Friday, April 20, 2012

Being Enough for Others

Here on NovelMatters we talk a lot about writing prompts, and usually in the context of how we as writers use them to stimulate creativity amongst ourselves. Patti’s post on Wednesday made me think that writing prompts are a way that we can give back to readers.
It’s true as Patti noted that even multi-published authors such as we go through periods in which we believe ourselves to be published only in the past-tense sense of the word, not in the present nor in the foreseeable future.
The gap stretches unimaginably long between the first flirting glance of the idea of the novel in the mind of the writer, and the consummation of that idea with the acceptance by an editor and its implantation in the womb of a contract. And face it, most love affairs with ideas die as virginal as nuns.
But this I have learned: Real writers keep writing. We may stop and sulk and rage and keen with snot running down the sides of our faces. But we love words, and so we keep going.
One way that I’ve been able to keep myself sharp in dry times is to give away my talents. With no thought of building an audience or making a market. I’ve discovered that some of my best audiences, people who are most open and anxious to hear what I have to say about writing, are people who aren’t likely to buy my books. Take people in public senior citizens’ centers, for instance. Or grade school kids.
I believe they—and others—are receptive because everyone has a story, but most people don’t know how to get it out in the open.
I have a standard poetry program that I present to people of all ages (adapting or substituting poems according to the audience.) It’s about what poems are not: Poems don’t have to be rhyming, stanza-structured, long, about noble subjects, flowery, etc.
I present the program with stimulating examples of each. (Poems don’t have to be long: the entire text of “Fleas” is “Adam Had’em.”)
At the end of the program, I produce an elegant container with a lid. I tell the audience that I have brought something mysterious in the container. I am going to release it into the room, and they will write about it, and each one will “see” something different that will become his or her poem. (Once I’ve freed them from the constraints of what they may have thought poetry “had to be,” they feel they can write.)
With a flourish, I remove the lid. People’s eyes light up and they begin to watch things on the screens of their minds. And then they write furiously, or frown, or look away. Not everyone will write. But for those who do, and want to share with the group, the results are wonderful!
Even if you are a beginning writer, there may be audiences in your community who hunger for a speaker who could give them a little inspiration to write, in a non-threatening situation.
Have you done this? Do you use writing prompts with non-writers in this way?
If you haven’t done this, why not give what you know about writing away to people who would be encouraged by it?
Do what Jesus said—give to those who won’t give back to you.
(Oh yeah -- and do it secretly. Guess I blew that.)


V. Gingerich said...

Your thoughts on unselfishness, on giving without expectations, inspire me because I've reaped the benefits of this very thing. I'm forever grateful to the teacher who kept me after school and drove me home so I could finish my third grade creative writing story. Another teacher let me use his personal computer to format a school newspaper. An experienced writing friend gladly drops her work to critique my small projects.

I had an opportunity to give back through something like writing prompts and- a perfect gem of an opportunity- but it came along during a writing drought and I found it hard to give from my nothingness. I know there will be other chances and this time I hope I'm ready. I hope I can pass on what others have given me.

P.S. I have now read your third paragraph five times and might not be done yet.

Marian said...

Thanks for sharing your secret. A joy for life (and writing) comes through. I've got that joy for life (writing not so much). The writing is becoming a lot of hard work that I'm doing all sorts of things to avoid.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

I love the whole idea of giving secretly. I'm grateful for those in my life who've done that.

And I won't reveal whether or not I'm doing that b/c then it wouldn't be a secret, would it? ;)

Happy Friday, ladies!
~ Wendy

Latayne C Scott said...

Wendy, you got me there. How can you secretly tell people how to serve secretly?

Marian, part of my joy was that I wrote this post after writing over 3K words on my WIP in one day. And eating everything in sight that could be held in one hand as I typed with the other.

Wanderer, I have to tell you that the graf to which you refer came out of nowhere. I'm reading it over a couple of times myself.

Angela D. Meyer said...

I am fresh in the throes of my first book contract and as much as I look forward to my book being on the shelf, I need to remember my audience that won't go out and buy my book. I want to give to them as well.

Sometimes it feels like "what else do I have besides books to share?" Your post inspires me to keep digging out what is inside me to find that thing(or several things).

I love your description of eating with one hand while typing with the other - LOL - I can so relate.

Thanks for the reminder to share myself with others.

Have a blessed day!

Cherry Odelberg said...

I love the way you use words in the first half of this post - it kept me reading (like a page turner) toward the meat and helpful exhortations.

Denise Covey said...

Hello Latayne. This is a wonderful post. Yes, I do prompts with my RomanticFridayWriters group - once a fortnight we write flash fiction to a prompt.

I love your idea of giving away to others with no expectation of return except in inspiration for others. I love your 'elegant container' idea. I'm going to use that at my writer's group.


Latayne C Scott said...

Angela, a contract for your first book! How wonderful! Can you tell us a little about it?

Cheryl, thank you for your kind comment. I guess timing and suspense are creeping over from my fiction to my essays. . . That's good, right?

Denise, glad you're going to use the container idea. My high school creative writer used it, and I've never forgotten it! I still have the handwritten poem I composed in response to that prompt.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

Latyane! Your generosity hasn't been a secret since you first joined Nobelmatters! You have been giving encouragement and good teaching for a long time. Thank you!

Latayne C Scott said...

Henrietta, you are a dear. You are so welcome.