The whole point of the Daily Riff is to provide a moment of inspiration, an opening line to a song only you can write. A bit of back story on this habit of mine: When I first started writing, my best friend always had music on. We would snatch a lyric from Jim Morrison, the Eagles, Eminem, or Sara Mclaughlin. It didn’t matter where we got it, just that we found something that echoed in us and pulled us into our own lives. Sometimes we’d read poetry aloud or happen upon a line in a book that rang out and caught us in its flow. We’d read them out loud, swooning over the richness of these words that kept us awake and loving – or hating – our own existence.
Like a true musical riff, the line isn’t a prompt. It is an invitation. Take this line and let it echo through your life, catch it, and, as fast as you can, build a house of words upon it. It doesn’t matter if it makes sense. This writing isn’t for anyone but you. Let it flow through you and see what comes up. The whole point is to put you in connection with yourself and strip your writing naked. It is meant to remove all those pesky fears about what sort of writer you are or how you good you are. This isn’t a place for caring about that. I know that a lot of people don’t understand the point of writing practice, so think of it this way. What is basketball practice? What is football practice? Anything you want to do well, you practice at. I used to play the guitar – and I’m trying to get back into it now. I remember hating those endless practices, running up and down chords, trying to learn a new song, playing over and over until my fingers were numb. But. When I had to perform, the music flowed out seamlessly and there was a sense of confidence that came with it; I knew exactly what I was doing. These days, I practice because it is all for me. I love the sound of the strings, just like I love to write until I trip across something that both surprises and delights me.
Writing practice is preparation for the big game. It is preparing for the small games and the halftime shows. It is writing no-one else will ever see because it is all yours. I am currently reading a published version of Anais Nin’s journal. I love how, in the introduction, the author points out that this journal is like seeing what went on behind the stage; here you can catch all the things that made her writing so rich and vivid in their original form, her daily life and thoughts. The daily riff is meant to help you in a way that isn’t a writing prompt; if that line from Nirvana reminds you of your childhood, go on and follow it down, but there is no firm direction here. Like any poetry or music, the meaning is personal to you. Follow that. Embrace it. Being a writer is about looking inside ourselves. Truly good writing – the sort that is naked and unapologetic – comes from within your own life. That is why writers are never really in competition with each other; I can’t write like you because I didn’t have your life and you can’t write like me because you don’t know what goes on in my head. It is a simple concept, but one that you should embrace. Find the things that shake you out of your apathy. Fall in love with who you are and what you’ve been through. When a true hunter brings down an animal, they use every part of the carcass. From the meat to the bones, there is nothing left to waste. Be like that with your life. Leave it all out on the page, use every part of it, right down to the worst thing that ever happened to you. When you get nervous or scared, remember that the best part of writing is that, if you don’t want to share it, you don’t have to.
As much as I love my magnets, they are a bit limiting and limiting is never a good thing in creativity. So, while they might still make appearances, I’m going to be providing other sources from now on.
For our first Riff, I feel it is only fitting to start with my first riff (or the first one I remember).
Can you picture what will be
So limitless and free
Desperately in need
-The Doors; The End
Write a story. Write poetry. Write about everything you know about Jim Morrison or just write about all the endings in your life. The whole point is to catch the rhythm that speaks to you. Now go! Rap it out, play with the words, figure out what it is that you want to talk about and just do it for ten minutes. Happy Writing!