Good Writing: Can it Be as Simple as Leaving Your Living Room?

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I’ll look down, and panic will strike when I realize my 3rd-grade penmanship, combined with an errant washing of my hands, has failed me: The list is gone.

I tend to be a creature of routine and plotting, functioning via to-do lists, more often than not scrawled in semi-blurred inks on my left palm. Moreover, since I took up editing over staff writing jobs, my mandatory out-and-about adventure quota has decreased, allowing me to nestle further into my routines and stay indoors after work—which has made creative writing a bit harder. Which has made me realize that some routines can be like electric blankets: Cozy and appreciated by the cats, but perilous if left on too long.

Thus, to combat the beginnings of my inner reclusive Salinger (and break out of recurring themes/characters/plots), I try to remind myself what longtime WD freelancer Art Spikol said last summer in a piece about how to spend writing downtime. His advice is the latest in the Top 20 Tips from WD in 2009 series.

No. 8: Leave the Living Room
“Get out of the house. Don’t go for a walk in the park. Go to places you might not normally frequent: the emergency room, a local bar, a bowling alley, an all-night diner, a comic book store. They’re all slices of culture, mini democracies that will help erase stereotypes in your writing.”
Art Spikol, from the May/June 2009 issue of WD (click here to check it out).

Taking things one nerdy step further, I try to plan small writing adventures outside of my usual haunts to brainstorm prompts, knead half-baked story ideas, people watch, and even stumble upon the makings of freelance pieces.

You never know what’s going to happen, just like sitting down to a blank page—and it’s damn freeing to ditch the electric blanket every so often, even if whatever I discover does end up scrawled on my palm for a later date.


Feel free to take the following prompt home or post your response (500
words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below.
By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our occasional
around-the-office swag drawings.

You attempt to cut the cake, but the knife slides into something else.
The crowd looks on, and forks start clinking against glasses.