Would-a, Could-a, Should-a

by Nancy Casey

Would-a. Should-a. Could-a.

Those are the words we use when we imagine a different past. We’re often advised not to use them—neither out loud or when we talk to ourselves. And when we do, we get reminded that we would-a, could-a, should-a said something different.

Sounds exhausting. It’s terribly hard to refrain from thinking certain thoughts. Because you have to think them to remind yourself not to think them.

Today in your writing, let ‘em rip. Open the gates and let them in. There will be a few other requirements, too, but first, set up your page while you allow yourself to imagine some of the things you wish were different about the past.

Draw a line at the top of the page where you can put a title when you finish writing. If you want to set aside a space for doodles and illustration, do that next. Then draw lines to divide the remaining space on the page into four roughly equal parts.

Write the words Would-aShould-a, and Could-a as headings at the top of three of those spaces. Leave the fourth one blank, at least for now.

In each of the spaces, write about something that would-a, should-a, could-a been different. Maybe about something that you did or didn’t do. Maybe about the actions of someone else. Perhaps one event will fit in the small space, or maybe more than one.

Each time you tell a little Would-aShould-a, or Could-a story, add the words, “But, oh well, …” and write at least one more sentence that places the event(s) in the past and says something about the present.

You might say something about how you survived, what you learned, or what doors wouldn’t have opened without the events you (sort of) regret. Maybe it seemed like a good idea at the time. Maybe you had fun, or it worked out well for someone else. Maybe it was the best way to learn what not to do the next time.

When you have filled the three spaces with Would-aShould-a, Could-a stories, write anything you would like in the fourth space. Maybe some more Would-aShould-a, or Could-a stories, or some comments about what you wrote, or what you thought about writing it.

When the page is full, look it over carefully and make small changes if you like. When a title idea floats to the surface of your mind, write it at the top of the page.

Write the date on the page too, along with a signature or your initials.

Here is an example of what someone could write.

You can share your work by posting it as a comment below. You can type it in, or take a photo of it and upload the image.


Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. You can find more of her work here. If you would like some help or encouragement with your writing, contact Nancy or the Latah Recovery Center. In-person Write-for You classes have been suspended for now, but when Covid recedes, they will return.

Apples

by Nancy Casey

Fall has arrived on the Palouse. The morning air is crisp—and so are the apples! Today, write about apples. Maybe a story from your life, or one from your imagination. You could write a list. Or a string of two-sentence stories or observations. Just start with an apple (or many) and take it wherever it goes.

Set up a page with a line across the top where your title will go so you are certain to have a place to put it when you have finished writing. You can also draw a box, a border or a blob that you’ll use for illustration. You can even start with the illustration to settle your mind and give you time to think.

Here are some approaches you could take for writing about apples:

  • Eat an apple with all of your senses turned on and describe the experience.
  • Begin with a memory of eating, buying, or picking apples.
  • Comment on a fairy tale or myth that has one or more apples in it.
  • Begin with one of the many of the expressions that have apples in them: the apple of your eye, an apple a day, road apples, apples and oranges, rotten apples…
  • Start with something made of apples: cider, juice, vinegar, pie…

Pick an apple-thought and start. You don’t have to decide everything you are going to say in order to begin. Just get yourself going and write about whatever comes to mind next. If you stray from the subject of apples, so be it. You can’t mess this up.

When you feel like you’ve written enough, stop. If there’s still room on the page, fill it with drawing or decoration.

When the page is full, look it over carefully and make small changes if you like. When a title idea floats to the surface of your mind, write it at the top of the page.

Write the date on the page too, along with a signature or your initials.

Here is an example of what someone could write.


You can share your work by posting it as a comment below. You can type it in, or take a photo of it and upload the image.

Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. You can find more of her work here. If you would like some help with your writing, contact Nancy or the Latah Recovery Center.

Slow Changes

by Nancy Casey

It can be hard to wrap one’s mind around the fact that everything, every single thing we see and don’t see, is changing. Always. Today you will have a chance to slow your powers of observation down and think about that.

You will be writing sentences patterned more or less like this:

Slowly, slowly ______ turns into ______.

Think about that as you set up your page. Draw a line across the top where your title will go when you have finished writing. You can also draw a box or blob that you’ll use for illustration. Or make a decorative border around the page. A lot of people find that working on drawing and writing at the same time helps their mind relax so ideas can flow.

Slowly and carefully write the words, “Slowly, slowly . . ” and then write down the first thing that comes to your mind that doesn’t seem to change at all. Next, write something about how it does changes. You can say what it slowly turns into. Or you might decide to describe how it makes the world or your life different.

Add another sentence or two that tells a bit more about this change. You could tell how it happens, why it matters, who it affects—whatever further ideas come to mind.

To continue, pick out a word or idea from what you just wrote and plug it into the pattern sentence that begins “Slowly, slowly . . .”  Write a few sentences about how change comes about for this new thing.

Work your way down the page like that, describing things that don’t seem to change much, telling a bit about how they do change.

Maybe a story will come through in your writing. Or a pep talk. Or a clear description of the world. Maybe not. Don’t make a big effort for everything to be connected. You might notice connections later. And if you don’t, you will still have written something interesting. Slowly, slowly, some kind of picture will develop.

When you feel like you’ve written enough, stop. If there’s still room on the page, fill it with drawing or decoration. If you write only a few sentences and switch over into drawing, that’s just fine.

When the page is full, look it over carefully and make small changes if you like. When a title idea floats to the surface of your mind, write the title at the top of the page.

Write the date on the page too, along with a signature or your initials.

Here is an example of what someone could write.

You can share your work by posting it as a comment below. You can type it in, or take a photo of it and upload the image.


Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. You can find more of her work here. If you would like some help with your writing, contact Nancy or the Latah Recovery Center.

Acts of Kindness

by Nancy Casey

There are oh-so-many ways to be kind. Big ones and little ones. For your writing today, recall some moments when someone showed you kindness.  Think about that as you set up your page.

Draw a line at the top to save room to write your title when you have finished. You might want to divide the remaining space into several sections so you can write a little bit about a few different acts of kindness you have experienced. Or maybe you want to leave the space wide open while you think about what you will write.

While you are thinking, doodle or draw a little bit to get your pen moving and bring your focus to the page.

Some acts of kindness are unmistakable and enormous. Someone steps up and solves a problem for you that changes everything. Without expecting payback.

Tiny acts of kindness are no less important than the big sweeping ones. Someone makes eye contact across a crowded, confusing room and lets you know you are not alone. A stranger rushes ahead to open a door for you when you are too burdened to do it easily yourself. A message or voicemail reminds you that someone cares about what will happen to you. Communication from someone lets you know they remember an important anniversary in your life.

Maybe you remember a time when someone forgave you for a mistake you made, making it clear that they understand how it happened. Or a time when you asked for help and someone said, “Of course,” and stepped up for you as if it was no big deal. Or maybe you didn’t even have to ask, they just noticed and took action.

Some acts of kindness leave a person reeling with gratitude for a burden lifted. Others are so fleeting that it takes some mindfulness to recognize what happened. Sometimes you notice the kindness by the feeling it brings on–relief, gratitude, surprise, joy…

Consider the acts of kindness that you perform for yourself. Deliberate self-care, a vacation, comfort food, or taking the time to fill a single page with your thoughts.

Open your mind and memory to times you have been the recipient of kindness. Write about one of them, and if there is still room on the page, write about another.

When the page is full, look it over carefully and make small changes if you like. Add color or decoration—it will make you like the page more when you look at it later. When a title idea floats to the surface of your mind, write it at the top of the page.

Write the date on the page too, along with a signature or your initials.

Here is an example of what someone could write.

You can share your work by posting it as a comment below. You can type it in, or take a photo of it and upload the image.


Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. You can find more of her work here. If you would like some help with your writing, contact Nancy or the Latah Recovery Center.

Surprise Yourself!

by Nancy Casey

In today’s exercise, you must first do something. You can take as much time as you like—a few minutes, an hour, the whole day. Afterwards, write about what you did and what it was like.  The thing you must do? Surprise yourself.

How do you do that?

You simply do something that you didn’t know you were going to do until you did it.

Maybe you will spontaneously alter your daily routine. You could do your normal steps in a different order. You could add a new step. You could skip a step.

On your way to somewhere, you could suddenly turn left when you usually go straight and end  up taking a different route.

You could dig out an article of clothing that you forgot you had until just now and put it on. Maybe you’ll take it right off, or maybe you’ll wear it all day.

You could give yourself a present.

You could suddenly do a task that you have been procrastinating for so long that the procrastination is itself a habit.

You could get in touch with someone who you didn’t think you would be in touch with today.

You could drop everything and meditate for five minutes. Or one minute. Or two breaths. Or ten hours.

The funny thing about this is that you can’t plan it or figure it out ahead of time. If you do, you will lose the element of surprise. You must simply and spontaneously do something that wasn’t the thing that you thought you were going to do next.

For some people, this is very hard. For others, this is how most days unfold. A whole lot of people are in-between.

Once you’ve surprised yourself, write about it.

You can describe what you did and what it was like to do it. You can discuss with yourself how easy or how hard it was to surprise yourself in this way. Fill up the page with your thoughts about what you did. Illustrate it, too, if you like.

When the page is full, look over all your work and make changes if you like. Put a title at the top of the page. Put a signature or your initials on the page somewhere and write the date, too.

Here is an example of what someone could write. After they did something to surprise themself.

You can share your work by posting it as a comment below. You can type it in, or take a photo of it and upload the image.


Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. You can find more of her work here. If you would like some help with your writing, contact Nancy or the Latah Recovery Center.

Second Thoughts

by Nancy Casey

We often talk about the “first thing that comes to mind.” Our minds never stop, though, so right after the first thing, along comes the second one. Today you will have a chance to notice the first thing that comes to mind and then write about the second.

Set up a page with a line across the top where your title will go. Divide the rest of the page into five equal parts. The parts don’t have to be perfect squares or rectangles. Just make it so that there are 5 roughly equal-sized areas for writing in.

Near the top of one writing area, write the word clothes in tiny letters. In another area, write the word fun. Label two of the remaining areas tired and travel. The fifth writing area won’t have a label.

Pick one of the words and start talking about it. Yes, talking. Out loud. Say whatever comes to mind when you focus on that word. A memory, some wisdom, a historical event, an object, a person, a color, a sensation…

Talk until you have explained whatever you are talking about, then pause a moment, take up your pen, and write down whatever thought comes to mind next. There’s not much room, you won’t be able to write a lot. Don’t write down anything you already said out loud.

Repeat the same process for the other 3 words. Say your first thought out loud. Write a little bit about your next thought. Don’t fuss too much about how (or if) the second thought connects to the first one. Just write whatever comes into your mind next.

Use the final empty writing area to write about what it was like to do this. Some people find it easy and fun. Others find it difficult an annoying. Some people get insights into their thinking process and how one thought moves into another one. What did you notice?

Decorate the page in any way that you like. When you are all finished, look back over the whole thing. Give your work  a title. Write the date and your signature on it, too.

Here is an example of what someone could write.

You can share your work by posting it as a comment below. You can type it in, or take a photo of it and upload the image.


Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. You can find more of her work here. If you would like some help with your writing, contact Nancy or the Latah Recovery Center.

Combinations

by Nancy Casey

Today’s writing is a chance to play a word game. You might rattle around your vocabulary and pick out some words you haven’t used in awhile. Maybe what you write will sound like nonsense, or maybe it will clarify the way you think about something. You just don’t know what you are going to write until you have written it.

Begin by writing down an ordinary thought. Something true. A memory, an observation, a plan, a wish, a feeling, a conclusion—any one of those zillions of thoughts that pass through your mind in a day. Any old thought.

While your mind floats through possible ideas for beginning, set up your page. Draw a line across the top where your title will go. You can also draw a box or blob that you’ll use for illustration. Or draw a border around the page.

Then write down your opening thought. A few lines. A sentence or two. Something short.

Here is the word game: Pick a word from the thought you have just written and begin a new thought that fits this pattern: “_______ (your word) is a combination of ­­______ and ______ .” (two new words)

You can say anything, as long as you think it’s true. You could write that water is a combination of hydrogen and oxygen. Or you could write that water is a combination of wet and cold. If it makes sense to you, you could even write something like, “Water is a combination of old and vast.”

After the “combination” sentence, write a line or two that expands or explains that thought a little bit. If you get stuck, try using words like because, for example, or if.

Pause and reread the thought you just wrote down. Choose one word—any word—and begin a new thought with “_______ (your word) is a combination of ­­______ and ______ .” (two new words)

Explain a little bit about that thought. After a few lines, pause, choose a word and begin again with the “combination”  sentence.

Follow the same pattern all the way down the page.

When you have finished writing, reread your work. Put something decorative on the page if you like. When an idea for a title pops into your mind, write it on the line at the top of the page. Write the date on your work and sign it.

Here is an example of what someone could write.

You can share your work by posting it as a comment below. You can type it in, or take a photo of it and upload the image. 


Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. You can find more of her work here. If you would like some help with your writing, or just some encouragement, contact Nancy or the Latah Recovery Center.

Alphabet Salad

by Nancy Casey

Today you will begin with the alphabet. After that, it’s hard to guess what you’ll write next.

Draw a line at the top to reserves space for your title, although you can’t possibly know what the title ought to be until you have finished writing the page.

Directly under that line, up close and almost touching it, write the letters of the alphabet, A to Z. They will serve as a hand reference for you as you write.

Put a dot on the page that’s half-way down, or a little further. The dot will remind you to make a change when you get to it.

You can also draw a box or blob that you’ll use for illustration.

Starting at the top, underneath the letters of the alphabet, write a word that begins with A. Next to it, a word that begins with B. After that, one that begins with C. And so forth, 26 words all the way to Z.

What you write doesn’t have to “make sense”. It only matters that the words go from A to Z. When you get to Z, start with A again. Keep going like that until you get to the dot.

Note that nobody said you have to write “real” words. Use the first word that comes to mind rather than trying to think up a perfect one. If no word comes to mind, make one up! It’s okay to have words like “quberpy” or “kzzl” if words like that are what you come up with.

When you get to the dot, pause your writing and draw a decorative border that runs all the way across the page. Read over all the words you have written. Alternate between reading and doodling on the decorative border until the border looks good and you remember what a lot of the words are.

In the remaining space, write a story (or something) that is made up of words from the top of the page. You can use other words, too, of course. Let the story tell itself without being overly concerned with the logic of it. It’s okay if it spills out like a big word salad.

When the page is full, look it over carefully, top and bottom, and make small changes if you like. When a title idea floats to the surface of your mind, write it at the top of the page. Sometimes you can find a title that makes “sense” out of it all.

Write the date on the page too, along with a signature or your initials.

Here is an example of what someone could write.

You can share your work by posting it as a comment below. You can type it in, or take a photo of it and upload the image.


If you would like to make a page like this in the company of other people, join us at the Latah Recovery Center from 4-5 PM on Tuesdays. After we’ve made a page together, we do other exercises, and (optionally) share our work. For a calm and supportive early-evening time, join us at 4:00, and then stick around for the art class that begins at 5:00.


Curious about what writing can do for you? Taking a poetry class is a fun way to experiment. Poetry for Recovery is an online class that will meet 4 Thursdays, starting July 22. If you are interested, ontact Nancy 


Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. You can find more of her work here. If you would like some help with your writing, or just some encouragement,  contact Nancy or the Latah Recovery Center.

A Talking Object

by Nancy Casey

To begin your work today, select an object in your living space to use in your writing. A thing. You don’t have to be able to see it or touch it. You just have to know it is there.

When you write, you will write from the point of view of that object, that is, you will write as if the object is talking.

As you write, have the object tell something about its life. Maybe its entire history. Maybe a story from before it came into your life. Or something you did together. Maybe it has plans, emotions, or grudges. You can have the object “say“ anything. It can “talk” however you want to make it talk.

As the object “speaks” it must say at least one thing about you. It might mention you once in passing. Or it could also turn out that the object has lots to say about you. That’s up to you, of course, because you are the one who decides what this object will say.

Not only can you be creative by pretending you are a talking object, you can be creative with the object’s voice. It can talk baby talk or like a gangster. Will its voice be dreamy, authoritative, or harsh? Maybe the perfect voice for a talking object will come into your mind gradually as you write.

Think about these things as you set up a page. Draw a line across the top where your title will go. You can also draw a box or blob that you’ll use for illustration.

Then pick an object and go. You don’t have to know what the object will “say” before you start writing. Thoughts will come to you. And if they don’t, doodle a bit until they do. One idea will lead to another one.

When you feel like you’ve written enough, stop. If there’s still room on the page, fill it with drawing or decoration. When the page is completely full, look it over carefully and make small changes if you like. When a title idea floats to the surface of your mind, write it at the top of the page.

Write the date on the page too, along with a signature or your initials.

Here is an example of what someone could write.

You can share your work by posting it as a comment below. You can type it in, or take a photo of it and upload the image.


If you would like to make a page like this in the company of other people, join us at the Latah Recovery Center from 4-5 PM on Tuesdays. After we’ve made a page together, we do other exercises, and (optionally) share our work. For a calm and supportive time that will ease you into the evening, join us at 4:00, and then stick around for the art class that begins at 5:00.


Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. You can find more of her work here. If you would like some help with your writing, or just some encouragement,  contact Nancy or the Latah Recovery Center.

How to Make a Fort

by Nancy Casey

When you write today, these are the first words you’ll put on the page: “Well, you could make a fort out of…”

The word well signals a bit of hesitancy. It says, Maybe this isn’t the most brilliant idea in the world, but at least I wrote something.

In other words, starting with “Well, …” gives you the freedom to say any old thing. It can turn out to be ridiculous, obvious, or brilliantly clever. You won’t be able to tell until after you’ve written it down and written more stuff after that. So just dive in and write any old thing at all.

What could you make a fort out of? What is a fort, anyway? Who makes them and why?

You don’t necessarily have to answer those questions, but once you write down what a fort could be made of, some kind of fort will start to take shape in your imagination. As you start to “see” the fort you are imagining, you could write more things about it if you like. Or you could change the subject and start to imagine a different fort.

Before you do any writing, set up your page. Draw a line at the top of the page where the title will go so you are certain to have a place to put it when you have finished writing. Set aside some space for drawing or doodling if you like. Or just start drawing and wait for the urge to write to hit you.

You don’t have to think up any ideas ahead of time. Try to keep your whole mind floating through both realistic and ridiculous ways a fort could be made. When you have written, “Well, you could make a fort out of…” something will pop up. Even if it seems completely goofy, write it down and take it from there.

When the page is full, look it over carefully and make small changes if you like. When a title idea floats to the surface of your mind, write it at the top of the page.

Write the date on the page too, along with a signature or your initials.

Here is an example of what someone could write.

You can share your work by posting it as a comment below. You can type it in, or take a photo of it and upload the image.


If you would like to make a page like this in the company of other people, join us at the Latah Recovery Center from 4-5 PM on Tuesdays. After we’ve made a page together, we do other exercises, and (optionally) share our work. For a calm and supportive early-evening time, join us at 4:00, and then stick around for the art class that begins at 5:00.


Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. You can find more of her work here. If you would like some help with your writing, or just some encouragement,  contact Nancy or the Latah Recovery Center.