If you are struggling to find TIME to write, or struggling to know WHAT to write, I invite you to TAKE FIVE. No, not a five-minute break to check facebook (because you know that’s never just five minutes…). Instead, commit to writing for five minutes a day, every day, no matter what. Some days you will write much more than that, but just commit to five minutes. If you have never tried writing furiously in five-minute spurts, you’ve gotta try it! Here’s a great exercise to get the juices flowing.
1) Pick a topic. For example: summer.
2) Make a list of words related to that topic.
Sample list: beaches, lakes, pools, rafts, rivers, boating, floating, sunscreen, sunglasses, towels, bathing suits, fireflies, watermelon, corn, hot dogs, apple pie, fireworks, water, swimming, freedom, vacation, picnics, campouts, campfires, s’mores, sand. (Not exhaustive, but you get the idea.)
3) Pick THREE of those words and write them at the top of your paper. You must use ONE of those three words as the FIRST word you use, and the next two words must be used in the first paragraph.
4) Set a timer for five minutes.
5) Now, “WRITE LIKE YOUR FINGERS ARE ON FIRE” (wisdom from Kathi Appelt). Don’t stop, and don’t edit, just write, write, write, until the timer goes off.
If you like what you’ve written, by all means, continue. Or go back and edit. You can do this with any topic. Try picking a character from a manuscript you’re working on. List their qualities, possessions, traits etc. You’ll learn a lot about them, and possibly yourself, in the process.
We have been doing this exercise each day at the WIFYR (Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers) conference that I am attending this week in Salt Lake City, UT (it is a phenomenal craft-focused conference held every summer). I signed up for Kathi Appelt’s picture book course (plus I get to attend lectures from other amazing authors every afternoon) and it has all been tremendous. This is just one tiny thing I’ve learned this week, but I have been amazed by the emotions, memories, and creative ideas that this simple exercise has elicited from those in our class.
So if you’re feeling burned out, or you can’t imagine setting aside a huge amount of time to write every day, just TAKE FIVE!
*Note: Kathi gives credit to Steve Harrison for originally coming up with this exercise.
This post was written by Maria Oka, aspiring children's book writer, who also has amazing selfie skills.
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