Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Prompt #29

If who you are is where you live, who are you?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Prompt #28

Imagine your pet speaks fluent and highly developed French, and is hiding this from you. What do you suppose s/he does with this ability, and what else is s/he hiding from you?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Prompt #27

Write a postcard...or two, or three. What is important to you today?

(You don't have to send them.)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Prompt #26

Describe something using all five of your senses. Choose something that is readily available and preferably mundane. And without licking various items in your house, find a way to write down every detail of a thing, both physically and conceptually. Where does this object belong in your life?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Prompt #25

Your prompt today is to play a word game. Scrabble, Bananagrams, even Scattergories. You can play scrabble on facebook now. There are also many more coming out every day. Keesdrow, for example. And Bananagrams has many solitary games, if you don't have a wordy partner. At the very least, grab a friend and do a word train - pick a category, and say a word. The next person must find a fitting word that begins with the last letter of the word just said. For example, an adjective word train might go like this - FantastiC - CreativE - EccentriC - CommoN - NotablE.....etc. It's surprisingly addictive. And a good road-trip (or at least, stuck-in-traffic) game, too.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Prompt #24

I am obviously not able to keep up with daily original prompts, but I will do my best to keep up with your creative energies. Perhaps if I am not quite so militant about pushing prompts onto you, you will not feel so bogged down by them....?

In any case, your prompt today (and every day, really) is to try something new. Cook a recipe you would never have cooked, take a different route to work, sleep with your head where your feet usually are. What changes? Why is such an arbitrary thing so uncomfortable? Or do you like it, oddly? Or why doesn't it matter? Why is it scary to try new things?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Prompt #23

Today's prompt is brought to you by the Swiss Knight and his new vintage typewriter.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Prompt #22

Since I'm now openly fascinated by Mad Men, I am curious about the answer to the following freewrite -

To what extent do "the clothes make the man?" To what extent does appearance determine who you are? And if it shouldn't matter, then how do you decide what to wear in the morning? How to resolve the discrepancy between who you are and who others perceive you to be?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Prompt #21

A sick-looking black cat sits alone in front of a shack-like house, curled into a smug little ball in the middle of the street. Cars stop abruptly to avoid hitting it. The cat never hesitates.

Use the blurb above to free write - write for five minutes without stopping. When you are done, look at what you've written. Read it over once or twice, and then start pulling pieces together to create the framework for a story. Who are the characters? What is the setting? What kind of themes are you seeing emerge?

I recommend doing a basic outline, even if you have no intention of writing this story (or creative essay, for that matter). Begin to visualize what shape the piece might take - you could certainly give it an argument and turn it into an essay with the cat as a symbol or visual to make your point. You could also begin a murder-mystery, an observation of the human condition, or a metaphor for something greater. In fact, I would be curious to see how you link this image to something else...(I am, as always, a great fan of metaphors!)

If you don't feel like completing this little exercise, then you must watch Steven Colbert's Meta-free-phor-all!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Prompt #20

Still with me? Feel free to go at your own pace - obviously, writers aren't likely to let anyone else tell them what to do. Let me know if you need any help or if you have any other kind of feedback.

Today's prompt is a double free write - pick your favorite argument of choice. There seem to be plenty of those these days - Republican vs. Democrat, Vegetarian vs. Carnivore, Technology vs. Simplicity, Hipster vs. The World - and take some time to free write from the side with which you more closely identify. If you feel as though a timer would help, you may set one. Otherwise, just keep writing until you feel satisfied that you've covered your argument thoroughly.

Ready for step two? Put on your diplomatic pants and begin writing from the other perspective. Be nice. Try to understand why they argue the way they do. Write for as long as you can. Was that so hard?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Another Perspective on Criticism

To critique a piece of writing is to do the following:

 1) describe:   give the reader a sense of the writer's
                    overall purpose and meaning

 2) analyze:    show how it is put together by dividing it
                    into its main sections or aspects

 3) interpret:  define the significance (meaning and
                    importance) of each part

 4) assess:     make a judgement of the work's worth or value

From the Hunter College Reading and Writing Center. 
(Click for an outline of criticism for both fiction 
and non-fiction writing)

Your prompt today: write a bit about your experience 
with criticism, either giving or getting. What associations 
do you hold with criticism? Don't worry about how logical 
these associations are. Write down whatever comes to mind. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Prompt #19

Pick any book, story, poem, movie or heck, how about a song? Pick something you truly can't stand, and analyze it a bit. Do you hate it because the lyrics are terrible, because the characters or flawed, or because you had a boyfriend who loved it, and even though it's pretty good, you can't read it again because it will remind you of him and he was kind of an ass?

This is your chance not only to rant (don't we all need a couple of those) but also to find legitimate reasons to despise something, not because we said so, but because it requires development in very specific areas. It's ok to hate something if you're an expert on it right? And all critics are experts. We know that. If nothing else, you can make your rant sound more intelligent and thus, a believable argument.

What are the components that seem flawed to you? Or underdeveloped? Or misled? Or just plain inane and obtuse? Is it boring? Is it too pretentious? Too immature?

Is there anything redeeming about it? (a good rant will give at least one of these, to show that you're a good sport).

Monday, July 12, 2010

Prompt #18

Write a review. You may choose any piece of writing - from War and Peace to If You Give A Mouse A Cookie. With the genre in mind (obviously a narrative will not have a proper thesis) consider the following aspects of the writing:

  • Word choice
  • Statement, moral, or thesis
  • Progression and development
  • Structure (how is the writing broken up or clumped together, rhyme and meter, prose, technical or fanciful, and how does this contribute to the piece as a whole?)
  • What is unique to the writing?
  • What puts you off about the writing?
  • Who would best benefit from this piece of writing?
  • Why do you think the writer wrote this?

Assignment #4

This week, I'd like to get you thinking about constructive criticism. If writing is to express what's inside you, you might like to know how others perceive this expression. Language is to communicate, yes? Otherwise we might be content to stew in our own thoughts and images. It is easy to read our own writing and know what we're talking about, see the same images, feel the same sensations. When writing really clicks, we can help others feel these same intangible things. To me, that's the epitome of writing - small successes in communicating those things that don't always have words.

So let's gather some suggestions for things to look out for, shall we?

First of all, find something you love about the piece.

  • descriptive language
  • a lovely image
  • a unique perspective
  • a bit of knowledge you didn't have before
  • clarity in phrasing and word choice
  • an unusual topic
  • a well-developed paragraph
  • a well-argued point
There is always something to love about writing. If you try, you'll find it. Good ways of phrasing these, so that you don't get stuck saying "I like..." over and over, might include the following...
  • I am inspired by...
  • I appreciate....
  • (this particular section) is very clear/well developed/descriptive/imaginative. 
  • I think that (blah blah) is very (don't say 'good!') and elaborate.
  • why do you think this?
  • Be specific!
On the other hand, we have the dark side of criticism - that which people fear the most, and possibly the reason that more people don't share what they write. There are always things to be fixed.

This is true for all of us, though. For every time I read my own writing, I find another handful of corrections, one way or another. If we accept that our writing is forever growing, as long as we give it the opportunity to grow, then we can accept constructive criticism with less foot-stomping and wallowing-in-chocolate and more time actually making our writing sparkle. Remember: you don't have to make every change that is suggested to you - they are just ideas for your consideration.

Helpful suggestions may refer to the following:

  • Word choice
  • Development of thesis, argument
  • Clarity - (What exactly are you trying to say here? Can you "unpack" this some more?)
  • Elaboration, further detail
  • Sequencing
  • Character development
  • Rhythm, meter
  • Conciseness
  • .....? Something else that strikes you?
And because it can be uncomfortable to tear apart critique other people's writing, I have some suggestions for phrasing...
  • Have you considered....
  • Could you tell me more about...
  • This is great! Do you know what would make it really powerful...?
  • I'm curious about (blank)....
  • I'm afraid I'm a bit lost at this point...
  • Are you saying that (restate your understanding...)
  • Have you researched much on that topic? You might be interested in...
  • This character reminds me of....
  • Share your own helpful experience...

(Do you see why this post took an extra day?)

This week, you assignment is to read read read....but to read actively. As you read, whatever it is that you choose to read, keep in mind how the writing takes shape in your mind. What is particularly clear and well-written? What could have been improved? What would have been a more accurate word choice? What should have been developed further? For an Inkyplink post, you can choose between posting a review of something you read, or offering criticism to your fellow writers' posts.

Any questions, do let me know. My brain has been a bit fuzzy for the past couple days (to put it nicely) and it's very possible that I'm spewing vagueness, if not missing something huge. 
Happy writing!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Prompt #17

A challenge for those with a particularly strong stomach:

Take your prompt from yesterday, and reverse it. Take an opposing side, and write a "triangle" (given the steps from yesterday's prompt) to write a new argument. Empathy is trickier than it sounds, eh?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Prompt #16

More triangle exercises. I promise, next week will not be quite so tedious.

Step number one: Choose something that interests you, something that you feel passionate about. Choose one sentence that will encapsulate your entire perspective. This sentence will, essentially, be your prompt.

ex. Your living room is the ideal vacation destination.

Step number two: Begin writing. Give evidence.

It has a squishy couch and is decorated to your unique tastes."

Step number three: Keep writing. Explain your evidence, and link it back to your original point.

How often has the weary traveler sunk into foreign furniture only to realize that the smell, the colors, and the rigidity of the room are naught but expensive imprisonment. A living room can ultimately become the setting for any adventure, without the shame, indignity and sheer terror of wearing dinosaur jammies in the midst of someone else's distasteful d├ęcor.

Step number four: Keep writing. Elaborate on your point, and begin discussion the implications of this evidence.

When one is open to the idea of a living room vacation, millions of other possibilities begin to emerge. One is freed from the boundaries of the traditional caribbean drivel advertised on television, and more available to embrace the simple pleasures.

Step number five: Carefully polish it off - where does this perspective sit in the context of greater things?

So many simple pleasures are available for the taking - why wait until the money and vacation days are saved to allow your families to be herded to the same tourist traps that have long been more advertisement than monument? When you indulge in simple pleasures on a daily basis, there is no need to escape your "real life," because you will already be living the best parts of it.

hem. That was a very exaggerated example, but you get the idea. Onward, ye writers! Go forth and let thought and verbage rain down upon ye!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Prompt #15

How is your paragraph precision coming? Does your topic sentence say exactly what you'd like it to? Often, thesis sentences are some of the hardest to write, because they must encapsulate everything you'd like to say in one clear, simple sentence.

But if you're bored of that, you may free write on the following (set your watch for 7 minutes): describe your dream vacation - and how close have you come to having it? Will you ever?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Prompt #14

Did you know that "ginormous" is now in the dictionary? Now that you've got just the sentences you need, look at the words you used, and how accurately they portray what you wish to convey. Are the marshmallows gigantic? Enormous? Or GINORMOUS? Take a peek through a thesaurus, just for kicks, and see what words you could also use. Even if you don't use any of them, you can still improve your vocabulary.

Prompt #13

Fill in the Blanks:

Topic sentence: 

Detail #1:

Detail #2:

Detail #3:


Does this sound too easy? Think about finding just the right words to make your point. Do some googling or thesaurusing if you have to, and make sure that your topic sentence covers exactly the point you're trying to make. Are calico cats the most vicious kind of cat or just the most cunning? Be aware of the connotations of your words, and try to see each sentence as someone else might...and a fairly dense "someone else" at that. It's not passing judgement; it's just a fact that your imaginary audience may need a few extra things spelled out. They're not a mindreader, you know...

Before calling it a day, be sure to read through, and perhaps read the sentences out loud, all together, to make sure that they are sequenced logically and fluently.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Prompt #12

Start with something you know quite a bit about. Start making notes on what you might teach someone else about this topic, in bullet form. What is the most important thing that a person should know about this topic? In what context is this topic best known?

For example:

  • Marshmallows are made of sugar.
  • Marshmallows are included in the ultimate trifecta of camping nourishment - s'mores!
  • Marshmallows are associated with summer all across the United States
  • Marshmallows were invented in 1906 by the Germans.*
  • As I recall, a mallow is a kind of mushroom.
Don't make it too complicated - just record everything you know about a certain topic. Go!

*always check your facts, mates!

Assignment #3

The Almighty Triangle.

The "triangle-shaped" development of a paragraph is not only the most convincing, but fortunately, the most natural. With the exception of an introductory paragraph, which requires a bit more finesse, a solid paragraph begins with A) the point. What you want to convince people. A statement that may require a bit o' argument. B) backup facts. Reasons to believe whatever I tell you to believe. muahah. And C) a generalization. Narrow statement...grow grow grow...general statement. You see? 

A-like so: 
Marshmallows are the king of summer edibles. For one thing, they are good both raw and warm-gooey, on-the-go and hanging around a campfire, and very rarely go bad. They retain a bit of that childhood joy, back when sugar was another food group and every starry evening was a cause for celebration. Marshmallows are childhood eternal. 

Your assignment this week is to concoct a well-crafted paragraph. Sound simple? Because I'll be giving you smaller tasks throughout the week to examine said paragraph. ;) 
Good luck!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Prompt #11

At the moment, I am utterly exhausted. However, sometimes being exhausted takes away some of the strict control most people have over their thought processes when they are fully awake. In fact, sometimes if you are trying too hard to write, you lose some of that primary process thinking - the visual images, the full breadth of your emotions, or the child inside you. It's like when you are just waking up from a dream, in which there may have been a number of absurdities, but everything nonetheless made sense.

Today you will try and let go of your conscious thought and write down images as they come to you. Start with a dream you may have had, writing down as much descriptive detail as you can. Include as many of the 5 senses as you can, and then, thinking as little as possible about it, start writing whatever continuation of the dream makes sense to you.

The easiest way to do this is perhaps to treat it as a free write - set your timer for 7 minutes and just start writing, trying not to stop. If your brain keeps getting in the way, you can try meditating, yoga, a quick nap, or even a glass of wine - (but not too much! you have to be awake to write! If you're not sure if you've gone too far, see Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Xanadu. He wasn't able to finish it, because his opium trance had warn off. Tragic, yes?)

If you would like to go a step further, after you've emptied your visual (tactile? olfactory?) experience onto paper, you can try putting it into some kind of loose structure, like a poem. See, again, Xanadu.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Prompt #10

Five minute free write - about your childhood crush, real or imaginary. Yeah, I said imaginary. It's totally normal to have a crush on a cartoon....right?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Prompt #9

Today I have David Sedaris on the brain. What I love about his work is the combination of autobiography and essay, in structure. He takes stories from his life and ties them together with a coherent theme, essentially. But what is particularly compelling is that he is able to see the value of uncomfortable experiences, and either make light of them, or make meaning from them.

Your prompt today is to write something Sedarian. Sketch out some ideas about a memory from your childhood. If you're feeling brave, you should choose one that you would have hoped not to revisit (I might suggest that this will help you cope with it and's a real type of therapy, I promise.). Write down what you remember, and see if you can elaborate on how this event changed you, made you grow, or at least helped you laugh at yourself later.

Happy Writing!