Happy St. Patrick’s Day. For today’s writing prompt, try writing about something festive. How about writing a story about five friends that get separated during a St. Patrick’s Day parade. What adventure does each of them have in trying to find each other?
A writer and nothing else: a man alone in a room with the English language, trying to get human feelings right. ~John K. Hutchens
Sometimes when writer’s block hits, we think of a dozen or more things to do other than write. I looked back at the last post and it was a few days ago. Shame…on…me.
Some of my excuses are as follows:
I have laundry to do.
The cat needs feeding.
I have a hangover
I need to go to the gym
I feel like cooking all day and that is good for stress and long term feeding…
There will always be something, but we should always try to find a way to write SOMETHING, so, grab your pad of paper and pen or turn on the laptop and start at it, even if it’s just gibberish. Go for it, don’t edit, be random. Who know’s what might come out when you least feel like it.
I’ve been thinking about some of the first dates I’ve had in my life. Some were fun, other disastrous. In some cases, I knew the evening was doomed the minute opened the door. Try to think back to some of the first encounters you’ve had. Do any of them stand out? Anything funny or odd in the past? Try to think of something memorable and likewise, if there was a middle and end to the relationship try to think of the last time you saw the person.
Many of us have traveled by train at some point in our lives. In my case, most days. I find a seat, plug in the ipod, close my eyes and listen to tunes as I doze. Other times, I read a book or become engrossed in a game on my iphone.
The point is, that very rarely have I bothered to put the phone, music laptop or books away and just looked out the window at the view. I know it’s not the easiest thing if you’re traveling at night, but when the sun is out or even in the haze of the English countryside or scooting along the coast of Scotland, try looking out the window and taking in the scenery. What do you see? Are there cows grazing? Can you follow the roads and spot rivers or flocks of birds? Maybe you’re passing a city, full of thousands of people living out their lives, hurrying from one place to another.
On the way down to London on day, as I headed down the coastal track via Newcastle, I watched the sea and small towns and I flew past at high speed. A few of the views of trees and rivers made me wish I could stop. I even day dreamed of getting a month train pass and moving from place to place by train and see the country from end to end. (I still may do this).
Next time you’re on a trip, look out the window. Absorb everything around you and write down what you see. You might find your next story setting.
We’ve all had one. Growing up we all probably had a favourite teddy bear or doll we carried with us everywhere. Mine was Jerry, the teddy bear. He was pale brown with black eyes and dark brown feet and paws. Round ears that listened to my ramblings and rants as a child. To humiliate him, I sometimes put him in a doll’s dress and sat him on the edge of the bed while I made us make-believe tea.
One day, I learned the lesson of permanent damage. I got it into my head that I wanted to play barber and poor Jerry was my client. One clip from the kitchen scissors and a lump of his synthetic fur was gone. Oops , I thought. I don’t know what I thought would happen, but glue was not an option.
So, one of my first lessons in cause and effect…
Last time I visited home, there he was, casually sitting on the bed amongst my other stuffed animals, the same missing clump, the same slight smile on his light tan face. I picked him up, turned him around and spotted the wind-up mechanism in his back I forgot he had. When I turned the handle, the music box still worked and he played “Jack and Jill”. Suddenly I was five years old again, twisting and twisting the handle to let the music play as long as possible until I fell asleep.
I’ve had dozens of stuffed animals throughout my life. Some were gifts from boyfriends, others won at a fun faire, but Jerry was my first favourite.
So, think back to the cuddly toys you’ve had in your life. Write about your favourite. Think about the memories of your childhood associated with it.
This is one of the hardest things to write. There are thousands of stories and very few themes in the world, but I think that to write love convincingly is enough to twist you in two, make you doubt yourself and make you feel like grabbing your laptop, closing it and using it as a really big coaster.
Love comes in many shapes and sizes. Romantic, unrequited, love between strangers, family, friends…
Trying to communicate it in either words or actions is complicated. Especially if you’re writing for an audience. It’s hard to write emotion and not feel like a bit of a tool. You wonder if you sound corny, or if it rings true. And of course, the hardest thing about writing love is that you feel totally exposed, as though by writing that feeling, you’re allowing for the possibility that people who read your work will think it’s you.
So, try to write about love. It can be a memoir, a love story, either happy or sad. The important thing is to try to write honestly and inject some of your own experience into the work. Tricky, but try it. You might surprise yourself.
Things break all the time. Some intentionally, like eggs or piggy banks. Others are accidents, like dropping something on your iPhone or shattering a glass while washing up. Sometime things get broken without anyone even realising, like promises, hearts or relationships.
Draft a story around the concept of something broken. What happened, who was involved and what are the consequences? Dig deep and try to delve past the obvious.
I lit a candle on the fireplace mantle and it released a light scent of vanilla. As I looked around the room, I realised there were dozens of smells available to me. A bottle of lavender hand lotion was on the table, my favourite perfume, Pomegranate Noir from Jo Malone beside it. The cat came in from the rain and I could smell grass and wet fur.
When writing, one of the senses we often overlook is the sense of smell. The ability to describe things in terms of their smell can add depth to your writing. Give it a try. Describe a room, now carefully describe elements within it by their scent.
I don’t pretend we have all the answers. But the questions are certainly worth thinking about.
-Arthur C. Clarke