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

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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

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

 

Stuck In “The Office” – A Poem by Lylanne Musselman

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! I’ve been remiss here a few months due to preparing to move back home to IN. But I haven’t stopped writing or submitting my work. Here is my poem posted today on Poetry Breakfast. Enjoy!

I will be back posting Writing Prompts and my musings in July!

Keep writing!
Lylanne

Poetry Breakfast

Stuck In “The Office”

The office is where
my young cousins and I
were shooed off to
whenever the restaurant
got too busy on a weekend
night after a ball game
that brought in hoards
of youth…not much older
than we were…for pizza
and pop, sometimes
the works of everything
out of the fountain, called
a “suicide.”

If we were not sent to
that office, we could get
run down by the teens
pouring into the hottest
restaurant in town, or
burnt by the busy pizza
paddles lifting those pies
in and out of the huge Bunn
ovens, or we could accidentally
trip a waitress carrying
trays full of drinks to
thirsty athletes or cheerleaders.

We always wanted
to be part of the action,
inside that office we could
hear the roar of voices,
the laughter, the excitement
of a world going on without us.
I wonder if that’s why

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