On days when you don’t know where to begin, here are some ideas to get you kick-started. Don’t let a mental or physical ‘blank page’ frustrate or intimidate you; try to embrace the Zen concept of Beginner’s Mind. When you start a writing session with no expectations or a preconceived destination, anything is possible. You never know where your imagination might take you.
* Pick a sentence at random from a book. Using it as your starting line, write for 10 minutes without stopping to think or punctuate.
* Do an internet search on ‘This Day in History.” Write as if you were an eyewitness at one of the memorable events that occurred on this day in years past.
* What are all the things that the colour yellow (or brown, or pink, or blue…) reminds you of? Brainstorm as you write and see where the associations take you.
* For groups: Each person is given three different-coloured slips of paper. On one colour, everyone writes down a type of character (e.g., a harried secretary). On another, write down something you’d find on a department store shelf. On another, a problem (however you define that). Everyone puts their papers in a bowl, and after they are mixed up each person draws three different coloured slips, then writes a scene that incorporates the elements from each.
* Look at a photograph from an ad in a magazine or newspaper. Forget what the image is meant to sell or convey … what else might be going on if that photo suddenly came to life?
* Put yourself in the shoes of the next person you clap eyes upon or hear (if necessary, look out your window until a car drives by, or put on the radio to catch a snatch of dialogue). As soon as they are out of your sight, how will their day evolve? What issues will they encounter?
* Write as if, suddenly, your life depended on it. Imagine the movie Speed, in which the bus was triggered to blow up if the speedometer dipped below 50 mph. Don’t worry about quality, just be aware that dire things will occur if you stop putting words to paper. Start with the line “This is a good chance for me to write down all those stories I’ve been putting off, like the one where….”