by Nancy Casey
Begin, as always, with a pristine sheet of paper. Smooth away its imaginary wrinkles. Wipe away all the imaginary dust. Roll your forearms back and forth to make sure your wrists and fingers are relaxed. Then take you pen and write the letters of the alphabet down the left hand size of the page. One letter per line. A to Z.
If you run out of lines before you run out of letters, you can start a second column, or start a second page.
Then think about your day. Your whole big day. Everything you’ve done so far, everything you’ve seen, the places you’ve been. All that you’ve procrastinated, all that you’ve forgotten. Think about what’s yet to come in this day, what you could do without, what you are looking forward to. What will be satisfying? What will boring? What people pass through?
As each of these things floats into your mind, write down the word for it next to its letter. You can write more than one word for each letter. The letter ‘L’ could get: lunch, laughing, and letters. While ‘S’ could have sleep, sugar, stairs and a secret.
Don’t force yourself through the alphabet starting with ‘A’. Just fill in words in whichever order they come to you. Here’s an example of what your list could look like.
Think up at least one word for each letter. When you start to slow down, you might have to squeeze your brain a little to wring out a word for letters you haven’t used yet. Some letters can require a little imagination: ‘Q’ for instance, or the dreaded ‘X’. Use creative spelling as needed. Nobody is going to come by with a red pencil and tell you something isn’t right.
When you have finished spilling out words for today’s events and experiences, look over the page and ask yourself if there’s a theme. Are there groups of the same kinds of words? Do they revolve around a topic or an event? If there is a theme, make up a title that reflects it. If there is no theme or pattern to what you’ve written, make up a title anyway. Put the date on the page as well.
This is a very good exercise to do any time your mind is overfull and scattered.
It can get so chaotic inside our brains sometimes. We get overwhelmed when there are so many things on our mind that it doesn’t seem like they can all fit into the one life that we have. You try to organize your morning and are flooded with thoughts about what is coming in the evening. Maybe you should make a grocery list, but really you should clean the bathroom. You have to remember to meet a friend later, but you haven’t forgotten how that friend made you mad last week. What about the laundry? The electric bill? Have you tied your shoes?
As each thought flits at light-speed through your consciousness, grab one word and write it down next to its letter. (S is for Shoes, L is for laces, B is for Bill, L is for laundry, W is for Washer, M is for mad, G is for Groceries, B is for Bathroom… You get the idea.)
No matter how out-of-control something feels, you can always put it in alphabetical order.
Any time you feel like you don’t have the focus that it takes to “write something,” write the letters of the alphabet down the left-hand side of the page and start filling in words. Sometimes it’s nice not to have to explain anything.
Nancy Casey is a writer and teacher who has lived in rural Latah County for many years. You can see more of her work here.
Writing classes will be coming to the Recovery Center in April! Watch the calendar for more information.