A Writing Prompt for Both of Us.

posted in: Art, Tips, Word Nerd 0
Mary Pickford, 1918. Photo: Wikipedia
Mary Pickford, 1918. Photo: Wikipedia

I’ve been asked, “How do you come up with something to write every day?”

There are two parts to the answer. The first is that I want to be a decent writer and the only way to get decent at something is to practice. It’s true for a violinist. It’s true for a bridge player. I’ll never be a great writer, and I know that. Earnest Hemingway was a great writer. Virginia Woolf was a great writer. Both of those writers committed suicide, though, so maybe I don’t want to be a great writer.

“Now, now, Mary. Plenty of great writers did not commit suicide.” I’ll say yes, that’s true, and why are you speaking to me like a governess? The point is that even though I’ll never be great, I can be better than I was last year, hopefully. That’s the goal.

The second part of the answer is that I’m a naturally observant person and things that I see frequently make me intensely sad, excited, or confused. Frequently I see comedy, or at least what I perceive as comedic. I find those things worth examining more closely, even if they are otherwise insignificant things and they usually are. Writing stuff down is my preferred method of more closely examining things. I’m a terrible oil painter.

I suppose there’s a third reason: I like writing PaperGirl so much that if I miss a day, I’m grumpy. There was a spell this past holiday season when I was really lax and it was uncomfortable, like having a poke-y tag on my shirt. So sometimes I just plain make myself write about something because I don’t sleep as well if I don’t.

This morning was strange. I drew a blank. My aborted or curtailed travel plans were off the table. I didn’t want to write about my body. I couldn’t think of something funny that happened to me. I did see a shooting star the other night but I didn’t feel like being woo-woo. So I did something I’ve never done, which was to google, “non-fiction writing prompts.” It turned out to be a very good idea, because none of the prompts inspired me, but the act of looking up writing prompts was a writing prompt in itself. It also prompted me to create my own prompts. You have my permission to use them.

What is your personal credo?
Closely examine your feelings on olive loaf.
What stops you in your tracks?
How do you feel about adults who take tango lessons? Explain.
What the heck is wrong with you and what are you going to do about it?



The PaperGirl 10-Point Pledge.

posted in: Art, Work 18
I promise this, on an airplane, so you know I'm serious.
I promise this, on an airplane, so you know I’m serious.

This blog has a purpose. It’s had the same purpose since 2006, though there was a year I didn’t write at all, though all the entries from the old site are lost on a dusty server someplace. (If I didn’t have a hard copy of every last one of those entries I might not stop crying till I drowned — it’s not that they’re that great, it’s that they are a record of my life and what else do I have?)

John Dewey, the 20th century American philosopher, once said, “If you are deeply moved by some experience, write a letter to your grandmother. It will help you to better understand the experience, and it will bring great pleasure to your grandmother.”

That’s why I make this. Dewey nailed the best reason to write anything. PaperGirl is me, deeply moved by the experience of life, writing to you, my hypothetical grandmother. You look fabulous, gramma!

But how to do it right? How to balance my privacy and your interest? How to wisely navigate my public job (decorum = critical) with my desire to tell the truth about absolutely everything? (Good writing must tell the truth, but the whole truth? I refuse to speak of my lingerie preferences, much as I’d like to.) How to make sure you stay? Images? Guest posts? Advertisements? All these questions are valid and because they are innumerable, the best way to form the form of the blog is to make a pledge.

And so.

The PaperGirl 10-Point Pledge:

1. I pledge to deliver a fresh paper at least six times a week.

2. I pledge no clickable links, save for references to previous PaperGirl posts. When you’re here, you’re safe from outside tugs. We’ll have a moment, you and I. There is one exception: should I reference an artist, a piece of art, or the work of a writer that ethically must be attached to the post, I will do so — judiciously.

3. I pledge one image per post.

4. I pledge honesty. See No. 5.

5. I pledge class. Details including (but not limited to) my menstrual cycle, my sexual exploits, business matters, or other people’s matters will not be published. Oblique references can and will be made to the above.

6. I pledge to ask anyone mentioned in the blog if I may use their name. If they do not give permission, I will change their name. Direct quotes published in print or online are, by journalistic standards, fair game. See this post about mean people on the Internet. Suckas!

7. I pledge to give you a nice mix of heartfelt, funny, and weird. I will vary the posts so that you will never say, “Geez, that blog is a real drag” or — perhaps worse — “That blog used to be honest and like, sincere, and now it’s just goofy.”

8. I pledge to share what I learn. Poetry, sage words I come across, recommendations for places, people, art, and life choices, etc. — if I learn it, you’ll know it.

9. I pledge to value my readers. Every last one. Even if they don’t ever comment or say hi on Facebook.

10. I pledge to love writing today as much as I did when I was six.

Your PaperGirl