Monday calls for writing prompts and exercises, they’re a way to shake the weekend out of us, stretch our writing muscles, and get back into the writing groove. Abigail Thomas, author of the beautiful, heartbreaking memoir A Three Dog Life, suggests many great exercises on her author website under “Getting Started.” I stop by there often for inspiration.
Abigail says this about writing assignments: “…At the very least, assignments can provide a writer with a nicely stocked larder, and some notion of where the mind goes when it’s off its leash. And once in a while, if we’re lucky, an assignment helps you find the side door into a story you’ve been staring too directly in the eye.”
I’ll take any advice from Abigail Thomas that I can get. I very much admire her writing. Her sense of humor is so unique, so smart. I fell in love with her short stories first and then couldn’t stop reading everything else she wrote. She is best know for the prior mentioned A Three Dog Life, which chronicles her husband’s brain injury after he was hit by a car in NYC. The book is full of hope, a testament to the human spirit.
Here’s one of my favorite Abigail Thomas assignments:
“Take any ten years of your life, reduce them to two pages, and every sentence has to be three words long. I’m strict about this—not four words, not two. Three words long. These can be sentence fragments, but you can’t do stuff like “I went out/to the store.” It’s a terrific assignment, if I do say so myself. Among other things, it forces you to choose. It forces you to leave things out. Learning what to leave out is not the same thing as putting in only what’s important. Sometimes it’s what you’re not saying that gives a piece its shape. And it’s surprising what people include. Marriage, divorce, love, sex, all that can fall away and what you take up precious space with is sleeping on grass, or an ancient memory of blue Popsicle juice running down your sticky chin.” (from the author’s website)
This is a fun, challenging exercise. And you never know–you just may discover some golden kernel in those two pages. Let me know how it goes!
“There is so much about the process of writing that is mysterious to me, but this one thing I’ve found to be true: writing begets writing.” –Dorianne Laux