Tag Archives: writing prompts

Been There, Done That

The Prompt:

Today, page 48 of Room to Write asks us to write 101 places we’ve been or 101 ways to dance. The goal is to list them as quickly as possible, ideally within 15 minutes. I’m choosing to run with Places I’ve Been:

Response:

1 London
2 York
3 Edinburgh
4 Inverness
5 Bath
6 Dover
7 Calais
8 Paris
9 Nice
10 Cannes
11 Monaco
12 Vernazza
13 Corniglia
14 Riomaggiore
15 Monterosso
16 La Spezia
17 Parma
18 Rome
19 Venice
20 Florence
21 Salzburg
22 Munich
23 Dachau
24 Interlaken
25 Zurich
26 Barcelona
27 Berlin
28 Oberammergau
29 Dusseldorf
30 Amsterdam
31 Stockholm
32 Pula
33 Rimini
34 Budapest
35 Saalbach
36 Vienna
37 Besse
38 Les Deux Alpes
39 L’Alpe d’Huez
40 Geneva
41 Courmayeur
42 Pesaro
43 Anzio
44 Sermoneta
45 Mougins
46 Juan-les-Pins
47 Sevilla
48 Grenada
49 Malaga
50 La Mancha
51 Madrid
52 Southampton
53 Chipping Camden
54 Tywardreath
55 Fowey
56 Falmouth
57 Flushing
58 Devon
59 Woebley
60 Bristol
61 Manchester
62 Wolverhampton
63 Ashby St. Ledgers
64 St. Albans
65 Brighton
66 Canterbury
67 Cambridge
68 Oxford
69 Windsor
70 Portsmouth
71 Isle of Wight
72 Lewes
73 South Downs
74 Greenwich
75 Blackheath
76 Bibury
77 Stratford-upon-Avon
78 Chawton
79 Chicago
80 Disneyworld!
81 LA
82 San Simeon
83 Monterey
84 San Francisco
85 Carmel
86 Paso Robles
87 San Luis Obispo
88 Los Osos
89 Santa Barbara
90 Tamarindo
91 Buenos Aires
92 Torres del Paine
93 El Calafate
94 Rotorua
95 Queenstown
96 Auckland
97 Christchurch
98 Marrakech
99 Istanbul
100 Mumbai
101 Delhi

Reflection:

Wish I could say I got this one in under the wire, but it took me closer to 20 minutes–mostly because I kept checking Google Maps to verify spellings or remember names of places caught in my head–in which case, I should’ve just powered through with a description or best-guess spelling (as I’m sure I still managed to botch plenty!). I clearly ran with cities, as that seemed the easiest way to start out and made for some fun (albeit quick) reminiscing about past travels.

The point of the exercise is to stretch ourselves into our well of memory. Just when we feel frustrated because we can’t find inspiration from either imagination or experience, an activity like this can remind us of all we truly have to draw upon. Maybe it’ll dislodge an idea for a story setting. Maybe it’s an experience you had, or people you met, in that location that can figure into the plot or characters, or simply lend rich description for visualization and texture.

Who knows, but by the end, I actually felt disappointed that I’d already hit 101. I feel like I “wasted” spaces on places I’ve might’ve just made a train connection, not leaving room for more of those where I had proper experiences–but that’s how free association of thought works, I guess! When I delved into my memory well, I suddenly relived the sequence of certain travels, connections and all (which is some of the logistical nitty-gritty that could figure into stories, to add a layer of reality). I barely scratched the surface of my home country and state, for cryin’ out loud! ūüôā

Here’s my actual travel map:

Screenshot 2016-03-08 19.26.29

Actually, it would be fun to try this sometime and only focus in and around my hometown so that I’d have to branch out beyond cities and list things like schools and grocery stores and playgrounds. Or try the “Ways to Dance” option as a more imaginative exercise, as I figure at some point you just have to start making up moves. Um, which sounds amazing.

Well then, I’ve made my journey round the world in 20 minutes. Tag, you’re IT!

 

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crA-Z at A-Z

APRIL-CALENDAR [2014]

Hey there, Woodchuck Chuckers! It’s the Monk-monk Monkey, reporting back to duty after a loooong spell. I’ve actually been the opposite of inactive lately. First of all, due to the impending release of my debut novel, my social media energies have been focused on building my pen name’s brand.

But because I was such a slackass over at that blog, too, I decided to hop on board the April 2014 A to Z Challenge to build some momentum. So if you’d like to join me over there, Rumer’s been ruminating all month over the A to Zs of 1920s slang:

rumerhaven.blogspot.com

A2Z-BADGE [2014] - Support - small

Aside from that, things have finally gotten rolling on the editing front. Due to scheduling conflicts, my original editor had to reassign my manuscript to someone else, whom I’m just as pleased to have help me strengthen and polish my story. If all goes to plan, we should see the final result in August this year.

And where editing other authors’ work goes, it’s still been full-steam ahead. Piping hot steam, in fact, as I keep chug-a-chuggin’ through a stream of submissions. In the next month or two, I’ll be answering questions over at Nicki Elson’s Not-So-Deep Thoughts blog for her next “Ask an Editor” installment, so I’ll keep you posted. And if you have any additional questions not answered there, I’m more than glad to field them here.

Meanwhile, I’ve been saying it for a long time, but I’m still thinking about returning to my writing prompt roots at this blog since a lot of my writing experience will be logged over at Rumer Has It instead. I really need the kick in the primate pants to write some fresh fiction, much as I did when I created this blog in the first place. So we’ll see if I hold myself to that…

…After all, one of those writing prompts led to a short story that first featured here and at the Real Bloggers United blog (RIP to that one; it was fun while it lasted) but has since been published in Bibliotheca Alexandrina’s 2013 Beyond the Pillars fantasy anthology:

“She Who is Milk White”

CKWagner_She Who is Milk White

I also just found out this weekend that my contest-winning short story “Four Somethings & a Sixpence” has been accepted for publication. More on that as details develop…

So what have you kiddos been up to? I’ve missed you! Please do swing by and catch me up on your happenings, and call on dear Rumer, too, at her humble abode.

*Monkey Mmwah!*


Pin the Tail on the Monkey

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you—

You look like a monkey, and you smell like one too!

Hey, who let that kid in here? Shove a cookie in his cakehole, and let’s try this again…*ahem*…

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday
dear Fallen Monkey, happy birthday to you!!!

Ah yes, it was at 5:50pm on this day one year ago when this proud blog-mama gave birth to a healthy, sassy little monkey in an attempt to get over writer’s block. It weighed in at 10 posts over the first month. Author and baby were doing fine.

And¬†still doing fine, thanks to the loyal readers who indulge the writing prompts, rants, and primate poop jokes. Time to go blow out the candle on the banana cream pie before it melts…


Looking Back & Flying Forward

Happy 2011! The past year has added another ring to the trunk of my tree, and as I trace a finger around the circumference of bark, I’m elated to be looking back on a year of frolicking, friendship, and focus, an enchanting year of feeling more at home overseas and in my new freelancing capacities, while still basking in the joy of home-home periodically—this last visit being an especially candy-coated one of icicles and white Christmas lights glowing from beneath inches of snow, of attending Nativity plays, marveling over how a bee could have stung my niece inside the house in December, hearing an older nephew’s voice deepen, and initiating a younger one into our Finer Things Club on the basis of his Harry Potter knowledge…of laughing with siblings, savoring parents, celebrating with in-laws, toasting with friends, and sharing chocolate fondue with several former students at the quaint caf√© where I used to grade their essays :).

And, of course, it was a whooping, whirring, sometimes wilting, but always whimsical year of writing, but one that has now gotten me prepped for the humbling undertaking of querying and thrilled to start up new projects. Time to get warmed up, then…time for this monkey to fly.

The Prompt:

Today, page 44 of Room to Write asks us to write about flying—how it makes us feel, where it takes us. As an alternative, we can perform a free-writing by starting with the word “flying” or “wings.”

Response:

Flying these days inevitably makes me think of airports and how such places that used to represent adventure and freedom have now come to mean “goodbye.” There’s still anticipation in it, still excitement in it, yet somehow I also worry that with every new flight I take, the world becomes less unknown and more trodden. Nevertheless, flying is still my gateway to other perspectives, other features, other values, and flying is what will bring me to my 6th continent next weekend and allow my greying UK-ified skin to gulp up some Vitamin D. Flying is soaring, feeling the air rushing against my face as my heart rises into my throat and my stomach sinks to my bladder or clenches at my spine, it’s loop-de-loops and spinning spirals, then having to peel the cape off my face. It’s Peter Pan, it’s Superman, it’s the birds that escape the pavement and the predators and sing me out of slumber. Flying is icy pressure beneath my fingernails as they pierce the air and a tickling tug at my toes as their wake sucks a vacuum into being. It’s hearing the crackle of joints as my wings finally unfurl and spread out in a stretch that luxuriously takes my breath away before expanding my lungs with cool purity. Flying is connecting, an efficient means of traversing the distance between A to B or of ascending from thoughts to ideas, information to knowledge, sense to sensibility, for even when not stepping onto a plane, it is only opening a book or reading an email from Mom or closing my eyes atop a pillow that yet makes me fly. Flying is high-speed, forward-moving levitation, or it’s the freedom of imagination I enjoy while never feeling more grounded.

Reflection:

BeezArtist.com

I didn’t do a full-on free-write without stopping, but I did let my thoughts meander wherever they fancied sentence by sentence. No surprise that, being between a recent and upcoming plane trip, the word first took me to modern air transport, though it still didn’t take long to get to the actual action at hand, physically and metaphorically. Not my most creative effort, but a productive enough burst before bedtime to motivate me to wake to a day of more fruitful word-weaving tomorrow. I think when I found my mind wasn’t fully taking flight by writing tonight, it started yearning for a book—someone else‘s writing :). Fair enough. We become better writers by¬†reading as well, so time for me to check-in (i.e., get in my PJs), get my boarding pass (grab my novel), check my bags (ditch any emotional baggage at the bedroom door), board my aircraft (climb into bed), switch on my reading light (uh, that’s really the same thing in both scenarios), and get ready for take-off!


WordPress Picked My Fleas – 2010 in Review

The stats helper monkeys [FaMo’s Note: I swear this is their phrasing, not mine…as much as I love any chance to exploit my theme] at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter‚ĄĘ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 4,500 times in 2010. That’s about 11 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 86 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 102 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 20mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was August 6th with 101 views. The most popular post that day was The FaMo Awards.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were blogcatalog.com, twitter.com, milo-inmediasres.com, WordPress Dashboard, and nickielson.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for the fallen monkey, fallen monkey, back to the future polish, cluedo, and cluedo board.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

The FaMo Awards August 2010
19 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com,

2

Monkey with a Mission January 2010

3

Human Persona May 2010
2 comments

4

The Shotgun-Shack Story: Nowhere to Hide August 2010
21 comments and 2 Likes on WordPress.com

5

If Truth Be Told… August 2010
22 comments and 3 Likes on WordPress.com

[FaMo’s Note: Well, guess I’m glad I used that Clue board photo in my “The Kitchen Culprits” post to get those Google referrals ūüôā. Am also amused that people have directly searched for me, unless I’m intercepting visitors for another fallen monkey out there…that poor, forlorn creature laying in the grasses somewhere for someone to see it has fallen, while instead they read my nonsense…At any rate, cheers to Milo and Nicki as well for the referrals! I had a hell of a fun year picking the grey-matter lint from the folds of my brain and piling it up here and look forward to more in 2011! Thank you, dear readers, for stopping by my tree.]


Swinging Into the Christmas Tree…

I’m going to be swinging from a looong vine tomorrow that’ll land me in arctic Chicago. My visits home are always filled with monkey business, but I’m hoping to still curl up at my parents’ labor-of-love dial-up internet connection and play with some writing prompts like I’ve wanted to for a while—very excited to generate new material of any sort after the long process of revising the same work.

No updates on that project in the meantime. I’ve submitted to two independent publishers so far, one in the US and one in the UK, so that I can go into the next two weeks of festivities with some semblance of peace of mind that’ll enable me to just play for while. On my return, I’ve got two US literary agents on my list to query as soon as their holiday hiatuses lift. And then, *gulp*, I’m going to attempt the challenge that brave Mister Milo has set out for aspiring writers: Write 1 Sub 1, for which we write one story and submit one story every week of the year! (I believe he and his partners-in-crime are offering a monthly variation, however, of which I think I’m going to take advantage). Microfiction counts, so I’m excited to monkey around with that again.

All this said, I’m pooped…and I haven’t even flung any yet today. Time to climb my tree and rest up for the big swing tomorrow morning—I love this time of year when I get to live in a Christmas tree, though I always get in trouble for eating and/or throwing the ornaments.

Happy Holidays, my lovelies!


Serving My Fur-Balls up on a Platter

Or at least my brain and heart

You see, the Monkey is having difficulty throwing its own poop today.

Why?

Because¬†it’s a difficult if not impossible action to undertake when one has¬†scared oneself¬†shitless.

Why?

Because I’m setting myself up for the first in a series of rejections on my manuscript this week, at long last. Isn’t that exciting?! It’s the moment I’ve been waiting for!

In all honesty, it does feel really good to finally be at this stage (or deluding myself that I’m ready for this stage). I’m certainly no diva who is staring down my novel and basking in its perfection…but I know I’m past¬†my “Fraying at the End” point and have reached¬†instead where I’ve read it over and revised so many times, walked away from it a while, walked back to it and read it over and revised so many times more that I personally am quite satisfied and happy with it. Yet I humbly also think it’s as far as I can take it myself¬†until it falls in someone‘s nurturing hands, whether it’s actually picked up by an agent or publisher (dare I even think it?!) or me shelling out the cash¬†for an editing service¬†should I go the route of self-publication. My lovely beta-reader was tremendously helpful as¬†I shaped up the¬†early drafts, so if it meets with rampant rejection in its current form, she’ll surely be called¬†back in for more consultation :).¬†I once feared someone else’s suggestions would make¬†the story less than my own. But through the beta-reading process and now developmentally editing another’s work for publication, I’ve come to see how nice-n-polished-n-perdy a tale¬†can become from this outside input (my recently published sister likened it to a “spa treatment” for her novel). Not that I’m expecting to get any sort of feedback through the submission process. I know I won’t…

This is a rather vulnerable stage, isn’t it…in some way empowering, yet also feeling like sending one’s child off to school for the first time…*sniff* *sniff*…or to the gallows ;)…

I’m going to give my mind a little break on this for a bit, as I’ve written and revised to blindness, and rather than dwell on the negativity¬†my¬†Inner Critical Beeyotch may eventually spew, what I know right now is that my manuscript in its present incarnation passes the test I’ve had for it all along:

Is it the story I wanted to write? Check.

Is it a story I would want to read? Check.

Did I enjoy the process? Check.

Does it reflect who I am as a person and a writer? Check & Check.

Is it something I’m committed to strengthening further down the road for the sake of its own existence as its best self? Check.

Started during my first months living in London and spanning the two years I’ve lived here so far, there’s a lot in this work that encapsulates my own experiences and observations (hence, my “From Sentiments to Sentences” posts), so at the very least it will be a special little time machine for me take a spin in when nostalgic in the future.

Beyond this, I reckon it’ll be¬†time to bring my blog back to its origins for a little while—i.e., belching out the randomness of my mind in response to short writing prompts. I’d originally started the blog to do just that as, at the time, I was caught in a writer’s block. Well, at this point, I think the creative rescuscitation will do me good in not only eventually revisiting this first manuscript and getting rolling with that second novel idea that’s been flitting about in the cobwebby corners of my cranium, but also, quite simply, writing for writing’s sake.

Those prompts could be just the laxative the Monkey needs to keep my throwin’ arm warmed up, after all…


From Sentiments to Sentences – Part II


Hiya! ¬†I’m back from where I left off yesterday. Hopefully I didn’t leave anyone in a great deal of suspense, as this post will only reek of anticlimax :).

What I was about to continue yammering on about last night, at any rate, was that sentimentality is not the only way my past informs my writing. ¬†To start, yes, I’ve had a lovely life—I’d be an ungrateful twit not to acknowledge that and count my blessings every day (I know, la-dee-frickin’-da, right?)—yet to be honest it concerned me this would hurt my writing, make it too naive, idealized, and anything otherwise be too two-dimensional and clich√©. ¬†And that’s a very valid concern…

I couldn’t help but peek ahead in my very-neglected¬†Room to Write book, where on page 90 Bonni Goldberg says:

“Where we come from influences both what we write and how we write. […] This is why six people can describe the same tree differently. Each person sees it through a unique set of experiences.”

And then she warns that:

“Clich√©¬†seeps into writing when writers forget or neglect to bring who they are into the piece.”

This reinforces what eventually got me over the above concern. ¬†Everyone’s life brings something to the writing desk, and maybe some of things I don’t understand first-hand consequently don’t have a place in my writing. Maybe this, then, helps me narrow down my focus, find my creative niche where what I do know can be optimized. ¬†OR maybe what I don’t know presents that extra intellectual-emotional challenge that could be enriching to explore further through research and imagination, as when a method actor immerses into a new role. ¬†In that way, I don’t have to be so pigeon-holed after all.

Then there is the simple fact that, despite general trend, my life of course hasn’t been entirely rosy! I know pain, heartache, depression, and have sharpened my teeth around anger and resentment pretty well in my day…I may idealize the past out of sentimentality, but I’ve also brought in the darker emotions from the tougher experiences I’ve had—case in point being the “writing-as-therapy” I mentioned yesterday. As a result, my protagonist shared in my own downturn, and in a way we worked through it together. ¬†Then, when I succeeded in pulling out of mine, I could outstretch my hand to lift her out of hers.

I’m not going to do the writing prompt today, but the exercise on that above-mentioned page from¬†Room to Write asks us to write about our origins, beginning with, “I come from.” In doing so, we’re to also consider the sensory details coinciding with our memories that, by virtue of experiencing them, have impacted who we are.

Now, to put my teacher-cap back on briefly, I can’t help but recall from this a poem I had to teach my sophomores during a unit on discovering our cultural identities and identifying how they shape our individual frames of reference:

Where I’m From, by George Ella Lyon

I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch.
(Black, glistening,
it tasted like beets.)
I am from the forsythia bush
the Dutch elm
whose long-gone limbs I remember
as if they were my own.

I’m from fudge and eyeglasses,
from Imogene and Alafair.
I’m from the know-it-alls
and the pass-it-ons,
from Perk up! and Pipe down!
I’m from He restoreth my soul
with a cottonball lamb
and ten verses I can say myself.

I’m from Artemus and Billie’s Branch,
fried corn and strong coffee.
From the finger my grandfather lost
to the auger,
the eye my father shut to keep his sight.

Under my bed was a dress box
spilling old pictures,
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
I am from those moments–
snapped before I budded —
leaf-fall from the family tree.

In ‚ÄúAn Interview with George Ella Lyon,” the poet says:

‚ÄúIf I weren‚Äôt from Appalachia (or from my family and my genetic expression and my experience — I don‚Äôt know how to separate these), my writing — and I —¬† might be bolder.¬† I might live in New York or L.A. and push it more. As it is, I‚Äôve chosen to stay close to home and to be somewhat restricted in what I‚Äôve written and/or published.¬† I anguish a lot about hurting or betraying family members‚ĶOn the other hand, if I weren‚Äôt from Appalachia, my work might not have the same support of noncompetitive colleagues, of a community of memory, and of strong voices from my childhood that still speak in my head.¬† Certainly it wouldn‚Äôt have its roots in the rocky creeks and high horizons, the enfolding spirit of trees that I call home.‚ÄĚ

Though kids inevitably groaned over reading and writing poetry, I always loved this activity because they’d surprise themselves—by recalling and isolating the simplest of images, smells, sounds, tastes, and textures, they’d craft their own “Where I’m From” poems that offered profound insight into who they were, and I think in the end they were proud, learning that if they seized the power to really know themselves, they could harness the power to write.

Such a simple exercise here, yet so dense as we draw out the good along with all the bad to build the organs and flesh around the skeletons of our characters and infuse them with blood and soul.

And YOU, my dears? How does your sense of self inform your writing?


So, uh…Did You Bring Any Protection?

*blush*  Get your minds out of the gutter.  What kind of monkey do you think I am?!

“The best lightning rod for your protection is your own spine.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have long neglected my little writing prompts that originally kicked off this blog, mainly because they’re aim was to get me over writer’s block, and it worked! ¬†I’ve been cranking until I’m crossed eyes these recent days on revising my manuscript, and for the time being am keen to step away for a bit to clear my head. ¬†So…

The Prompt:

Today page 43 of Room to Write asks us to list the protections we use in our everyday lives or, indeed, our writing.  We are to then have our main character embody this protection in a scene or simply write a new piece without using writing-protections (e.g., a different place than the usual, without a word/page limit, etc.).

Henry VIII's armour

Response:

My everyday protections include:

– smiling

– expression through writing versus speaking

– diving behind a book or in front of a computer/tv

– my giant headphones and iPod

– sarcasm

– my forked tongue, when need be

– stubbornness, which includes a common refusal to say, “sorry”

– quiet pensiveness, reclusiveness

Hm, given that codpiece on Henry's armour, perhaps he could've used this protection as well...

– over-analysis

– verbatim recall of prior conversations (one of my more superb defenses)

– cold silence or, conversely, inane babble

– hats, cardigans, and sunglasses

– take-away caffeine (somehow just holding the steaming paper cup is a fortification, regardless what’s inside)

– sleep

– my quilt

– a hybrid superiority/inferiority complex that’s a bit difficult to describe…

I’ll stop there and address the second part of this exercise by first peeling off one key writing-protection of mine: ¬†the ability to revise. ¬†So I’m just going to write this off the cuff and not obsess over how it comes out, leaving it raw in its first draft form.

So, that said, I have certainly infused a lot of the above protections into my protagonist, who I’ll continue to address by the pseudonym “Margaret” (whoops, there I go, still protecting…and for whatever reason protecting the fictional :)). ¬†I could probably find one-to-one matches for almost everything on the list, but here’s just a few examples:

“Margaret beamed one of her fake smiles in maneuvering in ninety-degree angles toward her.”

“Writing was so much easier than calling; writing gave control, the ability to pause, reread, and revise. ¬†Margaret didn‚Äôt trust herself with speaking any longer; the restraint in talking to her parents was difficult enough, and they alone embodied the innocence necessary to not pick up on vocal cues.¬† Her not-so innocent friends and brother, on the other hand, were risks she couldn‚Äôt take.”

“Shaking off the mundane tasks of Everyday-Land and shoving in a thumbnail to spear a dog-eared page, Margaret tiptoed into her alternate universe at the delicious creaking sound of a hardcover binding blooming into action.”

“She‚Äôd banked an increasing number of slumbering hours ever since that first day […] and she wiled away the afternoons on indulgences like prolonged soaks in the tub and otherwise luxurious daytime lounging.¬† The solitary nature of her days quieted her mind to her earlier paranoia, distortions in perception that she‚Äôd ascribed to stress-induced fatigue. ¬†[It]¬†all dissipated before her like the steam that rose off the bubbles in her lap.”

The sun shied away behind the clouds, making Margaret‚Äôs sunglasses redundant, so she reluctantly removed them.”

“She‚Äôd lately taken to […] a route of anonymity that concealed her among side streets rather than parade her before rows of shops and sidewalk caf√©s.¬† She didn‚Äôt want to be observed, though sometimes played a mental game that she was hiding from the paparazzi lusting to lavish her with attention‚ÄĒsomehow desiring to be a Nobody while still feeling like a Somebody.”

And that kitten definitely has claws when she needs ’em to shield her inner vulnerability.

Reflection:

As much as this character isn’t supposed to be me, it’s interesting to look back on her through this lens and realize how cognizant I am of my defense-mechanisms, as reflected in this mirror. ¬†I reveled before in the fact that writing can be a protective filter of our thoughts by virtue of its revision stage, yet it is also something that leaves us exposed, unveiling raw emotion, intellect, and imagination. ¬†I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt (and continues to feel) timid about posting a blog, putting those ideas out there for anyone to read and judge. ¬†Getting something “in writing,” after all, carries that sense of no-turning-back, as though signed in our blood or chiseled in stone. ¬†There’s both a structured permanence and organic fluidity to it that just fascinates me, but I’ll leave that to another blog topic on another day. ¬†For now, I suppose these blogs do allow us to go back and edit, but I’ll keep my promise and not exercise that protection ;). ¬†In fact, I’m not even going to let myself read this over before I press “Publish.” ¬†Ha, take that!

What are your protective layers?



The Fear Factor


The Prompt:

I love how Bonni Goldberg relates writing to medicine when it comes to protecting us against our fears:

“You take small doses of your fears in combination with written words and they create a kind of antibody: a cathartic human experience that authenticates your strength and fragility.”

Page 42 of Room to Write, then, asks us to write a list of our fears and describe one in more specific detail.

Response:

Some things I fear:

– geese

– clowns

– confined spaces

– death (mine, but mostly loved ones)

– being in any way “too late” for anything by the time I move back home

– losing my sight or hearing

– the debilitating effects of aging

– having children

– lack of purpose

– never finishing my book

– rejection

– regret

Okay, I think that’ll do.¬† Now, to pick just one…it’s tempting to go the route of writing-related fears, but I think I devote enough of this blog to that!¬† How about the “too late” factor, as I feel it’s one needing more explaining:

The fact that my aging parents continue to age in my absence while living abroad positively terrifies me.¬† I know many will find that irrational and say that I have to live my own life, but I will never, never forgive myself if something happens to either of them while I am an ocean away.¬† Just writing this right now is bringing me to tears.¬† It is something I really, truly cannot stand to fathom.¬† And I don’t want to miss out on my nieces’ and nephews’ milestones, nor do I want the littlest ones to not know their Auntie.¬† I am not the person who realizes what they have only when it is “too late”; I’m the person who has always known perhaps too clearly, which is why I would have never left in the first place if it were only up to me.¬† I don’t think of it as something holding me back; being with my family is actually part and parcel of my life’s ambitions, so anyone who thinks I should feel otherwise can suck it ūüôā

My own aging has started to frighten me as well.¬† I don’t consider myself to be old, but my husband and I have agreed to wait until we return home to our support network before starting a family, at which time I will most definitely be at the infamous cut-off age that younger mommies love to throw out there as the danger zone of higher risks and mandatory tests.¬† Gee, thanks for making me feel geriatric.¬† Sorry my last decade has been pleasurable and focused on my needs and catering to my own identity before I give it over so fully to a little person of my making.¬† I genuinely hope I didn’t just offend any mothers reading this—I think parenting is the most noble occupation for one to assume, but it’s not my fault that I didn’t get married until after my friends were already popping out kids and that other life changes have thrown me for a loop such that there’s a lot I need to get sorted before I feel I could do a remotely good job of it myself.¬† So I’ll put off applying for that particular position a bit longer; yes, I know, at my own risk.¬† *eyes rolling*

Returning to find that my old job (for which I was only 1 year away from getting tenure) is not remotely available to me anymore is scary. ¬†I moved the very week that the economy tanked, and what I’d considered a recession-proof job has still managed many layoffs since then, and some departments have frozen their hiring. ¬†Barring that, even if I can vie for a position, perhaps I’ll be judged negatively for my time away from teaching;¬†the powers that be may frown upon my rationale, not find value in how I’ve chosen to apply myself since then.¬† Even worse, what if I fear teaching itself?¬† After such a long hiatus, I’m no longer riding the momentum of consecutive years ramping up in the profession. ¬†The flexibility (and sleeping in!) of my present days will be lost, and never doubt the intimidation of staring down 125+ teenagers a day and, even worse, their parents who will too quickly point the finger at you for the consequences of their own lack of parenting at home.¬† Then again, if I end up not having kids of my own, teaching is a great way to play surrogate.

I think what is overall frightening me is the realization that my life at home did not simply freeze once I took off on that plane, preserved in its tableau of near-perfection while I have my fun and then return to reinsert myself seamlessly back into it.¬† I will not be entirely the same person either, after all; current experiences are carving me from a square to an octagon-shaped peg.¬† So I fear the transition that will be repatriation, after expatriation was already so difficult.¬† I fear feeling out of place in my own home and possibly acknowledging a discontent that wouldn’t have otherwise been there.

But, you know, so be it.¬† Rejoining my family, starting a family, returning to teaching…I cannot think of three things more worth facing that fear.

Reflection:

First of all, allow me to apologize.¬† Addressing personal fear just automatically lends itself to a whiny rambling of self-pity, so thank you for bearing with me through it if you’ve made it this far ūüôā¬† I don’t think this activity has brought out any special writing, per se…the fears are plain, so embellishment didn’t come naturally—the way I wrote it is not creative or revelatory.¬† It didn’t make me realize anything new about myself.

Maybe selecting a different fear or writing in another frame of mind would have made all the difference, but the one thing I can take away from this exercise is the fact that Goldberg was right!¬† When I started writing about this, as I said, it made me cry—it thrust me into my fear and made me tremble in the face of it.¬† And yet the more I wrote, the easier it was to pull out of this vulnerable state; putting it in writing made it very plain to see that, while my fears may be justified, they really aren’t as big of a deal as I sometimes let them be.¬† The more I wrote, the more my heart quieted and the more my mind said, “Poor you with the wonderful family and profession and wonderful period of creative flexibility and travel that you have in-between. ¬†To have had it as long as you did is a gift, and you still might get your cake back to eat it too—or even be okay if you don’t. ¬†So in the meantime, buck up.¬† Deal.”

In short, facing my fears was embracing my blessings.

And you, brave readers of mine?  What are you so afraid of? And how might your fears impact your writing?


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