How to Exercise Your Writing Muscle: 6-Word Story with Calendar Prompt

TL;DR

One favorite trick for building my writing muscle: using IFTTT to add a daily prompt to my calendar; each evening, I create a 6-word story incorporating that prompt. The how-to steps follow.

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes.

Strengthening the Writing Muscle

The #WritersLife witnesses one or more “serious” writing sessions on a near-daily basis (rest = rejuvenation!). Staring down a fresh sheet of paper, or a blank screen, offers intimidation. The go-to response typically involves writing about what you know. It’s safe, and comfortable.

Going a step beyond involves exercising untapped writing muscles: visiting the unplanned, tackling the say whaaa?!. Composing a 6-word story fulfills the mission. To pull off this feat, I began by creating a daily poke.

Configuring an IFTTT Automated Prompt

The Daily Post site provides a prompt each day. I know me: despite noble intentions, the inevitable death of the honeymoon period will yield my dwindling allegiance to return to the site day after day. To protect me from me, I created an applet at IFTTT, marrying the Daily Prompt feed with my iOS.Prompts calendar. The images provide configuration specifics. The needed RSS link, reproduced here for your copy/paste ease:

Configuring the IFTTT applet: Daily Prompt Feed → iOS Calendar

Configuring the IFTTT applet: Daily Prompt Feed → iOS Calendar

IFTTT leads you through the two-step setup process. The “if” requires the Feed channel; the “that” involves either the Google Calendar or iOS Calendar channel. You could instead marry the Feed with EverNote, OneNote, ToDoist, a DropBox or Google Drive file, or any other channel at IFTTT. I chose the iOS calendar because:

  • I’m in and out of CalenGoo, my calendar app, a few times each day. By confining the prompt to my calendar, no extra steps are required to see and digest the day’s prompt.
  • Unlike Google Calendar, the parallel iOS channel empowers me. I can segregate automated cal dumps into any one of multiple sub-calendars. I prefer this level of automated organization.

An addition to my Evening Routine: The 6-Word Story

Twitter sometimes alerts me to absolute gems. One, creating a 6-word story, mentally simulates raising a hefty barbell over one’s head. Add an unanticipated subject, as provided by the Daily Prompt, and the virtual weight multiplies in effect.

Folks, lemme tell ya, this one daily task coerces one heckuva massage of the creativity muscle. Many a day my eyes have fallen on the assigned prompt, sparking furrowed “ya gotta be kidding me!” brows. But the day I adopted this practice, I drew a bright red line in the sand: I will NOT be defeated by THIS mission, evahhhhhhh!

A recurring Reminders popup on my Apple Watch every day at 2p alerts me to “see prompt.” At 7p, a second Reminder grabs my attention in similar fashion: Start Evening Routine.

✧︎︎︎ Indulging my Evening Routine

I move to my dedicated planning/review desk, opening both my digital and bullet journal calendars. Task #1 = absorbing the prompt. Task #2 sees me diving into a review of the day, studying open checkboxes, notes, and tasks in my Daily Logs. Task #3: elevate 2-4 entries to MIT status for the next day (Most Important Task).

Tasks continue as I add a Frixion-pen color code to certain entries, designed to call my attention during subsequent review sessions. Color is also applied to the day’s “The Reality” timeBlocks (live timebars as I work), which I compare with “The Plan” timeBlocks created during my Morning Routine. The result tells me the degree of my diligence/productivity.

I compare certain digital calendar entries, auto-inserted by IFTTT re my social media postings, with my bullet journal timeBlocks. Was I good, or did I chump by falling down a social media rabbit hole? This day, Poindexter my inner critic slinks back into his hole, cuz Momma was good. I close everything, then return each used item to its designated home.

Moving away from the desk,

  • my eyes scour every area where I’ve spent time throughout the day. I return pens, books, etc to their respective assigned homes, thwarting potential clutter.
  • I pull the mini coffee brewer from its home office stand, pluck out the spent filter, and head toward the kitchen.
  • After tackling dishes in the sink, I polish the sink and countertops. This is the first area I see after descending the steps from the bedroom. Seeing a clean kitchen, first thing in the predawn morning, satisfies; its opposite sends a signal of defeat. Hence, I’ve trained myself to be faithful.
  • I refill the brewer, returning it to its home next to my primary home office desk. While there, I wipe the desk, ensuring a fresh start the next day.
  • I call my feathered friend, DarbyKlan the cockatiel (DK), with a singsong “mommie go night night,” triggering his flight to my shoulder. (Part of that name flows from his pointy crested head. 😎)
  • Grabbing my iPad and Hobonichi Weeks, I ensure my 3 main pens sit in the pen holder wrapped around the Hobonichi.

DK enjoys his limo ride on Mommie’s shoulder limo as we ascend the staircase. Once in the master bedroom, the second Phase of the Evening Routine unfolds.

Alexa responds to my request for a Motown playlist. DarbyKlan chirps atop the shower bar as I do my thing. I prop up in bed, DK on my shoulder. We check out the magic word/phrase/prompt of the day yet again. I close my eyes, imagining cartoon-like smoke bubbles arising from my head as I feverishly try to conjure a 6-word story.

✧︎︎︎ My Plan of Attack: Incorporating the Prompt into a 6 Word Story

To get my mental juices flowing, I run through every word rhyming with the prompt. On good nights, the two words gift bookends. I turn on the tv briefly, hungry for a random action verb. With verb in hand to massage the rhyming bookend words, I complete the tried-to-beat-me-up-eh 6-word story.

On dicey nights, I remind myself of the vow to never give up. My night transforms into a warped mini homage to June Cleaver. I jump from the bed and beeline to the über convenient SwiftJet mop. I attach a wet sheet, turning my attention to the wood floor. History schooled me: physical activity dislodges mental blocks (sigh… hubby works the night shift). 6-word stories have been known to spring to life as I run the wet mop under the bed. This night yields no exception. I rush to grab the Hobonichi, anxious to add the latest yeah babyyyyy to my 6-word-story Log. Then, I complete my nod to the housework gods.

I perch DK, climb under the covers, ask Alexa to resume the Audible book in play this week, have her turn off the lights, then close my eyes.

Bonus: My head hits the pillow with a two-fold feeling of genuine accomplishment:

  1. This woman, who loathes all-things-housework, performed a household chore —withOUT staring down a firing squad.
  2. Links in my massage-creativity chain remain live, thanks to this day’s completed 6-word story.
  3. And boom! A new idea for a blog post blossoms. 😉

Call to Action

Every human, stretching out beyond a personal comfort zone, must learn something new, finesse a different set of techniques, gain proficiency in the new endeavor. Flabby thighs gain muscle when running transpires on a regular basis. Yesterday’s too-heavy barbell pulls up a few additional inches, with repeated tries. Anyone can write. Not everyone writes well. The latter requires skill. Creating a 6-word story, day in day out, gives new meaning to pain-in-the-skleeboop. But each time I succeed, I lay another brick in the foundation of my dream house. What precise technique are you employing, every day, to polish the skills your new endeavor requires? Hey PardNah, if it ain’t specific, it ain’t real! Tomorrow’s a good time to start. Within this hour, even better.