Thursday, May 03, 2007


Grab your pen (or keyboard) and take ten minutes to write about....

· Do you speak a foreign language? How did you learn it?
· Nick didn’t want to cut down the oak tree, but it stood in the center of his property. By his estimates, it was smack in the middle of his living room to-be. As he pondered his options, inspiration struck him and he decided….
· Tell us about your first apartment.
· Denise thought river rafting would be the perfect vacation away from everything. She never thought that….
· Melinda was tired of snow. She was ready for spring, for grass and flowers and sunny skies. “As soon as it gets warmer,” she thought, “I’m going to….”
· Cynthia never imagined that the dance-a-thon would last so long. After fourteen hours of dancing, she wanted to stop, but her competitive nature kept her going. Abby Lerner, Cynthia’s rival since grade school, was smiling like she was on hour #1. Finally, Cynthia decided….
· Do you have a favorite television show? What do you like about it?
· What is your favorite desert?
· Zachary noticed the scattered papers before he saw the ransacked briefcase outside his open front door. Clearly, Christopher had arrived ahead of him. Zachary took a deep breath before stepping into the house and….
· The little boy’s smile was contagious….
· Mr. Paul was accustomed to complete and total obedience from his students. When Luke refused to follow directions….
· “I am the master of my own universe,” Toby announced before he….
· Combine a toy, an exit sign, and the color blue in a story.
· Tell us about the last call you received from a telemarketer.
· What do you think are the most important characteristics of a leader?
· Congratulations! You’ve just won your dream house. Price is no object, either for the building or the furnishings. What does it look like and where is it located? Will you live there full-time, or will you go there only for retreats? What item(s) will you splurge on?
· The stone bird bath under the privet tree….
· Gary was tired of waiting, so he….
· Have you ever undertaken your own home decorating/home improvement project? How did it turn out?
· Combine these three things in a story: bricks, a guard rail, and candles.

Happy Writing!

Photo courtesy of Davide Guglielmo, or

Bird by Bird

This is my second time reading Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott’s classic book of writing advice. Many consider it to be advice applicable to life in general, and her quotable writing makes it easy to see why:

“…thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’ ”

My favorite aspect of Lamott’s writing is that she advocates writing purely for the sake of writing. She points out that publication isn’t all it’s cracked up to be (she’s right) and that good writing springs from a desire to communicate, not to get a pay check. (Naturally, for those of us doing this as a living, the goal is to combine both.) Her descriptions of neurotic writerly behavior (checking the mailbox ten times a day, finding 101 things to do other than sit down to write) will make you laugh out loud. And when she’s profound – “Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious,” for instance – you’ll be thinking about her message long after you set down the book.