Writing Prompts

candle duoMany writers tell you to write every day and suggest using writing prompts. A prompt might be a snippet of a plot line to get your juices flowing. It could be something like: It’s 1918 and the  the Spanish flu epidemic is raging. Write about the old man who just lost his keys and he’s out looking for them on a snowy night in New York City.

Mystical writing isn’t like that. It begins on its own, with an urge to give voice to something only sensed or felt – a dilemma, an insight or an unmet need. And yes, the content is inspired, sometimes transcendent, even illuminating. That’s its distinction.

Sometimes a working title comes first and the words follow with a rhythm and cadence all their own. Feel your way in. Look for the gems, the ‘yes’ at the end of the line, the punch line as you conclude the piece.

Writing has its own topographical map. There’s not much in mystical writing that’s contrived. My unconscious delivers more when I give it the reins than when I beat the drum of I have to, I’d better, or I can’t. The secret is to let go, dive deep, and ride the wave. Something beyond or within me wants to be heard, seen or felt. I trust that impulse. I let myself be guided by sounds I can’t quite hear, like chords being played before the harpist plucks the strings. The landscape gradually reveals itself. I simply describe it.

The process isn’t smooth. Remember that what’s coming through must get past your resistance. You’ll have to stop the urge to edit before the words hit the page. You’ll stop and start because you’ll do that again and again, but if you love this work, the process will get easier.

The words will come. Don’t censor or recompose. Let them fall where they may. Don’t worry about what they mean or whether they work. No one’s looking over your shoulder. It doesn’t matter if you think the piece is done. It might not be for weeks yet.

Read and re-read the story to see if its message comes through, whether it has merit, value, impact. Look for its strengths. Feel each sentence. Ask yourself if there’s a different way to capture more, strengthen the resonance, deepen the meaning or elaborate on the theme. Wait for it. Sift, without telling yourself what it should be. Forget the online thesaurus. The one to access lives deep within.

Sometimes you’ll cut words and sometimes you’ll add. Take a chance and scribble a few silly lines. A gem might appear among the fluff. Your receptivity is the key.

How do I know when a piece is finished? When it’s seamless. No clinkers, no obscure references, no corners left unlit. And when my part is complete, I get to ponder the message in real time and let it change me.

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