The late great Toni Morrison famously said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
I like this advice on many levels, but mainly because it deals with the idea that when we are writing, we are also listening to ourselves. Perhaps one of the best things we can ask ourselves before we start writing is:
What is it that hasn’t been said yet, but should be said?
Of course, last week’s prompt was about listening too, but this week we are being more prescriptive. We are going to instruct ourselves!
The idea for this exercise came from a short poem by Ada Limon, Instructions on Not Giving Up. You can read it here and it follows a theme of ‘Instructions’ or ‘How To’ poems. You can read one by the lovely Neil Gaiman here… and another by Ted Genoways here..
In her poem, Ada Limon writes:
More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs….
For me, it’s this mixture of close present observation with future hopes (the ‘something miraculous’) that make this poem work so well for me. And the surprise of that ‘obscene’ when put against cherry trees. What do you think?
So for your writing exercise this week, I invite you to write yourself a list of instructions.
They may be for coping once the summer days, and indeed autumn, have left us and we are in the middle of winter.
What might be your ‘Instructions on Not Giving Up’?
Remember they should be personal, they may be surprising but they will be the instructions you want to read yourself!
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
Or do you long for winter and cold frosty days and hate this heat? In which case, your invitation is to write ‘Instructions for getting through summer’!!!
But as always, enjoy. These might be the only instructions you actually want to follow – note the (to remind myself) on Wendell Berry’s poem!
You can share your work in the comments section, or email them to me (I’ve been enjoying these so much, thank you!) or on social media using the hashtags, #writinginthegarden or #WITG, or even #sarahsalway. I look forward to reading your instructions.