Writing Lessons by Lani Longshore

There are times when the universe whacks you over the head and shouts, “Pay attention!” The universe is speaking to me about my writing practice, and what I need to include.

Tri-Valley Writers started a field trip series to get us out of our writing dens and into the fresh air. The first outing was to Dublin’s Heritage Park. We were given a sheet of writing prompts and turned loose. I chose to begin with the prompt to describe the area. As I finished my notes about a building with a tin roof, I remembered a story about a cabin in West Texas with a tin roof. I jotted down that memory, which brought forth another memory, and so on all morning. I haven’t written in a stream of consciousness style in years. I have so many projects I want to finish that writing without a specific purpose seems a disgraceful waste of time. For one morning, however, I allowed myself to write without worrying about how the piece would fit into any of my projects.

When I returned home, I opened the latest edition of Writer’s Digest and discovered an article about adapting lessons from art school to improve one’s writing. All the advice incorporated a healthy dose of apparently random writing, of putting aside the idea that every session needs to have a purpose. Creative work is its own reward, and practicing writing, like practicing sketching (or practicing scales, or basic ballet positions) gives us more tools when we are doing purposeful writing.

“Self,” I said, “this is exactly what you need, so for heaven’s sake make sure you go to the next outings.”

Two sessions remain in the summer series – July 24 at Lizzie Fountain (Livermore), and August 7 at Veterans Park (Livermore). To RSVP, email newsletter@trivalleywriters.org.

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