Chickens, sweatpants, Hiawatha—go!

Wednesday I talked to you about flying by the seat of your pants, about introducing a spirit of improvisation into your artistic endeavors. Today I want to tell you a little bit about how I apply that to my writing practice. If you’re not a writer, don’t stop reading! Besides the fact that I’d hate to see you go, I think this discussion will pertain to any creative endeavor. We are all creative, even if it’s in the way we fold our socks or make dinner. Please stay.


How do I add some improvisation to my writing? I invoke that spur of the moment energy with this very blog. I try to post a little essay every day, and that gives me quite a time prompt! Normally I would let my writing sit a spell before revising it. Then I might send it through a couple of critique groups before submitting it for some sort of publication. Not here! All of that must be accomplished in a few hours, or sometimes even less. I am one busy girl, and this blog helps me to keep up a daily writing schedule without worrying about perfection. Of course I do hope it’s not crap, but I let it out onto the internet and let it go. I’ve never officially written an essay before, and I just realized this afternoon that I’ve now written twenty-five of them. See how productive a short-term deadline can be?

I’m also a big believer in spontaneous writing exercises. Serendipity is a great muse—I’ve written lots of poems on topics I might never have considered except for the fact that I’m working with some random words and a tight timeline. My friend Laurie and I do these all the time, and we’ve both gotten a lot of excellent material. We’ve also written a lot of garbage. The secret here—shhhh!—is that we don’t publish the garbage.

Here’s the basics of one such exercise: 1) You and a friend each write down four random words. 2) Exchange the words, and try to write something using all eight. 3) Now share what you’ve created, whether it’s good or bad. Revel in your new creations!

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

26. Do something creative and give yourself a very short deadline. Make something up, doing the best you can in the time you have given yourself. Was the experience different than usual?


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