Jumpstart: Writer to Writer


For me, teaching writing isn’t about teaching writing. It’s about figuring out ways to get writers to stop operating from their heads and instead from their bodies, their senses; to trust language; to subvert expectations; to develop an ear; to learn to see, which first requires some un-seeing; to draw on their vast, lush, unique memories; to read as a writer; and to start living doubly – as themselves and as their writer selves in a constant state of collection, going through their days as hoarders of observation, story, character, detail, gesture, memory…

Most of all, I want writers to stop trying to write well on purpose; I want writers to write well by accident. Instead of setting the bar impossibly high, I want to lower the stakes, create opportunities for writers to access their subconscious and to be vulnerable on the page. Then, later, I want them to recognize their most compelling and urgent writing – the stuff that vibrates on the page – and move into it.

With those goals in mind, I’ve started creating exercises that would get at these essentials.

At the start of each of the six weeks, you will receive a set of five exercises that will have the same set of instructions but with different prompts. The sixth exercise will change each week, as it’s set to a specific element of craft.

Halfway into the week, you’ll get something from me on process, on motivation – something to keep you going.

On the seventh day of each week, I will send you a set of questions to get you to reflect with an eye toward digging deeper and revision.

The point of the exercises is not to create a highly polished work. It’s to generate a lot of material that, hopefully, you can use to create work that will become significant. The hope is that many of the seemingly disparate elements you create will actually be used within the same larger work – which will give it a more textured sense of realism, even if you are creating an otherworldly world.

Most of the exercises are not genre-specific. For those that are, however, I will give a prose option, a poetry option, and a screenwriting option. I specifically decided to have all three options within the same six-week program because, for example, a poet may very well want to try the screenwriter’s option and vice versa.

At the start of each week, you should set goals. If you miss those mile markers, don’t give up. Just recommit. Set new goals.

I’m glad you showed up.

Keep showing up.


Julianna Baggott

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