This week is the anniversary of the birth of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns. While I’m cooking up some haggis and pouring a whisky in his immortal memory, I have a writing prompt for you that celebrates not just Robert Burns, but all poets.
Pick and implement a ‘tiny win’ for today, that doesn’t involve writing new words.
It’s very important to feel the reality that not everything in a writer’s life is about adding words.
These suggestions are designed to help you carve our time not just for writing, but for ‘writing’ (all the other stuff that goes with it).
Choose from one thing from this list (or make up something similar) and carve out 15-20 minutes to focus on it. Turn off all your notifications and just allow yourself to focus.
Then report back, to let us know what you did, and to celebrate!
Find a tiny notebook in your stash (you know you have a notebook stash!) and commit to carrying it with you every day for a week, so you can capture ideas. Start by writing down something you can see, hear, taste, touch and smell right where you are, right now.
Read a story by someone else and write down everything you love and hate about it.
Go for a walk or get some other kind of exercise that gets your blood pumping. Bonus points for getting out of your usual space. (Your brain is connected to the rest of your body. Take care of them!)
Write a review of a book you loved and always meant to get around to reviewing. Bonus points: write a letter to the author, if they’re still with us (you can send it to the publisher listed in their books). Connecting to the rest of the writing world builds your commitment to your craft, and reminds you that authors are just people. Hey, you’re a person! Maybe you DO have a right to write, too!
Ask another writer how they’re doing. This can be someone who seems to be doing “so much better” than you. (Connect on Twitter or some other social media site.) Trust me they’ll appreciate it. And again, building your connections with the greater writing world will help you feel more committed, and stop you from slinking off and saying “I could never be a real writer so I might as well not try”. Of course you can be a writer. And having connections with people in the writing world helps remind you of that.
Revise a short story or scene that you’ve previously written. Focus on crafting one sentence you really love, somewhere in that piece.
Rework a story or scene to cut it down by 10% of its word count. Be ruthless (work on a copy if you have to!). What does that do for the story and your prose?
Set a timer and spend 20 minutes (no more! It’s a rabbit hole!) researching publications you might want to send stories to.
Doodle or illustrate a story you previously write. You might draw a portrait of a main character, sketch the house they live in, or splash colors on the page to represent their personality.
Make a Pinterest board of interesting characters and places you can use in stories (thanks to MoniqueAC for this suggestion!). Again, set a timer, because this is meant to be a tiny win, not a new lifetime project!
Go on–or book–what Julia Cameron calls an Artist’s Date. What inspires you? For me it’s often music. For you, it might be art. Can you book an outing now, to an art museum, a live music concert, a play? Can you put a time on your calendar to walk in your favorite park, or call your funniest friend?
What other tiny wins can you think of? What did you try and how did it go? Leave a comment and share your ideas!
In honor of all the kids I know who will be spending this morning filling in bubbles on test papers, let’s use the weirdness of the short story form to try something a little different today.
Write a story in the form of a multiple-choice test
It seems to me this would be perfect for a break-up letter. One person could provide questions about the relationship or the break-up, with multiple answers for the recipient (and the reader) to choose from.
I’m thinking about writing a murder mystery in this format.
A horror story could also be fun
You could parody the form. You remember? One answer is always ridiculously wrong, one is right, one could be right and the other one is wrong, but not-as-obviously.
Or you could ignore that, and just write amusing/terrifying answers.
I’m not going to write any more tips because I just came up with this prompt and I’m really, really curious to see what you you do with it!