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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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

 

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

 

NaPoWriMo #14 – Time Out

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! Well, it’s happened. I did not follow the NaPoWriMo prompt today (although, I will post it at the end of this post as well). Instead, I turned to the Writer’s Digest April PAD Challenge and used their prompt…so essentially I took a “time-out” from writing a form poem as asked by NaPoWriMo’s site. And, by coincidence that was the prompt from the PAD challengea Time Out Poem. As anyone knows that follows this blog – I teach writing classes as an adjunct, and have done that for 10 years. I also, to “make a living,” teach anywhere from 7-10 classes a semester. My poem today reflects the way I feel at this moment as this semester is coming to an end. My poem is titled “Time (Out) for a Change,” the PAD prompt, and then the NaPoWriMo prompt (of which I will write eventually, as it sounds fun…I just knew I didn’t have time to work with it today).

Time (Out) for a Change

Sometimes there
comes a break-
ing point and
I’m on the verge.

It’s time for me
to regroup and re-
assess this over-
bearing feeling
of burnout. I’m tired

of working hard
for nothing to save,
or spend, or feel
secure. It’s time
for me to take
a timeout,

before I break
and waste the
chance of change –
put myself back
on track. Make a living
of fun, not fractured
by stress.

The Day 14 April PAD prompt:

For today’s prompt, write a time out poem. There are moments in my life that I wish I could take a time out. For instance, it would’ve been nice earlier this year when I had pneumonia, but life and work keeps chugging along. But there’s always a chance to take time outs in poetry if you dare. So dare to write a time out poem (or two) today.

The Day 14 NaPoWriMo prompt:

Today’s prompt comes to us from TJ Kearney, who invites us to try a eight-line poem called a san san, which means “three three” in Chinese (It’s also a term of art in the game Go). The san san has some things in common with the tritina, including repetition and rhyme. In particular, the san san repeats, three times, each of three terms or images. The eight lines rhyme in the pattern a-b-c-a-b-d-c-d.

Here’s an example san san from TJ’s blog, Bag of Anything:

Drinking the driven storm, the sturdy apple
Dances, between sky and earth, her spring-young leaves.
Knowing no purpose, knowing only season,
Her spring-young leaves, storm-driven, dapple
Earth and sky; all that my eye perceives
Dances. My eye drinks in the apple’s spring-
Young leaves, her dance that has no reason:
Only the storm, driving each dappled thing.

As you can see, three images or terms are repeated: the driven storm; the spring-young leaves; the dance, and the seven lines rhyme per the pattern given above. I hope you have fun giving the san san a try.

If you want to share any poem that you write from the prompts, post in comments!

Keep writing!

Lylanne

Writing Prompt Pit Stop: Time Challenges

Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! As writers we’re all familiar with facing the unknown…the blank page, the characters we haven’t developed yet, the plot or incident that will make a story sing, or what words will bring this or that poem to life. And, as writers we’re all familiar with the looming deadlines. As a poet/playwright, and even as a writing teacher, I meet these obstacles on a regular basis – if not in my own writing that I want to submit somewhere, but with students that are in a panic because of an approaching assignment deadline. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a creative vehicle or a research paper the results are the same…a sense of dread/panic/hopelessness mixed with a dash of exhilaration (if you like the challenge)...before we finally get something of substance down on paper.

If we’re lucky what we write will eventually turn into something we like and are excited to share with others. And, if you’re not a procrastinator…like I can be, you will have a few days, weeks, or even months to tinker with your work before the deadline arrives. Believe me, I never have months (unless it’s something that I’ve had sent back and decided to revise further to attempt publication or production elsewhere) to tinker with my work before sending it off.

I do like a challenge, and that is why I’ve participated in writing that really puts the pressure on. When I lived in Indianapolis, I participated in something called Masterpiece in a Day. It’s where you go to Fountain Square on a designated Saturday in September, register before 9 am to write a poem or a piece of prose, or create a piece of visual art…anyone that registers has to have their piece completed and submitted by 3 pm and by 5 pm judges announce the winners – hence, “masterpiece in a day.” I was fortunate enough to place 2nd for two years, and 3rd in another…all with poems. The competition is always stiff, and believe me it was a great feeling to even participate and get something written that I could live with…let alone win anything.

So, I knew that I could write under pressure…with a blank page (no head starts) as a rule – and that’s why I didn’t hesitate to jump at a chance to participate in a theatre version of this in Canton, MI (now that I live in Ypsi) on January 8th & 9th, 2016, at The Village Theatre. StageLab24 is billed as a theatre experiment. Here’s how it works: the author shows up at 8 pm, goes through an orientation which includes the rules, such as the plays could have no more than 4 characters, no more than 12 pgs., etc, then between 9:30-10 pm begin writing a 10 minute play. The play was to be complete and ready to turn over to the director by 7 am the following morning.

I had a few ideas rumbling around in my head by 10 pm, and began typing up dialogue for one of them…I felt like it was going nowhere and quickly decided that I needed to switch gears…in the 2nd play attempt I began thinking it was going to be about a bird sanctuary being held up by a group of rednecks (roughly based off of the Oregan standoff… and represented by one male character since I was limited to characters)…and that a couple of avid female birdwatchers come to the sanctuary and through a lot of comical banter (not so comical to the male) the women drive him off…however,  as any writer knows…sometimes the characters take over and other things happen…and it became a strange love story within some of those other elements…it surprised me, but in a good way. I titled my play, Bird Land.

Because I’m a glutton for punishment, and because I also love to direct, I had signed up to direct my play as well…which meant no sleep. Auditions came after breakfast (and TLC Productions who put on StageLab24, provided us, the seven writers, the directors, and the cast with excellent food and beverages the entire duration), and by 11 am – it was time to meet with my cast (Melissa Francis, Lori Ann Dick, & Pat McKabe) that I’d selected and start rehearsals. By 6 pm we had a break for dinner, and at 8 pm the plays went live to the public. It was an exhilarating experience, and one that I’m happy that I was a part of – even if I was at the theatre for over 27 hrs, and awake for a total of 49….

The take away is that time challenges aren’t something that writers should dread – sometimes they can force you into doing some pretty incredible work. And, even if you aren’t happy with what you have – you have a new piece that you didn’t have before…and possibly one that has taken you to places that you weren’t even planning to go! If you ever get a chance to take part in something like Masterpiece in a Day or StageLab24 – do. Even if it’s one time, but my hunch is…you’ll want to do more of it the next time you get a chance.

Here’s a video of the making of StageLab24 filmed by Anna Johnson: Video

Here are some writing prompts to get you writing…or searching for deadlines:

  1. Take a current event (i.e. the Oregon standoff) and write it into a story that you’re already working with, or use it as a jumping off place for your story or play...trust your characters, and let them lead you where they want to go.
  2. Write about your love affair with coffee…or your hatred of it. How did either come about? Was there ever an incident centered around coffee that you remember?
  3. Write about a memory from 30 years ago. Where were you in 1986? Who was in your life? What was your favorite song? What were you worried about? If you’re someone that wasn’t born 30 years ago, or were to young to remember…write a character that reflects on the year for some reason…
  4. Write these words into anything that you write: Freeze/Reunion/Sriracha.

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