Farewell to 2017…An Overpowering Year.

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! Here we are at the end of another year, and for me this has been a year like no other. Yes, there have been difficulties in other years…but this one seemed overblown on both the personal and the social front. When I think of years that I wouldn’t want to live through again, 2017 will be right up there with 1983, 1998, 2010, and 2014. Those years were all bad years involving divorces, heartbreak, totaled cars, break ins, custody battles, money woes, deaths of grandparents and friends, and sometimes those lows come in bunches it seems. Of course, that is not saying that there’s not rewarding or redeeming events that happen in those trying years…and that’s not to say that there are not other years that bad things don’t happen…but of all the years of my life, and I have lived quite a few years, thankfully, I’m thinking 2017 was one of the worst. It was not only that way for me, but for a lot of people I know personally and for those I don’t. As a country we’ve been on a ride like never before…politically, with a president the likes we’ve never seen before…and it seems like just when you think things couldn’t get any more surreal…it does. It is hard to comprehend and when you try…the news just keeps coming at you: fast and merciless.

That would make 2017 a hard year in itself, but it took a turn for me just 8 days in…when I was at a poetry reading in Indianapolis and I got a call that my dad was being taken to the emergency room. From that day on, he was in the hospital…then in the nursing home for rehab…and then he died in June. It was just a month into 2017 when my mom was diagnosed with dementia, and then by March she’d fallen and broken her ribs, and then she was in the nursing home…where I thought she might be for the rest of her life…until my dad died…and she begged to go home. She’s fallen several more times this year, another time breaking her shoulder and putting her in the nursing home for a month from July 15 – August 15. 2017 is when I moved from my independent life in Indianapolis to being my mom’s caretaker back in my rural hometown. I was warned about being a caretaker, but until you’ve done it you never really know what the experience is like. It’s also been a year that has taken older cousins and younger cousins, one of my grand cats, and it’s been a year that had others share diagnoses of diseases…maybe it’s just a sign of getting older, but it sure seems like this has been an overpoweringly negative year.

Yet, I can’t write 2017 off as horrid as it seems…because I’ve reconnected with my visual art, and have been really happy with that. I’ve reconnected with friends from the past that I haven’t seen all that much because I’d been away from the area. I’ve spent much more time with my daughters and grandchildren.  Two of my grandchildren graduated high school and went to my alma mater, Ball State. Another of my grandchildren got married in June, and now is expecting my second great-grandchild. 2017 was the year that saw my one-act produced at the RCP One Act Festival in MI; my chapbook, Weathering Under the Cat, get published; a featured poetry reading in St. Louis at Poetry at the Point, and a few other poems published here and there. It was certainly not my most prolific year, poetry wise, but looking back…overcoming all the obstacles…I’m happy with what I got. I’m appreciative of my family and my friends, and I’m looking ahead, to hopefully, a healthy, happy, creative, and prosperous 2018. Here’s wishing the same for you that are reading this blog…and here are a few prompts to help you reflect and then move forward:

2017…an Overpowering Year

  1. Write in your daybook a list of all of the things that you consider accomplishments in 2017, then in another list (as a column or below that list) jot down all of the obstacles that reared their head. Take one item from each column and then write about how one couldn’t be appreciated without the other…, if that doesn’t work for you take one of the items from your list and write about it as an onlooker into your life and see what happens.
  2. No matter your age, think about some of the most overpowering years of your life – write down what made them that way. Did you feel you were never going to get out of that one year? Did you feel powerless? How did you survive that year? Who were the people that were there for you? Who weren’t? Was that a surprise? Explore the most powerful of your memories.
  3. Get out those notes to that novel, poem, essay, or play that you were working on earlier this year. Even if it’s for 10 minutes, write some more on it so that you can say that you wrote more in 2017 than you thought you would.
  4. Use these words in what you write: 2017, wind-chill, framed.

 

As always, if you get anything that you want to share – post it below or you can always contact me at lylanne@lylanne.com

Happy 2018!! Keep writing!

Lylanne

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Writing…When Uncovering Old Hurts

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! Most former students, and poet/writing friends who know me well…especially in the past twenty years, have known me to be a cheerleader of writing and know that I dedicate myself to writing something each and every day…even if just a few lines or an idea for a poem/play/story…. That held true all the way up until the past few months. What changed? I became my mom’s sole caretaker after her physical therapy at the nursing home was discontinued and she did not want to live there, in memory care, after my dad died in June. So, being the only child I decided that I could do it for as long as I could…physically and mentally. It’s the emotionally that I wasn’t prepared for. You see, I had given myself so much space from her over my adult life that I thought I’d given myself enough time and healing to not fall back into anything toxic she handed out. Well, I was wrong. Yes, she has dementia…and it has taken away the filter that could make her thoughts and opinions (on everything) tolerable. So, I have plenty to write about…but for the first time in twenty some years of doing it to heal, to add my own twisted sense of humor, and to explore things in a different way…I find that I can’t. It’s all too close, and old wounds have re-surfaced that I thought were dead and buried. However, I am looking on the bright side. I may not be able to write about this particular situation now, but eventually I will be able to. In the meantime, I’m using my creativity wisely and I’ve reverted back to my visual art for solace…and in many ways that has been an unexpected gift. Another unexpected gift is seeing (and understanding) why I struggled for so long to find confidence in myself, never knowing how to stick up for myself, or how to state what I needed…because I was never given that chance as a child…. I also have realized that my dad had good reason to be a grouch…and now I wish I had the chance to tell him…“Wow, now I understand.” Anyway, I have hope that my ongoing writing drills and aspirations come back with a vengeance. I believe this is the resurrecting of those feelings in this brief “confession.”

The last post I touched on Conflictbut it was not getting to the heart of the matter… the Hurt.

So, here are some writing prompts to hopefully get you to share (or at least get on the page) your hurt to begin healing:

  1. In your daybook write something that scares you or makes you feel uncomfortable. Maybe it’s something about a parent, a grandparent, an ex, a current partner. Usually when things scare you…that’s where the energy is. If you can’t bring yourself to write the truth, then make it one of your character’s problems/concerns/incidents.
  2. Write about a time that you were shocked by something your parent said. Were you a child, a teenager, an adult? What made it so shocking? Was it something about you, your other parent? Something mean about someone you know or a stranger?
  3. Write about a time that you were shocked by something your parent did. Maybe you found out they were having an affair. Maybe they were abusive to you or your siblings. Maybe they were an alcoholic or an addict. If you don’t have a shocking experience, maybe you can create a character for your story or play that is based on having something like that happen to them.
  4. Use these words in what you write: Hurt, Dinner, Mirror, Lilacs.

As always, if you get anything that you want to share – post it below or you can always contact me at lylanne@lylanne.com

Keep writing!

Lylanne

 

Using Conflict to Create

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! I’ve been thinking about conflict a lot lately, it’s all around…it’s in our personal lives, it’s in our careers, and this year, especially, it seems to be everywhere on social media…because of politics and social issues. It can be quite frustrating to live with it all, I admit; however, as creatives we should welcome the conflict and use it to create. After all, for all of the bad reputations us sensitive types get for being snowflakes, we do have the advantage of being able to express ourselves in unique ways to reach others who may or may not think like us (yet!) through our art, poetry, stories, plays, and/or music.

Needless to say, not only do we have to stand up for our “art” to the outside forces who don’t understand us, we also have our own inner demons to add to our conflicted lives…the “am I good enough” thoughts that recur out of the blue,  the “can I create something better than I have” after we’ve we’ve won an award or gotten in “that” publication or won “that” role. Nevertheless, if you’re anything like me, you try to avoid conflict in our everyday lives…but I’m here to tell you we need to embrace it. Not because we want to lead tortured and tormented lives, but because we can use conflict to our advantage in our creative lives…we can create a character that can vent when we can’t, we can write a protest poem or song, or we can take a tough social issue to the stage or to the page.

So let’s use whatever is that source of your conflict to create! I have a few ideas for prompts to help get you started:

  1. Take 10 minutes and write in your daybook about some conflict in your life right this moment. It could be a relationship, your job, finances, spirituality, politics, well the list of conflicts could be endless…so, if you have more than one…make a list and then write the one that really feels that it wants to be explored. Or, write on the most difficult…remember, for our creativityconflict is good.
  2. Write about a time that you were mad at God. Then have your character take that anger and run with it…scare yourself if you need to, but remember it’s fiction, so let it all come out…or maybe you want to keep it real and make it a memoir piece.
  3. Write about a secret that you did not keep. Maybe you betrayed yourself…or someone else. What happened when the secret came out? What if you’d kept it to yourself? Again, this could be a memoir, it could lend itself to a poem, or it could be a character’s confession in a story or play.
  4. Use these words in what you write: Compliments, gaslighting, Sunflowers.

As always, if you get anything that you want to share – post it below or you can always contact me at lylanne@lylanne.com

Keep writing!

Lylanne

De-stressing

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! Well, it has been a long time...and it’s nice to be back writing on my blog. I didn’t think I would be away this long, but both of my parent’s health took a hit at the beginning of 2017 and it never let up. Here’s the condensed version (and it still is a lot). It was last summer (2016) when I actually posted writing prompts after I first moved back to Indiana from Michigan, and then one of my beloved cats, Graham, got ill and died in October of 2016, and around that time, my dad was having some fluid in the lungs and having to have them drained. Then came January 8th, 2017 and my dad was taken to the ER for bleeding in the bowels. He was in the hospital for 10 weeks straight; during that time he ended up with a colostomy bag.

In early February 2017, my mom was diagnosed with early-stage dementia, by March she’d fallen at home and broken three ribs, so she was in the hospital during the same time as dad. She was discharged first, but had to go to a nursing home for rehab…she was not happy, and she refused to eat among other things. Soon after, my dad was discharged to the same nursing home and they were able to room together for awhile. It became apparent that when mom was discharged she would not be able to live alone. I was still living in Indianapolis and making the drive to see the parents three-four times a week…a little over an hour each way…and teaching five classes. Mom ended up in the memory care unit of the same nursing home. During this time, my dad’s lungs were filling up with fluid again and he was back and forth to the hospital from the nursing home several times. To make a long story short, my dad died on June 19th. My mom did not want to be in the nursing home without dad, she wanted to go home. During the week of my dad’s funeral, she stayed at my daughter, Alison’s, house and I stayed there as often as I could. It seemed feasible that I could move back to my childhood home and be my mom’s caretaker. Everything was set in motion for me to move, then four days before the move was to take place mom fell and broke her shoulder. She was in the hospital for five days, and back to the nursing home for rehab. I was just settling in at the house when the nursing home “kicked her out”…because of insurance limits…without any home assessments, without showing me how to transfer her…nothing.

It’s been a real challenge, but I’ve kept her out of the hospital the required 60 days before insurance will kick in again. She has a lot of issues, and some of the problems we had when I was living here the first 18 years…have been amplified by her dementia. But, I’m learning a lot more about myself than I could have ever known otherwise…because now I see the dynamics I grew up with…and I see why I don’t do well with conflict and why I have always tried to avoid it at all costs. Also, I do have some perks in this situation…like not having to teach so many classes that I can’t do much else. I’m happy that I draw and paint, some, nearly every day. However, I have to be honest, this is the first that I have written anything since my mom came home on August 15th. I’ve either not had time, or I have just had too much in my head to focus. But, here I am…finding my way back to my writing…my therapy (as I’ve always told my students). Also, in the past week I’ve had two people reach out…wanting to have writing prompts, and missing some of the workshops I used to teach. So, this solves my need to write, and I hope it helps others that want to dabble with some prompts.

De-stressing

  1. In your daybook write about one of your most stressful times in your life. What did you do to de-stress? Did you turn to a favorite hobby, did you turn to comfort food, alcohol? How did you handle that time? Are you in it now? Did it make you stronger or are still reeling in some ways from that time? Take that and write for 10 minutes. What falls out on the page, run with.
  2. If you’re working on a novel, play, or short story…remember that life is stranger than fiction…and sometimes life hands us more than we think we can handle. What kind of stress can happen to your main character? Pour it on. Then revise to make it bearable.
  3. Take these words and work them into what you write: dementia, control, sunshine, and cat.
  4. Write about the death of a parent or grandparent and how you processed it. Did it bring back memories that you hadn’t thought of in years? Did it make you wish for a different relationship? Did you find that you understand them more in death than when they were alive? Write on those thoughts/feelings for as long as you can, and then focus on what really is hard…or enlightening. 

As always, if you get anything that you want to share – post it below or you can always contact me at lylanne@lylanne.com

Keep writing (or get back to it)!

Lylanne

Weathering Under the Cat Chapbook

I’m a poet and not a salesperson, but I find myself in the unfortunate position of having to ask again to pre-order my upcoming chapbook from Finishing Line Press. My chapbook, Weathering Under the Cat, is a collection of poems that I’m proud of and am so excited to see get published. However with that said, Finishing Line Press (FLP) requires enough pre-sales to guarantee it will have a decent press run. If I don’t hit a certain mark, it may not happen…at least with FLP. I’m only 50 short of that mark. I certainly appreciate all of my friends, family, and colleagues that have already purchased my chapbook during pre-sale.

 

Incidentally, my pre-sale deadline did pass (Jan. 20), but with my parent’s health issues, etc., FLP has extended my pre-sale period for two more weeks. So, if you intended to purchase my chapbook during pre-sale and missed the deadline – you have a chance to purchase it now. The chapbook will be published in March, and I will be happy to sign your copy! I also have planned readings in and around Indianapolis and Toledo so far – with hopes of adding a few more places as well. Thanks in advance for your continued support of my poetry!

 

FYI, these poems are all cat related – so if you’re a cat lover, as I am, or if you know of one – I believe these poems are right up your alley. They certainly aren’t ones you’d find on a tame greeting card!

(Incidentally, for Writing Prompt Pit Stop fans – I will be back posting writing prompts soon! I’m also in process of collecting the prompts I already have and combining them into a small book! Look for that in the near future!)

https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/weathering-under-the-cat-by-lylanne-musselman/

Writing & Weathering

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! So, I don’t know about you, but the weather is always appearing in my poems and journals. Here in Indiana, well since I moved back in July anyway, has been extremely hot and humid, and now in August we’ve had a couple of weeks of severe thunderstorms, including tornadoes. This past Wednesday there was an outbreak of tornadoes, and an EF3 ripped through Kokomo – just an hour north of Indy, along with various lesser strength tornadoes near there and around central Indiana. We’ve also had a lot of rain, which has caused flooding the likes that haven’t been seen in downtown Indy and around the suburbs. Whether you believe in climate change or not, and I know most of my writing cohorts do, something different is going on…at the very least, tornadoes in Indiana were usually the norm in April-June…not late August; although, I know they can appear anytime…so it seems the seasons are off by a few months. The tornadoes in Kokomo also reminded me of the Palm Sunday tornado outbreak there, and in nearby towns…the same towns I was hearing named on the weather alerts. I have aunts, uncles, and cousins that lived there then, and live there now – in fact, my now 87-year-old aunt’s house was the only one left standing in a block in Russiaville in 1965...the same house that she still lives in. As a child, and seeing the destruction of those tornadoes, and the tears of my family at the devastation of their friends and neighbors, and hearing the horror stories of that day left an impression on me. I’ve written one poem about that day, but it appears there’s more there to mine.

So with weather on my mind, I figured it would be a good time to use weather as writing prompts:

  1. In your daybook, write about a time you’ve experienced a tramatic weather event, be it a tornado, hurricane, flood, blizzard, etc. You may even have more than one – so in that case, make a list of those experienced and then write for 10 minutes on the one that seems the most interesting to you.
  2. Maybe you (or your character) are petrified of storms, write about how you (or your character) handle that – especially in public situations when you’re usually a calm and collected person.
  3. If you write essays, you may want to tackle climate change in a more personal way than the political angle.
  4. If you write plays or short stories, you may want to write about a situation that has arisen from a shared weather event. Take into consideration the Starbucks in Kokomo that was demolished; yet, the workers and customers were unharmed because of taking refuge in the bathrooms.

As always, if you get anything that you want to share – post it below or you can always contact me at lylanne@lylanne.com

Keep writing!

Lylanne

 

Settling IN

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! Well, July 8th was moving day and it went off without a hitch, so that is a relief. Now that the cats and I are in Indianapolis, we’re settling in quite nicely. We’ve been here just a little over a week, and the only thing left to do is unpack one more box of clothes, and hang pictures/paintings on the walls – and it will feel like we’ve never left. I never had a doubt that I wouldn’t feel right at home, and that I do. I’ve even had visitors already at my apartment, and a lot of people that I need to see now that I’m back. It’s funny, I was so anxious to leave this state six years ago, and it’s quite a newsflash to me how wonderful it feels to be back home. I’m happy, and look forward to the opportunities and the creative adventures that await me here. It’s also nice that I have friends in OH and MI who have been in contact with me through snail mail, and social media – it’s all the connections we make with others along the way that makes life so rewarding isn’t it?

Whether you’re going through life changes, mind changes, or just trying to adapt to this ever changing world we live in, here are a few prompts in hopes of helping you get some thoughts on paper:

  1. Write in your daybook about a time that you felt truly settled. Maybe it was/is a relationship. Maybe it was/is a home/apartment. Maybe it was/is a place that you lived/live. Maybe it was/is a job/career. Or maybe you’ve never felt settled – ever. Write what that feels like.
  2. Write about a place that you were anxious to leave. Did you? Why or why not? If you left, did you ever want to go back? As they say, the grass is always greener on the other side…do you find that…that way of thinking has helped or hindered you? Take a character that you’re working with – and see what they feel about where they’re “stuck” in your story/play.
  3. Use these three words in a poem/story/play: unpacking, incense, wine.
  4. Write about a connection that you, or your character, has made – was it a good one? Is it one that will stick for a lifetime? Was it one that should never have been made? Explain.

Enjoy the prompts! If you get something that you’d like to share – post it comments below, or email me at lylanne@lylanne.com

See you next week!

Keep writing,

Lylanne