Answers (and Unexpected Helpers)
A Quick Writing Exercise
Ok, this is a riff off someone else’s writing exercise. I’m calling it 25 Answers. The original exercise was called 100 Questions and you can find a description of it here on my friend and early writing teacher/mentor Sarah Armstrong’s website: http://www.sarah-armstrong.com/writing-tips/how-to-rewrite-a-novel-staggering-over-the-finish-line/p/41
I tried the 100 Questions exercise and it was fabulous for busting me past my first, most predictable thoughts and further, deeper into weirder, wilder territories – the kind I often long to get to but often find I don’t. Now I know a way to, more reliably.
The 25 Answers thing is something I spontaneously used once I was in that weirder, wilder territory. There was one key, central question to the story I was working on that I really needed to explore more thoroughly, it kept coming up and I kept answering it evasively. I actually initially set out to write 100 Answers but in the end 25 was plenty. I found the best way to approach the exercise was to write quickly but not without depth, I mean, with a real intention to try and get more and more honest with each answer.
I also have to confess to a little bit of magic-business with this one. At one point a small moth landed right on the part of the page I was about to write on and so I had to stop. I almost brushed it away but then something told me not to. Instead, I watched as the moth crept up and across the page, finally settling on one word I had already written. It stayed there for some time. I could keep writing then, so I did, but I kept an eye on that moth. It stayed where it was until I was done, and then it fluttered off. I paid close attention to the word it had settled on, and I felt a little ringing inside, a resonance, a Yes. That word was key, and as I progressed with a full reworking of the story, it became even more obviously so.
So, I would add that along with your 25 (or more) Answers, you be open to mysterious, small, quiet helpers. You never know who might be whispering your most heart-sought answers.