The Last Day of WFMAD 2011

It’s a celebration!!!!!

You made it! Thirty-one days in a row of writing at least fifteen minutes a day!

::dances with abandon, horrifying everyone in the room and embarrassing the dogs::


Why aren’t you dancing? Why are you looking at me like that? I know that I dance like Dorkasaurus Rex, but I have fun while I’m doing it, so it’s all good. ::resumes ghastly dance moves::

::stops dancing::

You mean you didn’t write for fifteen minutes every day during the month of August?

::Kool and The Gang stop playing and stare. A waiter drops of tray full of champagne glasses::


I’m not going to scold you, silly. (You’re already doing a good job of that.) Besides, scolding has never turned anyone’s mood from anxious to creative. Listen up. You tried. That’s all any of us can do. I bet that if you’ve been (more or less) following these blog posts this month, that you’ve written more than usual, and you’ve thought about writing more than usual. And I bet that there are few of you (Carrie?) who managed to write every single day, or something close to that goal.

WFMAD is the time for us to come together and commiserate about the missteps we make with time management. When the self-flaggellation ends, I hope we can get down to the business at hand; restoring creativity to our lives, in whatever form feels right and good.

I’m not going to give you advice today. Or a quote. Or a prompt.

OK, I lied. I’ll give a little advice.

Life is short, my friends. Way too short. There’s not nearly enough time to love as much as we want and laugh and watch the stars and hold babies and eat good food and hang out with friends and express the creativity that God put in our hearts. So get to it.

If you want to write, make the time to do it. It’s as easy and as hard as that. When you’re done writing, I hope you’ll come back and dance with me. And with these two guys…

WFMAD Day Almost The Last

First things, first. As I post this, Muslims on the other side of the world are waking up and celebrating the end of Ramadan. Eid Sa‘eed!

If you are celebrating the Eid, I hope you have a blessed day. I also hope (if you’ve been following this blog for the past month), you’re able to take fifteen minutes to write. That goes for all of you who are not celebrating the Eid, too!

Indonesian Muslim children in a parade celebrating Eid al-Fitr in Jakarta. Photo credit Dita Alangkara/AP

OK, time to change the topic and think about writing.

I live in a rural, poor area that has been hit incredibly hard by the last couple of years. I find myself thinking about poverty, and its causes and effects, a lot. One of the frustrating things about the state of literature (at least in the United States) is that it is largely a product of the middle or upper class. Working people; farmers, carpenters, factory workers – not to mention the chronically unemployed generally have bigger issues to deal with than “My Muse is being a bitch and won’t talk to me.”

Maybe this doesn’t frustrate you. But it frustrates the hell out of me. Hence, today’s prompt.

Ready… If you need some hard numbers to help you think about the class structure in America, check this out. Or read about what America’s economic crisis looks like from England.

Set… “I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all.” Richard Wright

Today’s prompt: Either write about your character coming in contact (and/or conflict) with someone who is from a different economic class than he is, or write about your own class experience. Can you remember the first time you realized that some people have more money than others? Class differences can spark strong emotions, but we are often taught to suppress these feelings and to guard our behavior in these situations. The strong emotional currents this creates provides the writer with a wealth (ahem) of material.


Write about what you don’t know about a social or economic class, or a lifestyle that is completely different than yours.

Scribble… Scribble… Scribble…

WFMAD Day 29 – Slaying Demons of Doubt

I’ve heard from a number of you recently about the struggle to maintain your confidence during the writing process. Many (all?) of you are beset by doubts about your talent, your current project, the competition, the marketplace, your future, and pretty much everything related to being a writer.

So am I.

Frankly, it’s amazing any of us manage to get out of bed in the morning.

I think that being plagued by the Demons of Doubt is the hardest part of being a writer. (Please note – if you are writing, you are a writer. It doesn’t matter if you are published or not.)

So what are we supposed to do?

Ready… We’re just about at the end of the 2011 WFMAD Challenge. If you’re looking for a writing buddy to help you keep up your writing momentum until next year, post your email address and name in the Comments section. Get yourself a new, writing-only Hotmail or other address if you don’t want to publicize your real one.

Set… “It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything.” Virginia Woolf

Today’s prompt: The Demons of Doubt will always sit on your shoulders. Sorry. It’s a law of writing physics.

You cannot banish them, but you can defang them.

Think about the best day writing you ever had; that perfect storm of creation during which you lost track of where you were and the passage of time – the best day when you lost yourself in the world of your novel. Write about that day in beautiful, loving detail.

That is your shield. You will wave this in the face of the demons when they rise up and try to infect you with their bile. To hell with them!

Stop thinking about the marketplace. It doesn’t matter how old or young you are. It doesn’t matter if you have an MFA or not. It certainly does not matter if you think what you are writing is any good yet. (You are a WRITER, for the love of Pete! That means you’ll be REVISING. A LOT!!! Stop wasting energy judging your work and then beating the crap out of yourself because it sucks. Instead, use that energy to lift up the shield you just wrote. Fasten onto the memory of your best writing day. Then summon another day like that and get to work.

Scribble… Scribble… Scribble…

WFMAD Day 28 – Back in the Saddle

I received this terrific set of questions a few days ago: “How do you start again after stopping for a few years? In writing three novels, I built skill upon skill and felt pretty good about the third. Now I am petrified to write again. I start, the writing is horrible, I stop. I’m not even sure I can write a blog anymore. Could you address starting over after taking a long break?

Every writer can pose the same question. They just have to substitute the length of their own dry spell for “a few years.” For some it will be “while my kids were little” or “until we paid the house off” or “when school visits had to pay the bills and I traveled so much I forgot my home address.”

How long have you been off track? How long was your worst dry spell?

It’s different for everyone. Sometimes, the same person goes through years with no break in the flow of creativity or the flow of words, then – suddenly – whammo! Dry spell. Block. Or the constant intervention of real life that seems to sidetrack every attempt at getting back to writing.

Do not despair. You have more control over this situation than you realize.

Ready… If Aerosmith isn’t your cup of tea, select a piece of music that is and play it obscenely loud while you write today. Extra points if you find a way to throw in a couple of Steven Tyler screams.

Set… “The scariest moment is always just before you start.” Stephen King

Today’s prompt: If you are having a hard time getting back in the saddle again, this prompt is for you. Write down all the nasty thoughts that go through your head when you think about writing, or you try to write. Everything. All of it. Then write down all the specific behaviors (i.e. sites you waste time on) you engage in when you start to hear the stream of negativity in your mind. Then sign up for web-blocking tools that will limit or eliminate your access to those sites.

And if you wind up with extra time today, write the list of things that you want to write about. Post that list where you will see it many times a day.

Scribble… Scribble… Scribble…

WFMAD Day 27 – Go Bag

I think the most striking statistic about Hurricane Irene so far is CNN’s statement that the storm will affect 1 in 6 Americans. (I’m still trying to wrap my head around this.) We are far away from the danger; might get some wind and a little rain. We’re used to losing power frequently, so that’s not a problem. I sure hope those of you who are in Irene’s path stay safe, snug, and dry.

image credit Associated Press

In case your power is about to go out, let’s get busy right away with tonight’s Irene-inspired prompt.

Ready… Make sure that you pack a notebook (the kind made out of paper) and sharpened pencils in your go bag. Natural disasters provide all kinds of inspiration and you need your tools! (It’s easier to write in the rain with pencils than pens.)

Set… “To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power.” Maya Angelou

Today’s prompt: Your character has five minutes to throw his most important possessions into a backpack, because the hurricane has changed course and he and his family must flee. What goes in the bag? Why? And what is hidden in that small wooden box that he pulls down from the top shelf of his closet when no one is looking? Be as detailed as possible. This is a chance to show character by the decisions he makes.

Scribble… Scribble… Scribble…