Looking for a way to get back into writing, I picked up (again) my copy of Natalie Goldberg’s Old Friend from Far Away, a memoir writing text. The beauty of this book is that it doesn’t lecture about craft; rather, each tiny chapter gives at least one short writing assignment and a fascinating exploration/explanation of what the assignment will do for your writing.
To keep myself on point, I plan to publish some of the unrevised results of my “assignments.” The idea is to respond to the prompt and go for ten minutes. Write crap if that is what comes out. But write for the full 10. Write “What am I looking at?” whenever you need a jumpstart.
What am I looking at?
A light filters down from above through wood-framed glass shelves. The top shelf is so well lit that I can read the labels on the corks making up the hand-crafted pumpkin: Glass Mountain, Torre Fosca, Murphy Good. The plump green insides of the tea cozy. A white porcelain teapot with a faint green Japanese scene. The funky mauve print teapot. And another tea cozy–burgundy–hidden in the corner, but the light seeks it out. On the middle shelf, on the top of the white teapot, the knob of the gold-leaf lid gleams, a reminder that this elegant pot came free by mistake from the company. It throws the rest of the shelf into shadow–teapot, books I’m using in a small stack, a bobblehead Puss in Boots that reminds me of Macavity who died over a year ago. Hard to believe that the movie makers had never met Mac and his larger-than-life personality. The bottom shelf’s contents are dark against dark; I can only make out their shapes–no colors–, the dancing light on the rhinestones of the business card display, the white greeting card from a friend. Tucked against the wall are smaller dark shapes, but I know them by the feel in my hand. Plastic mice laser pointers for the cats. If I hold one and push the button, its red light attracts a cat who tenses. Her eyes follow the red. Another cat tenses.
Underline the last sentence: Another cat tenses.
After finishing my assignment I wondered about the word funky. It has so many meanings, including something icky. But I mean it more in the sense of fun and quirky, a bit hip, but a bit of a “miss.”
Then I was instructed to go for another ten minutes on “I’m thinking of.” Follow the same instructions for the above assignment.
Goldberg says to go back to these assignments over and over, like a dancer or athlete practicing and putting your muscles through the same paces.
Do you want to try it? Go ahead: What am I looking at? Then: What am I thinking of?