(6:40) Overcoming the Blank Page

At the beginning of every quarter, I have my Creative Nonfiction students do a number of warm up writing exercies that can fuel their writing for the next ten weeks -- or for a lifetime. One of these is the 30 chapters exercise (number 1-30 down the left-hand margin of the page; write I AM BORN beside #1; then fill in the rest of the chapters; follow up by doing a 10-minute freewrite on any one -- eventually all -- of the chapters; another approach is to choose a chapter and see if you can brainstorm a list of 30 components for it).

We also do a grid exercise. Draw a tic-tac-toe grid (there, no more blank page). Now fill in each of the 9 squares with a word or phrase that reminds you of a trip you've taken. The trips can be big or small.

1. Driving to Ashland.
2. Flying home from Taos in 2008.
3. Denny's with Emma.
4. Hawaii when I was 21.
5. Hawaii with my husband and kids.
6. Driving to Coos Bay for my niece's wedding.
7. Taking my horse to the fair.
8. My trip to NY.
9. Picking up Mom at the airport.

Choose ONE and write for 10 minutes without stopping. My only additional advice is to avoid abstractions--write through your five senses--what can you still see, taste, hear, feel, and smell about this one trip?