Have you ever taken a face-to-face writing class and felt like you were the only person in attendance who didn’t have a clue?
I have, *shudder* and it’s not an experience I’m keen to repeat.
I vividly recall the first writing class I took after I realized that the novel I’d written—a true work of unblemished genius—would never sell. Talk about feeling lost and humiliated! The teacher, a published writer, clapped her hands a said, “Well…that’s enough talk for now! Let’s write. Everyone free-write for 20 minutes, and then we’ll read a few of your passages.”
OMG! I totally panicked. Write for 20 minutes? About what?
Now, you have to understand, I’ve always been a straight A student, a true Hermione Grainger type. Not do an assignment? Not understand what a teacher wanted? Totally freaked me out!
I think I finally managed to eke out two sentences. Needless to say, I didn’t volunteer to read. Another pubbed writer in the group was asked to read his passage. Eric had nearly completed a flash fiction piece in that twenty minutes!
Even the teacher was astounded. Eric had his laptop along—me, who never writes by hand unless forced, was sitting there with a notebook and pen—so she asked him for a word count. As I recall he’d written a little over 1400 words in the time it had taken me to dither over two sentences!
Eric (who became my first real mentor) was quick to point out that his ability hadn’t come easily; he’d worked hard to train his muse to come on command. When I chatted with him during the break, he recommended a random word exercise. His point was not that I’d get lots of publishable stories, but that I’d train my subconscious to work for me, instead of me waiting for “inspiration.”
Everything and anything becomes inspiration once you train your muse to come when called.
Mind you, my muse and I are still in training…
BUT, if you’d like to try it, here’s the exercise I use:
Create a list of 3-word sets. Totally random, unrelated words. (examples: army-tiger-ring; brother-aesthetic-muddle; zebra-skeleton-barbell)
Each day copy one set from the list to a blank page. Set a timer for 15 minutes and write until it goes off. Your goal is to use all three words in a meaningful way before the timer beeps.
That’s it. Just 15 minutes per day.
Don’t expect brilliance from these timed-writes. Expect to panic and wail, “I can’t possibly use all three of those words in 15 minutes! They don’t have any correlation!”
Exactly. Write for 15 minutes anyway. Don’t think about it; do it. Make your fingers fly and work each of the words in. You don’t have to show these exercises to anyone, you just have to do them…and your muse must answer your call and supply the inspiration. Make her sweat.
Most days, you’ll get drivel, but every now and then a story seed will appear. When that happens, rejoice. But remember, that’s not why you’re doing the exercise. The story seeds are pure serendipity.
You’re doing the exercise to accomplish two things: to discipline yourself to a daily writing habit, and to train your muse to come when you place your hands on the keyboard.
Don’t you think those items are worth 15 minutes a day?