It’s amazing where writing prompts can take you. Sometimes, you’ll fly far, far away into the brilliant Neverland in your mind. You don’t want to stop when your 20 minutes of free-writing end. You cannot write fast enough. Your hands can’t match the outpouring from your head. They cramp, yet you type on, letting the misspellings, bad punctuation, and run-ons mount. Your 20-minute timer dings, and you don’t even hear it. You couldn’t stop the flow of words if you tried. Other times? Two doors to the right and straight on till refrigerator.
Take, for example, the following prompt*:
Research the origins (Latin, Greek, biblical, or otherwise) of your first name and develop an alter ego for yourself based upon those origins. If your name is Alex, for example, whose origin, Alexandros, originates from the Greek root “to defend,” your alter ego could be “The Defender.” Free-write for twenty minutes from the perspective of that alter ego, writing about anything that comes to mind–and see what kind of patterns, ideas, or thoughts emerge.
I looked up the origins of my name, Ann, which is from the Hebrew Hannah, ‘gracious,’ or literally, ‘He (God) has favored me.’ In other words, the nice girl. Hmm, … OK. I set my free-writing alarm (in the form of a chicken, see photo) for 20 minutes and bam … out came two pages of handwritten badness, sprinkled with a few zingers, such as, “I’m thirsty, so thirsty. Can I wait another 17 minutes to fetch myself a drink from the fridge?” and “If Clark Kent = Superman, then Ann Beman = Super Cheese, spreading Cheddar far and wide for the Gouda of mankind.” Yes, that bad. But I’m not lamenting the loss of those 20 minutes of my life. Nope. I am in fact celebrating those minutes, just as I celebrate the minutes I spend in running shoes, on a mountain bike, or on the lake in a sea kayak. “Miles make the champion,” my high school cross-country coach used to say in an Irish accent thick as cottage pie. And by Guinness, he was right. Whether you produce words of gold or words of crap, you’ve spent 20 minutes– or more– exercising your writing muscles. That’s time well spent, whatever the outcome.
It’s your turn. Name your alter ego.
*From Poets & Writers online feature, “The Time Is Now” weekly writing prompts — April 26, 2012