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I  started this writing prompt a week ago but did not get the chance to finish it. Now, wrapped up like a burrito in a blanket fending off the freezing cold, I figured it’s time to get back at it.

I can tell you what I wasn’t thinking about Monday morning as I was sitting impatiently in my car, waiting for it to melt: writing. I can mention a few colorful words in between shivers that may have floated across my brain, but nothing I’d be comfortable putting down in writing. But now, safe and warm inside, I’m ready to write. Inspired by Marilyn Armstrong’s “Odd Ball Photo Challenge,” I’m going to take this cold, brutal winter and turn it into my muse. 


What is it about icicles that makes them so beautiful? It’s just frozen water–we don’t take the time to just stop and stare at or photograph ice cubes, but why are we inclined to do so with icicles? Is it the way they hang there, seemingly suspended in mid-air, dangling before us like naturally-occurring wind chimes? Or is it because they’re dangerous? Gaze long enough to appreciate their beauty, gaze too long and you’ll never gaze at anything again.

Winter isn’t beautiful because it’s picturesque, winter is beautiful because it’s deadly.

Time seems to stand still in the cold months. Stagnation settles in and there’s nothing but whistling wind to cut the eerie silence as the night creeps in early to take over the day. We grow tired, weary, exhausted from being tired and weary and hibernate from friends, family, obligations and life–awakened only by some form of tragedy. We rear our heads from our long winter’s nap only to say goodbye, never to start anew like the false promises of New Year’s bring. Funerals seem to happen more often in the cold months between fall and winter. Maybe it’s because black attracts the sun and no one wants to be sweating while they’re grieving–even God knows a thing or two about fashion faux-pas. We pile layer upon layer of black on ourselves and shiver through the tears. We impatiently wait for spring to bring with it the good news.

But why does that make winter beautiful?

Because of the temporal nature of the shortest season of the year, because it’s a constant reminder of how life is fleeting, because it’s the time of the year when you most often want to cry and give up, the stillness of the season is simultaneously frightening and comforting. To take the time to stop and survey the beauty around you can be the only calming thing the world has to offer–drink in those sheets of white covering every surface before they melt or deteriorate into gross mixes of earth and dirt and street debris. Appreciate everything as it’s frozen in time, because it won’t be for long.

Stare directly at those icicles hanging above you. They might kill you, but they’re reminding you that you’re still here, now.

Zen Writer Challenge: 9.16.14

September 16, 2014

I’ve just downloaded a neat PC program called ZenWriter. I recommend it for anyone who wants an app that will help them totally zone out and zero-in on their writing. It provides a full-screen notepad with calm music and scenic backgrounds that help you block out any background noise that might interfere with your work.  I was busy editing a piece I had been working on, and I needed to step away from it, take a little break and just go into zen-mode. I figured it would provide the perfect space to just do some stream-of-consciousness-style writing based on some ideas I’ve had floating around in my head. Sometimes I come up with lines I’d love to write, but no story to build around them. I think this will be a great way to capture those thoughts as they occur and share what I’ve come up with: unedit, unrefined, just pure from my own zen.  I’m going to try to do these sporadically, but without any sort of time constraints. I challenge anyone who has this program, or just anyone who likes this idea, to do the same. Here’s my first one of, hopefully, a series.

 

My notebooks are graveyards of words. Unfinished stories left to wither away and die in pages forgotten by time. Ideas that were once so fruitful and full of possibilities have stopped producing fruits of wisdom, instead just collecting dust and grammatical mistakes. Why is it so hard to return to a work that’s gone untouched for so long? Is it because even though new ideas form, you can never quite recapture the emotions and creative surges felt at the time, and therefore can never have any soul left to pour into those words? I’m afraid that all of my works will never be done, because my body fills with creative energy in small spurts of time. I become to enraptured in the ideas of creating that I forget to do just that. I get too excited and must put my pen down to take some time to think, but it’s so tough to pick it up again after that because, by then, the feeling’s already gone.

Is it possible to have creative ADD?

What would be the knee-jerk chemical solution for that? Maybe whiskey will flow through my veins, through my blood, into my fingers and they’ll keep moving and moving and moving and moving the words and thoughts and ideas and notions escaping before I even have time to notice and give up on them.

I fear I’ve noticed them already

I’ve taken the time to read this. Reading has become the enemy of my writing. The more I read the more I hate the words I wrote and the more I want to stop. Maybe I’ll stop reading now and go at this blindly. Put this out there for someone to read and hate but not me–someone else’s hatred of my words bears more fruit than my own. Because if someone hates what I write they’ll be compelled to challenge it with the written word and a new conception of words and a birth of ideas will be formed. But my own hatred will just stall me.

And so more pieces of verse will lie in their coffins. Abandoned, neglected, abused.

But I want you to abuse my words. Abuse them and reuse them and confuse them.

Because if you do, I’ll have to challenge it. And write and write and write and write and write.

 

 

….I’ve stopped.

I’ve been pretty down on myself lately. In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t really been following up on my resolution to post fiction, non-fiction and poetry based on weekly writing prompts. That’s no one’s fault by my own. I’ve got writing prompts from weeks and months ago saved across multiple computers, email inboxes and USB drives. I return to them every now and again and—if I’m lucky—maybe add a sentence or two to each piece. If I let them go long enough with few enough paragraphs, I lose interest in where the piece was going, or forget the genius idea I had for it because I forgot to make note of it because didn’t have a pen on hand, or whatever. In the 21st Century Digital Age of iPhones and tablets and mind-to-walkman transmissions (that’s a thing, right?), I’m not even certain if that’s a viable excuse anymore. (EDIT: No, it’s not.)  In short, I’ve been coming up with more creative excuses to not read or write than creative words to pen on paper.

I recently read a wonderful post on Looking For Pemberley on writing even when you don’t feel like it by Miss E. And just a few minutes ago I read another excellent piece on continuing to write after your work has been rejected on The Rumpus. And I soaked in every word. “I get it…” I thought. “I sooo get it…” Especially in regards to Miss E’s post. I read it in the car on my iPhone, and just let the sentiment resonate with me. But what did I proactively DO after reading it? After reading it on this magical technological device where I can not only READ but also WRITE? Nothing. I did nothing. I thought about how true it was and how, no matter what, I must push through and write, but I only thought—I did not act.

I guess a big part of my problem is that I WANT to be writing. I want to be writing a lot, actually. I’m just NOT. I’m thinking A LOT but writing A LITTLE. And again, the only person to blame for that is myself. I’ve found myself in a rather strange predicament lately where I feel a bit unsettled and uncertain of some things in my life—nothing too earth-shattering, but enough to leave me feeling sufficiently… bummy. And I’ve been coming down pretty hard on myself and my place in the world because of that. My only resolution has been to do some things on my own accord—mainly get back to writing regularly. Finish pieces of prose I’ve been dying to finally cap off and edit. And read voraciously—finish the three books and zines I’ve started reading but can’t quite complete. Stop over-analyzing why I haven’t been able to finish them and just DO it instead.

Today after reading that wonderful post on the Rumpus, I decided to search in my backpack for my notebook instead of just numbing my mind with Facebook games (sorry, Disney’s City Girl!) and actually work on one of the six or seven pieces I’m “in the middle of.” And in my search, what do I find? Two notebooks, one novel and a Poets & Writers magazine. That’s not that bizarre, but it made me realize that I have the tools at my disposal, with me on my person, literally every day of the week. And what do I do? Let them sit in that dark knapsack waiting. Being unused. Adding weight to my back but very little else. I also found at least three different blue pens. Why so many? Because when I start writing something it bugs me if I start in one pen type/color and change to another. It also creates a good excuse for me to NOT write “Ugh, but I started this short story with a blue fountain pen—I can’t finish it with a black ballpoint!” (Again—creativity wasted on excuses and not on actual writing.) Well, I’ve got both blue and black fountain and ballpoint pens AND even some pencils on me right now, so that solves that tremendous dilemma.

What’s ironic is, now that my lunch break is winding down, I won’t have the actual time until after 5:00 PM to get back to writing with those utensils and those notebooks I found. But you know what? It’s ok. Because while it may seem like I instead decided to procrastinate by posting on here, I did it by writing. And that’s at least something. And hopefully a sign of good things to come.

Cheers, and keep those pens and pencils (or styluses and fingers!) working and your creative waters flowing.

Write a story of 1,000 words from a main character’s perspective about the moment his or her life took a significant turn. Keep the description about the moment sparse, focusing on what happened versus how it happened. For an example, read Denis Johnson’s short story “Car Crash While Hitchhiking.”  Poetry & Writers.

 

Architectural Digest

“Don’t you know that he’s gay?” Mallory’s words struck me like lightning, even if I wasn’t entirely sure what they meant.

“S-so…” I managed to stutter.

“Gay—you know what that means don’t you?”

I guess my blank stare answered for me.

“He only likes men. Like, loves men. He’ll only fall in love with another man. That’s what gay means—when a man loves a man,” Mallory stated, matter-of-factly.  She was so worldly, she had learned so much more in her twelve years than I had in my seven.

“B-but… but he’s married… to a lady… how can that be?” I felt not only saddened, but betrayed. How could he be in love with a man if he was in a caring and affectionate relationship—not just a relationship, a MARRIAGE—to Carol?

“Jeez, Louise! It’s only a TV show! They’re not married in real life. Just on TV. You know that TV’s not real life…right?!” Mallory was getting impatient with me. Suddenly I felt so small, so much younger than my cousin.  Even though I was aware of our age difference, she always felt like my peer. Someone I could confide in and know that I wouldn’t be judged. Someone who could teach me things without talking down to me or making me feel like an inferior being. But now, they playing field didn’t seem so level any more. I felt like nothing more than a stupid, little child.

“Like, did you think it was on now? It takes place in the ‘70s. It’s not the ‘70s. Jeez, don’t you know ANYTHING?”  Her words got more and more biting and with each syllable it felt like a jagged knife being pushed slowly into my heart.

“…I know…” I managed to whisper sheepishly.

But I didn’t. I didn’t know anything. And in that moment, I became aware of the vast amount of nothing that I knew. A few minutes ago we were engaging in our normal summer routine. Every Wednesday afternoon my cousin would come over while her mom went to work and we’d watch TV together, then we would go to the park with my mother, come back for lunch, and then watch some more TV. When Aunt Karen got home from her job at the daycare center, she’d pick up Mallory. This happened every Wednesday now that stuff was different in Mallory’s house. These were all things I knew, they were all certainties.

I also knew that every day at 1:35 pm The Brady Bunch was on TBS. This was something I could count on. Mallory and I sat on the floor in my living room with the lights off to keep cool. “If we sit on the floor we’ll be cooler since the AC’s broken—I learned that in science class this year!” I informed Mallory. She just shrugged and plopped herself down on the floor next to me. She became infatuated with picking the polish off her nails while I remained infatuated with the person I thought—no, KNEW—was the man I would marry someday.

There was just something about Mike Brady; so tall, so handsome. He wore groovy threads, had the best perm I’d ever seen and was just the perfect husband and father. I knew it was wrong to fall in love with a married man—that’s something I learned in Bible studies—but I couldn’t help it. Part of me wished I could be adopted into the Brady family, but I wasn’t sure if I would be a daughter or a wife.

“People in the ‘70s dressed so badly,” Mallory stated, disinterested in the drama unfolding before us. Will the ever decide on the right wallpaper for their bedroom? “Clothes today are so much better. And ugh, look at their hair.” I liked their hair, but I guess I was wrong. “But I mean Greg’s still kinda cute,” she added.

“I like Mike Brady,” I blurted out. I didn’t mean to say it, but I automatically felt so much cooler and more grown up for having done so. “He’s really cute.” I looked to Mallory for some kind of response, but she just kept playing with her nails. “I’d like to marry him someday,” I meant it.

Mallory finally looked up and stared at me, wide-eyed. I thought I had said something that impressed her—until she started laughing, that is.  “Don’t you know that he’s gay?” I didn’t know what “gay,” was or why it meant I couldn’t love Mike Brady. The rest of the episode ended in a blur, and I never did find out what wallpaper they finally chose.

“Hey, Louise, are you going to watch Beverly Hills 90210 later?” Mallory asked me after the show was over. I shook my head “no.” I wasn’t allowed to watch that show—I was too young, there would be too much I wouldn’t understand. “Lame. Dylan’s such a cutie. I’d marry him someday,” Mallory said proudly. I guess Dylan wasn’t gay.

Mallory and I didn’t really talk for the rest of the day. I was just too ashamed. But before she left I figured it was as good a time as any to ask her that one last thing I didn’t understand, but wanted to know anyway, “Mallory, why doesn’t your dad live with you anymore?”

“Cuz him and mom are getting a divorce.” She said, taking a sip of her Hi-C Ecto Cooler. I supposed that “divorce” meant that two people who are in love stop falling in love. I’d heard that once on TV, but I still didn’t really understand it. Was Mallory’s dad gay? How does someone just stop loving their wife and daughter? It seemed like something Mike Brady would never do. But I guess I was wrong about that, too. I wanted to ask her more, but I held back. The only thing I really understood that day was to never ask a question you don’t really want the answer to.

Think about an aspect of your life story and rewrite it, telling the tale from another angle or perspective. For example, if your family always considered you to be a difficult teenager, write about other interpretations of your behavior. Or if you’ve always been considered successful, write about the fear of failure that lurks beneath the facade. Find a way to reconstruct an aspect of your personal narrative that explores the complexity of who you are.

 

“She’s nice and all…but she’s really quiet.” That’s what they would write in the 5th grade slam book about me. If there were a slam book, that is. Those are the words that would float around in the theoretical slam book of life. I was in the double digits, dammit, and I didn’t even have a good slam against me. What would that say about me? Other girls had “Cool” and “Hot” and “Sporty” and other Spice Girl-alias like terms to describe them, along with a list of guys they’ve kissed during rousing parent-in-the-other-room-monitored games of spin the bottle played at family super bowl parties. I had never even been to a party before—my time instead being holed up in my room reading the Michelle Tanner novel series. I squealed with delight when I noticed that Mary Kate and/or Ashley donned a pink dress that I owned on the cover. In this particular issue, Michelle is bummed because all it said in her class’s slam book was that she was a good speller. She was in the double digits, dammit, and all her classmates could say about her was that she was a good speller?!  I think I’m a good speller too, but not enough for that to be my only quality but at least it’s descriptive! “Quiet” means nothing, and that pesky “nice” is outright insulting. How dare they think that about me?!  I’ll make my mark in that book of life one day, and that day begins today…

 

“Jamie buys all her clothes at the flea market,” Stephanie whispered behind my back. I looked down at my pea-green leggings and green striped sweater. I distinctly remember my mom purchasing those leggings in the clearance section at Kids R’ Us and the sweater I got as a gift for Christmas. My outfit was not only NOT purchased at a cheap flea market, but was much nicer than what she had on. In a Catholic school, dress down days came once in a blue moon, and you always wanted to make sure you wore your coolest, most in-style outfit you begged your mom to buy for you. Being a rather poor kid in a private school located in one of the richest towns in Westchester made that a little difficult, but I made do with what I had. Who was Stephanie to talk, anyway? Last year during the big children’s Easter mass I had on a beautiful Easter Parade-esque dress and bonnet from Lord & Taylor while she showed up in a tie-dye shirt and jeans and picked her nose for 40% of the mass. At least I knew when to dress up and how to do it in style.

 

“Yeah, she said all of your clothes are from there because your family’s too poor to go shopping anywhere else,” my friend Julia confirmed that what I heard was true. Anger coursed over my body. I thought of going over there and setting her straight and letting her know exactly where my outfit was from, and about the Abercrombie and Fitch shirt I purchased over the summer. (Sure, it was an irregular-sized A&F shirt from the flea market, but she didn’t have to know that.) Maybe a good portion of my clothes were from the flea market, but at least I had style. I gathered my thoughts and turned to Julia, “I should punch her in her stupid face!” I said, as I made a fist with my tiny, weak hand. Then the bell rang and break was over, and it was time to study vocabulary. The battle was soon forgotten when Stephanie would be last in line behind me during the spelling bee, rooting me on…  “She kept touching me, and made me nervous. That’s why we lost,” I’d explain to my friends later when I blanked during the last round. “She didn’t win either, so whatever.”

 

I realized that it would be hard for people to think of me any other way than “quiet,” but it didn’t matter, and “nice” wasn’t so bad after all. Maybe “buys all her clothes at the flea market” would be my description in the slam book of life, but at least that means I’m resourceful. And if anyone complemented my style and found out where my clothing came from, I could be a fashion trailblazer for the lower middle class. At least they couldn’t have me down as “a good speller,” maybe “kind-of good,” but that would be downright silly. I could rest easy knowing that I had once again had something in common with Michelle Tanner, and this time, I may have even had something better.

New Year’s Resolution

January 3, 2013

One of my resolutions is to write more so that’s why I’m writing this.

‘Til next time!

Ok, I’m just kidding. But I’ve decided to exercise my writing on a more regular basis, even in short spurts for only about 20-30 minutes at a time. The lovely people at Poets & Writers have a great Tools for Writers section, and in it they include weekly writing prompts for a poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction. I’m going to try my best to do one a week and update it on here. Just wanted to give a little background before I jump into it, so everyone’s on board and knows what’s going on. It looks like it should be fun!  I suggest giving it a try if you’re looking to keep up with your writing. Even if it’s only a paragraph at a time, it’s still something. And so, without further ado (Gee, I say that a lot, don’t I?) …