1/15/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #16(a): 'Wedding' Multi-Prompt 2

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#16(a)
'Wedding' Multi-Prompt 2
For today's writing exercise you actually have 4 choices! In the spirit of a wedding needing "Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed and Something Blue." The first offered prompt is one from Notebooking Daily's past, the second is a brand new prompt for the day of one prompt theme or another, the third prompt is a 'borrowed' prompt from one of Sparked's 'Prompting Partners', and the fourth prompt is a wildcard riffing on the idea of 'Something Blue'. Take a look and dive in! First thought, best thought for these prompts.

Something Old: Fall Writing Exercise Series #109 Title Mania Plus Air 17 (Published on Notebooking Daily on 12/19/2019, this prompt gives you 5 possible titles to choose from, as well as 5 additional 'random constraints' if you'd like additional things to work with).

Something New: Three Things (include these three things in a piece): An Apple, A Garbage Can, A School Bus

Something Borrowed: 3Elements Literary Magazine ISSUE NO. 1 FALL 2013 | Published October 31, 2013 (Requires you to use the following 3 words in your piece: Tandem Bicycle, Ache, Procession)

Reminder, this piece can be sent to Sparked Lit Mag! It doesn't have to have been written when the issue was currently reading.

Something Blue: Write a piece which includes the Finland flag flying in front of a building or house that is not in Finland.


------------------------------------

If you'd like some background music to write to, try this "After Midnight" lofi mix from friends of the blog The Jazz Hop Cafe.

1/14/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #15: Ekphrastic Fantastic 1

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#15
Ekphrastic Fantastic 1

For today, we're pairing images for you to respond to. The two images will be contrasting and it will be up to you how they can interact, how your writing can make the two pieces of art meet. 

Or, just pick one of the images and run with it if you'd rather. I'm not here to tell you exactly what to do, just to help you get the ball rolling. But if it was me, I would look for commonalities or how one image could be an imagination or memory or media within the other image, or if they exist in the same 'world', how you can get from one point in space and time to the other. But you do you boo-boo.

Image 1:A Friendly Warning (1881/90) by American painter Thomas Hicks.


Image 2:  "The Obelisk” (1785) by French painter Hubert Robert


-----
How do these two artworks play off of each other in your mind? Are the men meeting somewhere near the obelisk? What might the 'friendly warning' be? Have they just returned from the Obelisk, are they planning a heist or a murder or about to go on an adventure like out of Indiana Jones? Something totally different? How might they be connected? Are they completely unrelated? You decide. Don't overthink it, take a couple minutes perhaps, but dive in and make this happen! And always remember that if you're onto gold—run with it.

You got this!
-----

If you'd like some 80s throwback synth background writing music, try this: SOTD on NTS 1 #49 [New Age / Ambient / World / Electronic / Synth / Psych / Jazz Music Cassette Mix] which was a radio show from 2018 from somewhat new background music friends of the blog, Sounds of the Dawn. 

1/13/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #14: Six Word Cluster 1

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#14
Six Word Cluster 1
For today's writing exercise write a piece that includes the following set of 6 words. If you're writing free verse or fiction, don't front-load them all into the beginning of your piece, save at least one or two for somewhere to 'aim' your piece.

Remember sestinas have 6 different end-words, but don't let me tell you what to write. Just use all 6 words in a fashion that isn't throw-away. Don't put them in in a way that you'll definitely later edit them out because they don't add to the piece. Make them important. This might require a little brainstorming at first. Don't be afraid, you can do it!

Six Words: 
1) Compete
2) Wheat
3) Sweet 
4) Bleat 
5) Fleet
6) Effete 

---
Bonus Exercise: If that's not enough, also include 
1) at least three lines or sentences that begin with the word "Don't", 
2) at least one reference to a cartoon (show or an individual character) 
------------------------------------

If you'd like some background music to write to, try this "Celtic, Medieval, Tavern" playlist.

1/12/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #13: Three Things, Five Words 1

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#13
Three Things, Five Words 1
For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which contains the following three things, and these five individual words. The three things should be important to the piece, not just a throwaway reference used because it has to be. This is prompt time, baby! 

If you're not sure where to start, begin by finding a connection between two of the 'things'—whether that is a shared appearance, locale, one of the things might interact with another (or all three), some way that the two are likened or could be physically together. Use one of the things with two of the 'words' in the beginning of the piece and explore for a bit, knowing that you're aiming at the second ''thing' (where the two 'things' have their connection) about 1/3-1/2 of the way through what you imagine the length of the piece (which may be totally off). By then you should have a direction and it's off to the races, with that third 'thing' in your pathway to the finishing line.

'Three Things'
  1. A Muffin Tray
  2. A Dandelion
  3. A Landfill
'Five Words' 
Include these five words in your piece: 
Neon, Billions, Value, Jumbled, Algae.

-----

If you'd like some background music to write to, try this album from HM Surf - "Pool Days" from the channel formerly known as Chilled Cow, now Lofi Girl for that sweet, sweet SEO.

1/11/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #12: Title Mania "The Legend" 2

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#12
Title Mania "The Legend" 2

For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose that utilizes one of the following titles, and if you want extra 'bonus points' also include the three items from below the title list. These titles all come from the awesome Garrett Hongo poem "The Legend" which is featured in Poetry Out Loud.

Titles:
  1. Snowing Softly
  2. Neatly Folded Clothes
  3. Gloveless Hands
  4. A Rembrandt Glow on his Face
  5. The Slick of Ice on the Sidewalk
  6. Shooting a Pistol
  7. A Babbling
Bonus Exercise: Three Things
(Your piece must also include the following three 'things', if you choose this option, or you can just do this 'three things' exercise without one of those titles—you do you!)
  1. Chicago
  2. Laundry
  3. A Bridge
------------------------------------

If you'd like some background music try this "Winter Vibes" lofi mix.

1/10/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #11: Between a Fact and an Exact Place 1

 

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#11
Between a Fact and an Exact Place 1

For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which contains the following place (either as the setting, referenced or some aspect of it described) and the following fact in some way (its discovery, used as a metaphor, witnessed, explained, etc—anything but as a throwaway line).


As an additional assignment, should you choose to incorporate it, is as follows: Also include the words "Grouped" "Perch" "Eroded" "Human" and "Future".

------------------------------------

If you'd like some background music, try "Dreamy lofi night in the desert" lofi mix

1/9/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #10: Beginning, Middle & End 2

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#10
Beginning, Middle & End 2

For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which begins with one image, scenario, line of dialog or place, includes another thing or event somewhere beyond the first and before the last stanza/paragraph, and ends with another required 'thing'.

Begin WithA jellyfish floating in the ocean.

Somewhere in the middle: The Mississippi River.

End WithTree roots.

Extra Credit RequirementsYour title or first line must include the word "While", and you should include the following five words: HushClearingDunePolishedGrit.

------------------------------------

If you'd like some background writing music try this lofi playlist "My Safe Space" from lofi friend of the blog Dreamhop Music.

2022 Writing Exercise Series #9(b): First Line Bonanza 1

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#9(b)
First Line Bonanza 1

For today's writing exercise write a piece that begins with one of the following first lines.

1) I knew I was in something of a mood before the accident.
2) His face scolded me before he opened his mouth.
3) Levitation had always seemed impossible, once.
4) Jedi Knights would have blushed.
5) The reef was like an impressionist painting under the waves.
6) The giggle was unsettling.
7) Bombs exploded left, right and center.
8) Michigan winters aren't for the unprepared.

-----

Bonus 'constraint': You must include a paragraph/stanza in which the all sentences or lines begin with the letter "F" (at least 3) and the piece must include either a playground or a butte (or both).
------------------------------------

If you'd like some background music to write to, try this "The Ocean Inside You" lofi playlist from our lofi buddy Dreamy.

1/8/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #9(a): How to... 1

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#9(a)
How to... 1

For today's prompt we are focusing on imperative directional pieces. What does that mean? A "How to"! You don't have to title your piece "How to ..." (though you certainly can if you'd like to), you could write a prose piece that merely includes someone giving another directions or you could make it a step by step process like a recipe, however you want to interpret the prompt, the process that is the 'how to' should merely be described at some length during your piece, in some fashion. 

For a couple examples of "How to" pieces. "How to Get There" by Philip Levine, "How to tie a knot" by James Kimbrell, the villanelle "The Grammar Lesson" by Steve Kowit, Mónica de la Torre's wonderful "How to Look at Mexican Highways". and the awesome short story "How to Write a True War Story" by Tim O'Brien.

How toPet a Shark.

Extra Credit RequirementsYour piece must include at least one line or sentence with three instances of alliteration (bouncing blue balls), and the words "Gills" "Brine" "Serrated" "Human" and "Ebb".

------------------------------------

If you'd like some background music try "Sleeping on the Ocean" lofi mix.

1/7/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #8: Sentence Calisthenics 1

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes—SC is more like 45, but shhhh! 

#8
Sentence Calisthenics 1
For today's writing exercise complete the following steps for a specific period of time, using the timer on your phone or computer and setting it for 5 minutes for each 'set'. The point here is to produce at very least 6 sentences in each set, but you're looking for both quality and quantity. Don't write a bunch of sentences with the same construction or that are boring—it's better if you have no idea how in the heck you might use the sentence. Something funky, interesting.  Normal, well-phrased sentences are of course good to have in the mix too, but include some quirky ones in each set.

At the end of every set mark your favorite 1-2 sentences.

In order to complete the large number of sentences demanded of this exercise it is imperative that you write fast. Don't stop to think too much at all until you've reached the final exercise. The process of this quick production is to thrust past second guesses or other stumbling blocks that sometimes impede your writing. You're aiming to write 30 individual, unlinked sentences in 25 minutes so you have ten minutes to organize and write that actual piece using the 'round up' prompt. This means you're going to be writing more than a sentence a minute. You can't do that if you're dawdling or trying to figure out the 'perfect' phrasing. The first couple times writing to these sprint-style prompts you may barely squeak the lines out in time, but as you get more used to it you'll get more both in quantity and in quality of your sentences. 

Save all of your sentences to a "Sentence Calisthenics" document, if you participate for awhile we'll have some bonus exercises that will refer back to these sentences, because sometimes you can't see the gold hiding in plain sight when you've just written something. Having fresh eyes might result in a quick, awesome piece. So, save those sentences!

WRITE FAST, DON'T OVERTHINK

Getting into the mindset: Before you start your timer, take a moment and breathe and think about keeping cool during a very hot day (and also during hot nights). Think about the feeling of a hot night, trying to sleep when sweating/covered in sweat or however else you experience a hot night or day. Think both humid and dry heat. Keep thinking of these things in the back of your mind as you're writing and in between sets. By no means should all of your sentences revolve around these things, we just want your mind centered with a few anchors in place before we charge into our piece, DON'T LET THIS DISTRACT YOU FROM YOUR SENTENCES. When you feel set, read the set instructions, appropriate Wordbank, and start that timer. 

When the timer goes off move on to the next set regardless of if you met the 6 sentence goal, you wrote only 3, or 12—when the timer rings, move along and if you don't hit 6 for one set, do your dangedest to knock out 6 in the next set even if some of them are short or silly or straightforward or even a fragment.

Set 1: Using the first wordbank you will write six (6) or more sentences which include one of those words and an item from this list and a color (take a minute and peruse this list if you want some unique ones). 

Wordbank 1:
  • Gnash
  • Popping
  • Lumpy
  • Box
  • Skeleton
Set 2: Now write six (6) or more sentences which use two words from that first wordbank. At least two (2) of the sentences must be fewer than seventh words. 

Remember to mark 1-2 favorites for each set.

Wordbank 2:
  • Mask
  • Clam
  • Yesterday
  • Rainy
  • Time
Set 3: Now write six (6) or more sentences which use one word from Wordbank 1 and one from Wordbank 2.

Set 4:
 Now write at least six (6) sentences which include a word from Wordbank 2 and any month of the year.

You're marking 1-2 favorites, right? Keep doing it.

Wordbank 3:
  • Plant
  • Erupt
  • Kissed
  • Riled
  • Cotton
Set 5: Take just 5 minutes now to write as many sentences or fragments that use at least two of the words from Wordbank 3 as you can. Try to get ten! If ten is easy, go for fifteen! We're sprinting here, first thought best thought, get your numbers up.

Set 6Now write at least five (5) sentences that include at least one word from each of the three wordbanks.

The Prompting Round-up
Step 1) Gather up all of your marked favorite lines and pick from those favorites at least three sentences to build your piece around. 
Step 2) Now that you know the core of your piece, go back up to the un-favorite lines and pick three additional sentences that you must use (even if you 'spruce' them up by tightening or 'quirking' up the language). 
Step 3) Now you have 6 sentences that are unconnected. You have a large chunk of a jigsaw puzzle but you've lost all the rest of the pieces. So it's time to make those pieces yourself. Make sure your piece has a 'point' or some sort of larger meaning above just the literal narrative/descriptions. Make an observation for better or worse, large, small or teensy tiny even. But, something new, and unique to your brain.

COMPLETE-A-PIECE 

If your piece hasn't jumped right out at you, use this 'formula' today using those six sentences. 

Step 1) First, throw out three of those six sentences that you don't care for as much. Look back at your original full list of sentences and see if any stick out. Sometimes in the rush of things you actually choke out something inadvertently kinda brilliant/interesting. That's the point of rush-rush-rushing. Pushing your brain. Ideally you'll have 4 sentences before you move onto step 2, so if none of those other sentences stick out (tweaks are acceptable of course), grab back one of the sentences you threw out at the beginning of this step, you want at least 3.

Today you will write a piece which takes place over the course of a year. It should include at least three different scenes or stanzas that take place at least a month apart, and mentions at least one color that pops up in nature or culture during that month, and makes an observation about the passing of time. Try to make it something unique and not just the same 'you can't go to the past' or 'you don't know what you have until it's gone'. 

Step 2) Now we're going to write a piece which is broken roughly into 1/3s with the first 1/3 including one or two of your sentences and begin with a scene or stanza that takes place outside in nature during late winter or spring. Include melting ice or snow, even if it's just ice cubes melting in a glass in a tropical environment.

Step 3) The second 1/3 should include 1-2 of your sentences which takes place in either the summer or fall and include an animal that is at least 50 pounds (large dog or bigger). Also include someone or something that is sick to one degree or another.

Step 4) Before moving onto the last section of the piece take a quick look back at your starred list of sentences and see if there's any that would fit in your piece. You want to use this as a little scaffolding for the final chunk, but if you don't find one or two that fit that is fine too. 

Step 5) The final 1/3 should include your remaining sentences and take place in the winter or late fall. It should include the image of some sort of food that is either moldy or rotten, and here's where you tie things together, as well as add the observation about time. When I said don't do a take on 'you don't know what you have until it's gone', that can also work here, I take it back. It's not a goal, but it suffices as long as you have unique details to show it. Be sure that you phrase your observation in an interesting way. You can always go back and add some sort of 'stakes' or 'gravitas' to the piece in if you don't have something already in there, that's the joy of writing! Or, you know, one of them.

Step 6) When you're satisfied with the ending, take that knowledge back to the first 1/3 and add in a couple small details, especially imagery, which are in line with that ending. Add in subtle foreshadowing first 1/3 in an innocuous or 'fun' way. Also include one additional smell or texture and somewhere in that first section. 

And that's it. You have your piece. This will almost definitely take longer than ten minutes but may just be worth it.

------------------------------------

Want some unobtrusive background writing music? Try this Refeeld & yutaka hirasaka's new lofi project "Traveler".

1/6/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #7: Dueling Six Word Shootout 1

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#7
Dueling Six Word Shootout 1
For today's writing exercise write a piece that includes one or both of the following sets of 6 words. Don't front-load them all into the beginning of your piece, save at least one or two for somewhere to 'aim' your piece. Remember sestinas have 6 different end-words, but don't let me tell you what to write. Just use all 6 (or twelve) words in a fashion that isn't throw-away. Don't put them in in a way that you'll definitely later edit them out because they don't add to the piece. Make them important. This might require a little brainstorming at first. Don't be afraid, you can do it!

Set 1: 
1) Relish 
2) Fellowship
3) Numerous 
4) Muddy 
5) Flourish
6) Photographic 

Set 2:
7) Nuanced
8) Rung 
9) Hectic 
10) Clap
11) Bun
12) Tires

---
Bonus Exercise: If that's not enough, also include the following three things: Texas, A Deer, and A Water Balloon.
------------------------------------

If you'd like some background music to write to, try this Skyrim-themed playlist of music and ambient sounds.

1/5/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #6: Micro 101 Episode 1

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#6
Micro 101 Episode 1

For today's writing exercise you will write a few micro-poems or micro-fictions. These will be either poems under 20 lines or stories under 250 words.

For inspiration go read some micro or hint fiction in this Buzzfeed article, at Microfiction MondayAlbaMolecule50 Word Stories and Nanoism. Or also this Barnstorm blog post "How Microfiction Could Transform Social Media".

Check out all of the prompts and pick a couple to write. Once you've done that, focusing on one at a time, read the full prompt twice before you start writing because you're looking to keep it minimal, so have ideas. If your first draft is longer don't fret. Hone it down. And the piece will be what it is. I've started out with a goal of 100 words but hit on something and had to cull the end result from 1350 to 1200 for a contest because I loved the result. So each story will be its own beast, but we're ideally aiming for 20 lines or 100-250 words with these. And if they grow into something much larger, hey, you've got something longer!

Micro Exercise 1: Bomb 1. Write a short piece in which your narrator is blown up by a bomb. You decide what type of bomb, you decide how close they are to it when the bomb goes off. But give us a snippet of happiness from the narrator's life in their last moment.
Micro Exercise 2: Bomb 2. Write a very short piece in which a person is letting off fireworks and one goes off in their hand.
Micro Exercise 3: Cinnamon Roll 1. Write a micro piece in which your narrator is baking cinnamon rolls while being very preoccupied with something that happened to them the day before. Do they burn the rolls? Do they make them better than they ever have? What is distracting them so much? All of these should be answered in a very short number of words.
Micro Exercise 4:  Cinnamon Roll 2Write a micro piece in which two characters are having a conversation at an airport Cinnabon. They are about to get on separate planes and this might be the last time that they ever speak. 
Micro Exercise 5: Fire 1. Write a very short piece where a person sets something on fire and has no regrets about it.
Micro Exercise 6: Fire 2. Write a piece which is under 100 words which includes a person watching a building on fire and it's ambiguous if they set it on fire or not. Give hints both ways, and be sure to include some very good descriptions.
Micro Exercise 7: Fire 3. Write a very short piece in which a narrator is stuck in a blizzard and they try to mentally keep themselves warm by thinking about fire after unsuccessfully trying to start a fire.

----

If you'd like some ambient background writing music, try this: Greeks & Romans - Seven Seas 1985 cassette from background music friends of the blog, Sounds of the Dawn. 

1/4/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #5: Three Things Together 1

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#5
Three Things Together 1


F
or today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which contains the following three things, Nice and simple.

  1. A Phone Booth
  2. A Meteor
  3. A Frozen Lake
------------------------------------

Optional Prompt: If you're writing a poem, write it in tercets (3-lined stanzas) and if you're writing fiction, include three section breaks (separated by asterisks or whatever you'd prefer)

If you'd like some background music to write to, try this "The Calming Lake" lofi mix from friend of the blog Dreamhop Music.

1/3/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #4: Erasing Roger Ebert 49 "Spirited Away"

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#4
Erasing Roger Ebert 49 "Spirited Away"

For today's exercise we have split paths for fiction and poetry, though I highly recommend that even fiction writers try the poetry exercise, because erasures can be a blast!

Poetry: For poetry do an erasure or black-out poem from the following:  Roger Ebert's review of the 2002 film "Spirited Away" (Four Stars).

Roger Ebert has been the archetypal film critic for decades, and he's written thousands of reviews. Because of their nature, almost their own bit of ekphrastic art, this series of erasures will be lots of fun!

An Erasure/Blackout is really simple: you take the given text and remove many words to make it your own new piece. One way to go about the erasure that I like to do is to copy the text and paste it twice into your document before you start erasing or blacking out (in MS Word set the text background color to black), that way if you get further into the erasure and decide you want a somewhat different tone or direction, it's easy to go to the unaltered version and make the erasure/black-out piece smoother. Another tip is to look for recurring words, in this example 'bingo' occurs multiple times and could be a good touchstone for your piece.

Fiction or (poetry): If you insist on fiction (or just feel like writing a "Title Mania" piece), write a piece with one of these  titles taken from this section:

  1. We May Not Pay Much
  2. Busywork
  3. "Everything Starts with the Human Hand"
  4. Figures We Recognize
  5. In the Middle of a Swamp
  6. The Living Light Pole
  7. A Limitless Variety of Bizarre Life-forms
  8. Plumes of Smoke and a Cackling Laugh
  9. Befriended by Some, Shunned by Others
  10. Caricatures of Karl Marx
  11. Eighty Percent Intense
  12. A Little Tiny Dot Over in the Corner
(because the review is so long compared to Ebert's other reviews, I've doubled-up on the possible titles)

Erasure Selection:

Roger Ebert's review of "Spirited Away" 

Viewing Hiyao Miyazaki's "Spirited Away" for the third time, I was struck by a quality between generosity and love. On earlier viewings I was caught up by the boundless imagination of the story. This time I began to focus on the elements in the picture that didn't need to be there. Animation is a painstaking process, and there is a tendency to simplify its visual elements. Miyazaki, in contrast, offers complexity. His backgrounds are rich in detail, his canvas embraces space liberally, and it is all drawn with meticulous attention. We may not pay much conscious attention to the corners of the frame, but we know they are there, and they reinforce the remarkable precision of his fantasy worlds.

"Spirited Away" is surely one of the finest of all animated films, and it has its foundation in the traditional bedrock of animation, which is frame-by-frame drawing. Miyazaki began his career in that style, but he is a realist and has permitted the use of computers for some of the busywork. But he personally draws thousands of frames by hand. "We take handmade cell animation and digitize it in order to enrich the visual look," he told me in 2002, "but everything starts with the human hand drawing."

Consider a scene in "Spirited Away" where his young heroine stands on a bridge leading away from the magical bathhouse in which much of the movie is set. The central action and necessary characters supply all that is actually needed, but watching from the windows and balconies of the bathhouse are many of its occupants. It would be easier to suggest them as vaguely moving presences, but Miyazaki takes care to include many figures we recognize. All of them are in motion. And it isn't the repetitive motion of much animation, in which the only idea is simply to show a figure moving. It is realistic, changing, detailed motion.

Most people watching the movie will simply read those areas of the screen as "movement." But if we happen to look, things are really happening there. That's what I mean by generosity and love. Mikayazi and his colleagues care enough to lavish as much energy on the less significant parts of the frame. Notice how much of the bathhouse you can see. It would have been quicker and easier to show just a bridge and a doorway. But Miyazaki gives his bathhouse his complexity of a real place, which possesses attributes whether or not the immediate story requires them.

The story of "Spirited Away" has been populated with limitless creativity. Has any film ever contained more different kinds of beings that we have never seen anywhere before? Miyazaki's imagination never rests. There is a scene where the heroine and her companion get off a train in the middle of a swamp. In the distant forest they see a light approaching. This turns out to be an old-fashioned light pole that is hopping along on one foot. It bows to them, turns, and lights the way on the path they must take. When they arrive at a cottage, it dutifully hangs itself above the gate. The living light pole is not necessary. It is a gift from Miyazaki.

His story involves a 10-year-old girl named Chihiro, who isn't one of those cheerful little automatons that populate many animated films. She is described by many critics as "sullen." Yes, and impatient and impetuous, as she's stuck in the back seat during a long drive to a house her parents want to examine. Her father loses the way in a dark forest, and the road seems to end at the entrance to a tunnel. Investigating it, they find it leads to an abandoned amusement park. But at dusk, some of the shops seem to reopen, especially a food shop whose fragrances steam into the cool air. Her parents fall eagerly upon the counter jammed with food, and stuff their mouths. Chihiro is stubborn and says she isn't hungry. Her parents eat so much they double or triple in size. They eat like pigs, and they become pigs. These aren't the parents of American animation, but parents who can do things that frighten a child.

The amusement park leads to a gigantic floating bathhouse, whose turrets and windows and ledges and ornamentation pile endlessly upon themselves. A friendly boy warns her to return, but she is too late, and the bathhouse casts off from the shore. Chihiro ventures inside, and finds a world of infinite variety. She cannot find her way out again. The boy says everyone must have a job, and sends her to Kamaji, an old bearded man with eight elongated limbs, who runs the boiler room. He and a young girl advise her to apply to Yubaba, who owns the bathhouse. This is a fearsome old witch who exhales plumes of smoke and a cackling laugh.

This is the beginning of an extraordinary adventure. Chihiro will meet no more humans in the bathhouse. She will be placed under a spell by Yubaba, who steals her name and gives her a new one, Sen. Unless she can get her old name back again, she can never leave. One confusing space opens onto another in the bathhouse, whose population is a limitless variety of bizarre life-forms. There are little fuzzy black balls with two eyeballs, who steal Sen's shoes. Looming semi-transparent No Faces, who wear masks over their ghostly shrouds. Three extraordinary heads without bodies, who hop about looking angry, and resemble caricatures of Karl Marx. There is a malodorous heap of black slime, a river creature whose body has sopped up piles of pollution. Shape-shifting, so common in Japanese fantasy, takes place here, and the boy who first befriended her is revealed as a lithe sea dragon with fierce fangs.

Sen makes her way through this world, befriended by some, shunned by others, threatened by Yubaba, learning as she goes. She never becomes a "nice girl," but her pluck and determination win our affection. She becomes determined to regain her name and return to the mainland on a daily train (which only runs one way). She wants to find her parents again.

Miyazaki says he made the film specifically for 10-year-old girls. That is why it plays so powerfully for adult viewers. Movies made for "everybody" are actually made for nobody in particular. Movies about specific characters in a detailed world are spellbinding because they make no attempt to cater to us; they are defiantly, triumphantly, themselves. As I watched the film again, I was spellbound as much as by any film I consider great. That helps explain why "Spirited Away" grossed more than "Titanic" in Japan, and was the first foreign film in history to open in the U. S. having already made more than $200 million.

I was so fortunate to meet Miyazaki at the 2002 Toronto film festival. I told him I love the "gratuitous motion" in his films; instead of every movement being dictated by the story, sometimes people will just sit for a moment, or sigh, or gaze at a running stream, or do something extra, not to advance the story but only to give the sense of time and place and who they are.

"We have a word for that in Japanese," he said. "It's called 'ma.' Emptiness. It's there intentionally." He clapped his hands three or four times. "The time in between my clapping is 'ma.' If you just have non-stop action with no breathing space at all, it's just busyness."

I think that helps explain why Miyazaki's films are more absorbing than the frantic action in a lot of American animation. "The people who make the movies are scared of silence" he said, "so they want to paper and plaster it over," he said. "They're worried that the audience will get bored. But just because it's 80 percent intense all the time doesn't mean the kids are going to bless you with their concentration. What really matters is the underlying emotions--that you never let go of those.

"What my friends and I have been trying to do since the 1970's is to try and quiet things down a little bit; don't just bombard them with noise and distraction. And to follow the path of children's emotions and feelings as we make a film. If you stay true to joy and astonishment and empathy you don't have to have violence and you don't have to have action. They'll follow you. This is our principle."

He said he has been amused to see a lot of animation in live-action superhero movies. "In a way, live action is becoming part of that whole soup called animation. Animation has become a word that encompasses so much, and my animation is just a little tiny dot over in the corner. It's plenty for me."

It's plenty for me, too.

------------------------------------

If you'd like some jazzy background music to write to, try Swiss jazz band Irene Schweizer Trio's 1967 album "Jazz Meets India"