May 7, 2014 Prompt #6
Today’s prompt takes a different slant, one in which you create your own list of writing springboards inspired by daily life.
- Find or buy a notebook small enough to carry with you in a bag, briefcase, or even a coat pocket.
- As you go through your day, pay attention to the world around you. When something strikes you as memorable, puzzling, funny, or beautiful, write it down.
- Once a week, sit down with your notebook, choose something you have written (The white boy with the yellow sweater and blue hair. The squeal of the braking train = childhood dog, Barky.) and rewrite it on the top of a fresh sheet of paper. Write about it for 10 minutes.
Ideas for Inspiration
- Eavesdrop (politely) on public conversions. Listen to children.
- Write down expressions or turns of phrases that catch your attention.
- Look at the clothes of people around you. Look at buildings and trees. Look at the sky.
- Take a different route to work. What surprises you? Write it down.
- Traveling on a train? Close your eyes for a few moments, then write what you hear.
Three More Thoughts
- When note taking, don’t worry about the quality of writing or where the observation might lead. Simply scribble away!
- Set context. Some writers like to include background to help them remember where and why they wrote a note. “Rhinestone collar on a French bulldog” might be memorable three months later, but “small dog barking” might not. Consider adding place and date to your notes if you find that helpful.
- Don’t use your writer’s notebook for phone numbers, appointments, or to do lists. This is your sacred writer’s space!
Electronic Writer’s Notebook?
In general, I don’t like using my iPhone as a writer’s notebook. Why?
- When I open the Notes app to type something in, I’m usually distracted by email or find myself checking Facebook posts.
- When I’m at a reading or lecture and write something in my Writer’s Notebook, I look scholarly. If I type it into my phone, it appears as if I’m not paying attention.
However, if electronic note-taking works for you, go for it.
How Keeping A Writer’s Notebook Strengthens Your Writing
- It encourages you to be more observant (and perhaps, more engaged) in the world.
- It stirs your brain.
- It creates a treasure chest of prompts that you can use to inspire your writing.
Next Steps for More Writing
- Sketch in your notebook. Later, write about what you drew. How does drawing feel different than writing?
- Cut and Paste! For example, cut out quotes from magazines and headlines from newspapers. Paste in fortunes from fortune cookies and tags from tea bags. Later, use one of these quotes as the starting point for a 10-minute writing exercise.
Tips and Variations for Writing Groups
- Start your group with each member reading out loud one note from their writer’s notebook.
- Swap observations. On a note card, write down one observation from your notebook (The clouds reflect pink in the high windows. My dead aunt’s perfume lives on in the doctor’s waiting room.) Put all the observations in the middle of the table. Each writer chooses an observation that is not their own as a prompt. Write for 15 minutes.
For a prompt later this week, find an old postcard. If you don’t have one, check antique shops or tourist shops. Or, type the phrase “old travel postcards” into Google’s image search or another search engine and choose one from there.
My butterfly friend and mentor Robert Michael Pyle had a handmade leather thingy for carrying his notebooks. Serious belt loops and rich, brown leather make it look like jungle-explorer’s gear. When he drinks a beer, he collects the name of the tavern in his book with memoirs and memorabilia. When I get to see his books, they are full of little drawings, plenty of scribbles, and coasters. Beer coasters.