Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Inspiration, in Eight Minutes or Less

Never fear--no infomercial here. I wanted to share this video of one of my favorite writing activities with you.

In this video, the unflaggingly delightful Lynda Barry will steer you through a brief (but crazily effective) exercise. I’ve used a variation of this exercise with my writing students (and I always participate, too). The power of writing to help us to unpack our memories (whether sensory, emotional, or just the logistics of a scene) is astounding.

The activity also reinforces a lesson I constantly repeat to my students (and myself): what we notice matters, and what we all notice about even the most similar scene is strikingly varied.

Too often, we dismiss our own observations as insignificant. There is so much value to being attentive to the world around us, and attentive to our own reactions to this world.

To start: write a list of ten random words (you can write them on index cards or slips of paper, or just as a list on a sheet of paper). Don’t overthink this.

And now, over to Lynda Barry, Champion of Creativity and Goodness.

How was this activity for you? Anything interesting come up? Which tutorials, activities, or prompts are most helpful to you?


  1. I could not finish the exercise. When each of the beginning several questions were answered with "I don't know," I stopped.

  2. Dang! Maybe a stronger memory? I found it fun when I had a very strong memory in mine (nothing overly milestone-y.....just strong sensory memory).

    Happy writing to you over the holidays!

  3. Wow! This took me places. Can't wait to share this with others. Thanks!

  4. I tried this today - the word to memory to free write process was effective, but the only thing that nagged at me was why we had drawn an X. Usually something graphic in a prompt has a specific task, but this did not. Maybe it was to see if you separated different things into categories on your own? Not sure. The exercise was interesting, but the whole 7.5 minutes I was writing I kept wondering about the X! :)


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