Write for You: Miraculous Miracles

by Nancy Casey

Today you will invent some miracles.

Get started with a clean sheet of paper.

On the first line of the page, write a string of words that name things that are right in front of you in your environment. Don’t write a sentence, just write individual words across the line. You’ll probably have room for seven or eight words. Whatever fits. Everything you write down must be the name of something you can see right now.

Skip some space and write out a second row of words across a new line. This time only write down words for things that come out of your imagination. They can be things you remember, things you make up, or things you know about but haven’t seen. The only words you can’t use are names of things in front of you.

Then choose one word from each of the two lines and write down some kind of a miracle that involves them both.

A miracle is something that you never could expect. Look at the two rows of words and see if you can get two words to jiggle together and surprise you. Do they make bubbles or sparks? Do any two words make you laugh? Maybe you can make a miracle from two words that definitely don’t belong together.

Some miracles are short and sweet. You say what they are and go on to the next one.

Other miracles are elaborate, like magnificent cartoons. Superpowers are available. Gravity isn’t a bother. Time can run backwards. You can add extra things to your miracle. Marshmallows? Emojis? Dancing? What would make you clap with delight? Miracles are miraculous, after all.

Fill up the page with miracles. Each time you hesitate or don’t know what to add, pick two new words, one from each row at the top of the page. Use those two words to add new parts to a big miracle. Or use them to start up a brand new miracle.

Keep the miracles coming until the page is full. When in doubt, make them more miraculous.

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.

You can share what you have written by posting it as a comment below. You can enter a comment by typing or pasting text. Or you can take a picture of your page and post that.


Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. She has taught writing classes at the Recovery Center and will return again in the spring of 2018. You can find more of her work here. If you would like her help with a writing project, large or small, email latahrecoverycenter@gmail.com for more information.

Write for You: Rectangles, Circles, Triangles and Blobs

by Nancy Casey

Rectangles aren’t hard. In one quick glance, I see the screen of my laptop and the keys on the keyboard. There are books, windows, walls, boards… Rectangles all over the place!

Circles, too. I see cups and baskets, pipes under the sink, flower pots. Lots of things have round parts.

Triangles are trickier. A matchbook viewed from the side has the shape of a triangle. A folded bandana does, too. what about a pup tent? I can see a triangle of sky through the branches of the trees. Do some flowers have triangle-shaped petals?

Blobs are the easiest. The laundry on the couch. The couch. Clouds. My foot. Just about everything is one kind of blob or another, isn’t it?

Today in your writing you are going to divide the world into rectangles, circles, triangles and blobs.

Begin by drawing (or folding) two lines that cross in the middle of a blank sheet of paper so that it is divided into four parts, one each for rectangles, circles, triangles and blobs. Then start filling up the spaces.

Begin with objects that you can see around you. Add objects that you remember or can imagine.

Then branch out and try to think up intangible things and where they could fit in. Does your time run around in circles? Is Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner a triangle? Perhaps your eating habits are so varied they are more like a blob.

Relationships have shapes. Love triangles. A circle of friends. Think about who you talk to a lot, or who you work with. Does your family have a shape?

Stories and ideas have shapes, too. In my family we used to say that an “adventure” is a thing that starts out fun, gets scary in the middle, and ends up okay. Would that mean that adventures are triangles? What is the shape of your favorite joke? Think up a good lie. What shape is that?

What other things can have shapes? A math problem? The weather? Multitasking? Your errands?

Fill up all the space in each of the four parts of your page. Remember that you can draw or decorate if you get stuck and don’t have many words. After you have filled the page, give it a title and write the date on it.

Take out a second page and write down a thought or two that you had in this exercise with shapes. Was it easy or hard? Did you surprise yourself with something clever?

Throughout the day and throughout the week, continue to notice shapes. You could look for triangles in the morning and circles in the afternoon, for example. Rectangles on Wednesday, blobs on Friday. Mix it up any way you like. Think up some things that you can add to that second page.

When the second page is full, give it a title and write the date on it, too.


Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. She has taught writing classes at the Recovery Center and will return again in the spring of 2018. You can find more of her work here. If you would like her help with a writing project, large or small, email latahrecoverycenter@gmail.com for more information.

Two-fer! Two writing activities from our Write for You group!

Nobody Knows
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by Nancy Casey

“If I only knew…” That might be one of the most frequently spoken phrases in the English language.

Even when we think we know a lot, we always run into situations that might have turned out a lot less complicated if we had known more.

That can lead us to put pressure on ourselves about not knowing enough. We notice other people who seem to grasp so much more than we do. We forget that everybody knows a lot. We forget to notice how different people know different things.

We also forget that what we know will always be tiny compared to what we don’t know. This goes for everybody. The things we’ll never know will always outweigh the things that we do know.

Today, in your writing, celebrate all the things that nobody will ever know. Begin every sentence with the phrase, “Nobody will ever know…”

Here are some ways you can think about that:

  • There are many things in nature that nobody can know. How many worms? How much do all the fish weigh? People can guess, but nobody can say for certain.
  • Zillions of details from the past and from the lives of people who are no longer alive will never be known again. The colors of certain walls. Somebody’s favorite gloves.
  • All day, every day, famous and ordinary people are thinking thoughts that nobody else will ever know.
  • What kinds of things will we never know about the reality of a dog, a raven, or a rock?

We work hard to learn things. We want to know more. So we have to look at the world a little bit inside-out to concentrate on how much will never be known. Try to imagine that inside-out world as you slowly write, “Nobody will ever know…” Write down whatever pops into your head.

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

Share Your Writing by Nancy Casey

The goal of “Write for You” is to give you ideas for using writing to make your life better in some way. It’s for you. That means that as long as you have some kind of a writing practice and write things that are pleasing and informative to you, you are succeeding. What makes it pleasing to you? What does it inform you about? You are the only one who can answer questions like that. The answers might turn out to be quite private.

At the same time, as you get more practice and start developing confidence in yourself, you might realize that others would find your writing interesting. You can decide to let others read it.

Here are some things to keep in mind about sharing your writing:

  • It’s natural to want to ask, “Is this any good?” You can answer that yourself! Yes, it’s good. If you like it, it’s good. Could you make it better? Maybe, if you feel like it. For now it’s good enough.
  • There’s a nervous rush of exposure that comes with sharing your writing. It’s normal to want people to say things that are reassuring to you. You hope for reactions that make you glad you shared the writing. The fact is, however, people usually don’t know what to say to someone about their writing, so don’t set your expectations about other people’s reactions too high.
  • Silence can be a very positive reaction, even though it feels awkward. It means the person is thinking. No matter what they say or don’t say, your writing made them think.
  • Make sure your writing practice remains something that you do for yourself. Continue to write with the intention of keeping the work private. Don’t think about sharing it until after it’s written. When you do share something, you can always change it to make it less private.

This blog has now stored up a year’s worth of weekly writing exercises that anyone can do at any time. Maybe you have done them all. Or some of them. Maybe you are about to start doing them now. If you would like to share what you’ve written for any of those exercises, you can put it in the comments section for that exercise in one of three ways:

  • Simply type it into the comments box.
  • Copy something you have typed a computer and paste it into the comments box.
  • Take a picture of what you have written and paste it into the comments box.

I have been using the third method. I take a picture of my writing each week and add it to this webpage. But that’s just mine. It would be more interesting to see yours.

Here is the list of all the exercises you could do. It would be nice to see what you wrote. Many thanks in advance to anyone who takes the trouble to share their work!

Before you dive into all the possibilities for sharing your writing, take a few moments to ground yourself with your writing practice. Get ready to write a page that is just for yourself. Settle in with your writing materials and look around you. Describe what you see. Start with the things that are closest to you and work your way out.

Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. She has taught writing classes at the Recovery Center and will return again in the spring of 2018. You can find more of her work here. If you would like her help with a writing project, large or small, email latahrecoverycenter@gmail.com for more information.

Write for You: Setting Goals Pt. 2

by Nancy Casey

People set goals in order to meet the challenges that stand between them and what they want.

As you begin to set your goals, it’s a good idea to give some careful thought to all the things that you want and all the things that are standing in your way. Here are some ideas for doing that.

List the challenges you face.

List every challenge that you have. Include verything that’s standing in the way of what you want. Make the list as long as you can. You might even add to it later.

Write one goal.

Pick out one of the challenges on your list. What is the smallest thing you can do to take on that challenge? Set a goal for that one little thing. Write it down. Here’s how:

  1. Say exactly what you are going to do. Make it specific. It must be easy to tell whether you have done this thing or not. When you use verbs such as walk, speak, read, set the alarm, eat, sing, go to class, or find out, you can be clear about what you must do. Words like improve, try, understand, or deal with can indeed reflect what you are striving for, but they are too spongy for you to say exactly when you succeed.
  2. Set a quantity. 10 pages. One hour. Two questions. Around the block. Use some kind of quantity that will help you know exactly how much is enough for you to meet your goal.
  3. Say when you are going to do this thing. You could set an exact time. You might say “In the mornings…” Maybe you would say, “On Tuesday…” Many people set goals that begin, “Just for today…” Try to be as specific and realistic as you can.
  4. Set a time frame for evaluating yourself. How often will you pause and take stock of how you are doing? Each day? Once a week? Starting out with a time frame that is short can help you stay focused. If the time frame is too long, your goal will be in danger of fizzling away.

One goal per challenge

Write one goal for every challenge that you face. Only one goal. There will be plenty of other steps to take, but it all starts with the first one. Write the goal for the first step and don’t worry about the rest yet.

Is this possible?

Consider the goals you have laid out in front of you. How much time and effort will all of this take? Imagine exactly how you will fit all of these things in your life. Is it really practical? Are you secretly counting on miracles?

Fiddle with your goals until you are sure it’s possible to achieve them all. You might need to make some goals a little bit smaller. Perhaps you will set some of the goals aside for now. You could mark them “Soon, I hope” or simply “Later.”

Evaluate as you go

At the end of the time frame you have set in Step 4 above, it is important to evaluate how you are doing. You might be pleased with the way things are going, or you might decide to make some changes. Next week’s post will discuss how to think about that.

Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. She has taught writing classes at the Recovery Center in the past and will return again in the spring of 2018. You can find more of her work here. If you would like her help with a writing project, large or small, email latahrecoverycenter@gmail.com for more information.

 

Write for You: Finish the Year

by Nancy Casey

This is the season when you can’t help but take note of the end of the calendar year.

Every day we are reminded about some new superlative: the word of the year, the person of the year, the best music, the best poems, the best pet videos…

Today’s writing is an invitation to simply remember the past year.

Begin with a blank sheet of paper. Draw a line down the middle to divide it into two equal halves, left and right. Then draw lines across the page to divide each half into six more-or-less equal parts. The idea is to end up with 12 roughly equal sized rectangles, and a little bit of room for a title at the top.

Label the rectangles with the names of the months of the year, January through December. In each rectangle, write down notes that remind you of what happened in your life during that month.

Fill in as much as you can remember, and then plan to come back to the page later. It is hard to remember so much all at once, but recollections will likely trickle back to you as you go about your day and find yourself wondering things like, “How was January different from February?” or “When did I get those shoes?”

Keep adding things to the page until all the boxes are full. The things you write down don’t have to be “important.”

Certainly you will have months that are easier to fill in than others. When our lives have crises, drama, or excitement, things happen that we don’t forget. We tend to remember the dates of milestones, such as changes in jobs or living situation. With a little bit of nudging, we start remembering other things as well.

If you feel like you aren’t remembering very much, try to zoom in for smaller details. The clothes you wore. What you saw when you went outside. A conversation you had. Doing your laundry. A dessert you ate. Your chores. A joke someone told you. Something you watched.

Give yourself time to get it all filled in. It could take a couple of days. Do as much from memory as you possibly can before you consult a calendar or old social media posts.

Working on this will help you remember the whole year and its many parts. Later on, if you feel the urge to name your personal superlatives, you will do so with lots of authority!

Be sure to give your work a title and to write the date on it somewhere.
Here is an example of what someone could write: http://planetnancy.net/writing-prompts/end-of-year-2017/

 

 

 

Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. She has taught writing classes at the Recovery Center and will return again in the spring of 2018. You can find more of her work at http://planetnancy.net/ If you would like her help with a writing project, large or small, email latahrecoverycenter@gmail.com for more information.

 

Write for You: Eat Something

by Nancy Casey

One thing for certain about today’s writing exercise: you can’t do it on an empty stomach! Today you will write from direct experience exactly what it is like to eat something.

What must you eat? Anything. A meal. A snack. Something that you like. Something you don’t like. It really doesn’t matter as long as you eat it.

It can be a favorite food, maybe some kind of treat that you like to have on hand over to holidays. It can be a completely ordinary food, something that you eat every day. It can be something that you cooked, bought, or received from a friend. The important thing is that you take a moment to eat it thoughtfully, and then write down everything that happened.

Begin by explaining what the food is. Then take a bite, chew it up carefully write down your observations. Then take another bite, and another, each time recording what happens.

A lot goes on inside your mouth when you are eating. You don’t simply “chew” for example. Try to notice what your tongue, teeth and cheeks do to make sure that the food is lined up right so that it can be chewed properly. Which parts of your tongue are the most active? How does the lump of food move around?

Pay attention to which teeth are the busiest. Do the teeth on one side work harder than on the other? Do some teeth avoid working altogether? Are certain teeth more active at different times during the “take-a-bite” and the “chewing-up” processes?

Try to notice other sensations: wet, dry, hard, soft, rough, pointed, crisp, hot, cold. The sensations you have will depend on what you are eating. Try to notice as many as you can. What smells can you smell? Are there bursts of flavor or changes in texture? What do you hear?

How do you know when to swallow? What is it that you do, exactly, as you swallow? Does it have a special sound? What parts of your mouth are most involved? What are all the things that have to happen before your mouth is empty again.

How does the eating experience change as it continues? Is a bite from the middle of a sandwich different from a bite from around the edges? Is the first bite of a donut the same as the last one?

The beginning of the end of the eating experience takes place as you put the last morsel of food in your mouth. How does “eating” finally finish? What kinds of things happen to tidy up the inside of your mouth? How long does it take before every single sensation that has to do with eating is completely gone? What is the last sensation that you feel?

Try to surprise yourself with all the things that you can notice in the process of eating one small meal or snack.

Be sure to give your work a title and write the date on it. Here is an example of what a person could write: http://planetnancy.net/writing-prompts/eat-something/

 

Nancy Casey has lived in rural Latah County for many years. She has taught writing classes at the Recovery Center and will return again in the spring of 2018. You can find more of her work at http://planetnancy.net/ If you would like her help with a writing project, large or small, email latahrecoverycenter@gmail.com for more information.

Write for You: Circles in the Sky

by Nancy Casey

The work that you will do in your writing practice today is in two parts. In the first part you will do something. In the second part you will write about what it was like to do it. The thing that you will do is an exercise that relaxes your neck and supposedly improves your concentration.

You have probably seen setups where bright spotlights shine up into the sky, making it look like light sabers are scribbling on the clouds and stars. You are going to pretend that you have one of those spotlights shining straight up out of the top of your head.

But first you have to pick a number between 8 and 20. Do that now.

Then sit comfortably, in a position where you will still be comfortable in 10 or 20 minutes. You can sit at a table, in a bed, on the floor, in a chair. Your feet can be high or low, legs straight or crossed. Give your back some support so you don’t have to hold it up all by yourself. You might even want to support your head and neck a little bit as well.

Once you are settled, close your eyes, turn on the spotlight on the top of your head and try to draw a slow even circle of light in the sky. I say “try” because you must do this with the whole rest of your body completely relaxed. So the circle probably won’t be round. It will probably be small. Depending on how much tension you have in your neck and shoulders, the circle you draw might be so small that you only imagine drawing it without moving your head.

Remember that number between 8 and 20 that you picked out? That’s how many circles you will draw. Staying relaxed is the most important thing. Going very slowly is important, too. The shape of the circles isn’t so important. It’s kind of interesting to notice how lumpy they are and how they change.

Count slowly to yourself as you make each circle. If your mind drifts off or you lose count, start over. (That’s the “improves your concentration” part.) When you have drawn all the circles in one direction, reverse course and draw the same number of circles in the opposite direction.

What if you keep losing count and it seems like you’ll never get done? Just say “Oh well” every time you have to start over. If you keep at it for 10 or 20 minutes, that’s certainly enough to say that you gave it a good try and stop. If you only had time to make circles in one direction, draw a couple of circles in the opposite direction before you quit, just so your neck can unwind.

Then write about what that was like. How it felt. Whether it was easy or hard. If you kept forgetting about what you were doing and thinking about something else, write about what you were thinking. You could end up not writing about making circles at all. Whatever you write, give it a title and put the date on your page. Here is an example: http://planetnancy.net/writing-prompts/relax-your-neck/

 

You can draw these circles in the sky at any time. In the bathroom when you want a few moments of privacy to refresh your mind or calm down. In bed when you can’t sleep. In the morning when you wake up.

Change it up. Experiment with different numbers of circles. Imagine the spotlight is on your nose, or that you have one on each ear.

Anything goes, as long as you make circles, stay relaxed, and cheerfully start over each time you lose count.

 

Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. She has taught writing classes at the Recovery Center and will return again in the spring of 2018. You can find more of her work at http://www.PlanetNancy.net. If you would like her help with a writing project, email latahrecoverycenter@gmail.com for more information.