Archives for January 2010

Wordless Wednesday – Snow Day

Writing Exercises

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about what writing exercises I do and how I do them, so I figured I’d post my current favorite writing prompt:

Take a song lyric, use it as your first line, and free-write for three minutes. Pick a short phrase – ex. “Come on, baby” instead of “Come on, baby, light my fire,” so it will be easier to allow yourself the freedom to go in a different direction from the actual song lyrics. If you decide you like the ideas you’ve come up with, make sure to take out the song lyric in the next round of edits.

My personal preference is to write in pencil on unlined paper. For me, the lack of lines limits the grade school test anxiety flashbacks, and the pencil on paper limits potential internet distractions. Different things work for different people. If you need a special pen, go for it. If you like to write on posterboard, go for it. The most important thing for you to do is write. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, handwriting, etc. Just let your mind finish the first phrase and keep going.

I set the timer on my phone and write for 30 minutes, but keep in mind that this is what I do, so putting that kind of time in makes sense for me. If you want to write but don’t feel like you can squeeze it in, try five minutes. Or put some food in the microwave and write until the timer goes off. The point is to get ideas out, see what’s lurking in the dark recesses of your brain, and see if you can turn it into anything you’ll really want to work on.

Keep in mind that the end result of your writing exercise will not be good. It shouldn’t be good. It’s just a prompt, not a polished piece. You’re just getting ideas, and just as you don’t expect poetic perfection from yourself when you write out a grocery list, you shouldn’t expect it from a writing exercise. Do not edit yourself in the exercise process – the editing comes later. Put your pen down and just write. Sometimes, you’ll get something you want to keep working on, and sometimes you won’t. Coming up short does not mean you’re a bad writer, it means that the prompt, plus the instances of your day and your current frame of mind didn’t equal an interesting idea. Don’t give up.

In the same vein, do not allow yourself to see what you’ve come up with in a writing exercise as the end result. Don’t do a writing exercise, decide it’s actually quite a brilliant little short story and immediately submit it to McSweeney’s. Sleep on it. For many nights. Good stories take editing. Good stories take pondering and tweaking and adjusting. There are times when a complete idea will come out all at once and you’ll end up with the bones of an amazing story. You will still need time to fill in the skin and the hair and the fingernails and put a little cover up on the zits and under-eye circles. I’m sorry I turned us all into weird Dr. Frankensteins just now, but seriously, edit your work, even if you think it’s awesome at the first pass.

Do you do writing exercises? Is it something you’re interested in starting? Do you have any interesting writing rituals that work for you?

New Website!

Hey, check out the new website for STAY at! This blog is linked in, and I’ll continue to update from here.

The Great Interview Experiment – Part 2

Kanani Fong over at Get Lost With Easy-Writer posted our interview. She asked some great questions! Please check it out!

Did I forget to mention we live in the Arctic?

Originally uploaded by AlliesAnswers

Oh, another week of meaning to blog and not quite getting to it, so here’s a pretty picture, and now I’m going to do one of my rundown lists on the events of the past week. :)

  • Last Sunday, J and I grabbed our very underused crampons, and went out to Chimney Bluffs on Lake Ontario to climb around on the ice and pretend to be Arctic explorers. We took tons of pictures on our phones, and if you click on the link above, it should take you to them — if, you know, you’re interested in seeing 60+ pictures of ice. I’ll have to steal J’s camera later and upload some of the ones of me in my sweet bright orange jacket (sale item, but super warm). It was the first time in a long time that we put aside our insane to do lists and just went out to play. It was much needed.
  • Stella was due for her shots and I suspected (correctly) that Argo had an ear infection, so I did what any dog owner who doesn’t think enough before she acts would do, and scheduled an appointment for both of them AT THE SAME TIME. The double lead leash works super well for walks when they are both going in the same direction. Not so much in waiting rooms when Stella wants to hide and Argo wants to cuddle with everyone. When the vet tech was weighing Stella, Argo taught himself how to open the exam room door and let himself back into the waiting room to, presumably, cuddle with everyone. And when the vet came in, Argo got super protective of Stella, so after he got his ears checked out, I had to run him out to the car. I have realized it is not, in fact, easier to take both dogs in at once. Separate appointments from now on, unless J can come and wrangle dogs with me.
  • I got J hooked on Friday Night Lights so I have an excuse to watch all the episodes again. As a result, I have been walking around singing, “Oh, Landry! Well you came and you gave without taking, but I sent you away, oh Landry,” because a. Barry Manilow is awesome, b. it totally fits, doesn’t it? c. Landry is awesome, and d. I’m weird.
  • I launched, Operation Please Stop Making Your Husband Look At You Wearing 15 Year Old Theatre Production T-shirts (or OPSMYHLAYWFYOPT) and bought myself some actual PJs that don’t have holes in them or advertise the most awful, un-diverse production of The Wiz that ever was performed.
  • I faced the fact that online to do list systems don’t work for me, no matter how much I love the idea of being all high tech about organization, and went back to writing things down.
  • I played phone tag with Lady.
  • I took a good, long bath, complete with bath salts, a mass market paperback, and a good glass of wine.
  • I started my days this week with 30 minutes of writing exercises.

What have you been up to this week?

Our Holiday Card

Kyla (who has a beautifully redesigned blog) mentioned she wanted to see our holiday cards.

I have to admit that I didn’t finish getting my cards out. So, if you didn’t get one, blame the contractor, okay? :)

Also, he’s only sneezing.


I’m putting together a new website for STAY, and I’m going to include a Q&A section. If you have any questions about me, my dogs, the book, writing, publishing, or anything else that may be related, leave your question below. If I use your question on the new site, I’ll link to your blog or twitter profile.

Thank you!!!!

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