When I broke my wrist a couple of weeks ago, two people on the same day warned me to be sure to treat the pain. The body remembers, they told me.
As an ex-dancer I’m a firm believer in body memory. It’s a wonderful feeling to let one’s body take over and remember the movements of a choreography. And who hasn’t moved in a particular way (or smelled or tasted or heard something) and have a previous occasion – where we were and who we were with – leap to mind?
But here’s something very weird: I’m convinced (in retrospect) that a week before I broke my wrist, it saw the future.
I liked to make sure my little dog Brandy walked on several different surfaces every day – grass, packed earth, tarmac, mud, gravel… Needless to say, people thought I was nuts but I felt the sensory stimulation would keep him lively and perky. He did live to eighteen!
This exercise, based on the same idea, is a great way to ground yourself before any kind of creative work. I particularly like to do it before sitting down to write or when I’m stuck.
You can use any images, words or ideas that came to you during the exercise in your writing (free write, first draft, insert a new image/idea into something you’re already working on). Or you can simply use it to connect with the ‘now’, to be present with yourself and slip away from your controlling inner editor (or any outer editors for that matter). Continue reading →
Feel like it’s time for a change in your writing? Looking for portals that might lead you to different kinds of stories or different styles of writing from your usual? Try this exercise!
The exercise has two parts. The first – how to write this exercise – comes courtesy of Montréal poet Blossom Thom*, the second – the prompt – is from me.
You will need plenty of paper (I’d suggest good sized paper, not an itsy-bitsy notebook), and a pen or pencil.
But first, a warm up to power up both sides of the brain!
Clasp your hands in front of you. Note which thumb is on top. Open your hands and clasp them again, this time with the other thumb on top. Clasp and re-clasp your hands, alternating thumbs on top, as fast as you can.
Now do the same hand clasping exercise behind your back! Faster!
In life we constantly shift between different ways of experiencing the world – between inner and outer lives, between doing and thinking, dreaming, remembering, talking, between being (in one’s body) and interacting with people, things. We shift between emotions, between judging, enjoying and complaining, between sensing and moving.
Forcing a character to experience similar rapid shifts disrupts linear thinking, often producing Continue reading →
Today’s writing prompt will be an end-of-summer word workout!
1. Start by exercising your fast-twitch word muscles. List all the words you can find within the word given below! For example: if the word were “greatness”: great, eat, teen, neat, greet, gnat, rent, rest, ten….
2. Then we move to the slow-twitch/endurance word muscles. When you have found all you can, find at least four more. (And then four more?) Go on, are you sure there aren’t more?
3. Worn out? Add in some words which use any letter as many times as you like: trea(t), sten(t). Use real names: Tess, Stan
4. Now the pay off! Start writing, incorporating ALL the words in your list in the order in which they appeared.
Shadows II by Jaume Plensa MMBA on loan from Georges Marciano
Nothing perks up a piece of prose – and a writer – more than playing around with sentence structures.
A fun exercise I especially enjoy is to take a sentence that feels totally alien and try to write my own sentence in exactly that same style. Why? To surprise myself. To kick myself out of my same old same old ho-hum sentence habits. To discover new rhythms.
Yesterday, at the National Arts Gallery in Ottawa, we were walking up the ramp along the glass wall to the galleries behind two young boys with their mother.
An elderly, very smartly dressed couple started down the ramp. The man stopped as he and his wife were about to pass the boys. He leaned towards them. Pursing his lips, he started to Continue reading →
A chameleon sentence begins with one energy and ends with another.
Usually it starts off positive with maybe even suggestions of light-heartedness, but then turns into something more ominous. But there’s no reason why one shouldn’t try the reverse.
While chameleon sentences make for terrific beginning sentences, they can shift the narrative, and surprise and engage writer and reader at any time.
“It was a summer’s night and they were talking, in the big room with the windows open to the garden, about the cesspool.” (opening sentence of Between the Acts, Virginia Woolf) A pleasant gathering on a summer’s evening …changes to… something dirty and stinky and underground
“Edna and I had started down from Kalispell headed for Tampa-St. Pete where I still had some friends from the old glory days who wouldn’t turn me in to the police.” (Rock Springs, Richard Ford) A trip down south to old friends …changes to… on the run?
Write 6 chameleon sentences – each one beginning a new story. Surprise the sentence. Surprise yourself.
What chameleon sentences have you come across in your readings or writings? Please share them in the Comments Box.
Got half-an-hour to treat yourself to a fun writing pick-me-up?
Try this writing prompt that Stephanie Ein* gave to my writing group this week. It’s very energizing – has roughly the same effect as a couple of very strong cups of coffee. No choice but to write in the moment.
Write for 30 minutes using the following structure: The first sentence begins with A, the second with B, the third with C… and so on through the alphabet. When you get to Z, start all over again with A. Write fast. No pauses. Do not break the sequence.
Let me know how it goes.
*Stephanie Ein is a teacher, writer and part-time comedian who has performed at numerous comedy clubs around Montreal and beyond. In November 2011, she founded “Love 2 Laugh Montreal,” a group of volunteer stand-up comedians.
Flipping though some of my old journals the other day, looking for inspiration, a paper napkin fell out. The words scribbled on it were in the handwriting and distinctive blue ink of my Advisor in the Lesley University MFA in Creative Writing, Brian Bouldrey (The Sorrow of the Elves, The Honorable Bandit). I can’t actually remember what we were talking about when he wrote those words down, but three or four years later, I found them a fun writing prompt and thought you might enjoy them too.
Once you start, don’t stop for twenty-five minutes, using the following however you like: