Working with timed writings and writing prompts
I’m currently teaching voice classes. One of the techniques I love is to use prompts and timed writings to help writers get past the internal critic and find a natural cadence and tone. The prompt for this one is to write for ten minutes on a house you lived in when you were seven years old. This is my timed writing from Monday, slightly smoothed for public consumption, but I mainly left it alone.
I am seven years old and we have just moved to California. Temecula, which is the most amazing, exotic place I have ever been, mainly because Ihaven’t been anywhere but Colorado Springs, my house on High Street, and here. We came here on the train, my mom and all four of us kids, to meet my dad and stay with my grandma and my uncle Tex and I was really looking forward to this because I missed them so much, but things are different. My grandma is always mad. Tex never has any time for us, and he is even angrier than my grandma. My dad hates his job and he says any time anybody yells “immigration” he’s the only person still in the fields. My mom likes her job, though, I can tell. She works as a waitress in my grandpa’s restaurant, alongside my grandma. They serve pie from the pie safe, pies my grandpa bakes, and chicken fried steaks, and coffee in big white cups. The Hell’s Angels came here once, but I wasn’t allowed to come down and see them, although my uncle about fell over himself trying to get down there in time. I couldn’t believe they wouldn’t let me go—I’d be with Tex, after all!—but it was forbidden, and my grandma didn’t take her eyes off me for a second.
We go to school in the most amazing place. The classrooms all open up into a main courtyard, and there are trees and it’s always warm. There are girls who are in seventh and eight grade with us, and they’re wearing short, short dresses with pink and blue flowers. They have long, long hair and completely ignore us and one day I watch a girl put her ear right against a speaker that is blasting out rock music. I don’t know how she stands it but she smiles when she does it.
Back to the house. We’re all crammed into a rancher—my mom and dad and grandparents and us four kids and my uncle Tex. Tex has his own room, and we all bed down on the floor in the living room. They have good cartoons here, and I like walking to school by the avocado trees. We play in the grass that is over our heads, and sometimes we all pile into the car and go to places around here, Fallbrook and the ocean and Riverside. My grandma wants to take us to Disneyland, but I don’t care that much—the ocean is the coolest thing I have ever seen and I want to just sit on the beach and watch it move and make noise forever and ever and ever.
Our cat Silk got lost, though. Somewhere in the grass. I don’t know where he went, and we didn’t hang around that long to find out. We only lived there for two or three months, and then my dad couldn’t stand it, and went back to Colorado Springs to find us a house. I didn’t want to go, and cried and cried and cried, but he promised to find a house any color I wanted and I asked for pink. He found a pink house, and we went back on the train again. I saw a cactus as big as a house and a man with a sombrero, so I knew we were in Mexico, but my mom said no, it was just Arizona.
I didn’t see my uncle again for a long long time, but he sent me a bracelet carved with Indian symbols that I still have.
Have you ever worked with timed writings? If you like, give this one a try and report back.