When you want to write but aren’t sure how to start…
In The Wednesday Sisters, Linda gets everyone writing by spilling her purse out over a picnic table, telling everyone to pick one item from the contents and write for five minutes. This is how I started writing, when writing teacher Jennifer Allen dumped a bag of goodies on a table in the first writing class I ever took (at age 32) and told us to start writing—one of the best writing prompts I know. “Don’t worry,” she told us, “you won’t have to read.” And when we finished, she called on me first and directed me to read. A good thing, as if she hadn’t I might have slipped out and never returned. I sometimes wonder if she knew that.
The hardest part of writing for me is to get the ink flowing—a task I find far easier when I remind myself that I can throw anything out if it doesn’t work. I do have a little bag of tricks I turn to on mornings when my fingers creak, though. Some of my favorites are listed below. And remember, the trick is just to write without worrying about exactly what you’re writing. Any sentence will do to start—and if it sucks, you can throw it out later!
• Dig out an old personal photo and write about how it makes you feel.
• Pick a photo of someone from a magazine and write about what their home might look like, how they introduce themselves, or what their most embarrassing moment in high school was.
• Imagine a phone rings—and you don’t answer it. What does the person on the other end think?
• Eavesdrop, pick something someone says—something odd, preferably—and start a story there. (Yes, it is dangerous to hang out near me in coffee shops!)
• Focus on someone nearby and pick out something about them—a gesture, the sound of their voice, the curl of their finger or the smell of their hand lotion or the way their lips look on a coffee cup—and describe it.
• Subscribe to an online word-a-day service like googleword, and each day when you sit down to write start with a sentence that uses your word of the day.
• Visit an art museum or find an online photograph gallery. Sit yourself in front of something you like and start writing about the work, how it makes you feel, or anything else that comes to your mind.
• Open a book of poetry to a random page, read a few lines, and write whatever comes to mind.
• Pick a piece of clothing—like Brett’s white gloves—and write about who the character who wears it is and what it says about them.
• Imagine you are your mother on a first date when she was twenty-one.
• Describe the environment around you to a bind person.
• Write a short description of someone you like, then pick a character trait that would drive you nuts and give it to them.
• You are sitting on an airplane with a stranger you will never see again, who will never reveal a word of your conversation. What one thing do you tell them? Is it true? (For this one, you will NOT be required to read, even by Linda! But it is, perhaps, the one thing you really ought to write about.)