Image by DarkWorkX from Pixabay

Who even am I? Is pandemic time throwing anyone else’s writing for a loop? Just me then?

Really, I remember thinking to myself way back in March that I was going to use the time I was no longer spending driving my kids to and from school to write. I definitely wasn’t going to fill that time with shower-cries or deciding if I’m a chocolate-loving, peanut butter-loving, or original goodness-loving sort of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups connoisseur.

Silly me.

I have, despite these pandemic extracurriculars, been writing some–but certainly not the same as I was. Fiction has been tough-going, but I’ve written some short essays and snippets someone really nice (or related to me) might call prose poems. I’ll say it again: I am not a poet.

And while I’m not a big fan of Zooming as substitute for activities I was engaged with, pre-pandemic; I’ve enjoyed new Zoom opportunities, in particular two writing workshops I wouldn’t have made in person because of distance.

I thought of these workshops, one I attended just yesterday, when Lorna over at Gin & Lemonade mentioned writing prompts. (You’re going to want to visit her if you don’t already.)

Ah, writing prompts. Controversial stuff, right? I’ll admit to assuming most of my writing teachers who started every class with a prompt were using the time to lesson-plan on the fly. Maybe some were. I know I did just that, once I began teaching. As a student, however, I generally used writing prompt time to work on whatever short story or novel chapter I was mulling over, largely ignoring said prompt.

Prompts were for memoirists and poets always gazing longingly out the window for inspiration.

What a stubborn idiot I was. Sure, some prompts don’t hit you right, some work better than others. But the best ones flip a kind of switch in your brain to get at often-forgotten and sometimes really-weird-good material in there. I’d wade through a million mediocre prompts, now, to come across the best ones.

That said, there was no wading in either of the workshops I took this spring–both of which included several generative writing prompts. So, here are a couple of my favorite prompts and my responses.

Maybe one of these will flip your writing switch today?

You might remember that I interviewed poet and editor Jessica Fischoff, just the day before I took her Persona Workshop. Over Zoom from her home in Cincinnati, Jessica discussed persona poetry and character in prose–and then let us writers loose, scribbling to her prompts. Jessica is a prompts queen, but the one that flipped the right switch for me was to…

Use an inanimate object as the persona of a poem or prose piece, and here’s my attempt:

Figures the Ferris Wheel

If I could count, I would tell you
how many proposals I've heard
proposed at the apex of my grand wheel.
How many rings dropped, how many squeals
of delight, and how many women murmured
under their breathes, looked down at their bare fingers
gripping my bar, and said something like
"I have to think," softly, as if they knew I was listening.
I am always listening.

If I could count, I'd tell you how many boys scared girls,
and girls scared boys, shaking my cars, pretending they would 
break a spoke, heave this wheel, and make it all come crashing down
to the ground, where they would keep falling out of fear.
How many times.

~~~

Yesterday’s workshop with memoirist, essayist, and writing professor Sonja Livingston, who I interviewed right here and here for Rust Belt Girl, was also just what I needed to get out of my own way and write for an afternoon: new stuff, which is gratifying (especially when at work on a novel). New starts mean the writing well is not dry, folks! One of my attempts came in response to a prompt inspired by the work of Ross Gay. (If you’ve been here a while you know I’m always, always inspired by Ross Gay.):

Write about a “delight” or a list of “delights” and I picked one of my little guys:

My Son's Buckteeth

the orthodontist wants to fix
the goofy faces he pulls with them
the way his cowlick makes his blond hair stick up
hair that will go dirty like mine
and fall out like my brother's
the fact he still gives a good squeeze I don't have to take
the fact his hugs put him at my chest height but
he doesn't yet think this is weird

~~~

What weird and wonderful stuff have you come up with from a good writing prompt? Let me know if the comments.

What are you reading and writing this week? Are we social? Find me at FB and on Twitter and IG @MoonRuark

32 thoughts on “2 workshops, 2 prompts, and 1 weird writing season

  1. I discovered an Author who published a unique travel book so I’m digging into that – and sharing more recipes attached to movies because there seems to be time for both right now! Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Aw, lovely poems. The Ferris Wheel and your Son’s Buckteeth create great pictures in the reader’s mind, always a mark of good writing, I’d say!

    Glad you’ve found what works. I know many have complained about not having the motivation during this time. Funnily, I was recapping what I’ve done and it made me feel like I had accomplished something. Could I have done more? Sure, but I had to remind myself to be proud of what I’ve done so far.

    Thanks for the recommend. I’ll have to check Gin & Lemonade out. Also, what is up with the controversial nature of writing prompts, right?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading, Lani! And I’m so glad you’ve been writing during the pandemic–certainly an accomplishment (and useful to document these weird times). I thought the WP prompts in April helped get the creative wheels going after the shock of March. At least in my little world it felt sudden; one day the boys were schooling from school and the next day they were remote schooling, and we were all hunkering down at home. You’ve published during this pandemic time, too, right? I thought of your jumpsuit piece when I received an email from Anthroplogie the other day ALL about jumpsuits!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 😀 Hahahahhaa. Why do they keep pushing those onesies on us adults?

        Yes, I certainly thought about the April WP prompts. Sooo glad I participated, it was fun to get into, even when it was challenging.

        xo

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Love the poems! I used to use writing prompts often in the beginning of my writing journey. I always gravitated to image prompts though. I feel like they were a little more wide open to interpretation and you could enjoy exploring some detail or form an idea outside the obvious by pondering over a photo. My writing has been minimal over the last few months as well. But maybe coming out of lockdown will release the imagination and we’ll come back with renewed energy. That’s what I keep telling myself anyway! Have a great Friday and a wonderful weekend, Rebecca!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Meg! I like image prompts, too–makes sense, you being a visual artist, that you would. I follow a couple bloggers who come up with the wildest stories from one photo, really fun to read. With all that’s going on in the world, however, it’s probably only natural to spend time soaking it in before that inspiration hits again–and you’ll be off and running, writing your historical novel or something else! Me, I need to come out of this lockdown with actual running shoes on. Enjoy your weekend–is your weather warming up yet?–and many thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well…. It’s warmer than it was but compared to the summers I was used to, it’s very chilly! It’s all good though. We’re enjoying having windows open and not needing air conditioning. Hoping to be able to move around the country a little this summer!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. When my husband and I were in Ireland for our honeymoon, it was August, and it hit 80 degrees (F) and the lovely Irish were MELTING they thought that was so hot. We were still in our jeans, of course. No AC is a joy. Open everything up in the morning, close it by 10–that was our AC growing up. No way we could do that here in Maryland. Oh I do hope you can travel around this summer some–even just outside stuff. Connemara is a day trip for you, right? I adored that area. Jealous of your wonderful locale!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes, actually I can see the Connemara Mountains in the distance from the road north out of Headford. The National Park is only an hour away. And Lough Corrib is within walking distance. We are really happy with the area we live in! if you ever decide to come over for a second honeymoon, let me know! 😃

        Liked by 1 person

      4. What an amazing spot! My husband and I were graciously rowed around your lough by a gentleman with an old wooden Corrib boat when we were there. Wouldn’t it be fun to meet for a pint? I will definitely let you know if we plan to get back (someday!)!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I enjoyed your poems too, Rebecca.
    Prompts are fine if I have a month to think of something and then 24 hours to write about anything but what I was thinking about. Ah, the creative process! I have enjoyed writing about ravens (kind of) recently. Hosting a 13 week challenge on corvids, I felt the pressure to produce something. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sounds like you are using your time fully! I would love to go to a writer’s workshop even via zoom. Loved the poetry you produced from them! I need to start writing again. It’s sort of paused at the moment due to tiredness and lack of inspiration!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I miss the workshops of grad school, so doing a couple this spring was great. It feels good to produce something new, though I’m no poet! I’m sure you could find a lit/writing organization near you that is holding online classes? I do think the whole writing thing is cyclical–at least for me. I go through periods where I’m reading a lot, just ingesting goodness; other times, I’m writing. Really, if you’re blogging, you’re writing, right? The tap is always on, even if it’s just a trickle–and I’m totally mixing my metaphors here! I always enjoy your writing and photography and look forward to more, when it comes.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Well, I’ve managed to keep blogging, using the 52 Ancestors prompts and sometimes my family photos. I have done some editing/writing in one book, but stalled, realizing that I need more information. I had planned a research trip, but truthfully, I have thousands of images of documents from earlier trips and haven’t appropriately organized, reviewed, created notes, etc. So now I’m digging into that and will hopefully add some good new sections to this draft.

    I thought your poems were quite good! Just keep telling yourself “I am a poet when I want to be.”!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, thank you for your kind words about my little ditties, Eilene! I’m so impressed with your 52 Ancestors work. Wow, your research sounds like full-on historian stuff. I would miss being able to take research trips and talk to new people to fill in the research blanks. Oral histories are so juicy! But it sure sounds like you’re keeping yourself busy. Good luck with the book!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love writing prompts, at least 60% of my poetry has been inspired by them.

    Recently I responded to a prompt to write a poem about a location. The title had to be the name of the place, like you were marking it with a pin on a map. I wound up writing about a boat tour to the edge of the Bermuda Triangle that I hadn’t thought about in years.

    I also get a lot of ideas from art prompts I find on instagram.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I remember your Bermuda poem. Really nice! Prompts do seem to be a great way to remember long forgotten bits–and keep them for posterity in our creative pieces. I’ve heard other writers say IG is great for image-based prompts, too. I need to spend more time there. Thanks for stopping by here!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The writing workshops were a really nice “break” during quarantine–got me out of my head, if not out of my house. I hope yours spurred on some creative thought, too! Mine were just a couple or three hours each, though I might consider a longer-form workshop later this summer. Writing organizations certainly are expanding their offerings, and making so much accessible online, so that’s been great. Thank you for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I LOVE both your poems!! Especially the one of your son at that not-yet-awkward hugging age, so relatable and made me smile! Glad to hear as well I’m not the only one indulging in quarantine shower cries;)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I guess pandemics make me strangely, creatively brave–so I’m letting the poetry freak flag fly. Welp, on the bright side of the shower cry is the fact we’re still bathing, so there’s that. Here’s hoping you’re traveling before too long. I look forward to living vicariously–and thank you for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

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