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Writing Prompts

Memoir Writers, Stretch Yourselves: All Is Revealed

by Matilda Butler on December 9, 2014

Writing Prompt LogoPost #199 – Women’s Memoirs, Writing Prompts and Life Prompts – Matilda Butler

Memoir Writers, Consider This

Do you like your comfort zone? Well, who doesn’t. You have routines in your writing life and in your personal and professional lives. You do certain things in certain ways. It feels good and safe that way. It is easy to move through well established patterns.

Today, I’d like to inspire you to stretch yourself. You might stretch yourself in your writing by increasing the amount of time, by expanding the research you are doing, by joining a writing or critique group, by taking a class, by getting a professional critique of your first chapter, or in a million different ways. You stretch yourself by doing something you would not ordinarily do.

And while I want you to go outside your comfort zone in your writing practices, I also want you to find new ways to stretch yourself personally.

Practice What I Preach

I guess I should put my money (or my time) where my mouth is. Last summer at the August 16 Corvallis Farmers’ Market, I saw a performance of students from the Pacific Tap Dance Company. My husband and friends who were visiting from the East coast slowly walked on. They began looking at the hazelnut, blueberry, and fresh vegetable stands. They bought a marionberry pie. Soon they had disappeared into the street crowds. Meanwhile, I found my foot tapping along to the great music. It all looked like so much fun. Eventually, my husband came back to retrieve me.

A couple of weeks later in September, I was still thinking about tap. I’d never taken dance classes and wondered if this was the time to start. Then I thought, “If not now, when?” I tested the idea on my husband. As always, he was enthusiastic in his support. So I signed up for the beginner adult class that began October 2. After the fourth class, I knew my goal. I would surprise my family on Thanksgiving by performing a tap dance. They had no idea I was taking lessons.

Of course, by the time I had my goal, our class was still learning the most basic of tap steps. Even the terminology had to be learned — the difference between a stamp and a step, a slap and a flap, and more. And while I was puzzling over steps and words, I found it was time to start learning the shim sham — called the national anthem of tap dancing.

So much to learn. So little time.

By the fourth class, I knew there was no way I could perform on Thanksgiving, which was just four more classes away. Time to add a weekly private lesson with my amazing teacher, Mishele Mennett. Fortunately, she was agreeable. She was more than agreeable. She told me to choose any music that I like and she would do original choreography. How perfect was that!

The process of choosing music proved to be interesting:

1. I looked for tap music and found some but couldn’t imagine I could tap to it in such a short amount of time.

2. I considered many favorite songs but when I listened to snippets of them, I found they might be great music but weren’t tappable.

3. Next, I pursued a different approach. My husband loaded a metronome app and we found that I could probably maintain (with some practice) a 120 bpm. So I looked at music that has 120 bpm (which it seems is ideal for runners…who knew).

4. I found lots of fun examples. Prior to the Internet, I can’t begin to imagine how I would have easily found music that specifically has 120 bpm. However, most of what I found presented problems of one sort or another.

5. Sound the trumpets. I finally settled on I Can Love You Better by the Dixie Chicks. It has a good beat and I hoped it would appeal to the mixed generation Thanksgiving gathering.

Mishele bought into my ridiculous, definitely “stretch goal.” She did the choreography and taught me the steps, encouraging me all the way along.

So after 8 classes and 5 private lessons, Thanksgiving Day arrived. I was in a state of near panic…dreamed about the sequence of steps most nights. But I was committed. After our Thanksgiving meal and before our dessert, I disappeared to put on my tap shoes and the hat that Mishele had loaned me. I walked softly back into our kitchen and announced that I’d like everyone to move to the living room.

Here’s the result. I hope you like it. One of my sons took this video.

Memoir Writing Prompt

The Future
1. Think of one or more goals for 2015 that will stretch you. These might be goals in writing your memoir or in your personal or professional life. Then write the steps that it will take for you to accomplish your stretch goal. And most important, take the first step. The second one is much easier after you are already started.

The Past
2. Think about a time in your past when you stretched yourself. Write about the goal, how you thought it up, what you did to accomplish the goal, what was the hardest part, what was the satisfaction, etc.

Now have fun thinking about all the ways that you can stretch yourself. Let me assure you the process will be interesting and reaching your goal will be fantastic.

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Writing Prompts: Thanksgiving and Gratitude

by Matilda ButlerNovember 25, 2014
Writing Prompts: Thanksgiving and Gratitude

No matter how busy you are, there’s always time for gratitude. Today’s memoir writing prompt will help you get started on a more thorough consideration of your life and all that you’re grateful for.

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Memoir Writing Prompts: “Don’t Tell Anybody”

by Matilda ButlerNovember 18, 2014
Memoir Writing Prompts: “Don’t Tell Anybody”

Today’s memoir writing prompt focuses on “Don’t tell anybody.”

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Writing Prompt: An Example of the Importance of the Sense of Touch

by Matilda ButlerNovember 4, 2014
Writing Prompt: An Example of the Importance of the Sense of Touch

Here’s a writing prompt that will help you focus on using touch in your memoir writing. This is one of the five senses that is most frequently ignored.

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Writing Prompt: Now It’s Your Turn

by Matilda ButlerOctober 28, 2014
Writing Prompt: Now It’s Your Turn

Memoir Writing Prompts focusing on creating a powerful memoir opening. Look at your first paragraph from both perspectives — reader and author.

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Writing Prompt: A Bit of Inspiration

by Matilda ButlerSeptember 4, 2014
Writing Prompt: A Bit of Inspiration

Looking for a little inspiration? These writing prompts provide valuable messages to bring inspiration into our lives.

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Writing Contest Deadline Looms: Enter Now

by Matilda ButlerAugust 25, 2014
Writing Contest Deadline Looms: Enter Now

Thoughts on writing the opening to your memoir or novel.

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