A Retreat to Creativity

As you may have figured out from the last few posts, the RWI Writer’s Retreat this last weekend was phenomenal. For me personally, it was a great opportunity to get better acquainted with my fellow authors, other people like me, who listen to the voices in their heads and aren’t ashamed to admit it. I can’t tell you how life affirming that is to know that if I am crazy for listening to the voices in my head and writing down all they tell me, I’m in VERY good company.  <bg>

Jackie Kramer presented a wonderful day-long workshop. My favorite part was when she gave us this sentence, “Toby looked across the crowded room.” Then she told us we had ten minutes to write the beginning paragraph to not one, but three separate stories. Trust me – it’s not as easy as it sounds. The point of this exercise, I think, was to teach each of us how to first, trust our writing instincts, and two, not to dismiss any story idea.

Below are my three separate story beginnings. (As you can tell, I was in the mood for a ghost story.) If you were there this weekend, feel free to post yours too. And if you weren’t, then I invite you to post too. But you’re on the honor system – you get ten minutes to craft your beginning.

Clock’s ticking.

#1. Toby looked across the crowded room. He saw the ghost of a young child holding a heart-shaped box. The child beckoned with her eyes and held the box at arm’s length. As Toby crossed the room, a green-eyed demon stepped into his path and snatched the box away. “You can’t have that. It’s mine,” the demon jeered. “But it’s my heart,” Toby said.

#2. Toby looked across the crowded room. A painting of a white house with green shutters hung on the wall opposite him. The picture tugged at his heart, although he’d never seen the picture or the house before. But he knew it was where he belonged. Urgently, he scanned the gallery looking for the artist. He had to know who painted the picture and why this house called to him.

3. Toby looked across the crowded room. The woman standing near the base of the stairs stood out from all the other mourners at his mother’s funeral. The woman was dressed in a wedding gown. He threaded his way past the groups of family and friends who gathered today pay their last respects. As he reached the foot of the stairs, the woman turned and started up to the second floor. He followed her. “Who are you?” he asked. At the top of the stairs, the woman in white turned and without a word reached out to gently stroke his face. She stepped back then vanished before his eyes.


9 thoughts on “A Retreat to Creativity

  1. Great post, Lynn! Loved your stories.
    1. Toby looked across the crowded room, and sighed as her heart hitched. No one cared she was alone, or lonely.

    2. Toby looked across the crowded room. The hair on the nape of her neck rose and she knew he’d found her. Safety was not in numbers.

    3. Toby looked across the crowded room. “Mom?”

    • My first Toby was a woman, too. Don’t have my notes with me, so I can’t post them. But it was a fun exercise. Nice to stretch my writing wings with those limits.

  2. Marilyn:

    When Jackie first gave us the assignment, I panicked. I looked around the room and everyone else was writing. I kept thinking, “Write something! Anything! Write!” I was so sure I’d be the only one who couldn’t come up with something.

  3. Hey, don’t forget, Lynn that I couldn’t follow instructions. I spent the entire time writing on one that I couldn’t seem to finish. Got too caught up in it. LOL Which means I ran out of time and never got to another idea. {Bad, Linda, bad!}

    Good thing we weren’t being graded. {snort}

    • Even as a writer (and we’re all just a tad warped) we all walk to the beat of our own individual drums. Good thing we don’t have to march in a formation cause we’d never be in step. LOL

  4. Sometimes I think the ‘write on command’ exercises are the scariest. I am never more nervous than when I have to read what I write out loud to the group. Very hard to share, especially when it’s not all ‘polished up’. spw

  5. They are scary, especially when the words don’t want to come. You sit there thinking, “I’m gonna be the only one who can’t write anything!”

    Or you do write something and you think, “I’m gonna be the only one who wrote garbage!”

    But because you’re allowed to write garbage, I find them freeing. It may turn out to be nothing but an exercise, or like Linda, you might get swept away with your idea and keep going. (Not always a bad thing, Linda!)

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