Writing + 15 Minutes = Ferris Wheels

I’m reading a craft book right now that encourages writers to just dive into the writing. Start somewhere. Don’t worry about where you will end up. Most good writing comes from getting lost in the subject matter.

I’ve heard similar advice from other writers in my MFA program about taking just 15 minutes to write whenever you can, wherever you can. These are the little gems of knowledge I need to keep tucked away in my back pocket for any time I have 15 minutes and a little inspiration – it doesn’t have to be good writing. Just start. Write something – anything. You can go back and revise later.

An exercise from my first writing workshop last summer (part of my MFA program) illustrates this point beautifully. The instructor gave each of us a photo and told us to come to the workshop the next day with something written in response to the image – whatever pops into our minds first. So, as a sort of tribute to all this writing advice, I give you the photo and the inspiration that I created for that writing workshop last summer. It’s not my best work, but it sure was fun to write.

The Ferris Wheel

World's Fair

Full disclosure: This is not the exact photo I used when I originally wrote this piece. I couldn’t find the original, so this is an approximation.

I only liked one ride at the carnival – the Ferris Wheel. My parents would take Rach and me to the carnival each spring when the colorful rides and noisy games signaled the start of our town’s Strawberry Festival in May. Rach is three years younger than me, and she usually stayed with Mom on the kiddy rides, while Dad took me on the Ferris Wheel. That moment when the seat approaches the top of the wheel, just before you make the descent – that butterfly-tummy instant is my favorite.

One year Mom couldn’t go, and Dad wouldn’t let me ride the Ferris Wheel on my own. He said all three of us – Dad, Rach, and me – would ride together, but if Rach got scared, none of us would ride. I took this to mean that I would have to prepare my sister for the Ferris Wheel. “See that tree, Rach?” I pointed to the large Oak tree in our neighbor’s yard. “The Ferris Wheel goes up as high as the top of that tree. You can go up that high, right, Rach?” “Yes,” she said, but I wasn’t convinced. “Pretend you are at the top of that tree. You are up high, but you aren’t scared. Are you, Rach?” “Nope,” she said. I did my eight-year-old best to get her to picture what being up high might mean, and that evening we went to the carnival.

Dad bought our tickets, and we headed for the kiddy rides first. I’d let Rach try out the merry-go-round as a warm-up before asking Dad to take us on the Ferris Wheel. We went round and round on the plastic horses for what felt like an eternity before I decided to make my Ferris Wheel request. Dad agreed to take us to the ride, but we wouldn’t go on if Rach didn’t feel comfortable. “See, Rach? It’s no bigger than that tree,” I said as we approached. I quickly realized my comparison might be a little off, but I hoped Rach wouldn’t notice. “It’s too big,” she said. “No, it’s not. You said the tree wasn’t scary.” “The tree was smaller. This is too big,” she said and then began to pout. That was it. No more discussion. We headed back to the merry-go-round, and I made a vow never to ask Rach to picture a tree again.

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