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

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

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

 

Cha-Cha-Changes

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! What would life be if it was not filled with changes, conflict, and growth? It appears that the older I get that I have not slowed down when it comes to any of the above. Again, I find myself moving…and not just across town…but out of state. I’m packing up my books, my art, and my three cats, and hitting the road. Well, the cats won’t be packed away, but they are in for a long ride of 4.5 hours in their crates. It’s all good, as I am going to my home state, Indiana, and it actually feels right to be “going home” to Indianapolis. If you’ve read many of my blogs here, you know that I’m an adjunct writing instructor. I love to teach, but it’s not gotten any easier to make a living at doing so. It would be grand if I could say I was going home because I’d finally snagged a full-time position, but that isn’t the case. I do, however, have secured adjunct positions for at least three colleges for this Fall.

Yes, I could have stuck with the two or three colleges that I have here in MI/OH, but to be honest, I’m tired of driving across state lines to make a buck, and then losing what I made (read saved to get through the summer months) to state/city taxes (in the state that I don’t live in)…with no guaranteed income during the summer; plus, I just plain miss being nearer my family and a plethora of friends I left behind when I set out on this adventure in my life six years ago. I most certainly will miss the many friends that I have made in Ohio and Michigan, the vast majority are all in my creative tribes: poets, visual artists, playwrights and actors. And, because of those connections, I know we’ll all keep in touch in this social media society that we live in. Not to mention, I really do like to drive and will make the trip back north whenever possible. This is my last weekend in Michigan as a resident, and I will make the move with my howling cats next Friday. Wish me luck! And, who knows – maybe that full-time job is right around the corner…

Because every writer knows that conflict is an integral part to telling any story, or that  tension is needed in poems and plays, here are a few related prompts that might help you get something written regarding your own conflicts or changes in life:

  1. Write about a time that you had to make a decision to change something big in your life. It could be moving, changing jobs, ending a relationship, or going back to school. Mine that writing for an essay or a poem.
  2. If you’re so inclined, after writing about yourself with the above prompt, consider that same conflict/change in regard to a character that you’re working with in a story or a play.
  3. Write about a time that you’ve traveled with your pet(s). Was it a cross country move? Was it bringing the pet home for the first time? How about a funny or crazy time that you took your pet to the vet?
  4. Use these three words in your story/poem/play: packing/money/anxiety.

Have fun with the prompts. If you get anything that you’d like to share, don’t hesitate to post your work in comments, or send me an email at lylanne@lylanne.com

I’ll see you after the move!

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: In a Fog

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! I don’t know where you are or what you’re doing, but here in SE Michigan we’ve been in a perpetual state of fog for the past…well, four or five days…but it seems like it’s never ending. By the same token, “in a fog” could be taken metaphorically as it is the last full week of most of my face-to-face classes, and with that comes a deluge of final papers, revisions, presentations, and the atmosphere feels really heavy at times; yet, soon that “fog” is going to lift and let in brighter, lighter days ahead, as will the meteorological fog. So here’s to those clear days ahead…where I can concentrate on my own writing, enjoy some friends and family time and, yes, prep for the upcoming semester that starts in January!

For those that are looking for some writing prompts this week, here’s a few for you:

  1. In your daybook, write about how being in fog feels – what type of senses does it bring out? Does it make you claustrophobic?  Does it make you feel hopeless? Does it make you romantic? What does fog sound like? Does it have a taste? This exercise could lend itself to an interesting poem or essay…maybe even a start to a story.
  2. Speaking of fog, what has been the most interesting thing that has happened to you when you’ve been in a fog…weather wise or mind wise? Or maybe there was something that didn’t go so well…getting lost, a wreck, depression…maybe one of your characters can relate to one of these happenings from your own life – or maybe you can make something up for them that is freaky or cool.
  3. An overheard conversation in a restaurant yesterday: “out of four years of college you’re lucky if you get one instructor/professor that you connect with.” Think back to your experience in college, or your present one, or your anticipated one – do you think this is true? Write about an instructor/college professor that you connected with…or one that you didn’t.
  4. Use these words in something that you write: tolerance/Trump/toy.

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!

Lylanne