Inspiration Online [Part II]

Agnes Long Fox [Sioux, 1914-1984]

Agnes Long Fox [Sioux, 1914-1984]



June 6, 2014.  Prompt #37

Today we build on yesterday’s visit to the Smithsonian’s image gallery If you haven’t read my June 5th post, do that now. Today’s prompts build on yesterday’s images.



Further Writing

  • Project yourself into the image you are viewing. Write for 10 minutes. Does this change your point of view or what you write about?
  • For ten minutes, write a visual account of the image, noting details and relationships between the parts of the painting, print, or photo. Did you notice anything new?

Variations for Writing Groups

  1. Print out your image or be sure you’ll be able to bring it up on a laptop or tablet.
  2. Looking at your image, use your imagination to answer these questions. What sounds do you hear or associate with the image? What smells?  Propel yourself into the image, then “touch” part of it.  What textures and temperatures do you feel? Is there anything in it you could taste? If so, describe it. If the image is abstract, this is an especially good opportunity to flex your creative muscle.
  3. Go together to a museum or gallery. Plant yourself in front of an artwork and write for 20 minutes. Note: Get permission from guards or gallery owners first. They might ask you to write in pencil or have other requirements.

Inspiration Online: Paintings, Prints, and Photos

Summer Sky

“Summer Sky” by Dan Namingha, [Hopi-Tewa, born 1950]. From the National Museum of the American Indian.


June 5, 2014.  Prompt #36

Today we turn to the Smithsonian’s image gallery to be inspired by one of the thousands of images there. Warning: This is a mesmerizing site. Don’t get so lost in exploring that you forget to write.






  1. Go to
  2. In the “Search All Catalogs” box on the right, type in a keyword. (If you can’t decide on a keyword, type in “summer.”)
  3. When you receive your search results, scan the images until you find one that inspires you. If you can’t decide which to use, choose the 3rd one.
  4. Enlarge it and free write for five minutes, noting any questions, emotions or observations that arise while you look at the image.
  5. Next, circle three words or phrases that stand out for you.  Write one of them at the top of new piece of paper.  Write for more fifteen minutes.

Tomorrow:  Further Writing Tips and Variations for Writing Groups

Inspiration Everywhere: Public Art II

June 4, 2014.  Prompt #35

photo 2

Today’s prompt follows up yesterday’s post on artist Gary Hirsh’s Bot Joy interactive mural. Learn more about the mural here and at #botstories.


  1. Writing for five minutes, list people, situations, activities, and emotions that you are afraid of.  For instance, mine would include gondola rides, small planes, glass elevators and global climate change.  (I also think clowns are creepy, but I’m not actually afraid of them.)
  2. Next, for fifteen minutes, choose one of the items above and write about it in details.  Include large and small descriptive details and well as emotional ones.

Further Writing

  • Write about something that is both scary and pleasant, perhaps at different times or at the same time. (Mine would be light houses.)
  • Write about a fear you’ve overcome or a new fear that didn’t used to bother you.

Variations for Writing Groups

  1. As suggested above, write about a time you experienced fear. Re-reading what you have written, circle twelve to fifteen of your strongest or most surprising words and phrases. Re-write them all on a new piece of paper to create a poem or prose poem.
  2. Using a story, essay, or poem you are currently writing or revising, work in a moment of fear. How does this enrich the work?
  3. Write a piece that combines fear and joy.


Inspiration Everywhere: Public Art

June 3, 2014.  Prompt #34

photo 3


Last month in Boulder, artist Gary Hirsh of Bot Joy painted an interactive mural at the northeast corner of Arapahoe and  13th Street, near the Farmer’s Market.  The mural poses several introspective questions of its viewers. You can find out more about the mural here and at #botstories.

For today and tomorrow’s prompt, we’ll work with two of the “bot prompts.”  Feel free to draw your own bot to complement your writing!



  1. For five minutes, free write about joy. Include whatever associations, people, places, activities—general or specific, arise.
  2. Next, for fifteen minutes, focus in on a time when you were filled with joy. Include the both large and small details of the setting, who you were with, what was happening around you and inside you. Include sensory details. Did the joy last for days, hours, or just a moment? Had you worked to create it or had it unexpectedly emerged?

Further Writing

  • Write about a time when you experienced unexpected or fleeting joy.
  • Write about daily small joys that you try to cultivate in your life.

Variations for Writing Groups

  1. As suggested above, write about a time you experienced unexpected or fleeting joy. Re-reading what you have written, circle twelve to fifteen of your strongest or most surprising words and phrases. Re-write them all on a new piece of paper to create a poem or prose poem.
  2. Using a story, essay, or poem you are currently writing or revising, work in a moment of profound joy. How does this enrich the work?


Inspiration Everywhere: Maya Angelou

June 2, 2014.  Prompt #33

mayaAs a writer, I am often asked, “Where do you find your inspiration?” That question always surprises me, as I find inspiration everywhere. In this week’s posts, I’ll offer a variety of people, places, and instances that may inspire you.  Using your writer’s notebook, track what engages you throughout the day.


Maya Angelou

Last week, writer, performer, professor, and activist Dr. Maya Angelou died.  My Facebook feed was filled with tributes and quotes. This was among my favorites: Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.


  1. For five minutes, free write about the word courage. Include whatever associations—people, places, situations—arise.
  2. Next, for ten minutes, write about a time when you acted courageously, in either word or action, either big or small.

Further Writing

  • Write about a time when you (or your character) were not as courageous as you wished you’d been.  Was there a time when you missed an opportunity to act courageously?
  • My father used a say, “Discretion is the better part of valor”  (originally “The better part of valoris discretion,” from Shakespeare’s Henry IV.)  Write about the difference between valor and courage and the complexity of courageous acts.

Variations for Writing Groups

  1. On an index card, write a short description of a real or imagined courageous act.
  2. Place the cards in the middle of the table and choose one to write about for 15 minutes.
  3. Discuss the power of big vs. understated courageous acts. What are the challenges of writing about each of them?


Uniform Writing

ice womenMay 31, 2014  Prompt #31

To wrap up Clothing Week, today’s prompt is short and sweet:  Write about work clothes.  Your work clothes might be an actual uniform or simply what you wear when it’s time to earn a living or get the job done. If you need more structure, refer to the prompts from earlier this week. The guidelines and suggestions are largely transferable.

Have fun and get to work!


The Task At Hand

basement artist

Here’s 6-year-old me in a BIG smock provided by longtime family friend Helene Hemmendinger. Eric H. is working the other side of the easel.

May 30, 2014  Prompt #30

Do you have a favorite item of clothing that you wear for a particular task? A gardening shirt, a well-loved apron, a pair of road trip blue jeans?  This item of clothing will be your touchstone for the following prompts. If you don’t have a particular garment that fits this description, choose something that is meaningful to you in another way.

Ann Brashares wrote an entire series of books that revolved around a pair of blue jeans — The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Of course, the books are not really about the pants; they are about friendship, loyalty, and growing up.  What larger themes will emerge from your writing?



  1. For five minutes, write a physical description of your clothing choice. Describe its style, fabric, and color. Does it have tears or stains? Where and when did you acquire it?
  2. Put on the item of clothing. Do you feel connected to the task for which you generally wear it? (Time to bake raisin oatmeal cookies! Time to weed around the stoop or feed the horses!) Write about your connection to the piece of clothing, how it came to be your painting, hiking, or “clean the gutter” garment. Write for 15 minutes.

Further Writing

  • Write about someone else’s “go-to” clothes. For instance, my father had a pair of frayed blue shorts he gardened in for twenty years, until my mother decided they so worn-thin they were “obscene.”  She tossed them.

Variations for Writing Groups

  1. Each member brings in a piece of clothing they associate with a particular use.  For a few minutes each, talk about your clothing choice with the group.
  2. Next, for 15 minutes, write about how you feel when you wear it.
  3. Fictional turn: write about someone who panics when they cannot find a specific piece of clothing. Can they not go out on a date because they can’t find their green high-tops? Do they give up on working in their studio because their perfectly worn, perfectly paint-splattered Oxford shirt is missing?

What did you think of this writing prompt? Share your thoughts.