Keep the faith

Mix and match these five approaches this week

Welcome to Austin Bat Cave’s Virtual Literary Salon. Over the next few months, we’ll be featuring some of our favorite writers reflecting on the current moment and presenting writing prompts and literary challenges that will hopefully get you inspired and creating. We welcome discussion and your input. Each week, you’ll be able to comment on the post and share your own thoughts, ideas, and challenges. Please tell a friend! And if you’re able to, consider making a contribution to Austin Bat Cave and help support our creative community.

Today’s writing prompt is brought to you by Ross Feeler. Ross is a writer living in Central Texas. His work can be found online at Electric Literature's Recommended ReadingThe Masters ReviewThe CommonHypertext, and Story|Houston, and in print in The Potomac ReviewNew South, and others. His novel-in-progress won the Marianne Russo Award from the Key West Literary Seminar.

Each morning I freshen my wilted brain with caffeine, sit at a desk or table, and produce a page of illogical chicken-scratch. Mostly I journal, preserving for some future self the things that current me sees, feels, loves, or hates. Yesterday I described the elliptical trail of slime a slug left on my front stoop. Today I catalogued complaints against the universe—my neighborhood park has (justifiably) closed, I must mask my mouth in a T-shirt before I trudge into Target in search of fresh eggs, this virus has killed a singer-songwriter who influenced my own writing life more profoundly than Shakespeare and Homer combined.

These daily entries rarely find their way into my fiction, but they do something equally useful. They remind me, every morning, that I am a person who has chosen to devote his life to writing.

When the words easily add up to sentences which become paragraphs and so on, this reminder is unnecessary. But in trying times, when routine is hard to come by and coherence seems like a fairytale land to which I’ll never travel, this reminder is incredibly useful.

Here’s the exercise: Write every day for a week. Here are five approaches you might try:

(1)    Do the simple thing: one page, every morning, handwritten, unedited, ugly, necessary.

(2)   If writing for your future self seems too abstract, spend ten or twenty minutes each day writing to a friend. Describe what your world looks like. Let her gasp at the unwashed dishes. Show her the smudge of oil on the bedroom window, where you rest your head and dream of going outside. This will make you see your own world with new eyes while also connecting you to someone else. Who couldn’t use more connection during this quarantine?

(3)   Read a page from a text that you love—I’ve been revisiting Joan Didion’s The White Album—and write a page in response.

(4)   Write about what you were doing around this time one or two or ten or twenty years ago.

(5)   Imagine your way into the life of someone else—real or imagined—and write whatever comes to mind, filtering your observations through that character’s voice. For an excellent example of how to do this, listen to “Hello in There” or “Angel from Montgomery” by John Prine.

Mix and match these in whatever way you find useful—and keep the faith.

Share your comments and reflections in the thread! We want to hear from you <3