My voice is not enough. I have to remove these states to show you the big picture. There is a way out from under this dark cloud. When pleasure is pain and there’s no blood under your nails. I shape you like clay. Like a Barbie doll in an Osprey’s nest. Like love on a sandal. Like too many hawks in the sky. On the side of a mountain. When no one’s looking. We go looking for Jimmys. There is a list of three, but I won’t ever tell. Suck down the cancer. Wearing a backpack is the first sign. A large button is a good way to spend millions. How many seconds between me and you? That was a question. There is an answer. Where is the somebody on the other side of the line? My nerves are shot. My fingernails are frayed. I’m going to Memphis. I’ll walk if I need to. And I don’t wish for peace. There’s a train running through my room. There’s a pile of rubble on your floor. Best to move. Best to keep moving. I need a Camel and a U-Haul. She’ll be bought for five camels. A small price to pay. I work inside of a valentine. I wear black and white. I match the inside. I want red sneakers, a red hoodie, a red heart. I’ll pay for an upgrade. I’ll trade in. I’ll marry up. I’ll space out.
Two minutes is a short amount of time. But a lot can happen. You can send an important email. You can break a heart. You can change your fate.
You can get stuck in traffic. You can listen to your favorite song on the radio. You can drink half a cup of coffee.
In my weekly writing group, we often end the session with a prompted two-minute free write. While it is far from the main-event of the evening, there is a certain magic about the writing that is produced in that time. The pressure is off. Everyone is relaxed, or wired off too much coffee, or one too many cookies.
I thought it might be fun to share some of the prompts and the pieces I wrote to accompany them. It would be great to hear from other bloggers out there, feel free to write your own responses to the prompts, but remember, it can only take 2 minutes!
Prompt: Make a list of subjects NOT to write about.
Good things not to write about, depends on the audience. If it’s my mother, than anything that is, or could be perceived as violent, destructive, dangerous, sexy, or incestuous. I shared some of my writing with her, and have since stopped. She said to me one day, thoughtfully, after reading a poem of mine, that I was, “intense.” I wasn’t sure how to take that, I mean in regards to compliment, insult, general observation. I don’t like to write about things that are boring. I like to write about weird, messed up, violent, manipulative people, because isn’t that what’s real? No, your emotions, she told me. Your emotions are intense. I don’t think I was ever like that. We’re different, my mother and I. She thinks I write about things that are too intense, I think I write about things that are all too real.
Prompt: If you could have someone else’s bone and why.
I would like no one’s bones but my own. Maybe my body will fall apart. Maybe I’ll fall off a ladder and need to be put back together. And in those moments I will say give me whatever bones you have. But for the time being, I can’t imagine anyone else having bones that would go with mine. It’s not that I think mine are better or bigger or stronger. But they are mine. And the body is something which is so uniquely OUR OWN. I wouldn’t want that to be diluted with spare parts. And if I were to get Mother Theresa’s hip or Ringo Starr’s wrist, how would I live up to that? Would I have to become an excellent drummer? Would I suddenly become selfless? Maybe my bones will turn brittle and break, but I still think I don’t want to be anyone else but me.
Prompt: Group Leader asks for a random noun. One of the group members says “brick.” Group leader says OK, now start with the sentence, “This is not a brick.”
This is not a brick. And my road would certainly not be yellow brick. Black maybe or the rusty red of a typical brick. But then, this is not a brick. My road would be a dirt path maybe. Shady under thick green foliage. Hot summer sun somewhere above. Or a long wooden-planked boardwalk leading over hot sand. The ocean its reward. Or the back alley of a city street, all hot, steamy, stinky asphalt. Dumpsters and cigarette breaks and men sleeping in doorways. My way wouldn’t be brick. It would be leather studded kiss in the sand. It would be shag carpet up to my ankles. There would be no one in sight on this road. Men working. Out of order. Do not pass go. Hopefully I have a get out of jail free card lying around here. This is not a brick road. This is not wonderland. There is no Peter Pan, so I might as well stop waiting for him. I can stay young forever and I can do it on my own time.
The scene was a funky underground bar in the Greenwich Village. Live jazz, pool tables, shuffle board, and other assorted games. The occasion: my brother and his wife’s annual visit from China.
We were enjoying a wonderful evening, full of food, fun and rain-soaked subway journeys. We were in New York, together- a rare and wonderful circumstance.
My sister-in-law is a brave, smart, vivacious woman from Shandong Province in China. On that night, she took it upon herself to introduce me to a young man who was enjoying a game of chess with a friend nearby.
We started communicating and it didn’t take long for us to discover we were both writers. He shared with me the link for the online literary magazine, In Parentheses, which he helped to create and contributes to on a regular basis.
Later, sifting through the content, I found an incredible mix of prose, poetry and essays written by a number of different contributors. The range of material was impressive, but held firm to their belief of ‘intellectual expansion of the masses.’
In the weeks following that random meeting, I was encouraged to submit to the blog, which I did, and they were gracious enough to post the piece. Please check out my submission, and the rest of this awesome blog.
Is it just random chance that we meet other writers? Or is it something more; can we sense a certain camaraderie? Have any of the other bloggers out there had similar chance encounters with fellow writers? I’d love to hear your opinions and personal stories.
Happy Writing, and Happy Mingling!
I had a strange sensation while driving into town this afternoon, on my way to run a few simple errands. The night before had been one of those magical, hot, random summer nights filled with friends, dancing, swimming and laughter.
As I drove, I replayed scenes from the night before, remembering interactions and unexpected faces. My mind buzzed actively and the muscles around my mouth tugged upwards. What is this? I found myself questioning. And then it hit me. Oh right: happiness.
Last winter I found myself in a Catch-22. I felt, quite literally, stuck in Colombia. I hadn’t made enough money to move on to another city in South America, as I had anticipated. I was emotionally drained from dealing with visas, the uncertainty of moving to a new city without a job of a plan, being immediately targeted as a tourist. I knew I couldn’t stay, but where to go?
My first instinct was money. Follow the money. Everyone in the international teaching world knows that the money is in Asia. I began searching for and applying to jobs from Japan to Hong Kong, Thailand to Malaysia. The money was enticing. But in my heart of hearts, I knew it wasn’t what I really wanted. The problem was, I couldn’t think of any alternative. And so, anxiously, I dove into the applications head first, despite my better judgement.
It wasn’t until I a conversation I had with an old friend that I started to reconsider. I still remember this as being one the most influential conversations of my life. Come home, she told me. And finally, I allowed myself to listen.
It wasn’t an easy decision. I felt embarrassed to be returning home, jobless, with much less money than when I’d left, and only a year and a half into what I had imagined to be a several year long adventure. I didn’t want to look like a failure.
Thankfully, I’m lucky to have a family that is both understanding and supportive. They have helped me get back on my feet and finally start to pursue my passion: writing. I am so grateful for the wonderful friends who have helped me through life’s difficult decisions.
Five months after my return, I have never felt more certain that I made the right decision. Not only is this place my home, but it is an inspiring community for writers. I have met so many people of all ages who share similar interests and pursuits.
At times, I think about what my life would be like at this moment if I had taken a job that brought me to the other side of the globe, far from the people and places that make me who I am. I may have been wealthier in some ways, but I truly believe that my quality of life would have been much poorer.
Driving this afternoon, the sun shining on beautiful green pastures on the side of the country road, a smooth breeze breathing through the open windows, I identified that peculiar sensation: I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
It has been nearly a month since my last post. No excuses. My emotions in these weeks have run the gambit from frustrated to elated. For a while, I seemed eager to distract myself from my writing with any interesting and fun activity that presented itself.
In the depths of one of my more worried moments, I turned to my Writing Sage, as I have come to think of her. I told her I felt lost, directionless. Having given up so much to pursue writing, I felt like I had not only lost the path, but I had lost the spark.
My Writing Sage just turned to me and smiled. We were sitting on the couch. We had had more than a few glasses of wine. She said to me, writing is so much more than what comes out on the page. It’s more than what we write down on paper; a major part of the creative process is internal.
New experiences, laughing, swimming, being with friends, working, sweating, crying. All of these things do not produce writing in and of themselves, but I do strongly believe that they facilitate good writing and good stories.
That night, my Writing Sage helped me understand than even when I am not producing as much writing as I would like, I am still growing in ways that will one day be reflected on paper. In the meantime, it’s important to realize that all experiences help shape who we are as people and as writers.
I’m not sure about all of you, but as soon as the weather turns nice, I am suddenly uninterested in anything that doesn’t involve being in the sun. This is good for my tan, not good for my writing.
Things I did today instead of writing:
-Mowed the lawn
-Filled the potholes in my driveway
-Hung out laundry on the clothes line
And then I wrote, for about 30 minutes. Needless to say, I am falling behind on my goal to finish my manuscript in two months. I’ve stretched it until the beginning of August, giving myself a few extra weeks, and still, it will be tight.
I haven’t been sticking to the four-hours-a-day policy that I was so enthusiastic and diligent with the first few weeks. I’m procrastinating. I even procrastinated on writing this post.
Healthy body, healthy mind. I’m hoping that by occupying my time with activities that make me happy, it will somehow positively influence my writing.
Anybody up for the lake?
In the book Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, she recommends the exercise of listing the reasons why you write. If ever you are feeling stuck with your writing, it is helpful to simply start with that question and see what answers you come up with.
I did this exercise myself a few months ago in one of my journals and then promptly forgot about it. Coming across it the other day, I thought it was pretty funny and wanted to share it with you all.
Why I Write:
I write because I’m hopeful
And I want to put myself through the wringer.
Because a desk job is just too painful.
So I can feel good about myself and others will too.
So I can feel bad about myself.
Because there has never been anything else.
Because of the feeling of pulling a story out of thin air
And turning it real.
Because of my friends who inspire me into creation.
Because it’s fun to make fun of people.
So I can create my own heroes.
To get through my own demons.
Because I still want my mother fucking yacht.
I would love to hear other writers’ responses to this prompt! Feel free to create your own list and leave it in the comments.