March 4 question – Other than the obvious holiday traditions, have you ever included any personal or family traditions/customs in your stories?#IWSG
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.
Thinking it over, the writing prompt I was given shares something with the life I am living—they are both just touchstones, a place on a starting line, a launching point. Getting a few hundred words on the page, even if it’s just for a blog post, even if it’s not a piece of writing that makes me proud or that will generate much interest, even then it still helps me establish a writing habit. And maybe I don’t have a rich well of happy family memories to draw upon as I sit down to create. But what I have is what I was given, unusual as it may be. I have the beginnings, the starting line. And from the stone soup of my life experience I will fashion a story that asks to be told. Just as I have managed to fashion a blog post of sorts from a prompt.