Tomorrow is the beginning of National Novel Writing Month or nanowrimo, as it has come to be known. Don’t let the word “novel” throw you off, because all you need to do is write 50,000 words between Nov. 1st and Nov. 30th and you win. There’s no one judging the quality of what you write. Continue reading
I’ve been to a lot of readings: poetry, fiction, memoir, etc. Seems like no matter what, if there’s a Q & A portion of the reading, someone will ask, “Where do you get your ideas?”
I understand why this always comes up. It comes up because no matter how imaginative we are, when we sit down to write, we are facing the blank page. Or the blank screen. Then, if you’re me, the ideas you’ve had about what to write fly out of your head and you stare at the page in despair. This is why I keep lists of things to write about.
Prompt writing is a form of automatic writing, a technique that was popularized by the Surrealist art movement. In prompt writing you begin by writing down a word or phrase (e.g., “I remember”) and then continue writing whatever pops into your head at that moment. The idea is to keep your hand moving. If you hit a wall and can’t think of anything else, you can repeat the phrase and then keep going. Natalie Goldberg describes this process in more detail in her book Writing Down the Bones. She suggests setting a timer and committing to keep writing until the timer goes off, no matter what. No need to worry about spelling, punctuation, or grammar– just go.
Sometimes the hardest thing about a poem/essay/story/novel is writing the beginning. Putting the words down on the page is like standing up in front of a room full of people and saying, “Listen up!” It’s a big moment. What if they don’t listen? What if they do, and they don’t like what they heard? What if your work is boring? Really, there’s no end to the ways you can screw up. Continue reading