Writing Warm Up: Choose A Letter, Any Letter

I love writing warm ups – or any kind of creative warm up – that are fun and a challenge.

My warm up this morning comes from WordPress’ Daily Prompt: Fearful Symmetry: Choose a letter and write with every sentence starting with that letter.

I instantly thought “m”. Of course I then immediately wanted to choose another letter, but I believe (from experience rather than from any supporting scientific evidence) that it’s important to go with one’s first gut response to a creative challenge.

“Should you be writing this sort of stuff?” someone asked me after reading one of my writing warm ups. “Aren’t you wasting your time?”

That’s not the point. The point of a writing warm up is Continue reading

Writing Lessons From Three-Letter Words

From WordPress today, a challenge to write a post without using a single three letter word.

I am never able to resist a tightly restrictive challenge!

As soon as I start, I find three-letter words wanting to jump into every sentence I write. I have to include them: not but and the who can are all (*numbers below refer to these outlawed words)

Is there a writing lesson in this challenge? What am I to do in my writing today if I want to keep to these designated guidelines?

  • stay positive (#1*: “I do want to go….”)
  • agree (#2: no objections)
  • state things simply, in short sentences. Insert a period where this word might normally go (#3)
  • give your writing a punch by omitting this word (#3 again). Instead, stack up clauses using commas.
  • experiment with multiples (#4: some, several, those…)
  •  be vague or personal (again #4: “I tripped over a…”  “I tripped over your…”)
  •  go high-falutin’ (#5: “whomsoever aspires to write a post without using…”)
  •  delete whenever it pops up (#6: is it actually necessary in your sentence?)
  •  find those fancy verbs or employ (!) simple forms of verbs (#7)
  •  divide (#8: “everyone except Marianne…”)

Constraints And Creativity: A Coffee Break Writing Challenge

Want a fun writing challenge for your coffee break this morning?

Here’s a prompt that will put a sparkle in your synapses and a skip in your step.

Author Sharon Callaghan* came up with it for Greene Writers this week. Impossible, no way, you’re joking, we said. The boundaries seemed just too restrictive. But we were bowled over by what we produced.

Teachers of creative movement learn quickly that constraints help creativity. If you say “OK, so go ahead and make a dance” students talk and yawn, and can hardly get themselves up from the floor. If you say “Make a dance in which you cannot move from the spot, using only three parts of your body” there is the usual resistance for a couple of minutes, then you see only intense focus, concentration and energy…and exciting idiosyncratic, dynamic and Continue reading

Go Squeeze Words

pencils rich in wordsDo you read what artists in other disciplines are writing about?

I am always surprised by how helpful blogs and books about photography or visual arts or theater (or any art form) can be for my own writing or movement creativity.

“Think like a painter. Think like a musician. Think like a surgeon. Don’t think, just write.”  Lisa Moore (Prism International, 2009)

I’ve been receiving ideas, advice, inspiration and encouragement from artist Robert Genn’s always entertaining twice-weekly newsletters for years. His recent passing will be a great loss to those who enjoyed his writings, paintings and teaching.

His daughter Sara, also a visual artist, is picking up the torch and continuing her father’s newsletter tradition. In last week’s newsletter she celebrated her father with a moving and inspiring tribute.

Robert Genn was a master of pithy quotations. One in particular that Sara shared, snagged my attention: Continue reading

Creative Grocery List: An Evening With Peter Carey and Josip Novakovich

little wooden man with veggiesI have a very unwriterly reason for having a soft spot for Peter Carey: my godmother was a fervent fan of his.

I remember a wonderful visit with her years ago in her little house (oh how I loved her royal blue bathtub and loo), listening to her talk in great excitement over tea and cake about “this marvelous new Australian writer” and his newly published first novel “Oscar and Lucinda.”

So when I heard the two-time Booker Prize winner was coming to Montreal to discuss “the writing of inspiration” with Globe and Mail’s Arts Editor Jared Bland at Concordia University, how could I not go? Especially as they were to be joined by Booker short-listed author Josip Novakovich, the master, I discovered last year, of the art of hilarious-but-serious anecdotes.

How to begin

Continue reading

Writing and the Dynamics of Smell

I watched a mother pass sample pots of dry teas to her young son in a local tea store. Oranges, he said, sniffing at the tin his mother held out while at the same time continuing to tease his little brother. Grapefruit. Vanilla. Mint. He got them all. I thought about writing and the sense of smell.

Smell for Narrative Energy

In Edinburgh last year, I was entranced by the installation “It Happens When The Body Is Anatomy Of Time” by Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto in the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. The fragrance of spices, cloves, cumin, turmeric, pervaded the room, bringing the visual artwork – lycra ‘skins’, the stitching details, the colour and lighting – alive, and making the installation a sensual and exciting experience. Continue reading

Do You Really Want To Know What Your Body Parts Are Saying About You?

finger of Northumberlandia, Lady of the North
finger of Northumberlandia, Lady of the North

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.

Suddenly, out of the blue, Continue reading

Looking to Write Your Way Out From Your Usual? A Writing Exercise!

Fanny Fanny, a sculpture in welded bronze by César Baldacinni

Fanny Fanny
by César Baldacinni

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!

Warm Up

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!

Part 1: Get Ready…

Using pen or pencil, you will write with Continue reading

Odd Connections and the Creative Process: Writing “Arrivals”

Arrivals notice boardI am so pleased to have my story “Arrivals”  in the new issue of carte blanche.

I started this story in response to an assignment given by Nancy Zafris in her workshop at Kenyon Review Writers’ Summer Workshop in June 2012. Nancy gave the group a list of sentences. We were to choose one as the closing line for a story.

We were given one or two assignments every day for the whole week of the Kenyon Summer Workshop. This assignment Continue reading