Writing at a drop-in writing group works in a variety of ways. First, just getting the pen moving, responding to a prompt that may have nothing to do with the Very Big Project you’ve immersed yourself in, gets the creative juices flowing, literally. It’s writing practice, it’s putting your brain into a state that is much like meditation. And once you start doing it regularly, your brain adapts and is able to do it more easily. In other words, you’ll be able to get into your Very Big Project more easily.
At the drop in writing session while it may seem like the prompts are silly and you may assume they have nothing to do with your Very Big Project, you’ll find that your brain thinks otherwise. You’ll find insights to your characters, you’ll get ideas about plot lines or you’ll find new ways to write the thing that you’d been trying to write for weeks, like that sample chapter for my book proposal I’ve been working on….
For the first prompt at my writers group we always use the words on the table–words written on paint chips scattered randomly. I also pull a word from my bag and hand one to each writer, a challenge to specifically use that word. Last night I drew the word “Sorry” for myself.
After a couple of false starts (sorry I was a bad dad, sorry doesn’t do it, sorry seems to be the hardest word), here’s what I came up with:
Sorry I’ve been writing all day and my head is in a place that doesn’t involve words on the table. I’m remembering the old ’57 VW Beetle my dad bought with the intention of fixing it up for my sister to drive and I’m trying to make it into a metaphor for my dying mother. But it was just an unfinished project taking up space in the garage and all I can come up with is the image of that black car with its 50s era Volkswagen quirks like a wheel where the gas pedal should have been and an oval window too small to offer much visibility and a reserve gas tank that you had to switch over to if you ran out of gas and in later models would be referenced by an R on the gas gauge. The only reason I know any of this is because of the endless dissuasions of what it could be– if only we had metric tools and a will to look at the future.
Clearly that passage won’t be copied and pasted whole into my chapter, but I do think I gained some insights (“if only we had metric tools and a will to look at the future” hello!), and good description of the vintage VW.