Last week we looked at where stories come from. This week we'll focus on how to begin. What do we do when confronted with the blank page or screen?
Even if we have an idea of what we want to write, we need a place to start, we need a push. Here are some possibilities:
* Prepare a list of one or two random words and use each one for a 5-minute free writing practice.
* Open a book at any page and take the first sentence as a prompt to begin the writing practice.
* Make lists of body parts, communal dinners, collective nouns, vestigial organs, things seen out the window, and any other subject.
* Take a walk in your neighborhood and observe everything closely: the trees, the flowers, the houses, shops, people, cars, the sky. Notice the weather: is the wind blowing? is the sun shining? is the sky overcast? What do you hear? What do you smell? After a 30-minute walk, go back and write.
* Open a drawer, any drawer, and list what you see. Then write about the stories that go with those objects: the baby spoon your daughter used when she was 2 years old, the can opener your mother gave you one Thanksgiving day because you didn't have one, the set of tiny silver spoons you found in an antique store.
* Talk to people. When you're in line at a shop or in a waiting room, strike up conversations with strangers. They'll tell you the most amazing things you can use to write.
* Eavesdrop. I know it's not polite but you can find surprising materials. People say the darnedest things.
After you've written for a week, go back and read. Ideas for stories will jump out at you. Take it from there.
Next week we'll look at how to tell the story.
THE SOURCE OF STORIES: Writing from experience and imagination
A workshop at The Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton, Chicago
Saturdays 10 to 12 noon, starting September 20
To register go to http://www.newberry.org