Write for You: Back and Forth

by Nancy Casey

Write down a fact. A one-sentence fact. Any old fact.

You can describe something that’s in front of you or tell something about a memory. You could choose a fact that comes into your mind from the media, or from friends. Just some random fact.

The fact should take up about one line on the page.

Start a new line. Write new a sentence related to the fact. Write something that turns the fact into a bummer. Do this by adding new information that twists the fact around. Make the new sentence sound depressing somehow, or gloomy. It doesn’t even have to be true.

  • For example, a person could begin by writing: There is strawberry ice cream in the freezer.
  • Then they could follow up: At my cousin’s fifth birthday party, I threw up strawberry ice cream all over the cake.

After that sentence, start a new line. This time write a sentence that takes an idea from the gloomy sentence and turns the “conversation” cheerful or positive.

  • For example, a person could follow the bummer recollection of throwing up at a cousin’s birthday party with something like: When I was growing up, my cousin was my best friend.

Then use that positive-sounding sentence as a springboard to say something gloomy or depressing. Maybe something like: In grade school, my best friend moved away and I never saw her again.

Continue down the page, that way, writing sentences that take turns changing the subject and swinging from positive to negative, back and forth like a rocking horse.

Just go sentence by sentence. Don’t pressure yourself to tell a coherent story. You can write things that are true, or completely made up, or somewhere in between. The important thing is to make the attitude swing from gloomy to cheerful, and back, and forth.

When you are three-quarters of the way down the page, stop. Draw a squiggly line under what you have written. Go back and read it over. Make small changes if you like.

Finally, in the little bit of space left on the page, comment on what you wrote. How did you have to make your mind work to change the attitude with every single sentence? Was it easy, hard, or a little of both? Were parts of the writing funny or annoying? Does the page you wrote seem like two people talking, or is it more like one person having a discussion with their own thoughts?

Write comments for the rest of the page, and when your work is finished, give it a title. Make sure the date is on the page somewhere, too. Add decoration and color as needed. Here is an example of what a person could write.

Share what you have written! Post it as a comment below. You can type in your work. Or post a picture of it.


Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. Sometimes she teaches writing classes at the Recovery Center. You can find more of her work here. She offers (free!) writing help to anyone in recovery. This can be for any kind of writing project—resumes, letters, stories novels—email latahrecoverycenter@gmail.com for more information.

Write for You: Your Clothes in Categories

by Nancy Casey

If you want to be out and about in polite society, you have to wear clothes. So people tend to have lots of them.

If you were to count up all the people in the world and all the places and reasons they wear certain clothes, not to mention the clothes they own and don’t wear, and the clothes they wished they had, you would probably have a number equal to the number of stars in the galaxy or gains of sand in the Sahara desert.

What about your own clothes? Chances are you have quite a few. And different groups or categories of them, too. You can divide them into categories in many ways. Clean and dirty, of course. Or, whites, darks, and colors if you are standing in front of a washing machine. Underwear and outer-wear. Summer clothes and winter clothes. Hats, shoes and gloves. Pants, shirts and sweaters. Clothes you love and clothes you hate.

You can divide clothes into categories according to when and where you ought to wear them. Some situations (such as work, and fancy restaurants) require certain clothes. Other situations have special clothes that aren’t exactly required, but people tend to conform. Think of the gym, the beach, or church.

Do things that you always wear, like glasses and jewelry, count as clothes? What about a purse, satchel, or backpack that you never leave home without?

Do you have a collection of clothes that you never wear but don’t get rid of? Perhaps you expect to wear them someday, or maybe they have sentimental value. Do you keep clothes around because they belong to someone else?

In your writing today, think about all the different categories of clothes you have and write about some of your clothes by category.

Begin with any category at all. (In my closet… At home… My uncomfortable clothes… My favorite clothes… In the laundry basket…) Write about the clothes in one category, then move onto another category until the page is full.

Your page could turn out to be a big list of different clothes. Or you might have so much to say about the first article of clothing you write about that it fills up the whole page. Maybe you will decide to draw the clothes as you think about what you will write.

However your page comes out, give your work a title. Make sure the date is on it somewhere, too. Add any decoration and color that you think the page might need. Here is an example of what a person could write.

Share what you have written! Post it as a comment below. You can type in your work. Or post a picture of it. Here is an example of what a person could write.


Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. Sometimes she teaches writing classes at the Recovery Center. You can find more of her work here. She offers (free!) writing help to anyone in recovery. This can be for any kind of writing project—resumes, letters, stories novels—email latahrecoverycenter@gmail.com for more information.

Write for You: What You Don’t Know

by Nancy Casey

We all know lots of things. And we don’t know a whole lot more.

We don’t know the things we haven’t figured out yet. There are things we don’t know that we could know if we looked them up, or asked someone. There are things we used to know but forgot. Not to mention all the gazillions of things that nobody will ever know.

If you compare the things you know to the things you don’t know, what would that be like? A speck of dust in the ocean? A blade of grass on the lawn? Frosting on the cake?

It’s tempting to think that we should be smarter, or that we should “know better.” But if we knew everything, there would be nothing to learn. Would that make life boring? How much fun is it to hang out with someone who thinks they know everything?

Today in your writing, celebrate what you don’t know. Here’s how:

  • Begin with something you know. Things you know are everywhere. You observe them. You remember them. Starting with the words, “I know…” write one of them down. Don’t think about it very hard. Just write something.
  • Follow that with the phrase, “but I don’t know…”
  • Then finish off the sentence. If the first part and the second part don’t seem very related to one another, that doesn’t matter. Just as long as the first part is something you know and the second part is something you don’t.
  • Start a new line and do the same thing, beginning again with something you know and adding something you don’t know.
  • Fill up a page that way.

If you feel a little bit stuck and not sure what to write after the word “know,” notice how a little word often follows the word “know” when we talk. Know if… Know how… Know who… Know when… Know where… Know what… Know that… Know why…

If you are unsure about what to write, add one of those little words, and that will usually help you think up what to put next.

When you have filled up the page, go back and focus on things you don’t know. If there are things you wish you knew, draw a big question mark over them. If there are things you are glad you don’t know, draw a smiley face on them. Draw an exclamation point on top of the things that are impossible to know. Do some things get more than one mark? Do others get no mark at all?

If you want to draw other things on the page, do that, too.

When you have finished, give your work a title. Make sure the date is on it somewhere, as well. Here is an example of what a person could write.

Share what you have written! Post it as a comment below. You can type in your work. Or post a picture of it.


Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. Sometimes she teaches writing classes at the Recovery Center. You can find more of her work here. She offers (free!) writing help to anyone in recovery. This can be for any kind of writing project—resumes, letters, stories novels—email latahrecoverycenter@gmail.com for more information

Summer’s Suitcase

by Nancy Casey

What’s in store for the summer ahead? Cold days in June, hot days in August? Outings and trips? Long evenings, new friends, a different home or job?

So many things can happen over the course of a summer. Are you ready?

Imagine that you can pack a suitcase that is chock-full of everything you will need during the coming summer. Make it a somewhat miraculous suitcase where things of any size fits and nothing is too heavy.

Of course there will be clothes and maybe a couple of toothbrushes. What else for your daily life? Food? Toys? Equipment? Books?

You can put ideas in the suitcase. Are there thoughts that you don’t want to slip from your mind in the coming season?

Perhaps you will want to add some habits. Those would be things that you do often without planning or even realizing you are doing them. Habits that make your life better are always good, so be sure to tuck a couple of new ones into a side pocket.

Attitudes could be handy in your summer suitcase. Just as you would pack sunscreen for the beach, you can pack the attitudes that you want to put on for different situations that will pop up over the summer. Are you going to need patience now and again? Or bursts of efficiency? Will you bring along curiosity, friendliness or black humor?

What skills belong in your suitcase? The ability to listen, hit a baseball, or survive 16-hour shifts? Will you need to swim, take good notes, or remember people’s names?

Finally, what can you pack to prepare for all the unexpected and difficult things (and people!) that are bound to crop up. Any special all-purpose tools?

Begin by writing, “In my summer suitcase I am packing…” and write down something that you would pack and what it would be useful for.

Start a new line that begins, “I will also pack…” and tell about another thing. When you have explained that one, start a new line and add something else to the suitcase. See how full you can make it.

When you have finished, give your work a title. Make sure the date is on it somewhere, too. Add decoration and color to the page as needed. Here is an example of what a person could write.

Share what you have written! Post it as a comment below. You can type in your work. Or post a picture of it.

Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. Sometimes she teaches writing classes at the Recovery Center. You can find more of her work here. If you would like her help with a writing project—resumes, letters, stories novels—email latahrecoverycenter@gmail.com for more information.

Write for You: And So…

by Nancy Casey

Today in your writing you will be thinking about how things got to be the way they are. You will do that by telling very short stories that have the words “and so” in the middle of them.

You can write about yourself. You could, for example, tell the story of how you came to detest your most un-favorite food. In my case, that would be a throwing-up story that ends, “… and so I never ate Cracker Jacks again.” You could tell a story of how a relationship started or how you got a scar. You could tell how you made a decision, or how you ended up living where you do. You could tell about your breakfast.

The only trick is that when you tell the story, you have to twist it into the right shape so that the last phrase begins with “…and so…”

You can write about the world around you: It rained hard last night, and so there are worms all over the sidewalks.

You can explain a fact from science: Gravity has existed as long as the known universe, and so things fall down and not up.

You can write about the future: My garden isn’t planted yet and so it is not likely to grow. Perhaps a story like that could have a companion that ends, “…and so my garden isn’t planted.”

You don’t necessarily have to write things that are true: Birds from all over the world have come to the park to argue about politics, and so the trees are noisy.

One thing happens. And so something else happens. Fill a page with little stories like that.

When you have finished, give your work a title. Make sure the date is on it somewhere, too. Add decoration and color to the page as needed. Here is an example of what a person could write.

Share what you have written! Post it as a comment below. You can type in your work. Or post a picture of it.


Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years and taught writing at the Recovery Center. You can find more of her work here. If you would like her help with a writing project of any kind—resumes, letters, stories novels—email latahrecoverycenter@gmail.com for more information.

Write for You: Do and Done

by Nancy Casey

Begin with a blank sheet of paper. Write the letters of the alphabet, A-Z, in a line down the center of the page. Start an inch or so below top of the page because you want to leave space for some headings and the title.

Draw two lines on either side of the column of letters to make it look more like a stripe.

For the heading on the left-hand column, write the word “DO.” At the top of the column on the right, write the word “DONE.” Write the headings as big as you can, but small enough so that there will be room for a title at the end.

Choose any letter. Next to it, in the right hand column, write down something that you have done which begins with that letter. On the other side of the letter, in the left-hand column, write down something that you might do in the future which begins with that same letter.

There are many ways to approach this. You can think in terms of tasks and obligations, your “to-do” list. Or you can think about people you have seen and experiences you have had. You can put things in the “DONE” column that you never planned to do. You can put anything at all in the “DO” column, as long as you haven’t done it. Don’t worry about how likely it is that you will do it.

It’s usually best to skip around on the page instead of taking yourself on a forced march through the alphabet. Let your mind wander through the past. When you remember something you did, ask yourself, “What letter is that?”

Once our minds start to wander, they ramble pretty easily from the past to the future. Wherever it lands, ask yourself, “What letter is this? Is it a DO or a DONE?”

Gradually fill the page. Try to get something for every letter, even if you have to stretch the rules of spelling a little bit. The arrangement of items on the page often leaves blank space around the edges for doodling or illustration, so take advantage of that. And of course, give your work a title and write the date on it. Here is an example of what a person could write.

This exercise gets to be more fun if you do it often. Try it for several days in a row without looking at yesterday’s page before you write today’s. You will be fascinated by the items that add and subtract themselves from your pages. It’s fascinating because this is your life!

Share what you have written! Post it as a comment below. You can type in your work. Or post a picture of it.


Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. She has taught writing classes at the Recovery Center in the past. You can find more of her work here. If you would like her help with a writing project—resumes, letters, stories novels—email latahrecoverycenter@gmail.com for more information.

Write for You: Just Doodle

by Nancy Casey

When you have a writing practice, your goal is to do some writing. Period. It is likely that benefits will accrue from your efforts, but the connection isn’t always direct. Maybe over time, you will like yourself better or get in touch with your feelings. Maybe your regular writing will improve your spelling. Maybe it will give you a great idea for how to rearrange the furniture.

When you sit down to do your writing, the task is always the same: fill up a page. One page. On some days you might do extra. Maybe your writing will spill onto a second page and then a third one. But maybe it won’t. Your goal is to fill a page and when the page is full, you’ve succeeded.

You don’t have to write fast. Your writing doesn’t have to be neat. You don’t have to write in cursive. The words don’t need to be packed in tight as bricks. As long as the page is full and has some words on it, you’ve done your writing.

To demonstrate that to yourself, let doodling be the focus of your writing today.

When you doodle, you send your pen around the page to make whatever marks you happen to make. Perhaps you will “draw” things that you know how to draw. If you do, don’t draw them with the intent of making them look a certain way. Don’t hesitate or wonder what you ought to do. Just let your pen roam around, making lines and shapes, marks and blobs. As long as that’s happening, you are doing it right.

You can start in one small place on the page, like the middle or a corner, and let your doodle grow outward from there. Or perhaps you would prefer to begin with a few large strokes over the whole page and then fill in the spaces you have made. Maybe you’ll do some combination of both.

Having several colors handy to make some variety can be nice, but it isn’t a requirement.

In the course of your doodling, write a few words. Very few. Ten would be plenty.

Notice how it feels to doodle up a whole page. Usually after about 10 minutes of an activity like doodling, a person’s mind slows down. Maybe your brain starts to doodle, too. That slowing of the mind is the real purpose of your writing practice. It doesn’t seem like much when it is happening, but over time, in a process that nobody really understands, it can create a little island of calmness inside of you. The benefits that come from “writing” really come from the calmness you create by doing the writing. Anything that lands on the page is a bonus.

When you have filled your page with doodling, turn it sideways and upside-down to see which way it looks best. Figure out where the title should go. Write the date on it as well. Here is an example of what a person could write.

Share what you have written! Post it as a comment below. You can type in your work. Or post a picture of it.


Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years and has taught writing classes at the Recovery Center in the past. You can find more of her work here. If you would like her help with a writing project—resumes, letters, stories novels—email latahrecoverycenter@gmail.com for more information.