Power on.

Okay everyone, if it’s your first time, you just want to make sure you stay in the room and at your laptops. The sequence is always the same. We do it together. Try not to check your e-mail until after the fourth sentasna. After that, you can check it when you like, you don’t need to ask, just make sure you do it between paragraphs.


How many of you have never written a story before? Good. Thank yourself for coming. Okay, let’s begin. Chairs at the top of your mats. Roll backward and forward a few times. Cell phones off. Fingers on the home row. Backs straight. Shoulders relaxed. Feet six-inches apart. Use your fists to measure if you aren’t sure. Correct posture brings blood to your brain in one smooth arc.


This exercise wakes up the language areas of the brain. We’ll type words that begin with the letter A. Ant … Art … Ass … Keep them one syllable to start. We’ll do two sets. Okay, first set. Feel the blood rushing into your Wernicke’s and Broca’s areas. These areas are primarily on the left side of the brain. Feel it. Make sure you’re using your left pinky finger. If you aren’t using your left pinky finger you’re hunting and pecking. Typing speed should be no more than 30 words per minute.

Second set and then we’ll get into some easy sentences. Wiggle your right pinky before we get started. That’s your L finger. Good. Lollipop … Lemming … Lolita … Breathe. Inhale as you type. Exhale as you space. The more L’s the better. PET studies have shown that alliteration activates the pleasure center of the brain. Use this. Take in the group energy. Okay, and stop.


Sentences are the foundation of your practice. You want a subject and a verb. Start with a capital letter. End with a period. I’m hosting a diagramming workshop this Saturday that you can sign up for after class. If you finish your sentence early, read it over and give it a soft gaze. Try not to hurry. Start with something besides “Once upon a time.” Get into it gradually. Don’t rush the verb. If you rush the verb you won’t get the same benefit. Good job.

Second set. Make this sentence shorter. Easy on the semicolons. Pay attention to commas. Okay, and stop.


Every story needs a sense of place. Let it be a place that starts in your soul. Someplace you’ve been. Walgreens. Your brother’s house. The alley behind the studio. Begin. Try not to backspace. If you need to backspace, do it and then get right back into it. If you feel nauseous, that’s normal. Thirty seconds left. Pace yourself. If it’s your first time, just focus on good subject verb agreement. And that’s it. Everyone end with a period.

Second set. You want to go back in where you left off. What does it smell like? What do you touch if you reach out your hand? Let the reader feel it. This is about your own practice. Finger tips slightly bent and spread. Forty seconds. Stretch this place to its limits. Adjectives. Adverbs. Capitalize. Work on spelling. Finish strong. And we’re done.

Okay! It’s party time. Go ahead and check e-mails. Update Facebook. Comment on a blog post. Keeping your AirPort off is fine, too.

Those of you with low batteries, this is a good time to grab a power strip from the back shelves. Adjust your sweatband if you’ve begun to drip on your keyboard. Exchange your chair for one of the large blue balls if you’re feeling up to it.

Okay. Everyone ready? Look at your screen and give it a soft gaze. If your computer has gone into power save mode, press the space bar.


Now let’s add a character. Who is he? What does she sound like? Concrete significant details. Where does your character shop? What would they do if they had only six months to live? Who would they rather kiss, George Clooney or John Cleese? Acne? Debit or credit? Paper or plastic? Okay and stop.

Second set. Get back in where you left off. Was it a dry kiss or one you could drown in? Let your character explore the setting you’ve created. Introduce another. Listen to them. Do they floss? Is she the type to screen her calls? Keep working on voice. Breathe. Shoulders down. Is he apt to shudder in the face of postmodern art? Does she eat her pizza with a knife and fork? Ten seconds. And that’s it.


Develop a plot. Give your story an arc. Remember, bad things happen to good characters. What does she care about? How can you destroy that? Use concrete, significant details. Lamott says, “Let it crackle with drama.” If it’s your first time, just make sure you fill your page. Stay in the room. Breathe. And that’s it. Everyone back to center. Don’t go ahead. Keep the group energy. Good job.


Now we just want to rein it all in. If you’ve introduced a gun, make sure it goes off. Relax the face. Rub your temples. Remember, you’re doing this for yourself. A better self makes a better world. This is a good place for a humble truth. Please, wait to Twitter. We’re almost done. Keep your practice pure. This is your story. And stop.


Page up. Page down. Give it a soft gaze. Breathe in. Breathe out. Inhale on the upstroke. Exhale on the down stroke. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. Okay. And power down.


The writer in me bows down to the writer in you. Good night.