Writing Prompt: The Portal

Today’s a Nick Drake kinda day–a day when you take long walks, languidly pick up that hobby you promised yourself you were going to finish, catch up with loved ones over a nice, warm drink…and read pleasant little stories inspired by gorgeous, surreal imagery.

I’m a little overdue since posting my last writer’s prompt. I hope you read and enjoy, and have a wonderful Sunday!

Image credit: Pinterest.


The Portal

three-blue-portals“This is it.”  Dr. Ralph Kenon doubled the knot on the rope around his waist, ignoring the flash of the sapphire-lit sky above them.  “If there is any time to test the portal, it’s now.”

June stood, watching him with a wariness that she had always held.  She knew the cost of this trip–for months, they had traversed the cragged landscape, seeking the stone doorways that might–oh, Sera, might–bring them back home.  The portal that had brought them there–golden and glittering with the promise of abundance, riches–had been nothing more than a ploy of cruel universal physics.  Gold does not mean promise, or peace. How she wished she had been one of those companions who’d had enough wherewithal to provide Ralph counsel!

But no.  She was but his secretary: his faithful, devoted secretary who had been sure–absolutely sure–that what they had stumbled upon in the basement ruins of a demolished bank vault, would save them from the financial ruin that his previous perils and excavations had put them through.  Now, look at them. Look at them!

The others who had followed them were all gone.  The Tigmas–first George, then Pauline, and last their twelve-year-old son, Kris.  The policeman Mr. Myron Johnson had sacrificed himself to the beast who had found their resting spot that first night.  The newlyweds, Berturde and Guy, had succumbed to the Hunger Roots a couple of weeks after, just before they’d reached the City of Promise.  By then, it was only three of them left: Dr. Kenon, herself…and Sera.

June doubled her fists.  Dr. Kenon was inching towards the edge of the cliff; any second, the invisible field would snag him into its atmosphere, and he would no longer have a choice of remain or return.

Wildly, he threw his head back to stare at her.  His eyes distorted by those silly aviator goggles he’d always kept with him.  A momento of his mother, he’d said, on her final flight around the world. Everyone thought Amelia had been the only one, but Laura Kenon–oh, she had been glorious.  There just hadn’t been the press or the public attention to watch another woman make a grave mistake.

Under the front of living as a physician, Dr. Ralph Kenon had studied the energies of the universe, the hidden dimensions that were but a hair’s width away.  In the depth of the ocean, in the threshold of Egyption huts–June had been his longest-tenured secretary, and she had seen him in his more focused and his most psychotic episodes.

There was no proof as to where this portal would take them.  In the depths of Promise, its residents spoke of a multi-lensed “doorway” that flickered on the outskirts of the country.  “Oh, sure,” said one barkeep, tossing a spheroid glass to his counterpart across the room without spilling a drop of the iridescent liquid inside, “it’s always been there.  But no one ever goes there.  It’s just one of those things, like breath.  A lyric in a song.”

“But we sing songs where we come from,” Dr. Kenon responded.  The second barkeep bowed reproachfully but said nothing. He was built for expression only, a silent, judgemental sentient being with a purple trunk and soft, rounded shoulders meant to lie your mournful head between.  It was the first barkeep took orders and gathered regular stories so that passing strangers could understand the flow of the time in that sad, sweet city.

A city where what you wanted was guaranteed to be at your beck and call, if you only learned about it before it had already moved on.

Sera had remained generally present those first couple of nights in town.  Still, June could already tell that she was losing her when the young woman chose to look at everything else in the city but her.  At first, June blamed it on the illusion of the crystalline skyscrapers, the gloss of the marble-like sidewalks. Even the native citizens walked as if elongated by grace, striding with an elegance that made you want to lift your neck to meet them.  Even the streetwalkers, who spun around corner lights and giggled as they cuddled the thick metal poles, felt heightened in status. June kept her hand tightly around Sera’s, but the shine was too much for either of them. They parted that first night, just for an hour.  Then, in the morning, for two–June to find their houses of literature, Sera to explore the artful fountains that seem to shoot strawberry lemonade instead of water.

Every second was a spin of luck, every moment a chance to laugh for the first time since arriving in this barren world.  She and Sera raced around like children, finding more and more and comparing notes later and later in the day. Finally, it was only when they curled into a single bed at night, just before slumber took them over, did they have but seconds to learn who’d had more to share.  In the end, June would spend many hours waiting, head drooping as she squinted at the illuminated web in the window that represented their clock. On the moments she did rise early enough to see Sera slipping out the hotel room door, she tried to stop her, to ask if maybe they could meet for lunch.  “Too dependent,” was what she heard, just before the door snapped shut once.

Only Dr. Kenon stayed rigid during that week, collecting the necessary supplies and verifying the stories of the three stone rings and the night that would arise and give them a chance for home.  When he had pinpointed the day they would activate, he hastily gathered the ladies as they were about to steal away towards their separate agents and told them the good news. June immediately looked to meet Sera’s eye, as they always had when they were both parties to Ralph’s excitable nature.

But Sera was smiling at a mother and her son as the latter chased a cubold drifting down a waterspout’s sparkling stream, beside a marblesque sidewalk, along a picketed lane.

The night before they were to part, Sera suddenly demanded they spend the evening exploring together—”Just you and me,” she told June.

She dragged June through alleys and under fences, and demonstrated that you watched the best music there, not heard it.  The accidental dropping of crystal marbles by an elderly gentleman upon glass steps lingered in June’s mind as they climbed to the peak of a pyramidal park.  The sound reminded her of her brother, and she began to cry, doubling over at the wretchedness of the memories. Sera’d turned away and waited until June had wiped her eyes and risen to her feet, shaken out her skirt and tightened her low bun.  Then, they’d fed on juicy buns and jumped over light stones with other festival-goers in one of the city’s cobbled squares. June thought this showed hope, that maybe she’d been imagining the distance between them all this time.

The morning that Dr. Kenon woke June up, Sera was already gone.  The second bed in their room (which Sera had taken to lying in so as not to rouse June in the middle of the night) was made, and what few articles of personal belongings she’d bought and collected had disappeared as well.  Only a note lay on her pillow, and in that note too few words: “I’m sorry. Good luck.”

Dr. Kenon pushed June from the room as if it had always just been them.  “We have three days to get to the portal before it shuts down,” he said gruffly, and waved down the cab that would take them to the outermost limits of town.

Now, the waves of return lifted Dr. Kenon’s feet from the crumbling cliffside floor.  His rope snapped behind him but remained tied to the iron stake he had drilled into the ground yards away.  Behind it June squatted, holding her coat still against the wind. Even from the distance, she could see the fright in Dr. Kenon’s bug eyes.  Soon, he was no longer over the cliff’s edge, and drifted aloft by some instinctual force that lured him towards the rippling lenses. The portals were doing their job.

“Go,” June called, and hugged herself.  They had played Rochambeau to determine who would go first.  Dr. Kenon had attempted chivalry, but what best displayed the proper gentlemanly nature here?  Go first, and potentially plummet through an unstable set of energy fields into internal implosion and your death.  Stay behind, and risk abandonment, solitude.

Dr. Kenon became a silhouette, then a dot.  The pools of rope strung out into a single line.  It was one of his biggest weaknesses, depth perception.  It always had been. When he had been measuring out the amount of rope they’d need to reach the portals, he’d asked her to check his math.  He always had. It was the afternoon before they’d left, just before Sera had burst into the courtyard and enticed her with pastries and an evening of togetherness.

June had looked at the math, taken but a glance, before pushing the pad back to him and turning away to smile.

Dr. Kenon was still a good couple of meters when the rope started to strain, but June was quick.  One pull on the loose end, and he never even felt the jerkback as he plunged into the first sheet of energy.  It converted him to light and thrust him into the second portal, which transferred into an as-yet-undiscovered equation that passed him through a world of dimensions, choices, and opportunities.  Only the strength of his will would determine whether it would lead him home.

On the cliff’s edge, June rose to her feet as the lightning dissipated, and the sky began to clear.  An uncertain calm resonated in the breeze, leaving her arms free to dangle as she stared through the rings to the mountain range far beyond them.  She spoke but one word, as the perimeter of the first portal began to disintegrate, and the second crumbled like the shell of dried meringue.

“Sera.”

Fin.

NaNoWriMo, Here I Come

I was talking with my friend Rebecca a while ago, who was telling me about a challenge she had undertaken at her barre exercise class. “The goal is to complete 45 barre classes in 30 days,” she told me.

I was no mathematician, but those numbers gave me pause. “Wait. That means you’re gonna have to do at least two classes per day sometimes.”

“Yep,” she said. I could tell by her determined, terror-stricken grin that she had come to this revelation long before that moment. As someone who worked full-time (and oftentimes double-shifts), as well as–you know–having a social life in other endeavors, adding that type of commitment would definitely force her to make some adjustments to her daily routine.

“Yep,” she said again when I voiced this, but this time her expression softened into a serious resolution. “I don’t know how I’m going to manage it–but Ima manage it!”

To my glee and admiration (and her own initial shock), she did more than that. She completed her challenge well before the deadline, even giving up some of her favorite pastimes temporarily to make the challenge a legit priority.

I’ve repetively told her how proud I was of her. I hadn’t doubted that she could do it; she is someone who is quite resolute when she plans out activities. In fact, her dedication inspired me.

Despite writing more in general (primarily personal journals), I have not focused any time on actually writing a novel itself (there are other reasons for that, but anyway…). Perhaps I’ll have a day of delight and bust out a page or two, but by the next day, the inspiration is MIA.

Seeing what Becca did with her challenge reminded me that sometimes, the key to success is just deciding to do it–and then, just commiting to it. So, that’s what I’m going to do.

And I’m going to do it by adding a resource that I never have before. I’m using the aid of National Novel Writing Month–also affectionately known as NaNoWriMo.

What is NaNoWriMo?

Well, aside from being really fun to say (and debate its pronunciation among others: “Am I saying it right? Am I–am I saying it correctly?”), and residing in the best month evah (*ahem*Scorpios of the world unite*cough*). NaNoWriMo is a non-profit global organization that promotes the creative drive of novelists everywhere. What started as 21 writers in 1999 has since exploded into a resource with sponsors, education programs, word-tracking capabilities, and more. Beginning November 1, novelists will blaze into a flurry of writing with the goal of getting out at least 50,000 words–a solid start to any novel–by the end of November 30.

Despite my love of writing, I’ll confess that signing-up the word-tracking “required” for NaNoWriMo intimidated me. As a child, my writing was my private safe haven. The most publicly I ever shared my works were in college, both in my creative writing classes and my slew of WWE wrestler slash fanfiction that I posted on an online, members-only private forum.

(The Rock and Triple H. Mmmm, those were good times.)

Timidly, I clicked the link to the NaNoWriMo site. The image of a typewriter and a bagel (half-eaten) lured me into its embrace, while the “sign-up” button beckoned me closer.

Scrolling down further granted me an excerpt of NaNo’s vision statement:

NaNoWriMo believes in the transformational power of creativity. We provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page.

From NanNoWriMo.org. LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION

…They said my favorite word.  “Creativity.”

…How have I denied my urges for so long??

But NaNoWriMo doesn’t just promote writing and creativity–it thoroughly enforces it. Apparently, over 900 volunteers will organize “communal writing sessions” throughout the world during November, giving its attendees both a place and a sense of support that has never been seen before 1999.

Weighing the Odds…as They Crush Me

I continued to peruse the site, building hope and promise that maybe–maybe this could help me get on track towards finally getting over my fears of writing.

Why do I think it will work? Apparently, several novels were penned with the help of the challenge.

  • Wool by Hugh Howey was a fun, freaky scifi series book that I utterly enjoyed when I found it on Amazon.
  • Water for Elephants is another. Heck, that one was turned into a movie starting Robert Pattison, Reese Witherspoon and Christopher Waltz.

Though my goal to write was not to become a famous, popular author, it was nice to know that NaNoWriMo had served as a solid foundation for serious writers who, perhaps, just needed that extra boost of accountability and community support to keep going.

I scrolled down further on the front page, my heart lightening with each line–and then clenched as two sets of numbers suddenly rolled into view.

  • 798,162 active novelists
  • 367,913 novels completed

Welllll, son of a mother. That’s…a lot of writers.

The Game Plan

If I do Nothing, Nothing will happen.  If I do Something, Something has no choice but to occur.

–Anonymous

Just looking at those stats alone was enough to make me sway and bring back some of my original fears to start writing again. Out of such a high number of novels completed, there is bound to be a notable percentage of those novels that are actually brilliant, witty, emotionally life-changing, literary masterpieces.

That being said, I appreciated about NaNoWriMo (aside from the heavy promotion of nurturing creativity) is that it is not a contest. In fact, they make a point to say that this is a community, a place to support each other as everyone works towards our same, singular goal: to complete our 50,000+ word works.

During a time when physical ability has been a heavy strain, writing is one tool that makes me feel sharp and alive. That–and I can’t say this enough–I love to write. At this stage in my life, I want to do more than leave my random scrawlings in a handwritten notebook.

I have good ideas for novels. I know I do. And I want to share them with others to evoke the joy and delight that my favorite novelists and writers have done for me since I was a child.

If the initial goal is to write at least 50,000 words in 30 days, that averages to 1,667 words per day.

Is it possible? Well, sure. Many things are possible.

But there will be days when the desire to sit and type will wane. There will be days when the last thing I will want to do is stare at my dumb computer screen and paw through the slush that will be the first draft of this novel. There will be times when I’ll feel like I’ve written myself into a hole, and the hole seems a bottomless pit with no hope for landing.

And then, there will be those days when I just think: “This sucks, and I hate everything and what’s the point.” And then, I’m gonna run from my desk like Ron Swanson.

…But.

The very reason I’m joining this challenge is because…I have unofficially written for nearly 30 years, and I have yet to try and publish anything. My self-esteem and fear of producing boring, laughable crap has left me prone, stuck.

I have family and friends who have long since been writing and have successfully published. They were able to push past the inner fears and life struggles, bear down, and do what they needed to get their work to the masses.

I envy them. I admire them.

I want to grab them by the lapels and screech, “How did you do it?!”

But, more than anything…I want to join them. Maybe not in just publishing books, but also in the power of their desire.

I want to know their strength and their ability to commit to a project. I want to know what worked for them. I want to know what didn’t.

But…you know? I actually already kinda do.

I’ve talked with the family members, and I followed the blog of and occasionally chatted with an old friend as her books ranked higher and higher on Amazon.

I truly think I have all the tools I need. There is nothing left but the doing.

Final Thoughts

I don’t want live in excuses or fear anymore. I don’t want to procrastinate.

Committing to this challenge will allow me to hold myself publicly accountable for writing a novel for the first time. Honestly, I’m not even sure what the layout of the site is much beyond the sign-up button. Once I finish writing this post, though, I will find out.

If musicians can lock themselves in studios for 72 hours to get an album done, and my friend Rebecca can dole out multiple barre classes in a single day and still rush into work that same day, then I can sit, plug my ears, shove my insecurities aside, and freakin’ write.

…Wish me luck.

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Calvin Coolidge

Any other first-time NaNoWriMo novelists out there? I’d love to hear what’s driving you this year!

Writing Prompt: City of God

It’s been a while since I dropped some fiction on my blog.  This year hasn’t been my best when it comes to writing and editing the work that I want to publish.  However, while I am trying to rebuild my internal creativity, I’ll continue using writing prompts to keep my mind clear of the cobwebs.

So, without further ado, here is my latest installments from the writing  prompt based simply on the featured image to this post.  Enjoy!


Buddy awoke to the sound of metal crashing above his head.  He jumped up, right into the wide-eyed embrace of Mr. Lewis.  Though his science teacher had been with him since the start of his journey, he was disoriented, and his head hurt.

“Buddy!”  Mr. Lewis scrambled to hold him still, pinning the hysterical boy’s arms to his sides.  “Buddy.” At last he stilled, panting and staring back into his eyes. They stayed that way for a second or two, until Mr. Lewis knew that the boy would finally comprehend what he was about to say.  “You did it.”

Buddy blinked.  He had been searching, traveling so long, struggling through so much, it was sometimes hard to remember what he had done that was good, or important, or real.

Mr. Lewis smiled.  He was one of those adults that 50 and 60-year adults would call young, but to Buddy he was an adult, and so he was old enough.  “You did it,” he said again, and looked over his own shoulder.

Buddy looked over his shoulder, too.  They were still in the alley that the horde of Goers had chased them into, but all of the demonic crones were now gone.  The darkness of the night was also gone. Instead, there was nothing but light–the warm, sweet light of the morning.

But the more Buddy focused, the more he realized that the light wasn’t from the morning.  Behind his own back, as he twisted to check, was the shadows of night. He could even see the headlights of cars as they honked their horns and maneuvered unforgivingly on the narrow downtown road beyond the alley in which he stood.  In front of him only, beyond Mr. Lewis, the alley broke into a large doorway of sunlight. Beyond that opening, down a steep slope and spreading across the landscape as far as the eye could see, were what seemed to be a new, grander town of strange, rural buildings.  Each dwelling was small but artistic and ran all the way into the distant horizons. Even further back, behind the city, majestic mountains framed the borders.

But it was what was in the center of the town and caught Buddy’s breath in his throat.  Standing proud, a column of pure golden light streaking from its peak into the sky and separating the clouds, was a pyramid.

A pyramid.  In the middle of Indiana.

Buddy’s eyes welled with tears that gushed down his cheeks without his needing to blink.  He tried to speak, failed, tried again, and only managed a pantomime of the words he wanted to say.  “House,” he squawked, and saw Mr. Lewis’s chin tremble. “The House of God.”

He could feel the spirit within the very center of the pyramid radiating to him, touching his mind and answering every question and thought before Buddy himself could let his wonders finish processing.  He felt his heart drain of all negativity–the anger of being abandoned, the hatred towards the Goers, the annoyance of being hungry after traveling for so long. None of it mattered anymore. Here, there was only truth, and love.

He was walking towards the city before he realized it and stopped at the mouth of the alleyway.  He felt the cool breeze on his back and turned suddenly, looking for his teacher. Mr. Lewis had remained where he had touched Buddy awake, smiling still but shaking his head.

“This is no longer my journey, Buddy Boy.” Mr. Lewis was the only other adult–aside from his father–that Buddy allowed to call him that.  He had fought it for a while, but after Mr. Lewis had saved his life five or eight times, Buddy had…given up the fight.

Mr. Lewis nodded at the pyramid.  “I think you know the way from here.”

But Buddy, who would be ten in a week and had pumped and paid for his dad’s gas since he was seven, hesitated.  When the Goers had learned what he had discovered and tried to take him in, he had been alone and unsure of who could help him–who would believe him.  He had run to his school, which had been locked and chained up tight for the summer season.  But then, the science classroom’s window had been open, and Buddy had seen Mr. Lewis at a lab table.  Then, Mr. Lewis had seen Buddy–and the Goers behind him.

He had not asked questions.

Now, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, and looking more like an excited new country singer than an elementary teacher, Mr. Lewis urged him away.  “My job was to get you here, not walk you in. You’ll be fine.” He added, as a sort of joke, “I hear He’s nice.”

“But—”

Mr. Lewis’s eyes sparkled, just for a moment.  Buddy, from his distance in the light, didn’t see it.  “You think you’re the only one who had an impossible wish?”  He spoke low; maybe Buddy heard him, maybe not. “You don’t forfeit everything you know for a chance unless you really, really want it.”  In another lifetime, he would have punctuated that statement with a flap of his light, iridescent wings. But that was decades ago, worlds away. Now, he merely ran a thumb over the smooth, worn gold of the band on his left hand. A sweet memento of the life he’d lived for nearly 20 years, the one he would be returning to once Buddy was gone.

Buddy stood, unsure, frightened, and at last Mr. Lewis said the thing he knew would help Buddy make the choice.  “They’ll be proud of you, Buddy Boy!” he yelled.

The euphoria of a fantasy about to come true welled in Buddy’s chest.  He spun to face the city once more; it dazzled and beckoned to him, but it did not entrance.  To enter and remain in that city would always be a free choice.

Delicately, like a cat using his paw to test the depth of a puddle, Buddy called out into the dawn.  “Mom? Dad?” The words hung soft and promising in the air. “Jake? Dylan?”

And in that way, Mr. Lewis watched as Buddy, the first living human ever to cross over into Heaven, shuffled his way down the steep hill straight through the city to the massive pyramid where his family awaited him.

Writing Prompt 4 – The Flooded Basement

Welp, it’s another light week, which means it’s time for a nice, pleasant writing prompt.  This one is presented with only a photo of a flooded basement.  Enjoy!


I meet Cesca in the hallway as I shut the door to the basement.  Usually, she doesn’t care to stop when she sees me, but I guess I must have looked pretty harried this time.  She pauses in her pompous, perpetually Valley Girl way, chewing a wad of gum and waiting for me to explain my panic.

I choose ignorance.  “Sup.”

Her grip on my arm stings.  She must have just returned from the beauty salon, because her curly, unruly mess of hair is properly defined and highlighted; her eyebrows freshly drawn, her lips lined dark and filled nude, and her nails — her lovely, healthy, lacquered nails — have been filed to points.

“Do you want me to tell Dad you were in the basement again?” she sneers.  “I keep letting you off, only cuz I’m bored of watching you get punished.”

Yeah right, I think, but I wrench my arm free and rub it while I consider the consequences if — who am I kidding? when — I tell her the truth.  What’s happened has happened, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

Scratch that.  They can run.

Cesca gets bored and reaches out behind me for the doorknob.  I’ve made my decision anyway, so I step aside to give her room.  She pauses, obviously thrown by how quickly I’ve yielded, but curiosity ultimately leads her to open the door.

The sound from within, Cesca slamming the door shut and locking it with a speed I’ve never seen before — all of it makes my throat dump into the core of my chest.  For some reason, it’s worse seeing the terror on someone else than feeling it myself. I’ve spent my entire life emulating the reactions of others, and I sometimes forget what should be my actual response in times of terror.  At least now, I know I was correct.

Cesca backs away from the door, her hands pressed to her mouth.  Her eyes, lined and mascara’d immaculately, are wide and glittering with unshed tears.  If we were true sisters — and not just the tragic stepsisters we were — I know one of my first instincts would be to embrace her.  Ah, woulda coulda shoulda.

Finally, she whispers under her palms.  “Is that—?”

I grit my teeth in a grimace.  It’s all I really can do—that and say, “Yeah.”

“But—”  Now that she’s spoken, she’s chattering in a sort of stutter.  “But–but, that’s a—”

“Oh, I know what it is.”

“But, how did it get there?  Why is it here?”

“I don’t know!  You think I went down there to ask it?”

“It’s got—its eyes.  It tried to—”

“Yeah.  They’ll do that.”

It’s one sass too far.  Fear drains from her face and instead floods with rage and suspicion as she glowers at me.  “You did it, didn’t you?”

“Did what?”

She points at me again, venom in her eyes.  “You did this. You know Dad just got the pool cleaned.  He is gonna kill you!”

I was in a state of disbelief.  “How do I even have the resources to that?  Dad took away my phone; I’m not allowed to leave the house after noon.  I’m not even allowed to open the front door to strangers!”

“Because of you pulling crap like this!”  With inhuman, sinister glee, she lunges for me, her manicured mandibles stretching for my arm again.  “Oh, he is gonna send you away for good now! This time, you won’t be able to talk your way back.”

It all happens faster than I can register.  The counter steps I take that throw her off-balance; my free hand twisting the basement door knob; Cesca’s face as she stumbles through the open threshold; her screams garbling and failing under its screams.  My own screams as I hold the door shut, struggling in vain until I remember that it has a push lock right under my sweating thumb.

When Dad comes home, he looks around.  “Where’s Cesca?”

I shrug.  If he wasn’t distracted, he probably would have gotten me for my sass.  I decide to play on the safe side and actually answer. “She said she was going to a friend’s house.  I don’t know how long, though.”

He sighs heavily.  “You could’ve gone with her.  At least I wouldn’t have to look at you.”

A hideous thought slithers into my mind.  I bite down on my lips.

“Cop an attitude again, you’ll end up like your mother.”  He pulls off his jacket and throws it towards the back of the couch but misses.  “You know what? I think I’ll go for a swim. I didn’t put your college money to good use for no reason.”

I bite down harder but muster enough control to simply utter, “Have fun.”  When he’s three steps beyond the threshold, I slink silently to my feet and wait for him to pass further into the darkness, before slamming and locking the door behind him.

Writing Prompt 2 – “Open Your Eyes. Come back.”

I love writing prompts.  Every now and then, I find one in the the bottomless depths of Pinterest that plants a driving seed within me.  One that must be watered, and nourished, and…

Well, just plain written.

Here is one of my latest attempts.  The prompt itself, in this case, is the quoted paragraph in blue below.  From then on…it’s open season.  Enjoy!


“You’re okay.  Breathe. Just breathe.  Open your eyes. Come back.  It’s okay.  It’s all over now. You’re okay.  Wake up. Please wake up. Don’t do this to me.  Don’t do this to me. Don’t do this to me. I love you so fucking much.  Come back.”

I stopped.

Funny; I thought I heard a voice, something longing and lasting and desperately beautiful calling to me.  But that was a silly thing to think, wasn’t it?

Wasn’t it?

My spirit guide had stopped, too, right beside me.  Her robes drifted in the nonexistent breeze, as fluttering in curiosity.

“Didn’t you have a friend?” she began, then hesitated.  She had no reason to pause; she had kept me strong through everything.  The head-on collision, the rising panic as I felt the blood leak from the inside to the outside of my body, the numbness that spread through my screaming wounds like a forgiving heat.  Then, the coma, and the promise that when the time came, she would walk me out, and I wouldn’t feel a damn thing. And she had been right; the separation had been glorious. I felt lighter and clearer-headed than I ever thought possible.

I stood beside her, waiting until she was ready to go on.  In front of us, the end of the tunnel. She’d promised me temples, buildings with golden and silver and pearlescent domes.  Walkways of diamonds and glass. Fruit trees with succulent treats that sparkled under the eternal sun. And the fashion! Everyone was young and beautiful, and music filled everyone’s hearts so fully, so robustly, that every pulse was a harmony.

She met my eyes.  “This isn’t delusion,” she said.  “We’re not here to drag you into the end.  We’ll always be here.” I didn’t have to ask her what she was talking about.  Like this, I knew.

Fifteen years we’d known each other, he and I.  We met in kung fu training, where he was already loved and respected.  I pretended not to notice him, and he initially appreciated my deceit. He was also already engaged.  I trained hard, became an instructor and his rival for attention. People loved and respected me, too.  He married, to a beautiful, predictable bride. He became busy, and brought her to class in her free time.  She met me and started visiting the studio when he wasn’t there. But I was.

In time, he learned to hate me.  I’d perfected my own ire years before.  His wife was not fooled, by either of us.  Soon, he left the school. I stayed. My job moved.  We ended up working in the same building, ran into each other at lunch.  Found out that we were more similar than we’d allowed each other to know.  It became harder to hate, more painful to avoid. So I stopped the pain. I got another job, in another building.  I told him I would never talk to him again.

And then, the accident.

In that tunnel, I knew everything.  I remembered everything. I relived everything.  It only had to matter to me if I wanted it to. His life was open to me.  His wife had been threatening to leave him for years; finally, he called her bluff and signed the papers she’d faxed to his job.  He’d resented her since the wedding, when she’d confessed that she had never been pregnant to begin with.

Come back.  Come back to me.  Please don’t leave.  I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.  I shouldn’t have waited. I’ll stay.  I’ll help you. Please come back to me.  Please. Please. Please. Please.

He had been in the hospital almost every day.  He left me flowers at first, then trinkets, then cards, then letters from the kung fu kids.  Brought changes of clothes for me, for himself. Turned off his phone and held my unresponsive hand for hours.  Lost weight. Took leave from work. Braced his head on my hip and let his tears soak the sterile, over-starched bed sheets.

The damage I had taken was not permanent, but it would take some time–a very long time–before the headaches would stop and my emotions would stabilize.  The seizures would leave me disoriented, and I would soil myself on more than one occasion. I would always have a limp (stupid shattered kneecap), and in my old age, it would be impossible to sit for long and short periods of time.  He would get upset, scared, angry, hurt, confused.

But he would stay.  I would love him forever for that.

I looked at my spirit guide for confirmation.  “Oh, yes,” she said. “He will stay. Because he wants to.”

I smiled.  Behind me, only a few steps away, I could feel the milky sweetness of eternity parting to welcome me in.  It was ardent and refreshing, a taste I would remember until my final days.

I would tell him all about it when I woke up.

End

Writing Is…

Writing is a lot of things.  Everyone has a different relationship with writing; I hardly hear a middle ground when the question of “Do you like to write?” pops up.

This blog post is an ode to writing and what it has meant to me throughout my life.

Writing Is…

Fun

When I was ten years old, I often fought with my parents.  After disputing something I’m sure was trivial that I was absolutely right about, I would run to my room, flop onto my bed, and think angrily, “If I had magic powers, I could just do whatever I wanted.”

After enough fights (and there were a lot), a revelation finally clicked in my head.  I may not have magic powers in reality, but I could write a story about what I could do if I did. In fact…I could write about anything.

The realization was intoxicating.  Here was something that couldn’t get me in trouble (erm, I was young and naive), and no one could take it away from me.  I could travel to different worlds, create my own, and be as important or as cool as I wanted. Over time, I pulled myself out of the story and made characters who stood without me, but it was still (and always would be) my private sanctuary.

Releasing

Depression.  Anxiety.  Despair.  Rage.  Hope.  Boredom.

Secrets.  Confessions.  Clarification.  Purging.  Reminders.

Bad work days.  Extraordinary personal days.  New loves. Love potentials.  Lost loves.  Unrequited loves.

Writing has been my confidante, my companion.  It has been my steady, my constant.  No matter what has come into my life or left me, I have always been able to turn to a journal and sketch out what I was feeling.  Even if I can’t directly push the words out of my mouth, there are other words that will speak for me on paper or screen, until I’m ready to say what I truly mean.

Hard

A few years ago, I worked as a website copywriter for a telecommunications company.  The company’s weekly quota was to complete advertisement copy for 10 standard small-business websites, or content for 5 deluxe websites.

There were about 30 writers on the team at the time.  Most of them were clever enough to start with reused text base, changing keywords to match the necessary industry.  Being one of excessively creative talent (/sarcasm), I tended to do things the hard way: writing each copy anew.  With this method, it was much more difficult to reach the quota each week.

I don’t know if it was my HSP or introvert tendencies to overthink every single word I recorded, but I am a slow writer.  Not only that, but the words that I want to use don’t often come to me immediately.

Then, of course, there is the proper intonation to consider.  Writing “no” to different parties must be formulated based on their background:

  • To a child: No.
  • To a boyfriend:  Nooooo! ;-P <3 <3
  • To a customer:  Unfortunately, we will not be able to accommodate you at this time.
  • To an executive:  While this is may require more looking into, we have other promising options.

Now, apply that principle to fiction.  To nonfiction. To manufacturing plant manuals.  To scientific journals. Add in research and organization and length and whether you want it to be funny, and…

And now my brain hurts.  Moving on.

“Not Writing”

“I’m going to write in my story,” my sister T said, and I looked up from typing on my own computer in time to see her recline in her lawn chair and cover her face with a woven pillow.

“I thought you said you were writing,” I said.

“I am,” she mumbled, and sighed a heavy sigh of contentment.

The great thing about writing?  You can do it any time, at all times.  It may seem to others that you’re doing nothing, but who cares?  You’ve finally figured out that plot hole that’s been nagging you for months as you cooked dinner.  Or you now have a name for your main character as you were commuting to work.

Even when a writer is not writing, they are certainly writing.

Me

Everyone has seen at least one of the “You’re Not Yourself” commercials from Snickers.  If you haven’t, here’s a classic example:

While lack of food will definitely turn me into a confrontational Golden Girl, not writing in any form produces the same effect.  Twenty-five years of using my imagination to develop fictional worlds, whether I’ve released them for public viewing or not, is a fully integrated part of me.  When I’m not writing (even “not writing” writing), I become irritable and listless. It’s like being apart from a dear friend.

Regardless of your relationship with writing, I will always be a proponent of re-exploring it every now and again.  It may not be your favorite activity, but at least it will help you know just what writing means for you.

What is the one word that describes writing for you?

The Return of Writer’s Block — and How I’m Dealing

Any writer’s who’s a real writer will feel the pain of sitting at their desk, their brain pumping and flowing with ideas — when suddenly, to their absolute horror, they don’t remember how to get any of it out on paper.  It is the dreaded writer’s block, the scourge of the Seven Pens (heh — just thought of that), the mortifying realization that you just.  Can’t.  Write.

Oh, don’t get me wrong.  The desire is more than there.  You really, really want to.  It’s just…well…there’s that thing for work I need to work on, and the laundry to fold.  And oh, if I had children, they’d need dinner — so I guess I should get started on that…

Yeah.  It’s not pretty.

Today, I have the perfect reason to sit and do nothing but write:  the inability to walk, and doctor’s orders.  And yet, all I want to do is plop myself on the floor and sort through that office closet full of junk that I’ve been wanting to clean for the last six months.  But I’m not!  I’m here, typing viciously to get this out before what little inspiration and time I have tell me to stop.  I’m also here to tell you just how I am choosing to get through this year’s current bout of writer’s block.

 

1. Writing through the Pain (aka Denial)

Okay, so, I know I used to be able to write.  I know that I could at one time sit and write for hours.  I know that I felt so satisfied doing it.  So, how in the freak do I get back to that?

Simple.  I mentally grab myself by the collar and say, “Look.  We both know what this is really about.  You don’t have writer’s block.  You never had writer’s block.  You think that just because you’re tired and stressed from other things, that gives you the right to make excuses?

“Do you want to be an award-winning novelist?  Do you want to make your own schedule and type on those beaches of Hawaii in the middle of nowhere?  Well then, stop sulking and start scribing!”  And then I shove  myself into a chair, fold my arms, and wait until I’ve nervously loaded up my laptop.  Yeah — that’ll teach me.

 

2. Stream of Consciousness Writing on Steroids

I think my biggest fear in taking the time to write again is both building up the stamina to write like I used to (my longest session was 8 glorious hours) and giving myself permission to dedicate that time to it without feeling guilty or like I should be doing something “better” with my time.  You hear it all the time:  writing is a lonely sport, and it can be easy to feel like you’re wasting time.

Anyway, I’ve decided to set aside a minimum of 30 minutes a day to write pure stream of consciousness on anything, for anything.  The bottom line is, I can’t stop writing.  This is going to be time different from writing a blog entry or in an actual story.  Hopefully, this time will allow me to “purge” all the crappy content that is blocking the real flow of dialogue and scene-setting.

 

3. Eating a Weird Meal

Tonight, my dinner consists of two sardines, a raw bell pepper, a yogurt “cheesecake” tart and a navel orange.  First course — the pepper — was about an hour ago.  Time for the main course!

 

4. Listening to James Blake Radio

About a year ago, while morphing into a basket case under the weight of being picked for jury duty, I met a young lady who introduced me to James Blake via his song “Retrograde.”  I was immediately hooked and started listening to more music of his genre: folk, indie, Douglas Dare, Corinne Bailey Rae, Citizen Cope, with a little Seal and Michael Franks here and there.  I welcomed, needed, and enjoyed the music that was inoffensive, soft, real, and simple.  The kind of music that’s equivalent to sitting on the back porch in the summer, drinking tea and watching the moon rise among the choir of crickets and owls.

Ah, I can just hear the opening chords of Michael Franks’ “Lotus Blossom” now.

 

5. Editing Something Else

Believe it or not (I’m Robert Ripley!  No, just kidding), but I actually have 90% of a rough draft of a novel that I completed in April or so of last year.  It was a 300-page, hardcore labor of love, and I felt like singing when I finished that last sentence.

Then, three weeks after that, I read it again — and wanted to cry from my perceived sheer boredom of the content.

Fast-forward to about a month ago.  While sorting through ye ol’ closet o’ junk, I found the aforementioned manuscript, beat-up and losing a few corners.  Curious, I flipped through few pages and realized — huh.  Tweren’t half bad, it weren’t.  So, I’ve decided to resurrect the poor thing and see if there is a story yet to be salvaged within.  Maybe the new-found hope will spark my currently fizzled-out muse.

 

And that, friends, is my current curriculum for beating writer’s block.  I can only hope that I’ve given the next poor, unconventional soul some pearls of wisdom (or a grain of shrewd sand) to help them defeat this cruel, unbiased beast.

And now, I must close, because my head is feeling heavy, and it’s getting hot in this room, and my eyes are crossing, and I need to finish eating before my fat-burning window closes.  Until next time!

(Durn this lack of writing stamina.)

Writing Prompt 1: Why I Can’t Get A Flu Shot

  Now, I do so very love Writer’s Digest — really, I do — but they really know how to deflate a gal when she’s on a writing high. After spending two excitable hours yesterday deciding whether or not to answer a writing prompt that they posted on their site, I finally took the entry I finished and pasted it into the appropriate comment box. Twenty-four hours later, it’s still “awaiting moderation.” Very odd, considering all of the posts around mine are happily printed online and receiving replies. I can only deduce two ideas for this discrepancy: My story is…