It’s a snowy Midwestern Monday and I’m on a time crunch. My vision board* is winking at me, saying “sure, you said this stuff was important to you this year.” My stomach is rumbling for lunch, and that annoying red light on my phone tells me that I have day-job email that needs tending.
But as they say, perfect is the enemy of the good (or at least useful), so here is my imperfect post I promised last week about asking “What if . . .?”
Do you do morning pages? Do you have a million story beginnings, scenes, or vignettes that might have a nugget of a story but you don’t know what to do with them? Most writers do, regardless of experience level.
For any beginners out there that have a mash of wrinkled pages and ink blots, try this and see if you like it. It might help you feel closer to finishing. It made me feel a little uncomfortable but like I’d accomplished something.
Choose one of your unfinished scenes or vignettes and outline it until the end. That’s it. That simple. You don’t have to write the whole story. Doesn’t even matter if you’re not an outliner. I’m a write-by-the-seat-of-my-pants (pantser) by nature.
You’re exercising a muscle. Maybe it’s one you use all the time like that eyebrow furrowing thing you do when your kid leaves his smelly socks in the living room. For me, it reflects my perception of my creativity muscle as a flabby tricep that I don’t flex enough.
I picked a random morning pages exercise that I was kind of fond of, and then outlined to an ending with some story beats. You can Google “story beat sheets.” I liked this one from paranormal author Jami Gold.
It ended up looking like this. Don’t worry about not being able to read the actual words. Look at the format, the steps.
Morning pages are not about trying to write a story. They’re about getting the juices flowing.
This exercise is not about editing or revision. Not yet. This is a rough, rough first draft with some ideas of where it could go. The practice was in asking the question, and in trying out some answers. Taking a leap.
Ideally, you would keep going. Keep asking what if. Discard the first few ideas that surface. Meander down the path.
Ask “what if . . .?” and you just might find something. My goal is to do one a week from the prior weeks warm-up exercises. Do you have a regular warm-up? Do you do morning pages? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments.
*More on the vision board in a later post.