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

 

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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

Writing Prompt Pit Stop: Looking Back, Leaping Forward!

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! It’s a new month, a new year, and it’s a leap year at that…so an extra day to write! It’s hard to believe that this is going into my fourth year of writing this blog. Granted, some years I’ve been more consistent with my posts than others – but every year I start out with the best intentions of writing a blog every week, and sharing a few prompts that might encourage others to write something…anything at all…in any genre. Sometimes I use a photo, that I’ve taken, as a prompt but mostly I use a few ideas that I’ve either observed, experienced, or have found to be tried and true in my own work. I try to always write the prompts in such a way that no matter if you’re a poet, fiction writer, nonfiction writer, or playwright, you’ll find something helpful. So if you’re new here, welcome aboard.

Looking back on 2015, I had challenged everyone to write something everyday at this very time of year. I did pretty well during 2015 in doing that; however, my big change was that I wrote way less poetry and wrote way more short plays. I stayed creative by teaching several creative writing workshops in the region, and I was active every month of 2015 in at least two-three small writing groups a month (I think every writer needs at least one trustworthy small writing group). Some of which I’m the “leader,” and some where I’m just a participant. I did lose a supportive poetry group, Company of Women, at least as it once was, last year with one of my cohorts, and friend, moving to the west coast, and with me moving to MI and becoming more involved with theatre. In theatre, I gained a lot of new friends and new opportunities. I directed five short plays, won two awards – one an audience choice for my play, “Frida Kahlo: Heartbreaker,” that I wrote and directed, and the other was a scholarship at Boxfest Detroit 2015; as a director I was eligible to propose a project (Portable Folio Productions), which was to create a playwriting/directing group that meets once a month, puts on staged readings, and will ultimately culminate in a major production in September of 2016. Nevertheless, I did have several poems published in 2015, participated in National Poetry Month’s, Found Poetry Review‘s Pomosco Challenge (a poem written to their supplied prompt every day) and completed it. I was a featured reader several times early in the year…so all in poetry land was not lost.

Leaping forward into 2016, I have my goals set. If you’ve read this blog before at this time of year, I always advocate setting goals rather than making resolutions…I find goals easier to keep track of and attain. It also comes with a plan instead of “wishful” thinking. I’ve already laid some ground work for this year by submitting a chapbook and a full-length poetry manuscript towards the end of last year. This year, three days in, I’ve written two new poems and have submitted another chapbook submission. I finished three short plays at the end of 2015 that I had committed to writing for 365 Women a Year Playwriting Project ; one was about Peggy Lee, one on Helen Frankenthaler, and the other on Patsy Southgate. Hopefully they will find their way to the stage somewhere. So, the goals that I have in 2016 is to keep up the writing pace of 2015 – and to bump it up. To get a poetry chapbook or manuscript published; to write more plays…I’ve again committed to three more plays for the 365 Women a Year Playwriting Project in 2016. And, yes, this is the year I vow to complete a novel that I started in 2007. So writing is going to take up a lot of 2016, and that makes me happy. What are your writing goals for 2016? I wish you the best in whatever type of writing you do and I hope you have the success that you seek.

Here are a few prompts to help get you jump started on your writing journey in 2016:

  1. I enjoy the show Downton Abbey, and tonight (in America) is the 1st show of the final season. I believe it hooked me because of the characters and the interesting story lines…and because I love history. In your daybook, write a character or a scene from another period than our own. Develop it as much as you can in 10-20 minutes.
  2. On New Year’s Day it’s been a tradition in my family to cook cabbage for good luck. Write for 10 minutes about a tradition that has been passed down through the years in your family. How did it start? What are you afraid might happen if you don’t participate? Have you ever missed the tradition and the year turned out to be a bad one…or better than ever?
  3. If you write poetry, challenge yourself to write in a different way than you normally do. If you always write free verse, try something formal such as a sonnet, a haiku, or a pantoum (my favorite). If you always rhyme, try writing free verse.
  4. Use these words in whatever genre you write: privilege/January/ scandal.

If you get anything that you want to share, you can always share it in comments below, or contact me: lylanne[at]lylanne.com

See you in a week! Don’t forget to keep writing! Happy New Year!!

Lylanne

Writing Prompt Pit Stop: Playing the Name Blame

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! It’s no secret that my name is different than most others, and I’ve never met another with my first name…and I get that all the time, people upon hearing my name for the first time saying they’ve “never heard that before.” I take pride in my first name now, but for at least the first 20 years of my life it was a thorn in my side…as an only child, I was extremely shy…and during my elementary school years and even during high school, it was embarrassing to have my name draw attention to me. And it did, on the first day of classes, inevitably the teacher would be calling roll…stop dead in their tracks…and then they would make an attempt to sound out my name, if they even attempted at all (this was back in the 60s and 70s when unusual names were not that common, nowadays this may sound absurd). I would slowly raise my hand and pronounce it for them, as everyone stared at me. Eventually, I did find some humor in it as my other classmates that knew me would catch on to this phenomenon, year after year, and either say it with me or they’d laugh…because friends knew my face would turn 10 shades of red.

As an adult, I’ve learned to treasure my name. Especially, as a creative person who writes and paints because it certainly does stand out. And, even though I used to blame my mom for saddling me with that name for life, I’m glad she did. In fact, in a phone conversation last week she was telling me how my great aunt warned her against spelling my name the way she did when I was born, as no one would ever pronounce it correctly. It turns out, my great aunt was right more often than not (she was a school teacher), but because of the way my name is spelled it makes it even more unique, so I’m glad my mom held her ground.

I’ve written about my name in one poem, with my first name as the title that is in the chapbook, A Charm Bracelet For Cruising (Winged City Press, 2009), and recently because of conversation in my classes with students this year I came up with some ideas for students to write about their names. In one class I have three Kaitlin’s, and even though on my roster they are each spelled different, they all sound the same – hence, when I say their name and they’re all sitting in the same vicinity – they all think I’m talking to them. In my poem, I speak of what it’s like “when someone speaks my name/ no one else turns around.” But, I find it interesting that I will never know what it’s like to have a common name, and what that must be like to share a name….

So for your 59th Prompt(s) I thought we’d have some fun with your names or those of your characters:

“Playing the Name Blame”

1) In your daybook, write about your name. It can be your first or your last. What troubles or misunderstandings has it caused you? How did you get your name? Was it a family name, one that was put together (as mine was) to incorporate both parent’s or grandparent’s names? If you have a common name, what is it like to be in a classroom or a meeting and someone says your name? If you have an uncommon name, what are some of the things you’ve had to resort to to explain your name to others? Pick one of these questions that gave you the most traction, and write for 10 minutes.

2) Write a poem, essay, or a story about your name. You can use some of the freewriting that you got from the above prompt to give you some ideas.

3) If you write plays or fiction, you know that names are really important to your characters/protagonists/antagonists. What do you do when you’re first contemplating a character to come up with their names? Do you do research to see what their names mean? Do you associate them with someone you know that has that name? How might it affect your character if they dealt with a problem with their name?

4) What might it be like if your character (or you) had the same name as a serial killer or some other unsavory person? On the flipside, what if they shared their name (or you do) with someone really popular…a celebrity, a president, etc.? What antics or wants/needs might ensue?

5) If you’re interested, I’m always open to any sharing of your work, or comments on this blog…or you can contact me at lylanne@lylanne.com

Writing Prompt Pit Stop: Songs of the Season

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! For me this time of year means the end of the semester, and another chunk of classes to grade…and this particular semester that means eight classes! However, I’ve been doing some bit by bit, and I’ve got it all planned out to do some each day to save my sanity. The other happenings this time of year are the celebrations of the season, and whether you celebrate Christmas, as I do, or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa...,it usually is a time of year that is looked forward to. One of my favorite things this time of year, besides the pretty lights everywhere, are Christmas Carols. I remember learning them as a child and loving to sing them, and I still do. If memory serves me, one of the first songs I memorized and was able to sing as a child was “Away in the Manger,” and then there was “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” etc. I also remember hearing on the radio Santa Looked A Lot Like Daddy,” by Buck Owens, and thinking that song was so funny (I was 8 or 9!). Songs bring joy and memories, and especially the special songs that are tied to this time of year. By the same token, they can also evoke sadness…at the loss of loved ones, a relationship that ended, or a sense of loneliness if you don’t have others to celebrate the season with. Again, it’s an example of how powerful words can be. So, for your 56th Writing Prompt Pit Stop Prompt(s) I thought if would be fun to re-imagine or create new songs for the season!

“Tis the Season…to Write a New Song!”

1) In your daybook, write a list of Christmas Carols, Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah songs that you’re familiar with and love the melody. After making your list, pick one of your favorites and re-write a new lyric to it…share it with others, turn it into a poem, or add it to a story you’re writing.

2) Make up a brand new song, either serious or humorous, religious or secular. Think of the song by Buck Owens that I mentioned earlier, or “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.” Why can’t you come up with a new “classic?”

3) I mentioned recalling the first Christmas Carol that I learned. Do you remember what Holiday Song you learned first as a child? How old were you? Did you learn it for school, church, or just because you wanted to? Do your still sing that song today? Why or why not?

4) Switch it up, is there a Christmas Carol or Holiday Song that you don’t think you can hear one more time? It’s played or sung to death, and you wish you would never hear it again? Why? Was there too much exposure, or was it connected to some event in your life that was not a good one? Write about it. Maybe have your character in a story make this “confession” if you don’t want to make it your own.

5) If you feel up to it, I’m always open to any sharing of your work, or comments on the blog…or you can contact me at lylanne@lylanne.com

In between grading, I’m hoping to be back here again next week! 🙂

Writing Prompt Pit Stop: Rocking a Playlist

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! Wow, I can’t believe it’s been exactly a month since I’ve written here. That’s out of character for me. However, I had been talking about change during the summer and, by gosh, I got some change. All good, I left the community college where I had been teaching for the past four years, and was hired by a larger community college, Washtenaw, and within a week I was also hired at a Eastern Michigan University. So, I’m now teaching for three colleges and have eight classes; it will mean less stress over money for a while, but it does cut into my time. Nevertheless, I’m not complaining!! I like both of my new schools, but I’ve been busy with a lot of new preps and every time I think I’m going to get a chance to write the week’s Writing Prompt Pit Stop I find myself doing some other task…or needing some sleep. But, here I am today stealing a moment so I can get my blog back on track. My only quandary now is deciding what day is going to be best to post. Wednesdays have worked for years, and I really would like to stay with that day to keep consistent; yet, here I am posting on a Sunday. So, what I will do is try to post another on this Wednesday – but if I find that doesn’t happen, maybe the weekend will be a better option, we’ll see.

I’d had an idea that I was going to post last week, and didn’t get the chance, so I’ll post it now. As a person that enjoys making listsof things to do, list poems, etc., and because I’ve seen (and participated) in those lists of 10 favorite books (or books that have left an impact on you in one way or another) on FB and Twitter, I have decided to jump on the bandwagon with a list challenge of my own. It stems from not only my love of lists, but my love of music and how it can move you…in memory, in mood, etc. So, finally, here is your 53rd prompt:

“Rocking a Playlist”

1) In your daybook, list the top 10 (or more, the idea is to get writing) songs that have had an impact on you and why. You can even write those lists from one of your character‘s perspectives that you’re working with in a story, novel, or play.

2) It might be a good idea to go back and list the top 10 from different times of your life (or your character‘s), say from first memory of a song to 8 years old, from 9-14 years old, from 15 – 21 years old, and so forth. Or maybe by decade.

3) You can flip that list by making it the 10 most hated songs and why. Have you ever had the experience of loving a song, and then it was played to death (by you or by the radio) and you ended up never wanting to hear it again? Those songs might be fun to write about. Maybe you identified a song with a love, or an event...and later on the love broke off with you or the event took a turn…and now that song conjures up negative memories rather than positive….good things to write about.

4) If you don’t like to make lists, write about a specific song until you run out of things to say about it, or maybe you love (or hate) a specific type of music…maybe you love classical music and despise country. Maybe you used to hate country music, and now that’s all you listen to…this could be interesting explore…for yourself, or for your character.

5) Once you’ve written your lists, pick something that jumps out at you and utilize it to the fullest. Remember to revise! Any of these prompts can lend themselves to a piece of poetry, an essay, part of a memoir, a short story, or a play. If you’d like, share your lists here in comments.

See you here Wednesday!

Writing Prompt Pit Stop: Re-surfacing

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! Last week I shared how low I’d been feeling, how it was even affecting my dreams – metaphorically and physically, and I gave a few prompts to write about what you do, or have done, when you’ve felt that way. This week, as promised, I’m going to share a few of the ways that I’ve found my way out of my slump, and a few prompts to write on as well.

I mentioned that I’d taken steps to make some changes in my life to help alleviate the things that I felt were getting out of my control. For one thing, when it comes to the water here in Toledo, Ohio, it’s supposed to be safe to drink now. Nevertheless, when possible, I’m still drinking bottled water and giving my kitties only bottled water, and I’ve found that writing a few poems about that water crisis, and Lake Erie, has helped in two ways – it’s gotten my creative juices flowing again, and it’s helped me to put down on paper how I really feel about the entire situation – instead of keeping it all bottled (ha!) up inside. Speaking of poetry, about the same time this water crisis had come along, I’d already signed up to do the August Poetry Postcard Project, Year 8. I’d never participated in this project before, but thought it sounded fun, and if you followed along with my Oulipost 2014 posts during National Poetry Month, you know I love poetry challenges. Doing this poem a day, on a postcard, and sending it out to a stranger (and sometimes to someone I know!) on the list per directions of the project, has given me a real boost.

Next, I mentioned how money has been an issue – well, that’s probably not going to stop anytime soon, but I do have renewed hope as I’d been sending out resumes and I was recently hired at a new college that pays a bit more (even though it’s still part-time) and it’s in Ann Arbor, MI which is a still a drive, but not quite as far as I was driving before. I’m excited at the new prospects for opportunity, and a new adventure, so that again, boosts my spirits. In the meantime, I’m still looking for freelance writing gigs, or another part-time college gig that can help get me way out of my money slump. At least, I feel that there’s hope again!

Then, there was that break-in. Well, there’s not a lot I can do about that – except to be vigilant and set the alarm whenever I leave the house, never leave any windows open when I’m not home (and actually I’ve been opening only a couple that I can see when I am home – luckily, it’s been a cooler than usual summer here!), and I just don’t allow myself to dwell on that it happened; by doing that, I’m certainly not worried about being at the house, or that it’ll happen again. I just have to take one day at a time.

During this trying summer, I have found (and I already knew) what great friends and family that I have. If it had not been for them, I might not have found my way out of this slump and for their time spent with me, & on the phone; their actual help when needed (laptop, $, a dinner, or margarita, out now and then), and just for the moral support – I’m grateful.

Oh, yes, and I’ve been back out in the nature that I love, taking walks, writing in my daybook, snapping photos, and that does a lot to lift the spirits as well. In fact, yesterday on one of these walks, I overheard a young woman, walking past me on one of the trails, talking on her cell phone. She was saying,“Who knew? This place is actually beautiful! Toledo, Ohio! It’s prettier than back home, except for the mountains…” That made me smile. Toledo is a beautiful place, with beautiful people. Sometimes you just have to re-open your eyes and look around…and listen.

So, here’s hoping that we all have a good end to this summer, and a great fall season (my favorite time of year!). With that in mind, here’s your Writing Prompt Pit Stop 52nd prompt(s):

“Re-surfacing”

1) In your daybook, write down a list of all of the people, things, and places that you are grateful for. Express why. Out of that list, pick one and write for ten minutes or until you exhaust the subject. You can return to this list throughout the year when you’re perusing for something to write about.

2) Join some sort of writing challenge, or create one yourself! There are tons out there all year – check out The Found Poetry Review for some of their challenges, in November, Nanowrimo comes back around (novel writing in a month); so just look, you may be amazed at what you discover – and you will find that you can make new friends, and “meet” others from all over the world by doing these activities.

3) Remember last week that I asked you to write about a stretch of time when it seemed that everything was going against you. This week, either flip that around and write about a time that everything seemed to go your way, or take that time that you wrote about and express how you came out of your slump, write what happened, who helped – and remember, you can use these prompts to write for one of your characters, it doesn’t always have to be a “memoir” per say…or it could but no one would need to know that.

4) Write about a job where you felt you’d come to the end of the road. Did you quit? Did you stay even though you didn’t want to? Did you search for another job while working there? Have you ever had a job that you loved, but paid so little that you had to give it up? Write about your feelings with the job you have now – good or bad.

5) Any of these prompts can lend themselves to a piece of poetry, an essay, part of a memoir, a short story, or a play. Once you’ve written and revised to your liking, be sure to send your work out in the world – or at least share here in comments if you’re so inclined.

See you again next week!