If you’re like a lot of people, you mean to create a writing practice, but when you make time to sit down and write, you’re not always sure where to begin. You might even have a story idea – something that happened to you that you want to write about – but getting those first words onto the page can be as back breaking as lifting bricks out of a ditch. That’s why I use Wild Writing to get my engine running and get those words out of me and onto the page. It’s the best way I know how to make my way towards what I really want to say.
If you’ve taken my Wild Writing classes, you know that I use poetry as a jump off to get us going. I read a poem to the class, and then I pick a line from it that acts like a door that someone has left open and which our imaginations can sneak in through. The access lines are important, and not all poems have the ones that are the easiest for us to walk through. A line like, “my dog likes salmon cakes,” won’t work because it’s too specific. If I don’t have any experience of dogs and salmon cakes there’s no invitation in. So I try to find lines that are more general, but always compelling. Lines that many of us might be able to tumble into. After I give the line we write, pen never leaving the page, writing as fast as we can for 15 minutes, just getting those words out of us.
Here’s the first few lines of a poem I love called Starfish by Eleanor Lerman
“This is what life does. It lets you walk up to
the store to buy breakfast and the paper, on a
stiff knee. It lets you choose the way you have
your eggs, your coffee. Then it sits a fisherman
down beside you at the counter who says, Last night,
the channel was full of starfish. And you wonder,
is this a message, finally, or just another day?
“Life lets you take the dog for a walk down to the
pond, where whole generations of biological
processes are boiling beneath the mud. Reeds
speak to you of the natural world: they whisper,
they sing. And herons pass by. Are you old
enough to appreciate the moment? Too old?
There is movement beneath the water, but it
may be nothing. There may be nothing going on.”
If you want to read the rest of this wonderful poem, check it out here at Writers Almanac.
The access line is “this is what life does,” and we’ll start writing from there. What we write might not have anything to do with the poem, but the line is open enough to move in a million directions and our job is simply to get moving.
This is what life does…it gives you a writing prompt and invites you to write!