The first thing people ask me about when I suggest they schedule intentional writing time into their weekly schedule is, “What do I do if I get all settled in my sacred writing space and I draw a total blank/have nothing to write about?”
Here are a few ideas I have come up with that help me:
- Running list of topics: this is a list I keep, either hand-written or saved as a doc on my computer, of all the things I think I should like to write about…baking with my Grandma, God, my latest culinary creations, the joy of Aunting, and so on. This way, when I sit down for my intentional writing time, I have a few ideas to look over and usually something will pop out at me according to my mood, to my current circumstances, and to what is fresh in my mind at that moment.
- Quotes: check out a list of quotes; sometimes something profound someone else has to say will inspire a thought, a reflection, or maybe even a full-blown poem or story!
- Media: sometimes I have left a movie theater only to go straight to my car and wildly scribble down some poem or piece of a poem on whatever napkin, envelope, or receipt I can find in my glove-box; sometimes a song or melody will so move me; other times a news report or article will ignite some impassioned response. Any of these things can be fodder for your craft!
- The Idea Bucket: this is one of my favorites! During the first group session of each ITWOW cycle, I have group members write down topics, ideas, phrases, etc on colorful index cards. Then we fold them up and put them into my shiny, turquoise, little metal bucket. Each week when we sit down for our quite writing time, if ever a womyn gets stuck not knowing what to write, she can draw a card from the bucket–it may be one of her own, or it may be someone else’s–and hopefully an idea light turns on!
Homework: this week, make yourself a topics resource list: include words, phrases, quotes, news articles, movies, songs, memories that you think you’d like to write about. Jot down a thought or half-thought about some of these things; write down why that item matters to you. You could even print them out, cut out each one, fold them, and toss them into some sort of container to make your own Idea Bucket. Some examples to get you started:
- People, grandparents, mother, father, mom, dad, family, friends, lovers, son, daughter, sister, brother,
- Rain, drip, pour, scent, dew, soil, earth, moss, fog, mist,
- Ocean, tide, current, wave, crashing, sand,
- Trail, path, journey, travel,
- Storm, thunder, wind, breeze, moon, stars, night, dark, dawn, light
- alone, together, apart, close, connected, detached
- community, conscious, relevant, activism, social justice, politics,
- love, passion, fire, desire, lust, pain, hurt, disappointment, heartbeat
- hello, goodbye, at first sight, parting, leaving, returning, going home, coming home, away…
And a sample quote for you:
What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say?…There are so many silences to be broken.
I am a creative writer. I cannot crank out a quality piece on demand (although how many times I’ve wished I could for those special occasions and dear people). I write when the poem comes. When I am moved, so shall I type.
Learning to be a disciplined creative writer can be an extremely challenging endeavor. When I begin a new session of ITWOW workshops and inform the womyn that we will begin each group with a quiet writing time, I’m often met with deer-in-the-headlights kind of looks of panic.
It’s definitely not the easiest thing to learn to make intentional space for writing. There’s always a question of, “Where to fit it in my busy schedule?” Or the pressure to perform, “What if I set aside this sacred hour to write and NOTHING HAPPENS?!” More often than not, the time and space for creativity is the very first thing to get nixed from our overloaded calendars. But I promise you this: when you make a commitment to show up at your journal, your notebook, your keyboard to write, the words will come. Slowly at first probably; but they will come.
Homework: pencil in 30-45 minutes of sacred, uninterruptable, quiet time for writing this week; try to do this every week this month. Get out of your home, away from the call of laundry, dishes, bills, and settle in a place that exudes creative vibes. Try a coffee shop or bookstore (preferably an indie one); park it at an art gallery space; spread out a blanket in a park; sit by the seaside; hike into the woods and pull up a rock; whatever moves you, go there and write!
At the behest of a beautiful, dear, friend of mine, I have decided to try to post semi-regular articles with some tips and hints about writing that have proven helpful to me over the years. I am by no means a professional writer; I am not published (though one day I hope that this will be a false statement); I have no degree or formal training in writing (other than the school of life); and I have no critics you might consult (other than those who are integral members of the open mic communities I call home).
All that being written, I humbly offer my thoughts, musings, and experiences about writing, about not writing, about wanting to write but having nothing come out of my pen, about not wanting to write and having words spill all over the desk and down onto my lap, about adoring my writing, about loathing my writing, about finally having the courage to call myself a writer, about wondering if I really deserve that identity. I’m certain that many, if not all of you, have experienced one or another of these moments…or all of them. So I will share with you what I know–however meager that may be and my hope is that you can turn my meager portion into something of magnificence! Like a tiny bit of yeast dough, I offer you my thoughts, and mixed together with your being, your talents, and your words, I hope you will create a delectable feast for your soul…and others’! So Bon Appetit!
PS: Given the wealth of talent and experience represented by all of you, I invite you to share with us your favorite tips & hints; share in the comments or submit an article of your own for me to publish!