Category Archives: writing
Today’s topic brought to you by: 300 Writing Prompts.
My son and his girlfriend teamed up and their brainstorming led to this book as one of my Christmas gifts. It contains three hundred ideas to set me (and you) thinking. I flipped through it this morning.
I passed by “What color do you feel like today?” (Blue, but in the good way. Not much more to say about that.)
I turned the page quickly from “How clean is your house now?” Not going there.
I landed on “What is something you learned in the past few days?”
I thought back to the scrap of paper left lying about on one of the desks at one of the places where I work. (I have too many jobs, really.) Someone had written the word OBSTREPEROUS in well-spaced capital letters. I picked the paper up. “What’s this about?” I asked.
A co-worker, whose first language is not English, said, “What does it mean?”
I thought about this. I had heard the word before and I could take a stab at a definition, but when it came right down to it I had to confess that I wasn’t sure. “I think it means grumpy,” I said. “I’ll look it up.”
I searched Oxford Dictionaries and came up with: “Noisy and difficult to control.”
“Ah,” I said. “I understand how I was confused. People who are obstreperous make other people grumpy.”
Why was OBSTREPEROUS lying around on the work station? I would tell you, but thinking about it makes me a little grumpy.
What have you learned in the past few days?
One of the joyous frustrations of being a freelance writer is the unpredictable variety.
I never know if I’ll be writing about money, or toilet installation, or chickens, or veterans, or crows, or . . . the list goes on. I never know when I’ll receive the last-minute phone calls. I get up in the morning with plans in place to do something and then BAM, the phone rings. My whole day gets knocked sideways.
That joyous frustration happened yesterday when all the things I’d planned to do and write about got swept off the table.
Joy comes from learning about new things all the time. I am so lucky to never feel like I’m in a rut. I get paid to write! How great is that? Still, sometimes I grit my teeth. It makes it difficult to plan. And if you ever drop by my house and see dust on the furniture, now you know why.
Another joyous benefit of my freelance writing career is the reading I do on many topics. Years ago, one of those reading stints led to me this best piece of advice:
When I’m writing, I focus. I dive deep down into a well of creative thought and if someone speaks to me I need to swim my mind up through sludge to the surface again. I can practically hear the murky bubbles around me.
Interruptions used to drive me bonkers.
Now I tell myself: There is a purpose behind this interruption. How does it benefit me?
It gives me a chance to get a drink or go to the bathroom. It makes me notice the typo I overlooked before, once I settle back into place and look with refreshed eyes at the work I’ve done. It gives me an extra 24 hours to write a blog post.
Interruptions come in big and small sizes too.
There’s the simple, “Mom, are we out of milk?” kind of interruption, and then there’s the, “You need to take this. I’m afraid there’s bad news,” kind of phone call that knocks a life sideways for weeks, or months, or years. The big ones are harder to embrace, but perhaps it’s even more important to look for the gifts in those doozies.
There is a purpose behind your interruptions. How do they benefit you?
I felt I had to follow up my previous blog about the never-ending story with this post on a similar theme.
I was a pre-school playgroup leader for a time when my children were young. For each day’s session I prepared a craft for the kids. I cut out all the bits and pieces so I could give each child with exactly the same materials. I made a sample of the craft so I could hold it up for all to see.
“This is what we’re making,” I said before setting them lose to create.
If there were 15 kids in the group, at the end there would be 15 completely different crafts.
I admired (and envied) how freely those children followed their artist souls and created without apprehensions about what other people might think. I loved how they danced with excitement with their finished products in hand, no matter what they looked like.
A workshop at the writers’ conference I attended recently reminded me of this.
In the workshop led by Cordelia Strube we worked together to come up with a particular set of circumstances and characters, and then we each wrote individually for about 20 minutes. After the time was up we shared our work.
If there were 20 of us in the group, there were 20 completely different stories.
Once handed the common building materials, each of us scanned them to see what resonated with us individually. We attacked the story from starting points and viewpoints that felt right to us.
Writers in a workshop setting strive to be like those children doing crafts: honouring our artist souls and opening to inspiration, ideas and images, unimpeded by barriers and apprehensions. When we succeed at this, the work we come up with amazes us—shocks us, even—because it’s better than anything we could have foreseen in advance, with all our adult barriers in place.
When we get out of the way of our artist soul, the spirit of the work is good. True.
Astonishing, every time.
At what point in your life have you compared yourself with others?
What has made you say, “I will never be able to (sing, act, paint, write, run, kick, score, pitch, speak, draw, teach, etc.) like that? I might as well chuck in the towel now, because I’ll never be that good.”
It happens to writers often. We read a book or passage and think, “That is so well written. I could never have created something like that. Maybe I should just set down my pen (or laptop) right now.”
At the CanWrite conference in Toronto, Canada on the weekend, keynote speaker Alissa York addressed this issue. She said that comparing our fledgling writing projects to completed gems is like comparing an apple seed to an apple pie. If we spend our time drooling over someone else’s pie, we ignore our own seeds. Better to spend our time, she suggested, planting our own seeds in good soil, watering them, placing them in the sun, watching over them and nurturing them. Doing so allows our apple seeds to grow into mature trees that bear fruit with which to make our own version of a delicious pie.
And all the while we are helping our seeds to transform, we can also dig in and enjoy those other pies, instead of wasting time drooling over them.