Monday, February 10, 2014

The Writing Jar

By Pamela

I sorta hoard glass jars. I know, it's weird. But in one set of recycled jars I keep baking supplies--chocolate chips, chocolate chunks, cocoa, white chocolate, mint chips--which I corral in a small wooden crate that I keep in my pantry. A quick glance lets me know what I'm running low on and no more bags get spilled on the shelves.

Another set of my glass jars are filled with small candles which I move from place to place--sometimes on my mantle, other times on my dining room table. Wherever I need some soft lighting, there go my jars. I use another set to store soup and other leftovers as I try to use plastic sparingly.

photo by Carina on All About Books
Then Joan sent me a link to a Book Jar as a way to tackle my to-be-read stack of books.
(This clever blogger color-coded her selections according to genre, but you wouldn't have to.) So last month, I wandered through my shelves and stacks and wrote down the names of about thirty books I hadn't read and needed/wanted to. I then cut the paper into strips and folded them and deposited them into one of my many jars.

This weekend I thought of another way to work the Book Jar concept into a writing exercise. Simply create a Writing Jar. In it, place strips of paper with writing prompts. So whenever you're not writing on your work-in-process or need to step away from a current project for a bit, you can pull a strip of paper from the jar and take a dip into un-tread waters.

Writing prompts abound in books on writing or on the Web. I'd recommend Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott or Escaping Into the Open: The Art of Writing True by Elizabeth Berg. Take these authors' suggestions for writing prompts, write them on slips of paper and drop them into a jar. Then keep the jar near your writing space and select a prompt when you need some inspiration. If you don't have access to writing books, a quick Internet search for 'writing prompts' will give you links like this, this and this.

If you have children who share your passion for writing, make a separate jar for them with age appropriate prompts. Maybe you both write from the same prompt and then compare stories. Set a timer and see what a little pressure causes you to create.

The idea is to limit your reasons for not writing. Keep those creative juices flowing, even when your manuscript stalls. You'll never know what you might find--a new character to add to your WIP, a new scene might emerge or perhaps a short story you can send off to a journal or contest. Just keep writing! And if you need a jar, call me. I'm sure I have an extra one you can use.

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