Prompt: What prompts you to write?

This week Natalie Houston posed the question “What Would a Famous Writer Do?” in the ProfHacker section of The Chronicle of Higher Education. As she explains, many of us–writers and readers alike–are fascinated with the writing process. What really goes on when our favorite authors sit down and write? Are there are any moves we can steal and add to our own process? Do they struggle to sit still for twenty minutes some mornings just like me?

If nothing else, maturing as a writer means being honest about what we need to write and what can stand in our way. Once we articulate the mundane details of how we do what we do, it can be easier to notice patterns that lead to completing that next chapter or getting stuck, losing momentum, or just being the resident crankypants in your household.

nature notebookSo, for this week’s Keeping the Appointment challenge, let’s pause and think about how we keep the appointment to write and why. Read Natalie Houston’s article and then take up her suggestion to answer the interviewer’s questions as though you’re the Famous Writer:

  • Where do you write?
  • When do you write?
  • What advice would you give yourself about writing?

Who knows? The rest of us might just steal a couple of your strategies. You are welcome to steal right back.

Happy Writing!

About the Keeping the Appointment Challenge! Check in each week, grab the prompt and go. New prompts will be posted on Tuesday. Find a quiet place and write in response to the prompt for 15-30 minutes. Only after you have something on paper, take a look or a listen to other examples if you like. Wait a day or three and reread what you wrote. Revise for 30 minutes or so. If you want, post what you wrote. We would love to see it–and we promise to keep our own editing selves to our selves! In other words, this blog is a place to share your work, not to “fix” the work of others. We receive it with the open, generous mind of a fellow-writer and reader. Comments are welcome as are words of thanks.

One comment

  1. Jennie Kiffmeyer

    Here are my answers to Natalie Houston’s questions:
    1. Where do you write?
    My favorite place to write these days is at the kitchen table. Our dining room overlooks a deck. Many years ago someone planted a pine tree much too close to the house. As the pine has grown, its lower branches have been trimmed away, resulting in a lopsided bottlebrush of a tree when viewed from the driveway. I am grateful for the planter’s mistake, however. From where I sit, I can see the wood of the deck and the tree trunk sponged with green moss, along with the various other shades of green from the pine needles and the potted plants and the maple trees beyond. The view makes me happy, and there is just enough to stare at while letting my mind wander. It is a good view as a backdrop for art making.

    Some days I sit with my back to the deck and its pine tree but I can still sense its presence. I am conscious of an expanse of color and texture and beauty supporting me. Of course, I have to scoop up my computer whenever our family sits down to eat.
    There is something solid and humble about sitting here at the table where eating and writing and talking take place every day.

    2. When do you write?
    When I can get it, my best writing time is in the early morning before others in the house pad downstairs. I start to fade around 12 noon. I can write later in the day, but it is much harder. There is too much chatter in my brain along with physical tiredness. Still, I try to use whatever time I can and not to judge the results too harshly.

    3. What advice would you give yourself about writing?
    “Trust that the word or image or character will come. Eventually and always.”
    Funny how often I forget this. Sometimes a walk or a good hot shower will help jump-start my brain. Reading a very good essay or poem can do wonders. Other times, nothing beats simply sitting still and putting one word in front of the other until suddenly there it is: a poem, a line of dialogue, a bit of captured movement that will lead to more. And then to more still.

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