The prompt was: July 4th at the North Pole, so Ian wrote, “A crazy clown was being chased by Bigfoot in the mountains.” But then he was stuck. Most eight-year-olds don’t struggle to tell outlandish stories, but writing them down is another thing. Their little hands don’t move quickly enough with the pencil to let their imaginations flow.
We had a crazy clown (good alliteration) and Bigfoot (strong, pre-developed character), but what happens next? I said, “Ian, the question when you’re writing is always the same…what happens next? See it in your mind. What happens?”
Spoiler alert: It was too warm for Bigfoot on the 4th of July, even at the North Pole. The clown got away. We got from the opening sentence to the exciting denouement in five sentences. Second graders are naturally more efficient than their windbag elders.
There is a story, widely attributed (probably incorrectly) to Hemingway that goes like this:
For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.
Beginning. Middle. End. Hemingway probably repeated this as his own because it exemplified the brevity and efficiency he wanted in his own writing. He was also probably drunk.
Sometimes, when I’m stuck in my own writing I just try to come up with a title and ask, “What’s next?” The post, “In the Space of a Pedal Stroke” is one example. It feels like cheating to start with the title, except that it comes first. Most writers, I think, write the piece, then title it. I guess I do that sometimes, too. It’s just whatever you have to do to arrive, whatever trick of time, space or imagination is necessary to get the idea out of gray matter into black-and-white.
My last ride looked like this (in five sentences):
It shouldn’t be this cold, this late in the year, but it is. Layers get layers, maybe too many, but I’m not willing to shiver this close to spring. I warm quickly, as you do. The long way seems right this morning, with the sun higher in the sky. I unzip to dump some heat and wish I had further to go.
This week’s Group Ride asks, “What’s you’re cycling story of the moment?” What comes next? Keep it to five sentences. Do this instead of working. It’s a better use of your time.