Bird By Bird | Concrete Creativity Workshop Goals!

6 May

I don’t know if it’s the French press of coffee I drank this morning, or if it’s due to my zesty little green Moleskine notebook, but the ideas?  Are flowing.  Flooding, even.  (I prefer to imagine this flood is made of Fiji artesian water, FYI.)

Guess that just goes to show that with a little time and a little thought, ideas are everywhere, just waiting to be acknowledged.

As many of you are already aware, I’m taking part in Merrilee Faber’s Creativity Workshop, which began this week.  (If you’re in the dark on this, click here.)  A few days ago, I set some general goals — now, it’s time to streamline them into measurable (and thus, achievable) goals.  That’s where this whole idea flood comes in.

We’re to write three sets of short stories, four stories in each set.  That’s one story per week, for twelve weeks straight.  Knowing myself, I know this pace could flip from stretching to breakneck in an instant if I’m not prepared.  So, I went ahead and outlined some concrete ideas to work with for each set.

PS: If you’re reading this on a reader with a white background, there are a few lines of light green, under the lime green, that may be easier to see on mine (which has a dark gray background).

Set #1

Weeks 2 – 5

Powerlessness over irreparable circumstances

In the first set, I decided to write about people who find themselves in circumstances over which they have no power, but nonetheless make futile attempts to fix things.  I plan to use nursery rhymes as inspiration.  In each story, I want contrast to be essential in my character development: characters who have similar motives, yet manifest opposite actions. (For example, two characters who both feel love, but show it in completely different ways.)  Here’s the breakdown for each week, with the irreparable aspect listed first, followed by its nursery rhyme inspiration:

Week #2 | A shattered egg | “Humpty, Dumpty”

Week #3 | Something that has burned to ash. | “Ladybug, Ladybug”

Week #4 | Severed tails. | “Little Bo Peep”

Week #5 | Love interrupted by nature and time; waiting. | “Sailing, Sailing”

Set #2

Weeks 6 – 9

Stories inspired by songs about birds

One of the goals I mentioned in the last post was that I want to write stories inspired by song lyrics.  Well, there’s no shortage of good material there, so I decided to narrow it down a little bit more.  Even so, I’m having trouble narrowing five choices down to four, so I’ll list the four I’m 97% sure about, and then put the fifth idea last.  I chose these songs because I think they’ll work well in a set together.  Other than the bird theme, they deal with broken wings, hope despite adversity, captivity, and freedom.  To challenge myself, I’m choosing two I never heard before this morning, though the rest are old favorites.  Here’s the plan for Set #2, with song title/artist followed by its general theme.

Week #6 | “Blackbird” (Lennon/McCartney) | Spreading broken wings

Week #7 | “Top of the World” (Patty Griffin) | Wings broken by someone else

Week #8 | “Two Birds” (Regina Spektor) | Love, but tied to someone who won’t fly

Week #9 | “Bird of the Summer” (A Fine Frenzy) | Letting love fly away, hoping it returns

Possible Option | “Still Fighting It” (Ben Folds) | Wants to keep love, but sets free with no expectation of it returning

Set #3

Weeks 10 – 13

Grimm Fairy Tale, “One Eyes, Two Eyes, Three Eyes”

My first two sets, you may have noticed, have the potential to be kind of heavy.  I don’t plan to make them all heavy, but nonetheless, the potential is there.  For the last set of the workshop, I’m going to gear things more toward FUN!  (Yes, an all-caps, shouty version of fun.)  My mother is an expert at story-telling.  When we were little, she’d make up versions of “Little One Eyes, Little Two Eyes, and Little Three Eyes,” coming up with some crazy plots on the spot.  They were entertaining, and were usually about how spoiled Little One Eyes and Little Three Eyes ganged up on their ‘perfect’ sister, Little Two Eyes.  Her version is a universe away from Grimm’s original, and I’m thinking mine will be a universe away from both of these.

In this set, I’m going to try some new things while I have fun.  This whole set will focus on these young sisters.  I want to do futuristic/fantasy/mystery here, and experiment with other POVs.

Week #10 | Tell a story in 3rd person omniscient

Week #11 | Write in first person, from the perspective of Little Two Eyes

Week #12 | Write in first person, from the perspective of Little One Eyes

Week #13 | Write in 3rd person limited, focusing on Little Three Eyes

Task List

Though I have specific starting points for each set, and even for each story, I’ve hardly given any thought toward what each will actually BE when it’s time to sit down and write them.  Between that, and my all-encompassing goal to make a schedule and stick to it, my task list is the same for each week, unless I discover the need to amend it along the way.  If I need to amend it, I’ll wait until the end of the current set, then make new ones for the set that comes next.

Weeks 2 – 13

Spend one hour, five days per week, devoted to that week’s project.

Days one and two: use ideas I already have as inspiration, come up with actual characters, plot, setting, and other necessary details.  Begin writing on Day 2.

Days three through five: Write, without distractions, for the entire hour.  No Twitter, no blog, no browsers open.  Aim for 750-1,000 words each day.

Devote extra time as needed on Day 6 if I have not completed the story.

(Wow.  Long post, dudes.  Now that I have ideas in mind, I’m even more excited about this workshop.  Thinking about it in concrete terms is a bit overwhelming, so I’m not going to think about The Big Picture right now.  One day at a time.  “Bird by Bird,” to borrow the title of Anne Lamott’s book, which — I’ve heard — is fantastic.)(Perhaps I’ll read it, oh, fourteen weeks from now.)

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31 Responses to “Bird By Bird | Concrete Creativity Workshop Goals!”

  1. Megs - Scattered Bits Thursday / 6 May 10 at 1:04 pm #

    Wow. Talk about ambition. I can’t even IMAGINE forcing myself to produce a short story that quickly. Hmm… Wow.

    Rooting you on.

    • owlandsparrow Thursday / 6 May 10 at 1:19 pm #

      Yeah…we’ll see how it goes! They don’t have to be polished by the end of the week, at least! 🙂

  2. darksculptures Thursday / 6 May 10 at 1:13 pm #

    The creativity is just pouring from this post. What a fun way to support your goals. Song lyrics and birds as inspiration. Now that is thinking on the outside.

    • owlandsparrow Tuesday / 11 May 10 at 12:31 pm #

      Thank you! 🙂 Goals are always way more fun if you pick something you’re excited to write, right? These are the things that most captured my attention, and I’m so excited!

  3. Linda Cassidy Lewis Thursday / 6 May 10 at 1:22 pm #

    I knew you’d come up with great goals! 🙂

    I toyed with the idea of stories based on songs, but I knew you were doing that and I didn’t want to be a copycat. But if my current idea for a theme doesn’t work for the poems, I might just switch to songs.

    Like you, I can’t let myself look at the big picture or I’ll freeze up.

    And I’ve read my copy of Bird by Bird so many times it’s tattered.

    • owlandsparrow Tuesday / 11 May 10 at 12:34 pm #

      Oh, thank you. 🙂

      I wouldn’t think you were a copycat if you did song lyrics. There are so many amazing ones to choose from – I think it would be pretty cool to see which ones other people would pick, and what they’d do with them. Go right ahead, if you decide to!

      Yes, I just may have to get myself a copy of that book. Your comment has affirmed this!!! 🙂

  4. Melissa Thursday / 6 May 10 at 1:25 pm #

    I love your goals!! I’m finally going to be able to outline mine this afternoon while my school works out what the eff it wants to do with my classes since I changed majors from Communications to English (because I had THISMUCHTIME free, and that is unacceptable. Clearly, I need to have no free time ever.) I have always loved how thorough you are with everything. You’ve totally found your niche in writing, which is fabulous.

    I would also love love love to do a story swap at the end of the workshop with you 🙂

    • owlandsparrow Tuesday / 11 May 10 at 12:36 pm #

      Like I told you a few days ago, I’m totally down for a story swap. SO EXCITED!

      (And, thanks for the compliment on being thorough. It makes my little organizational brain smile!) 🙂

  5. Kerryn Thursday / 6 May 10 at 1:56 pm #

    Great goals. 🙂 I’ve almost got all my goals outlined but I’m struggling with themes and motifs. I love how you’re working with fairytales and songs.

    • owlandsparrow Tuesday / 11 May 10 at 12:38 pm #

      Thanks, Kerryn! Sorry I’m just now writing back to your comment – it’s been a busy week with this workshop, as I’m sure you understand! I’m totally going to pop over and read your goals ASAP – I bet, by now, you’ve got them written and are working hard to meet them. 🙂 Hope all is well for you!

  6. joyofdawn Thursday / 6 May 10 at 2:03 pm #

    I’m afraid to get this detailed. I might just start writing! 🙂 I need to do it though so I’m going to go get my notebook and work it through. Then make myself so busy I haven’t a chance to even think about them.
    Great goals! I love the first set!

    • owlandsparrow Tuesday / 11 May 10 at 12:39 pm #

      Hey, Amber, thanks! I saw your goals post, and wanted to let you know I’m proud of you for getting detailed despite being afraid to do so. You’ve chosen some great goals, too – I especially like your ‘no happy endings’ one, like I told you the other day. Good luck on this week’s story!

  7. J.C Thursday / 6 May 10 at 2:30 pm #

    wow thats so cool how you’ve tied all your stories together for each set! Can’t wait to hear how the writing goes 🙂

    • owlandsparrow Tuesday / 11 May 10 at 12:41 pm #

      Thanks, Cassie – I was so excited when all the sets just fell into place like they did. It took some maneuvering to work out the specifics, but once they were done, I felt really pleased. The writing’s going well thus far, though I still have a ways to go on this week’s story. I’m excited to hear about your progress, too! 🙂

  8. Merrilee Thursday / 6 May 10 at 5:19 pm #

    Beautifully done, Kayla.

    • Merrilee Thursday / 6 May 10 at 5:30 pm #

      I keep coming back to the “little one eyes” tales. You must let me read them after the workshop! Please 🙂

    • owlandsparrow Tuesday / 11 May 10 at 12:42 pm #

      Merrilee, thank you! I was hoping you’d be good with these goals, so your comments made me smile. Yes, you can absolutely read the “little one eyes” tales after we’re all finished. I keep coming back to those, too – one reason I put them at the end, so I can look forward to them. 🙂

  9. Chibi Thursday / 6 May 10 at 11:33 pm #

    Your goals are awesome. They’re incredibly creative. My goals list seems so tame in comparison heh. I really like all three sets for different reasons. After this workshop is over, I might have to steal some of your goals for myself.

    • owlandsparrow Tuesday / 11 May 10 at 12:47 pm #

      Hey, Chibi, thank you! 🙂 Each set appeals to me for different reasons, too – they intimidate me a little bit, but I’m still excited to work on them, haha. From Twitter, I gather you’re having a productive first few days of writing, yes? Good job, my friend!

  10. mew Friday / 7 May 10 at 10:42 am #

    Oh, man, Kayla, I’m already wanting to read these stories before they’re written. I love the direction you’ve taken your goals — challenging, yet playful, imaginative, and FUN!! (Yes, the all-caps-and-exclamation-points kind of fun. 😉 Bravo.

    • owlandsparrow Tuesday / 11 May 10 at 12:50 pm #

      Hey, there! Thank you for the compliments – I’m so excited to write, and read, them, too. I think it’s fun that they sound interesting to people other than myself, so thank you. 🙂 How’s the writing going thus far on your end?

  11. anna caro Saturday / 8 May 10 at 1:49 am #

    😀 I thought about doing songs (or poems) too. Your goals seem so imaginative, particularly the nursery rhymes ones.

    • owlandsparrow Tuesday / 11 May 10 at 12:52 pm #

      Thanks, Anna! Did you end up deciding to go the song/poem route? How’s the first week of actual workshop writing going for you?

  12. Natasha Saturday / 8 May 10 at 9:22 pm #

    What lovely goals — and the way you are tying them to nursery rhymes and songs is perfect. And your ‘one eyes, two eyes, three eyes’ set of stories sounds fantastic!

    • owlandsparrow Tuesday / 11 May 10 at 12:54 pm #

      Hi, Natasha, and thank you! 🙂 I started in on the first nursery rhyme one (planning yesterday, writing today) and it’s going well so far. I’m excited about them all, but like I told Merrilee, I’m particularly looking forward to those ‘one eyes, two eyes, three eyes’ stories. They’re the most different, and playful, and I’m totally curious about where they’ll end up when I’m through with them, haha.

  13. AuroraLee Sunday / 9 May 10 at 12:30 pm #

    WOW! I love these goals! They sounds totally interesting and fun to write! Good luck!

    • owlandsparrow Tuesday / 11 May 10 at 12:57 pm #

      Thank you, Aurora! That’s exactly why I chose them. What with the pace of this workshop, I decided the best way to stay motivated and on track was to pick something both challenging and fun. Fortunately, my brain complied with this plan and conjured up some stuff to work with. 🙂

      • AuroraLee Tuesday / 11 May 10 at 4:55 pm #

        Totally makes… sometimes I think I should have done that. I’m about half way through my first story and it just seems… boring. But I think that’s just because of the type of story I’m writing.


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