Posts Tagged ‘writing prompts’

Yellow blur, detail of glass globe on a lamp, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

I’d been writing with a group of women locally for about a year when I told them, “Some day soon, let’s write on ‘No Topic’ as our topic.”

I explained that No Topic was like the mother of all topics. It frees you. No writing about Pickles or Hair. Not about What’s in Front of Me, or Everything I Know About the Color Burnt Sienna.

It seemed intriguing enough, yet for weeks after I mentioned the idea of No Topic, we continued to pull from our writing group envelope topics written on strips of paper.

Writing with a topic is soothing. A topic propels those first words on the line and helps guide your practice.

Writing without a topic is like coloring without a border on your page. It’s like taking away the structure that you’ve carefully created and followed over time. Will the writing still flow? Where will wild mind take you?

In our Intensive with Natalie Goldberg, we often wrote without a topic. “No topic, ten minutes,” Natalie’s voice rose from the silence. And away we’d go, our hands moving across the pages of our notebooks.

I’ve searched Wild Mind and Thunder and Lightning, two of Natalie’s books, to see what she might have said about No Topic. I find nothing. I look through the notebooks I used during the retreats — did I take notes on the power of No Topic? None that I can find.

Yet, this is one of those concepts I associate with Natalie’s teachings. A gem, a pearl of wisdom cultivated from years of studying the mind through her writing.

The more you do writing practice without the aid of a topic, the more equipped you are to write anytime, anywhere. From the “Write Anyplace” essay or chapter in Writing Down the Bones,

Take out another notebook, pick up another pen, and just write, just write, just write. In the middle of the world, make one positive step. In the center of chaos, make one definitive act. Just write. Say yes, stay alive, be awake. Just write. Just write. Just write.

About a week ago, as we were thinking about a topic to use for our timed practice, one of the women in my writing group suggested we go ahead and try No Topic. “Sure,” we all said. We wrote for fifteen minutes. Then one by one, we read.

Without exception, our writing had busted open. We all felt it in ourselves and in one another.

You try it. Write without the aid of a prompt. Write with just you, your pen, and your notebook. For ten minutes, fifteen, or for as long as you need to write. Just write.

Now go.

Rose-colored glasses, detail of the glass base on a lamp, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

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Today the holder of a $62.8 million Powerball ticket stepped forward. The ticket was plucked (or at least that’s how I picture it – plucked, from a glass bowl) days ago. It took until today for the winner to come forward. Turns out he’s an auto mechanic from a small town in northern New Mexico. You can read about him at this link.

This post isn’t about winning the lottery; it’s actually a list of topics we might use to inspire our writing on red Ravine, today or tomorrow or later this year. Plucked out of a notebook or computer file somewhere. Just the ticket we’ll need to break through, chuck our day jobs, and become famous.

Or not.

They say people who become instant millionaires go on to have tragic post-lottery lives. Take Jack Whittaker who won $314 million (before taxes) or Mack Metcalf who with his wife won $34 million. Read about how their lives changed for the worse after they won the lottery.

Writing is hard work. There is no winning lottery ticket. Days like today I wish there were. Either that or I wish I weren’t so compelled to write. Today I’m anything but inspired.

And that’s why I’m here, writing this post. Making a list of topics I’m going to keep in mind for my writing practices in the coming weeks. Use them if you’re so inclined. Just remember, not a one of them is going to land you where you want to go. Only hard work and persistence – a dedicated practice – will get us there.

     1. The sound of water dripping

     2. Living in cities

     3. Old buildings

     4. The seasonal life of roses

     5. Toes and how they run in the family

     6. Hummingbirds

     7. The smell of skunk

     8. Barking dogs

     9. Inertia and why it strikes

     10. White noise

     11. What I would do with $63 million

     12. Superstition

-from Topic post, COFFEE BREAK

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