HopeWriters Writing Prompts Continued…

Jan 19: Brainstorm – There are writers who plan extensively before they put words to a page. There are writers who sit down and let it pour out. In medio stat viritus, we learn from Aristotle, in the middle lies virtue. I lie in bed, stare at the mirror that reflects the outdoors beyond the window and I think of what I could write today. I create a short, mental list of the projects that need attention. I consider also the chores, the childcare, the leisure and the healthy habits. A brainstorm must be more than just, “what will I write?”, but “when will I write it?” Brainstorms sometimes occur in conjunction with others. I cannot launch a brilliant writing career without first making sure my husband knows he is in charge during that hour that I pound away on the computer. “How will we make this work?” may have been the most fruitful and productive conversation of my career.

Jan 20: Stuck – The best remedy when I am stuck is to go for a walk, to pray, to reconnect with my children, and take some time to think away from the computer, the pen, the pressure. The distractions of technology clog the neurological pathways making it difficult to think (in a manner of speaking). I must free them with nature, fresh air, and interior silence meant to ponder the mysteries of the universe. I only rarely feel stuck…and feeling stuck, usually says more about the state of my heart than the state of my writing.

Jan 21: Quote – The best news stories are built around the quotes with a little narrative in-between. Unlike non-fiction, reflection, “soul” writing, no one wants to hear your voice in a news story. They want the story, to enter into the moment and see it for themselves. Then you end with a moving quote, the emotional one, the one with hope, the one that makes the reader’s heart soar or ache just a little. Your voice is hidden but present, undetectable but essential. It is the writing that allows the subject to shine more than any other medium.

Jan 22: Inspiration – There is no inspiration without silence. There is no silence in this modern world without an intentional retreat. There are no intentional retreats in this world without some agreement from the community in which you live. There is no community without communication. From silence and communication come the greatest inspiration: communication with God, communication with others, communication with the heart.

Jan 23: Goal – My goal was to use these writing prompts every day. I find myself writing two a day to catch up. Did I fail? No. With all my projects, I begin with an idea. Then allow that idea to take shape. I might have a deadline. Whether or not an editor has one, I set a personal deadline. I could work four hours a day writing, editing, and four more hours a day reading. Instead, I’m working in the cracks to meet my goals, because whatever my love of writing, the goal to produce beautiful, meaningful words, will ultimately fail if I have abandoned my first vocation in the process. The path to achieving goals is not set in stone but takes shape each turn of the way. I used to believe in SMART goals, now I just believe in walking the path, with a hopeful idea of where I am going.

Writing Prompt, Day 11: Feeling – I held my toddler down on the hospital bed while they tried to place an IV four times, over 12 hours. I felt the fear and worry dissipate like the clouds of incense when he passed out of danger. I felt the excitement of heading home, the frustration at screaming toddlers, the rest of climbing under heavy winter covers. To all these feelings, writing seems but a dream, a place to explore the heartache, to dwell in a world of craft, of words. It feels safe, rewarding, and exciting. It is not the world in which I get to live…yet…or maybe, ever. Because those feelings are not the feeling of life. It is life that hurts and triumphs. Writing merely tells about it.

Writing Prompt, Day 12: Progress – Progress? Progress? I defied you, Progress, by simply dropping off this exercise at Day 11. It felt good to neglect something when the rest of my life feels so responsible. I sacrificed the writing. Do I win in the end? Time will tell. I still met my other deadlines and even meal planned for the day. Still a win.

HopeWriters Writing Prompt Recap

I have never participated in a writing challenge before, but this simple short-term challenge from Hope Writers seems the perfect opportunity.

 

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Below are my responses, shared daily on Facebook (for the most part) during the challenge.

 

 

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Jan 14: Word – Do I own the words or do I owe the words? I have a debt to pay to words. They materialize my thoughts, my emotions, unite me to others and help me find unity within myself. Jesus is the Word made flesh, who existed from the beginning, so when I participate in the beauty of words, I enter into life with God. I should not manipulate the words to suit my own needs, without reverence, but rather, humbly approach the vast array of words in existence to try to discover their greatness, their potential, their meaning, and their power to communicate my heart to another heart. In doing this, I draw closer to God, the Son, the Word made Flesh.

 

 

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Jan 15: Morning – That elusive place of quiet, reflection, preparation as the sun rises, coffee is brewed, and as I open the curtains my mind gently expands to take in the beauty of the world and the possibilities of a new day. Then, I hear in the distance, a toddler’s call “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” The six-year-old screams at his little sister, “I’m not stinky!” I climb out of bed to face the world, not as I dream it to be, but as it really is. Where the possibilities for growth are not neatly packaged in a self-help cover, but in the daily grind, the chipped coffee cup, and the world of The Little Way.

 

 

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Jan 16: Draft – The draft is the world of potential, like mornings, like words, where the possibilities are endless. You begin, no idea where it will go unless you have an outline. You sit down, pour out words unless your mind is fried and your heart burnt out. In a tidy fifteen minutes, you punch out into the computer typewriter inkwell words of genius and inspiration, unless you are distracted with a habit of internet scrolling, too many open tabs, and too many open mouths crying out for breakfast. It comes together beautifully. And when you finish, you know that this, this is ready for publication. But finding you cannot stand to read it enough to edit it the three or four times required to make it decent, you toss it out and begin anew the next day. Happy, happy first drafts!

 

 

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Jan 17: Mood – The mood of a piece… I listened to Jars of Clay’s album, Much Afraid, as I wrote my most atmospheric piece of adolescent sentimentality at age 15, parsing through the relationships lacking in my life. A candle creates a mood, the right writing desk, the right ballpoint pen, the background music create the mood. The mood is the effect of the senses on the work output. The writer creates a mood to work. The piece itself only possesses mood when the author is ready to translate this sensory experience to the page. Writing without mood reduces your page to words and descriptions. Mood is where the writing comes alive, allowing your reader to connect on a sensory level with the authors who may be hundreds of miles or hundreds of years away. That is the power of mood.

 

 

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Jan 18: Edit – Writing is the expression. Editing is the work. Like raising children, to edit is to labor to cultivate the raw material that comes from you into something you like, want to spend time with, and who you hope will make enough money to take care of you in your old age.

Musings from the poets

You shared yours, now I’ll share mine…

1

surely, fairies live down this path

 

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2

a sneak attack, with only a few witnesses

 

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3 – Either

he has a long way to go

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the contemplation of our isolation and our ambition

 

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4

this is poor suicide prevention, I imagine the dejected wife of a 1940’s gothic romance

 

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5

again with the fairies, could you find a more comfortable spot? When the wind blows you will see them move.

 

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Susan shares more poetic thoughts than mine and Karl more comedic on the previous post.

and Kelly muses on distracted capitalists for #2.

 

My favorite being for #4: Some rocks are more organized than others by Karl Reed.

 

Thank you to all who participated!

What is a Poet?

“The lunatic, the lover, and the poet, are of imagination all compact.”

― William ShakespeareA Midsummer Night’s Dream

 

I am inviting you to a thought experiment.

The poet sees beyond the surface.

You may see below a collection of plants or a bunch of hydrogen and oxygen molecules creatively organized. I am asking you to look at the photos below, pick one or more and in the comments, describe the scene.

What is there beyond the surface of the photograph? What lurks in the shadows, the deep, beyond? It does not need to be long, one sentence, ten sentences, whatever you’re inclined to write. What can you imagine in these scenes, as if they were in a storybook or a scene in a movie?

Let’s give it ago. If enough respond (either below or on Facebook) I will repost these photos with your stories, adding my own thoughts, as well.

Let’s hear it!

 

 

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Poetry is a photograph with words

Photos of the week…or…

Due to some technical issues, my photos of the week are tucked away, safely on a device where they will not be disturbed, until my husband returns from his musician’s retreat.

I offer you this instead, a day late.

How did I become a writer? Because the idea of taking a photograph with words fascinated me. Poetry is a photograph with words. It goes deeper than a photograph. Beyond the scene, it seeks to capture one moment of the emotion.

Let’s see if I succeed:

When I awake and see the rain my mind goes to sleepA dull sound echoes throughout the dayNot fierce enough to be a stormNor hopeful enough to bring a rainbowbut the steady downpour that covered the sky and house in s.png

And then…

a little hand between the daffodilsa small voice asserts her willdefying grammarimploring eyes intent to controla gentle cuddle restores my roleas s toddler's mother.png

 

In the House of the Great Girl

I might venture into kid lit soon. Below is my working draft of a story about a girl in a race of giants. I cannot take full authorship. All of the dialogue was imagined by my co-author and daughter, Regina. She can neither read nor write, so her creativity is exceptional.

Girl Giant

Once upon a time, a medium girl sat at the big table eating bones. She dipped the bones in good blood, not the bad blood of her cup, but the good, red blood, as she watched her father eat a soft chicken man. “I will turn into a great girl,” she told her father, looking at him admiringly.

It was more successful than the meal the night before with her mother. “I’m sorry, mommy,” she said, her voice full of sincerity, “I can’t eat this.” The great girl dissected a caper. “It has little snakes. If I eat it, they will get all over me. Then I will turn into a big snake, and I will get around you. I’m so sorry, mommy.” She stroked her mother’s arm.

The mother and father were surprised when their great girl told them, “my heart is in my belly, and two babies. One is named Celeste and one is named Peter.” Her parents nodded their heads. “They will come out when it is snowing, first Peter will get out, then Celeste. When it is snowing…” she mused.

Amazing things happen when it snows in the land of the great girl. “When it is snowing, we will kill the dragon,” she informed her princess and boy farmer. It was a dark day when it snowed. When the great girl struck the tree, she announced to the word they were killing the King of the Jews.

The mother and father did not know what would become of their great girl.

A Girl and Her King: Turning the Corner

She reflected on the events of the past week, how close to the precipice she had been. It was first a fever, than inconsolability. Yet her child still tried to play. Then he became tired. Like those days one year ago. She had no energy to fight with the king in these days. She wished she could muster up the mental energy to share with him what happened.

What had happened? There they were, her baby on the bed, lying so very still. He was so tired. He only slept. Her child, whom a week before she could not pin down, as fast as any of his siblings, lay so still, asleep. She rested her head beside him, stroked his arms and legs and feared to think, “Would I lose him, too?” She could go mad with fear.

And then, with the visit from a friend, a new trial of medicine, he sat up. An hour later he stood. An hour later, he sang and swayed. A day later, he was himself again. They turned the corner now.

She thought perhaps she could tell herself they were off they edge, that they now moved toward the meadow again. It seemed best to let those thoughts wait for tomorrow.

Yes, Philothea’s child had come through again. They were turning the side of the mountain. They might see the meadow again. She breathed with excitement as she traced her finger along the pencil curve on the wall. Soon, she could think of it. Soon.

A Girl and Her King: Drawings on the wall

Philothea reached her home just as the storm settled in for a strong blow. On her walk, the wind first held her back and then pushed her forward. Light rain that speeded her step moved in sheets as the wind blew. “This is just one side of the mountain,” she told herself. “Another day we’ll see the meadow…and then we’ll eventually see the other side again.” These words played in her mind again and again.

It had been a terrible day. It was a day of movement, conversation, and worry. There was no silence that day. There were but a few moments when she tried to remember those words and the mountain, trying to find her way through the voices of those telling her how she felt, reassuring her in ways she did not need, distracting her from the understanding she had gained in that simple, short conversation.

When she returned home, Philothea rushed into the doorway out of the rain, took of her coat and hung it on the hook near the door. She removed her scarf and draped it over the collar of the coat so they both could dry. Her feet flexed with relief as she removed her boots and tossed them near the threshold. She stood in her home, surveying the scene of simplicity and quiet.

In this one room she beheld her table and chairs with her cabinet of shelves that held the ominous teacup around which so many of thoughts centered. Across the same small room sat a gathering of chairs and a fireplace. Through another door with a large wooden frame was her kitchen. There was a hallway with two bedrooms: one for her children and one she shared with her prince.

As Philothea surveyed her room, she fixed her eyes on the large wall behind the two spaces of this room. It was a plain wall on which a vision could be written. She took her drawing pencils left haphazardly on the table and walked up to this blank wall.

From the left bottom corner of the wall, she drew a line to the center as high as she could reach. Lifting her pencil, she walked to the right corner and bending down, began the same line, meeting just above the other in the middle, as high as she could reach. Her right arm could reach higher than her left.

Philothea walked back and forth along the wall, tracing the trail on which her life journeyed. Smooth at the bottom and gradually more perilous, ever going back and forth, back and forth, along this room, along this wall, until she reached the top. The top plateaued before the peak. She did not finish the path. She did not know what the rest would look like. But she drew this reminder into heart of her home.

A Girl and Her King: The Mountain

When the king came again, he knocked at the always-open door, stepped over the threshold, and sat at her table. Philothea prepared the tea.

The silence had remained all this while, but the king, true to his word had returned, more than once. Philothea warmed the tea kettle. As it whistled, she placed the two tea cups and their saucers on an age, dry wood tray without handles. The tea leaves rested in the bottom of the cups. Holding a cloth in her hand, she lifted the kettle from the stove, turned off the burner, and poured the boiling water into the cups. She completed each step with the art of focus that comes only with routine.

The time passed in silence as she removed the leaves. The cups were steaming and full when she set the tray on the table.

“Drink it now,” the king said.

Matter of fact, she responded, “It’s too hot.”

“Then pour the water back and forth between the cups until they cool.” Considering his instruction, she looked at the cups.

“There isn’t enough room them to do that.”

“So you have been with me. In order to cool this tea, you will need to empty one cup, at least a little.” Philothea looked up at the king into his dark steady eyes. “Remember the old days, walking on the hill. I reminded you then to soften a little. You are wise, but you need to step down a little to receive what I have to tell you.” She silently recalled the visions from the old days: the meadow, the forest, the mountain, and now, the desert.

“As you look, you can see the mountain, and the trail that switches back and forth. This is the way life is. Some days you will see the meadow, and other days you will not. But you will have to continue to climb the mountain. Do not go all this way and stop short of the peak. Do not allow your fears to stop you when you have just a few more feet to go. You know you did not come this far to stop now. A time will come when you will see the meadow again, that did not mean the rest of the path did not happen or will not happen again. You must keep climbing.

“And truth be told,” he smiled slightly as he said this, “the very top is a steep climb. To reach it you will need the strength and rest gained along the way. Otherwise you cannot continue.”

A Girl and Her King: A Broken Cup

“I just felt comforted by you and now you’re going to leave again.” Philothea stared at her cup as she spoke. It was morning. Her child cried in the background. The king was leaving. She stared at her cup, this teacup and saucer from the palace. As she stared visions rose up in her mind of taking that cup by the silver-lined rim in her right hand and smashing it across the wall. She stared at that gold-rimmed cup. At least the force of imagination placated her thoughts. It relaxed her.

Standing at the doorway, she turned her face from that cup and wonderful fantasy to the world beyond.

It was more a haze than fog. Philothea peered past the king and the people at the gate, some distance from her house. There was little she could see beyond the gate. The large blank walls encircled the village. Her home was not far from the gate. Outside the gate, at some distance stood that magnificent castle. For some reason, unknown to her, this little village was separate. They lived in the shadow the palace, but could see it. The walls were too tall and too thick. They could leave any time. They could simply walk out and see the grandeur of that place, but rarely ever did. Rather they ran about their market place, drew water from their wells, and went about their business.

So had her life become. What a long time it was since she stood with her king in those halls, in those glory days. Age and time wore rough on her face as she peered through the dust and doldrum of another afternoon. These days were too hot to work. And so they did nothing.

“You will go now…and then what? I don’t think we shall see you again.” Ever the provocateur, she plied for reassurance. The king denied her desire. He stood beside her, just past the threshold. The knight stood ready to leave.

Opening his hands, the king said, “What would you like me to say?”

The thoughts raced then through her mind like throwing a teacup. Say you will come back. Say you will never leave. Say you will rescue me from this terrible place. Say you will free me from these shadows of dust and sun and take me to where it is beautiful. Say you will restore the riches we lost to poverty, the health we lost to sickness, the freedom we knew when we knew no suffering. You have given me everything; say you will give me these things.

All she could do was stare at him. Standing before her, he felt so far away.

This was the way now. Some days were close; some days far. There was little consistency in her heart.

“Why don’t you let me come?” Philothea asked. A child screamed in the background for want of some shoe or trinket or toy. It is foolish even to ask, her thoughts rebuked her. Still the vision remained: the jewels, the gowns, the gold, the glory. What is the point of being here? The peace, the pride, the comfort. If she left there would be so much more. What is to be gained?

Since the king would not answer, Philothea continued, “I see the goodness here; I know there was beauty. But remember the battlefield. I felt such purpose then. The mission was clear. The goal was clear. I understood what you wanted me to be—“

The sweet king denies her now, “yet did you, my Philothea? Did you really know what I wanted you to be? Because over and over again, we talked and discussed and you heard me say I had plans for you, things you could not imagine. And that has remained. Yes, I have plans and they have none of the romance or glory you once imagined. Yet they are art, and they are beautiful, and they are for you and you alone to become the bride of my heart, my daughter and disciple. It is only through this path that you can learn the way. You would never know it had I sheltered you in my palace, as I may have often wanted to do. You know well that even my mother spent her years here in the village ministering to those around you, your neighbors and your friends. Do you need to speak with her to remind you of those stories she once told when you stayed in the palace at her side those many nights? Have you forgotten?”

“I have not forgotten.” Defiance mounted. It was a defiance conflicted with the passion seeking answers she had long walked without. “I have not forgotten, but I cannot see what the two have in common. She did not grow up here. She spoke with angels. What have we here? It is not the same.”

The king shook his head. “Then you have made up your mind.” Tilting his head he studied her look, the pressed countenance of her confusion. “I cannot tell you more than what you willing to hear. You will have to be open again.”

“I have been nothing but open—“

“No, my girl. You have accepted; it is true. But there is more for you here. I cannot tell you now, because I do not think you want to listen. It is all darkness before you. There will be other sandstorms and you must prepare. Each time you will grow stronger and at times you will be weaker. Still, know that I am near. I am not in the palace but walk among you and your kin. I will visit. You will not be alone. And when you are ready, we will speak again.”

He left her then, walking away from her home and around the corner, with his knight by her side. It was not long before she was left with her thoughts. It was not as bad she made it out to be in those lonely moments. It was only when she was alone. The flow of her emotions made her feel foolish. It was the ebb that made her feel empty. When everything left her and she stood alone. The time for this was passed. She returned to her duties and to her children. These questions were too big to answer in the kitchen of her home.