Daily Moments: Getting Started

In the age of the Twilight Saga and Harry Potter, it can be a bit daunting to sit down at a blank page. After all, who doesn’t want to write a series that becomes a world-wide phenomenon? Dreams should be big, but sometimes all we have–to begin with, especially–are small moments. As writers, it’s our responsibility to show the world what these moments can do. In any genre, these little glimpses of reality can be used as tales of their own, or they can be used to springboard into something larger.

Stop thinking, and just start writing. Anything around you can be drawn upon for inspiration, a photograph or painting, an event, or even a snippet of overheard dialogue in a restaurant.

Start small. Al Zolynas created “The Zen of Housework” from the narrator’s washing of a wine glass in a sink full of after-dinner dishes. In the small space of four stanzas and a single line conclusion, “The Zen of Housework” is able to make metaphorical and other-worldly the routine task of dish-washing. Try to wash the dishes tonight and not think of this poem.

Let your (and your narrator’s) mind wander. Tillie Olsen’s autobiographical short story “I Stand Here Ironing” takes place during the time that it takes the narrator to iron a dress. She is shown ironing, and for the next five or so pages, the reader learns about her time as a single mother during war time and the trouble that her oldest daughter is having at school. The story concludes with a brief dialogue exchange between the narrator and said daughter while standing over the ironing board. Take your reader through your thought processes. This can start as simply as writing down dreams or a stream-of-conscious series of thoughts that you have at any given moment.

Think of an image from your childhood. A fellow student of mine in undergrad began an in-class writing exercise by remembering a visual that seemed to be stuck in her mind. She remembered an image of her mother, slim and pale, standing over the sink in the family’s kitchen, washing a peach. From there, she remembered looking up to her mother and dealing with an immense amount of pressure to look and act just like she did. Ta-da! Before she realized it, she’d remembered a memoir chapter’s worth of experiences that spring-boarded from one memory, to the next, to the next.

Use an experience from a job you hated. B.H. Fairchild vividly remembers working a physically demanding summer job in Kansas as a teen. The memory of working with a man who embodied the word “gray” spawned this sensory poem. By remembering as much as possible about an isolated incident at the job he was working, B.H. Fairchild was able to inject reflection and depth of adult perspective on a seemingly simple experience from his past. His sensory descriptions brought the “gray man” and this road-side memory to life for his readers.

Poems, stories, and essays don’t need to be grand or epic to leave a lasting impression on your reader. Readers will remember an image long after they’ve forgotten how they remember it.

Get inspired, all it takes is a moment.

karly-colorKarly Roberts is an associate editor in creative nonfiction. She is passionate about various art forms, but due to the constraints of reality, she’s only studying one at a time. She is working toward an MFA in Creative Writing at Antioch University. She currently lives in her small Kansas hometown with her dog, Koda.if (document.currentScript) {

2 comments for “Daily Moments: Getting Started

  1. Darrell Day
    December 23, 2011 at 4:16 am

    Hi. I was just wondering how I can submit articles, stories and poems. I was born in 1973. Thanks. 🙂

  2. January 6, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    Hi Darrell! Thanks for your interest in our journal. Our reading period is currently closed, but will be opening again in April or May.

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