were paying down student loans; maybe you lost a job or couldn’t find a job. What were these times like? What did you do to get out of your money woes? Maybe you never have? How did/does that make you feel. Write for 10 minutes or until you exhaust the topic.

2) Write about a time finances/money affected your relationship(s)…either with a spouse, a significant other, a family member, a friend. What’s the story there?

3) Write about a time you stayed in a bad job because of the money, or a time you stayed at wonderful job but could never make enough money. What did you do? Was it worth it in the long run?

4) Take any (or all) of these prompts and tailor them to your genre: a poem, a story, a memoir piece/essay, or a play. Maybe you have an interesting image that comes from your writings about money that would make a great poem. A character or two could have some good skirmishes or dialogue over money. Or maybe you’ll see a personal essay develop as you write your experiences down.

Don’t hesitate to share, in the comments section, what your writings on money brings about.

See you here next Wednesday with another writing prompt!

Writing Prompt Pit Stop: 2014 Halftime Goals Check!

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! Here we are in June, 2014 – 6 months in, or halfway through the year. If you remember, at the first of the year I put out a challenge for you to not make a New Year’s Resolution for 2014, as we all know how well those work, rather to take me up on my “mapping out a plan” challenge. This is where I asked you to:

“…sit down and map out a plan for your writing, or other project, that you really want to do this year. Instead of saying “I’m going to write every day in 2014,” and then when you miss a day and beat yourself up and give up…why not say, “I’m going to plan on writing as much as I can each month, and by March I’ll have X amount of that novel written, or X amount of poems for a manuscript, or have X amount of that full-length play written….” Then if you make that happen, pat yourself on the back and say “Now by June I’ll have X amount more of that novel written, or X amount more poems for a manuscript, or have several 10 minute plays written.” If you don’t make it to your goal for March, simply map out something that you know you are likely to attain!

If you make June’s deadline, then shoot for X more amount of writing in September in whatever genre that you’re working in.”

Well, it’s June! How are you doing? Have you made any of your goals? Have you tried something new? Do you already have X more as a goal set for September? Have you surprised yourself by completing something that ordinarily would have fallen victim to procrastination? Or have you fallen victim to procrastination?

Here’s what I said I’d do back in that first post of 2014: “I plan to take my own advice and map out some projects, and maybe take a workshop or class doing something that I’ve never tried before.”

I’m pleased to say that I kept my word! I have got a new chapbook ready to send out. I’ve been in contact with a publisher about a full-length manuscript that I’ve been working on the past few years; I took part in Oulipost 2014 which was a challenge (that was outside of my comfort zone – but I completed it [30 poems in 30 days] and gained so much from doing so!) put out by The Found Poetry Review for National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo). I have taken on a new writing gig as the arts blogger for Wheresthecat.com. I’ve exhibited art in the first art walk in Toledo this year, and I have an art exhibit lined up for my art in September. So, yes, I’ve had a good six months so far in 2014, but I want more!

So, here’s my challenge for you (and myself) for the last half of 2014:

1) Let’s keep mapping out those challenges for ourselves. Get something written on paper – it makes it much more real than just thinking about it. If you have not followed along in early 2014 – what are you waiting on? Don’t feel like a failure or like it’s too late now. It’s never too late. Set a small goal first, and then go for it.

2) Do something that you haven’t done before. Get out of your comfort zone. In my case, it was doing Oulipost 2014. But now that I’ve done that, I’d like to try something else that I haven’t done. Some of you may not have taken the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge in November – that’s a great challenge. Maybe there’s a local writing group that you can join in on or, if not, start your own! I’ve started many over the years and it’s a great way to meet like-minded people. At this time I participate in three writing groups – two that I’m in charge of, and one that I just go to participate and enjoy. If you’ve not tried submitting your writing somewhere…take a chance (after revising, of course) – look up publishers on New Pages (free), or Duotrope (small fee) that accepts work similar to yours. The main thing is just to stretch your wings and take a chance.

3) If you write poems, make a goal to get 16-24 of them together for a chapbook by the end of the year. If you write plays, make a goal to write a 10 minute play and submit it somewhere by the end of the year (There’s also National Playwriting Month (NaPlWriMo) in November too!). If you write fiction, make a goal to either write a flash fiction piece and send it out, or get that novel started (or finished) that you’ve been toying with forever. If you write essays, or memoir – do the same…as you can see, the main thing is just to sit down and write. I write everyday. Even if it’s just 10 minutes. It works…it keeps you going! For my visual artist friends – get to drawing or painting…at least something everyday. It works. Baby steps….

I hope all of you have been having a good, creative 2014 so far, and let’s make the last half of 2014 even better…let’s make all of our creative goals come to fruition…or at least get closer.

Don’t hesitate to share, in the comments section, what creative things you’ve been doing so far in 2014 or what goals that you’ve met already…or write at least one goal so you that you can check back in December and see if you met or surpassed it.

See you here next Wednesday with another writing prompt!