Posts Tagged #writing process

Write about a time you were rocked and felt held

summer sky with dense clouds

Fastwrite prompt from a recent writing workshop:
Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly. Feel your shoulders relax.
Remember a time you were held, and rocked. Or a time you held someone, and rocked them. Any time you felt safe, held.
Begin there. Write for 7 minutes, focusing on the sensations, the moment.

Here’s what came up for me:


Sea-salt air hammock snugged around my sturdy body
little me in my chlorine-bleached Speedo
rope-web diamonding my solid thighs

Kennebunk sun, north sun
light as a cotton sweater on a cool morning
swaying, swaying, swaying, swaying away

Gulls overhead blue sky then pines then smoke bushes
green gaze rolling like a marble in the swing, swing
springs of the hammock singing along with my

Nonsense syllables wiggling toes and goosebumps
Queen Anne’s lacy head tickling my back
shivering me in the carrot-scented breeze

Summer waning, sliding swaying
far off a tractor growls in the Ricker’s potato fields…
at the fringe edge of the forest, a deer watches, dark eyed.



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Write about a time there were flowers…

white flower

plump smell, like baby skin, blooming
so beautiful so smooth
(everyone says so)
and I think of daisies and lilies and youth,
smooth and slippery

the sweet smooth skin holding memories in,
pressed like petals between book covers
dried papery flat, crackly as a map of a lost world:
how to find our way back when

we are all falling apart,
cell by cell,
moment by moment
going, going, gone—
still springtime’s tap pours out, keeps pouring
children smooth-skinned happy laughing cranky cries rise
on the wind near the playground
little feet wiggle in strollers pushed by vacant fathers, mothers
eyes lost in thoughts, worries

little griefs trip us, cracks in the sidewalk
all we can feel sometimes is the hard fall, smooth
stripped away scraped bloody

while above the sidewalk, a canopy of tulip trees
unfurls hundreds—no thousands—of trembles
petals waving
tiny flags alive in the breeze

when falling apart,
look up

Prompt: Hold a flower. Examine the petals, smell it. Breathe in.
Now: close your eyes, and think of a time from memory or imagination, when there were flowers. Go: write for 11 minutes.

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feeling trapped

A wall, Eastern State Penitentiary.

A wall, Eastern State Penitentiary.

I’m doing a forty-day series of writing prompts to jump-start a novel that I’d let go of working on.

I write each prompt in the voice of the character of my story. A lot of it won’t be in the story, but it is a lot of fun and I’m getting to know my character much better.

Here’s today’s: Imagine a time you felt trapped or were trapped, literally. What happened? (Prompt inspired by a visit to Eastern State Penitentiary​, in Philadelphia, a prison where solitary confinement was pioneered as a punishment.)

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Failure

Magic Garden, Philadelphia

Magic Garden, Philadelphia

I’m no scientist, but still, I’m fascinated by the process of scientific exploration and discovery. I enjoy reading non-fiction written by scientists, like Michio Kaku, Hannah Holmes, Candace Pert; my favorite column in the New York Times Magazine is “Diagnosis,” where there’s a patient who presents with mysterious symptoms who is puzzled over and prodded by many well-meaning, smart doctors until one of them hits on the “Eureka!” moment (and yes, I like the TV show “House,” too). Reading and watching TV—that’s pretty much where I learned all I know about science. (And I’ll admit it, it’s sketchy at best.)

Still, it’s gotten to be kind of an obsession the last few years, this science-reading. I read things way over my head, about string theory and physics and opiate receptors. (I’ve learned to accept some obsessions, and this one seems harmless enough.)

I can’t explain quantum theory or recite the periodic table of elements, and after quizzing two kids in preparation for AP Bio, I’m sure I’d never pass if I had to take it myself. But I learned something important. I learned that scientists know and accept something that many writers want to banish from our lives: failure. With a capital F.

Every scientist understands that the way to a breakthrough is via failure. Failure is expected. Every wrong exploration produces not wasted time but valuable knowledge. Knowing what doesn’t work leads you closer to what does work.

Somehow, many of us writers are led to believe that every effort needs to be our very best work. What counts, I’ve decided, is giving our best EFFORT. Sinking in, enjoying the process, imagining the possibilities, letting an idea carry us as far as it will go, knowing that some of those ideas aren’t strong enough to go all the way. And that is okay.

A scientist doesn’t go in hoping or thinking they will fail. They go in excited about what they might discover. Sure, it’s frustrating. What worth doing isn’t sometimes frustrating? Showing up to write and trying it from many angles, showing up and learning what works and what doesn’t, plain old trial and error, is the way to the moment where something alchemical happens.

Where your dozens of tiny words fall away and suddenly, a story or a poem, a beautiful whole thing, appears in their place.

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