Monday, February 22, 2010

Craft: Writing Prompt

The Thousand-Word Sentence

Many years ago, when I was first beginning to think of myself as a serious writer, I had the privilege of attending a workshop with the novelist Jill McCorkle. Our first assignment was one which Jill described as "cleaning out the cobwebs in the attic." She sent us away from class with the task of writing a thousand-word sentence.

I was in Boston for a week after living abroad for many years and had foolishly scheduled dinners almost every night with old friends whom I hadn't seen since moving away from the city, thinking that I'd work all day at writing and spend my evenings enjoying the pleasures of friendship . The night of the thousand-word assignment I returned to my hotel room after a long and wonderful dinner and stared at the blank yellow legal pad I'd left on the desk. I wanted nothing more than to crawl between the covers.

But I sat down, picked up my pen and did what writers do. I wrote.

When I finished, I was exhausted and empty. But I had produced something of emotional honesty, freed of the restrictions of punctuation and editing.

Try it. Write a thousand-word sentence.

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