But just in case you have a friend who might need a little help, here are three of my quick kicks (I do not call them exercises because that sounds like hard work which is where inertia comes from in the first place). Note: these are word-based “games” because words are what I do.
1) The Fives
Make four columns. In the first column put 5 nouns (concrete objects), in the second verbs, in the third adjectives, in the fourth more concrete nouns. Here’s my Fives from today:
Slippers snack comfy regent
Cassava crack dumpy knick-knack
Kumquat crumple slippery picnic
Snack dimple schlumpy rump roast
Smokestack muss lithe pickerel
Now, choose one word from each column (doesn’t need to be in order) and make a sentence from those four words. “Don’t muss my comfy slippers or you’re rump roast.” An easy, goofy way to start the day. And generate some odd insults for your characters.
2) Object Writing
Every day at http://objectwriting.com there is a word prompt (today’s is “kerchief”). Set the timer and write about it for 10 minutes, focusing on the five senses. I’ve gotten a couple of good lyrics out of this one. “Celery” was particularly inspirational (the dieting thing, a mother lode for us former fatties).
3) New Lyrics/Old music.
Pick someone else’s song and rewrite the lyrics to it. Again, set the timer and don’t overthink. A great way to get out of your typical syntax box.
These are easy, juicy gooses. But my best, most lasting inspiration comes from true stories – from reality. I’m profoundly tired of writing about myself. Let me slip on someone else’s skin – like Randy Newman does so brilliantly. I like to think his song “Shame” was inspired by Anna Nicole Smith, years before this year’s opera Anna Nicole.
This song inspired a song I co-wrote with Tom Kitt called “Never Trust A Man Who Smokes A Pipe.” Maybe we’ll record that one day…
I love obituaries as grist for the mill. The New York Times Book Review (where I found the inspiration for my latest show, Oneida, based on the Free Love, Bible Communist association of the same name). People I know.
I wanted to work with Rebecca Luker again (she’d been in my show, The Mistress Cycle). So I invited her to breakfast and asked her to tell me stories of her life. One of those was the springboard for “Lovely Lies,” (music by the awesome Jeff Blumenkrantz) which she recorded for her album “Greenwich Time.”
Great songs are all around us.
At my for-benefit music business, Hope Sings, our mission is to tell inspiring true stories of women’s empowerment in song. My first Hope Sings song was born when I read a story from one microfinance organization, FINCA, about Doña Blanca from Guatemala.
Doña Blanca started a small bakery in hopes that she and her husband would be able to send their eight children to school. Her first loan was for 800 Quetzales – US$99 – and it changed her life. Over the next five years, she used 13 loans to expand her business – and now has four outlets and employs nine bakers. And yes, she sent her children to school.
Here’s a demo of her song:
Enough about me.
Tell me about you.
What are YOUR favorite ways of staying lit up and limber? How do you get unstuck? Better share – or you’re rump roast.