The Prompter Room

For Friday, May 13, 2016:


“The world is ruled by letting things take [their] course.”

Lao Tzu

Today’s been one of those days already.  I don’t know if it’s because it’s Friday the 13th, or the rain, or because Mercury’s still in retrograde (I presume), but this has been a day of distractions and interruptions out the wazoo.  Since I don’t have any brainpower left to speak of, then, I had hoped to re-blog one of my earliest posts.  That didn’t work either, so I’ll just explain it some here and refer you to the original post if you can access the archives.

The post is called ‘Handy Work’ and I wrote it on May 11, 2015.  Old-timers have seen mention of it a few times over the past year, and I hope newcomers will find it useful. This exercise, which I created some years ago, loosens up the creative muscles by using your non-dominant hand.

This means getting away from the keyboard and putting pen/pencil to paper.  Now write something, but use your non-dominant hand.  It can be anything, even a grocery or to-do list, or you can copy something, or try a short poem or craft a paragraph for a work-in-progress.  If these options don’t appeal, just doodle.  Write down the ABCs, draw circles or various shapes.

The intent is to access the side of the brain you don’t use as often, so do this for 10-15 minutes.  The mere physicality of putting hand to paper – brush to canvas works, too – is beneficial.  Doing so with your non-dominant hand frees up the creativity even more.  A friend of mine once said that his always-active and -noisy brain quieted down enough with this exercise to actually give him some unexpected peace.  Others have found that using their non-dominant hand helped them to get over a spell of writers’ block.

If you’re having one of those days with your writing, then – even if you’re not – try using your other hand for a while.  No one else has to see it, so don’t worry what it looks like.  Some exercises actually can be fun, and this is one of them – and there’s nothing wrong with a giggle or two in the process!


The Prompter Room

For Sunday, November 15, 2015:

“Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.”

Unattributed meme on Facebook

Some of my own experiences prove this comment can be flipped, too: difficult destinations are eased by beautiful roads.

Some of the most memorable sights I’ve ever seen have come when I’ve had to travel to places that I expected or knew to be stressful or emotionally painful.  An early morning winter sunrise that was breathtakingly magic, a summer night filled with mile after mile of emerging lightning bugs that mirrored the star-filled sky, the most spectacular and long-lasting sunset I have ever seen over  mid-country farms and riparian fields in mid-autumn  … These and other memories helped me through what waited at the end of my travels, and I know they will end up in my writing.

It occurs to me that this will make a good exercise.  Try writing something from the POV (point of view) of the above meme quotation.  It can be a poem, fiction, creative non-fiction, essay … whatever you’d like.  Then flip it, like I’ve done.  You can use the same piece you’ve already done, or write a new piece from that second POV.  I know I want to try this with a couple of fictional characters who are in-process.

I think the results could be quite interesting.

The Prompter Room

For Wednesday, October 14, 2015:

“Step off assuredly into the blank of your mind.  Something will come to you.”

Richard Wilbur, American poet 

This is where I am today.  My mind is blank.  I have reached the last chapter, or possibly last two chapters, of my new novel-in-progress and can’t get anywhere.  I think I know where I want to go with it/them, but the words just won’t come.

Likely all writers are familiar with this.  Instead of seeing this stage of the process as ‘writer’s block,’ though, I’ve learned over the years to be patient. The words will come, and they’ll be better than any I try to force.

In the meantime, I hold the characters in my mind, close enough to hear when they speak again, as I go about other things.  Sometimes the more physical it is, the better — walking, cleaning, weeding.  My mind needs to get empty, not blank. So another thing I will do is utilize my own exercise and write, pen to paper, with my non-dominant hand.  That always helps me ‘step off assuredly,’ and it always seems to stir things up again.  (For more on that, see my blog post entitled ‘Handy Work.’)

Handy Work

This is an exercise that I’ve used to start new writing groups and gatherings. It’s an easy way to introduce folks to each other (when necessary), but its primary intent is to induce the giggle factor and get our whole brain working. Some participants have told me it’s the one time they can slow down enough to catch all the words that come. Here ‘tis:

Take 10-15 minutes and write something – anything – with your non-dominant hand.

Simple! The beauty of this little workout is many-fold. It exercises the side of our brain that we don’t normally use much or intentionally and thus flexes different creative muscles. No one else can see our handwriting. It gets us away from the computer for a little bit. It can be used with pen/pencil and paper or paintbrush and canvas. Doodling and drawing circles works just as well if we can’t think of anything to write, or we can copy something.

You can do this as often as you want during the day, even with actions that don’t involve writing. Try eating with your non-dominant hand. Or pour something into a glass. Can anyone brush your teeth with your other hand?!?  {Disclaimer: I cannot be held responsible for spilled milk or messy toothpaste – or any other – accidents should you choose to try these suggestions.}

As a start, try writing to-do lists or grocery lists with your non-dominant hand. The more things we try, the better and more comfortable we get with such endeavors. That will and does benefit our writing.  An added bonus — I’ve found that sometimes this little exercise helps when I hit the proverbial ‘wall,’ because it stimulates all kinds of creative ideas.

Have fun with your handy work!