April’s Fool #IWSG

After last month’s IWSG support day, I eagerly hit the refresh button to get the prompt for April 1 and found the following on the signup page:

April 1 question – Do you have any rituals that you use when you need help getting into the ZONE? Care to share?

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As I have made it my goal is to answer the monthly prompt as it is given, I began to consider how I was approaching my writing and realized I was very much at a disadvantage in answering such a question. At the time, I didn’t actually have a ritual or any writing habit at all. Ahem. I decided it was a topic worthy of some thought. I decided that in March, 2020, I would develop a ritual that would help put me in this wonderful place known as “the zone.” I would commit to building a writing habit. 

I made a note of it, closed the IWSG tab, and went back to my daily life with the prompt rolling around in the back of my head. 

Well, except, that’s not exactly the way it went down. The daily life I knew at the beginning of March is very different from the one I know now. At the beginning of March, my husband would leave bright and early for work in the morning. At the beginning of the month, we enjoyed the occasional dinner out or making an outing of a trip to a local market. At the beginning of March, we had the habit of spending our weekends with friends playing board games. At the beginning of the month, I had confidence that I could plan the coming months with a reasonable amount of confidence.

 That was at the beginning of this month. In just these few weeks, as I began to consider how to be a better writer, I saw the world drastically change around me.  My husband no longer leaves for work. We no longer run to the market for an outing (we are, however, finding some creative ways to use the sardines, French lentils, and other long forgotten supplies in the hinterlands of the pantry). We no longer meet friends for board games but, rather, wrestle with the mute button on Zoom. Here, at the end of the month, we no longer make any specific plans for the future. 

As the weeks unfolded, the question of how I might develop a writing habit became a bit of a buoy to hang onto during the rising tide of uncertainty and fear around me. When the sum total of how one can best help in a national crisis is to stay home and keep healthy, it nudges one to look within.

I have now reached the end of the month. (Others, tragically, have not.)   Besides timeboxing YouTub sessions, shifting through frightening news broadcasts looking for the latest, factual information, I have spent my days working on answering the question of what it means to have a ritual for getting into the zone. I have, in a matter of weeks, developed my own unique way to begin my day and get myself into the writing chair. In doing so, I have become much more consistent in my writing. I have submitted one of my pieces to a journal. I have written a post for the upcoming WEP challenge. I have continued working on my first novel. And, of course, I have worked on my IWSG post summarizing all I had learned about writing and getting into the flow.

Facing this month’s deadline and having dutifully written my post, I opened the laptop and brought up the IWSG tab. I then smiled seeing that, in the meantime, the hosts of the site had changed the prompt to the following:

…in this time when our world is in crisis with the covid-19 pandemic, our optional question this month is: how are things in your world?

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So, you see, for the April 1st prompt, there has been a bit of a switcheroo sometime during the month and now I had a second, unanswered prompt. Changing the prompt, of course, was a thoughtful, compassionate action on the part of IWSG hosts, and I wholeheartedly commend them for doing so. I smiled because not only did my world change since I started answering the prompt, but the prompt changed! Lots of moving targets these days.

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No worries.  Once I stopped shaking my head, I realized that my answer didn’t really change. The answer to the question of how things are in my world is that my world is a very scary place, but I am grateful to report that, thanks to the original IWSG prompt, my focus on writing has been a source of comfort.

For now I will take my original post about the resources I used and my very own method for getting in the zone, I will take that post and tuck it away for a later time when such matters might not seem a bit tone deaf. The main message I want to send is that I am grateful to all those who make up this community. I send everyone my wishes for your continued health and safety. Thank you, IWSG and all those who wander here. Best to you all….

Family Traditions

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March 4 question – Other than the obvious holiday traditions, have you ever included any personal or family traditions/customs in your stories?

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When I first ran across IWSG and the once a month Support Day, I made a promise to myself. Every month I would write something. More importantly, I promised myself I would always respond the to the prompt. Now, now, I understand from the instructions that the prompt isn’t required. But in the spirit of good fun (“A thing worth doing is worth doing well.”), I decided that I would take this approach. Surely spilling some words on the page once a month given a writing prompt would be an entry level task for any emerging writer. There should never be any excuse to shrug off any specific writing prompt. Oh no, not me.

So in the days after last month’s posts, I hit refresh on the browser to get this month’s prompt with anticipation. But after I read it, I slammed the laptop shut and muttered, “Stupid question. Forget it. I’m done with IWSG.” Then I huffed off and made dinner.

It’s been a few weeks now, and my blog post is due. I’ve crawled back to the website to take a second look and to ask myself why I don’t like this prompt. Well, it’s not that difficult to understand, not really. Not when you break the question down into its component parts and juxtapose them next to my life’s story arch.

Well, first of all the prompt assumes that I have actually already written stories. Plural. I laugh out loud. And then my face turns red with shame. I am just getting started and cannot say I have ever really written a story. I’ve told a story or two, but to write them down and share them, I’m just starting out. I admit that thinking of all the unwritten stories ahead, stowed somewhere snuggly in the foggy future was a bit overwhelming. But I know that others who are participating here have written a story or two, and some of those who wander here have seen their work all the way to the bookshelf. I find myself only at the threshold in this writer’s journey. Wherever I’m going, I will have to start here. I have no stories. Not yet.

Once I recovered from realizing just how much work I have ahead of me, I started picking apart the rest of the prompt. The next point was to examine was this pesky business of “family traditions and customs.” If, by family traditions, we are eliciting a scene from a Norman Rockwell print, well, no. Whatever sticky substance that holds families together, the invisible glue that helps humans lump themselves into family units, that stuff, well, it didn’t seem to set properly in my family. By way of an example, I was in my twenties before I ever experienced a family sitting down for a dinner together. But if by “family traditions” we would be referring to the habit built through decades of chaos and self-delusion of trying to papier-mâché a happy, typical facade over a highly dysfunctional situation, yeah, I imagine many of my stories will contain bits recycled from past life experiences.

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Monthly writing prompt from #IWSG: 2020/02/05

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February 5 question – Has a single photo or work of art ever inspired a story? What was it and did you finish it?

I think one of my biggest inspirations for storytelling comes from my grandfather, Tom. In a small southern town, during the early 1900’s, he ran a small wholesale electric company. In addition to all the normal challenges he would have faced as a small business owner in keeping up with the then emerging technologies in electrical appliances and lighting, in addition to being a loving husband and a father of two children, he faced a challenge unusual among his peers. Tom was legally blind. Ever since he suffered a severe fever at an early age, he only saw vague patches of darkness and light the rest of his life. How my grandfather dealt with this challenge of not having sight and how he not only succeeded but inspired others has been the impetus for my own desire to write for as long as I can remember.

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The Box of Hurt

Some twenty years ago, Maggie had stood in her storage locker sorting what stuff she would drag to California with her and what was headed to Goodwill.  She had sorted out the books, CDs and cassettes, tools, legal documents and had some family knickknacks carefully wrapped and packed.  The still, hot, humid air of a typical summer day in North Carolina had a suffocating effect in the aluminum 8 x 10 unit.  Add dust, mold and a healthy set of ragged nerves. Not the best day. 

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