Prompts: Finding Room to Write This Summer: Look Around
The multi-talented Midge Raymond is an amazing short story writer, editor, and independent publisher at Ashland Creek Press. And on top of all this, she's a wonderful person that I feel honored to call my friend. Now Midge has added another talent (with a large dose of hard work) to her life - Everyday Writing: Tips and Prompts to Fit Your Everyday Life. I saw Midge Raymond in Port Townsend, Washington last week and asked her if she would be willing to share her expertise here at The Alchemist's Kitchen. Welcome, Midge!
Finding Room to Write This Summer
By Midge Raymond
Sun, beaches, long nights: As if finding the time to write weren’t challenging enough, adding summer to the mix makes the challenge even greater. If you have kids, they’re out of school; if you’re lucky, the weather’s beautiful; and whether you’re a teacher or have a nine-to-five day job, it’s likely that those around you have adjusted their lives to some sort of vacation setting.
So how does a writer reconcile the allure of summer and all its outdoorsy temptations with the notion that she must write every day?
As an author with a fairly crazy year-round schedule, I’m learning to embrace not writing every single day. Instead, I’m learning to think like a writer every day. This means opening my eyes and ears a little wider than usual: taking in everything happening around me, including what’s going on in my own inner world. What I’m finding is that there is absolutely no shortage of material out there—and once I discover this new material, I’m newly inspired to find a way to get it on the page.
So I wanted to share a few tips and writing exercises that I hope will help you find writing opportunities in your everyday life this summer.
1. Look around. Whether I’m in a grocery store line or waiting for the bus, when I’m out and about with a few moments to spare, I tend to occupy myself with my cell phone, checking email, texting people, whatever. Yet now I’m trying to keep the cell phone tucked away in favor of looking around instead: There’s a lot more going on than you might think, and taking it all can offer great inspiration.
PROMPT: Next time you’re at the beach, on the ferry, waiting for friends at happy hour, don’t reach for the phone. Instead, take a look around. Choose two people near you and take mental (or, if you’re able, actual) notes: What are they wearing, saying, doing? Write down your observations and see where it leads you.
2. Listen up. With all the chatter in the world—from online chatter to literal noise—growing louder and louder, I usually opt for tuning out whenever I can. Yet in doing so, I find that I risk missing some of life’s most interesting tidbits. So, make a point to listen to what’s going on around you—and use it to launch a new piece of writing.
PROMPT: Make a point of listening the next time you want to tune out. Eavesdrop a bit the next time you’re in a restaurant; jot down a few overheard snippets of dialogue when you’re at the beach, in the park, waiting for a spin on the Ferris wheel. Then, take what you’ve gathered and write a poem based on what you heard, or write a scene, or write down a memory the conversation may have evoked for you.
3. Make every moment count. When it comes to fitting writing into a busy life, the small moments can lead to breakthroughs as well as the extended retreats can—and when we don’t have time for extended writing sessions, the small moments become all the more vital. Remember: Always carry a notebook, always write down anything and everything you find interesting, and always revisit it to see if there’s anything there that will take you somewhere new in your writing.
PROMPT: Try these five “quickies.” These summery writing exercises are designed to be done in five minutes or fewer—but feel free to let yourself get carried away.
- Describe the first time you saw the ocean.
- Write for one minute about each of the following: firefly, watermelon, lake, sand, ice.
- Describe your first sunburn.
- Write about a summer night.
- Describe your favorite summer food/drink.
Wishing you a wonderful midsummer of writing!
Midge Raymond is the author of Everyday Writing: Tips and Prompts to Fit Your Regularly Scheduled Life and the story collection Forgetting English, which received the Spokane Prize for Short Fiction. Her work has appeared in TriQuarterly, American Literary Review, Indiana Review, North American Review, Bellevue Literary Review, the Los Angeles Times magazine, and many other publications and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Visit www.MidgeRaymond.com for more information and to subscribe to her free email newsletter for writers.