Practice Makes Perfect

My mind has being moving faster than my time and energy can handle. It feels like every minute there is a new idea that I need to jot down. I have little pieces of stories scribbled all over the place. My day calendar reads something like this: June 15th: [a few lines of dialogue, a short description of a scene]–“place before June 10th scene, but after June 12th.” My daily schedule has turned into a series of character sketches. It’s amusing; but I really need to find a way to focus my mind and direct all of this creative energy in a clearer, more productive way. At the very least, I need to get all my little pieces of story into one place, map it all out on stickies notes and post them on my bulletin board or something.

I have all of these books about writing–about the craft, the practice, the art of writing–but I barely ever use them. I flipped through one of them this morning, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, and decided to actually put it to use, stupid title be damned. One of the chapters offers a list of writing topics that are designed to help you focus your thoughts by forcing you to only write about one specific topic for a predetermined length of time. I’ve decided to go through the list and do one item a day (probably more like every other day if I’m being realistic) with the hope that this kind of intentional practice will clear my mind of all the superfluous noise and help me focus more sharply and usefully on the specific ideas that will expand and improve the couple of different stories I’m actively working on.

Below is the list of practice topics from the book. I think I’ll plan on sharing what I produce for each topic on this blog. If you have any ideas that you think would be helpful, or if there are any specific topics that you’d like to see me write about, please share them in the comments and I’ll add them to the list. I’m definitely open to additional ideas and suggestions.

  1. Tell about the quality of light coming in through your window. Don’t worry if it is night and your are closed–just write.
  2. Begin with “I remember.” Write lots of small memories. If you fall into one large memory, write that.
  3. Take something you feel strongly about, whether it is positive or negative, and write about it as though you love it. Go as far as you can, writing as though you love it, then flip over and write about the same thing as though you hate it. Then write about it perfectly neutral.
  4. Choose a color and take a fifteen-minute walk. On your walk notice wherever there is [your color]. Come back to your notebook and write for fifteen minutes.
  5. Write in different places–for example, in a laundromat, and pick up on the rhythm of the washing machines. Write at bus stops, cafes. Write about what is going on around you.
  6. Write about your morning. Be as specific as possible. Slow down in your mind and go over the details of the morning.
  7. Visualize a place that you really love, be there, see the details.
  8. Write about “leaving.” Approach it any way you want. Write about divorce, leaving the house this morning, or a friend dying.
  9. What is your first memory?
  10. Who are the people you have loved?
  11. Write about the streets of your city.
  12. Describe a grandparent.
  13. Write about: swimming, the stars, the most frightened you’ve ever been, green places, the closest you ever felt to God or nature, reading and books that have changed your life, physical endurance, a teacher you had.
  14. Take a poetry book. Open to any page, grab a line, write it down, and continue from there.

One thought on “Practice Makes Perfect

  1. I know I’m behind in keeping up with your posts, but I just had to say how all of these topics make me excited to see what you write about them! I wish I had the time (and talent) to contemplate them and write like you do. Enjoy these little practice challenges, I’m sure they’ll provoke lots of thought.

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