The Prompter Room

For Saturday, January 2, 2016:


“Odd how the creative power at once brings the whole universe to order.”

Virginia Woolf

I am late with today’s prompt because I had the opportunity to meet up with dear friends from grad school, one of whom I hadn’t seen in several years.  Those of us who were gathered were just a few of a larger group who came to be called ‘The Creatives,’  and it was like we had never been apart.

What a blessing it was to be with these people again!  We talked about some of our own creative possibilities and realities that are making a difference in the world, or will.  We made arrangements to meet again in person in a couple of months, and in the meantime some of us are going to start working together again on a couple of ongoing projects.

Even in the midst of bad news and sad tidings for some of us, my heart and soul were singing the whole time our small group of Creatives was together.  For a couple of delightful hours,  we were creating again, and the universe was shining.


The Prompter Room

For Wednesday, December 16, 2015:


“Arrange whatever pieces come your way.”

Virginia Woolf

If you are a writer who works in more than one genre, can you do more than one project at the same time?  If so, I envy you!  For the most part I can write in only one at a time.

It’s frustrating sometimes.  The best I can do is jot down quick thoughts or a certain word for, say, a possible poem if I happen to be immersed in writing fiction.  For some reason, my brain seems to be wired in a way that can process only one working genre at a time.  So I go through periods of time – sometimes long ones – where I write poetry only, and then others where it’s primarily fiction.  The one genre that can cross the boundaries in my brain and my work is creative non-fiction.

Maybe it’s a right brain-left brain thing.  My reading material doesn’t seem to affect my work, though.  I can read poetry and non-fiction while writing fiction, or fiction while working out a poem.  I just can’t write in them.

Is this what Woolf meant?  I don’t know.  I do know, though, that I don’t fret about it anymore.  Instead I go with the flow, as it were.  If I’m in a poetry period, I don’t push my fiction brain, and vice versa.  I’ve learned the words will come when they come.

Sometimes life intervenes, of course, and I have to respond with a poem or two or a story when I’m working on something else.  At those times, the interruption — the arrangement, perhaps? — seems to work.  It gets me over the hurdle of emotion and I can get back to what I had been working on.

Am I alone in this, or in the minority?  I’ve always wondered …

The Prompter Room

For Thursday, November 5, 2015:

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.  Simple as that.”

Stephen King

A young friend who writes confessed to me that she rarely reads.  She’s actually a decent writer, so I was quite surprised to hear that she’s not a reader.  At some point in her life she must’ve read, or maybe her parents read to her a lot when she was a child.  The thing is, she won’t be a better writer if she doesn’t read now as an adult.  I hope she can discover that, like a master woodworker or master mechanic, she can’t improve if she doesn’t immerse herself in the process of the craft and the art form.

Some people who write, or who say they want to write, are worried that if they read others’ writings they will end up using others’ words or ideas.  Some fiction writers won’t read other fiction, some poets won’t read other poets.  They say they want to ensure the works they craft will be their own and not derivative.  While the intention is admirable — they don’t want to plagiarize, even if it’s unintentional, or they don’t want to be influenced by anyone else — they’re truncating their growth as writers.  They eliminate their base of knowledge and example, there is no foundation upon which to build their art.

Virginia Woolf’s advice to ‘Read a thousand books, and your words will flow like a river’ is sound and necessary.  In my far-from-humble opinion, all writers must know the world of literature from which they spring.  They need to read the classics in all — or at least many — of the genres available to us.  We need to know fairy tales and myths, who Beowulf is and why he is important, how Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales made the evolving English language more accessible to the ‘common people’ (hat tip to Rita Mae Brown for that reminder) and what we learned from his pilgrims.  Shakespeare, of course, is a given, and so is Mark Twain and Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson and Harriet Beecher Stowe and Sylvia Plath, and so many others.  Without their hard-won foundation, we can’t know what works or doesn’t work in the writings of William Faulkner, Steinbeck or Hemingway or Kate Chopin or Naomi Shabib Nye or Mary Oliver, Langston Hughes, Zorah Neale Hurston, T. S. Eliot, or the different versions of the Faustus tales, or … or … or …

Literature represents who we are as human beings, at given times and places in the epochs of our evolution as a people.  Yes, we can write — and many people obviously do — without the foundation of all those who have gone before us.  If we haven’t grown up with this foundation, it’s never too late to start.  We become more fully developed writers, and we become better human beings because we discover, meet, and come to know, ourselves and our neighbors in the stories — in whatever genre — that have come before us.

It’s never too late to start adding tools to our toolbox.  It’s never too late to discover who we are, where we have come from, and where we are going.  The more we read, the more we can discover together.  And that is why we write.

New Feature: The Prompter Room

Like many writers, if not most, I collect sayings, quotes, and thoughts about writing to use as inspiration and/or affirmation.  The current notebook I’m using to compile them is now full, so I thought I would offer a saying a day in ‘The Prompter Room’ in the hope they will serve as inspiration to others.  Most of this collection is and will be about writing in some way, but there are others about creativity in general.

As the collection grows, I will set up a separate page with the same title that compiles them into one document for easier reference. Please let me know if you have some of your own to share with others.  Perhaps, too, we can start some discussions about those that particularly speak to you in some way.

If the title feels a little familiar, you might remember the old children’s television show The Romper Room. I hope, then, this will be a place where we can play and learn and have fun.  The Prompter Room is also a nod to Virginia Woolf’s assertion that every woman needs a room of her own, so perhaps this feature will serve as your room, or part of it, whether you’re a man or a woman.

Today’s quote, the first for The Prompter Room, is something I found in Rollo May’s The Cry for Myth:

If my devils are taken away, I am afraid my angels will take flight as well.’

— Rainer Maria Rilke, after his only session of psychotherapy