What One Week of Writing Has Taught Me

I never thought I’d get to seven straight days of writing! Go me!

*Pauses to give herself a nice pat on the shoulder.*

I do hope to continue–I’ve already read today’s writing prompt and I’ll mull over it throughout the day until I can sit down this evening and write.

But I’ve already observed a few things thanks to this daily writing exercise, so I thought I’d hash them out.

You don’t have to feel creative

I can’t say I ever really feel creative. What does that mean? I mean I’m not a very artistic person, I’m not a creative type.

Even when I’m knitting, which is arguably a very creative pursuit (you are, after all, quite literally creating something), to me it just feels like I’m following directions from the pattern. I am giving form to someone else’s creativity.

And yet, I have been able to sit down and write on a daily basis. I still don’t feel like I’m being particularly creative, as I’m mostly basing what I write very loosely on my own experience (except for the rocket ship to the moon. I’ve never been on a rocket ship to the moon).

Takeaway: you don’t have to feel creative to be creative. You just have to do it.

I feel the limitations of my vocabulary

Though I read a lot and as an English teacher I have expanded my vocabulary quite a bit, I still feel limited when I sit down to write.

Maybe it’s that words fail me, or perhaps it’s that lack of creativity that I feel that has me sometimes searching for the right language.

(Anyone who has spent time with me knows all too well that words usually come to me with absolutely no difficulty.)

I have a feeling that practice will help this.

My comfort zone has become very clear

I’m definitely more comfortable writing from my own experience. Even if it’s a fictionalized version of my experience, I like to have something to base myself on.

That’s why I found the Day 7 prompt about a rocket-ship going to space to be quite challenging. I even felt a little silly and self-conscious writing it. It seemed so far beyond me.

But I suppose that’s the point of the exercise!

More to come!

As I (hopefully) continue this exercise, I’m sure I’ll learn more. I have a feeling, though, that while certain prompts may be a challenge, the practice of writing every day should make the process easier.

Just like regular exercise makes running easier, or speaking a language every day makes you more fluent, writing daily will make me a better writer.

Here’s hoping!

To the Moon

This is Day 7 in a series of essays inspired by a writing prompt from ThinkWritten.com. In which I attempt a narrative. Tally-ho!

7. The Rocket-ship: Write about a rocket-ship on its way to the moon or a distant galaxy far, far, away.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

One moment he was weightless, the next his forehead smashed against the window.

When you’re in zero gravity, though your brain knows you’re moving, your body doesn’t. Your speed is constant, and there are no air pockets or turbulence, like in a plane.

So when he was suddenly thrown into the window he’d been taking pictures through, he knew something was seriously wrong. His training kicked in immediately.

In split seconds he’d done a sensory check. Touch: what did he feel? Pain in his forehead. No sudden temperature change, no drop in pressure. Taste: blood. A quick probe with his tongue found that he’d bitten his lip in the impact. Well if that’s the worst of it… Smell: any leaks or fires? Nothing. Not yet, at least. Sight: could he see any damage? Not from his position. Hearing: were any alarms sounding? The bump to his head must have been strong because his ears were ringing. But before that thought had even fully formed, he realized the buzzing was an alarm coming from the cockpit.

He shook his head to try and clear the fog of the bump. Pushing himself off handles and walls, he made it to the cockpit. His colleagues were already there. Marian looked dazed, as if she’d hit her head, too. Then he saw the droplets of blood floating from her temple. She’d been running one of the experiments when the collision happened and had been thrown into a door frame. Karl was examining the wound.

Though it was fewer than 20 seconds since the impact, Liudmila and Ewan were already running diagnostics. Mila was on the radio, and Ewan was identifying the source of the alarm.

They were two days and four hours into their journey. Theirs was to be the first crew to land on the moon since 1972, when Gene Cernan stepped off the lunar surface with a promise to return. Coming through on Cernan’s promise had been his dream since childhood.

Twenty-three seconds since the impact. Another alarm began to sound, followed by another, bringing him back to the present. “Gabriel,” Ewan said, “Come with me. Don’t forget your radio.” They fitted their radios into their ears and glided off. As he glanced back, Gabriel saw Marian already moving into Ewan’s seat, a bit of bandage haphazardly stuck to her temple. Some of her dark hair was caught in the bandage, and it floated next to her face  like a wisp in the wind. Karl was checking sensors, the fine lines around his mouth deepening in concentration. Mila was relating to ground control all the information she could glean from the computers. She was pale, focused, aware of each alarm and its meaning, impervious to the noise.

He followed Ewan from one chamber to the next, pulling himself through the narrow openings after his crewmate. They didn’t get far. At midship they encountered a sealed hatch, blocking their path. The emergency closure had activated. While Ewan checked the readings on the control panel, Gabriel glanced through the window next to the now-sealed door.

A feeling of cold panic shot from his forehead, down his spine and into his arms and legs. His throat suddenly felt dry. His fingers and toes tingled. Adrenaline flowed through his entire body.

It was gone. The entire rear of the ship had been blasted apart.

“Mila…” he began weakly.

“I know.” Her voice came clear and cold through the radio. I know.

Eye Contact

This is Day 6 in a series of essays based on a writing prompt. I thought I’d keep it up for five days max. Since I’ve made six, how about we see if I can get to ten?

6. Eye Contact: Write about two people seeing each other for the first time.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

The moment their eyes met—electric. You could feel the current running between them. It was practically visible.

Sparks flew! Heads turned towards them! Everyone noticed the energy darting back and forth! It was like that scene in The Return of the Jedi when the evil emperor is zapping Luke Skywalker with electric bolts from his hands.

Oh, was that not the comparison you were expecting?

Wait, you thought I was going to tell you a LOVE story??

Oh, no no no no no!

They knew the moment they clapped eyes on each other that they couldn’t stand each other.

It was loathing at first sight.

And don’t think this was one of those romantic comedy situations where they hate each other at first and then come to love each other. Nope.

They simply didn’t like each other. And they never would.

The first words he spoke to her were snarky, each seemingly polite phrase dripping in sarcasm. They were paired in biology class. They had to dissect a fetal pig together. They would both have preferred the dead pig’s company to each other’s.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. He then had the nerve to start dating her roommate. Her roommate, for crying out loud! Wasn’t it hard enough having to share a classroom five days a week? Why did he have to impose himself on her social life, too? He enjoyed seeing her squirm with discomfort whenever he was around. It was as if he sought her roommate out on purpose, just to make her uncomfortable.

Thankfully, the relationship with the roommate didn’t last (she finally cottoned on to what a loser he was) and eventually he faded out of her life. He’s a person she very rarely thinks of now, except when called upon to think of the most hateful person she can. Then his image comes roaring back to her mind.

In those moments, she is grateful to him. Grateful to him for being such a perfect jerk. His face appears on every literary villain, every bad guy she reads about.

But sometimes she wonders… Was she the one being the jerk?

What’s For Dinner?

This is Day 5 in a series of essays based on a writing prompt. I never thought I’d keep it up this long…

5. Food: What’s for breakfast? Dinner? Lunch? Or maybe you could write a poem about that time you met a friend at a cafe.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

“Mama! What’s for breakfast?”

“Mama, what are we having for lunch?”

“Mama, I don’t want that for dinner! I hate that!”

“Mama, we had this yesterday.”

“Mama this is yucky.”

“Mama, you KNOW I don’t like scrambled eggs!”

“Mama, why don’t you EVER make ANYTHING I like?!”

“Mama, but it’s green!”

“Mama, it’s gone mushy.”

“Mama! I dropped some!”

“Mama, it’s on the floor.”

“Mama, can I put ketchup on it?”

“Mama! Can I have bread? With butter on it?”

“MAMA! I WON’T EAT IT!”

*Gagging sounds*

“Mama… It came back up…”


Mi amor, it’s absolutely delicious. Gracias.

Sigh

salsa-dancing-birthday-girl

The Salsa Dancing Birthday Girl

This is the fourth in a series of essays based on a writing prompt.

4. Dancing: Who’s dancing and why are they tapping those toes?

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

“I’M SORRY I CAN’T SALSA DANCE!”

“COMO?”

“I SAID, I CANNOT DANCE SALSA!”

“THEN WHY ARE YOU IN A SALSA CLUB?!”


Why indeed?

I’d been asking myself the very same question since I’d paid ten euros to get in the door. I asked it as we pushed through the crowd. The music was deafening, the atmosphere hot and stuffy. It smelled like booze, sweat and body odor. It almost made you wish they hadn’t recently banned smoking in clubs.

The place was a maze. Open staircases going up and down, doors leading to smaller, more intimate rooms, the bar, the toilets (never, EVER go to the toilets). Our leader seemed to know where she was going, though, so we sharpened our elbows and pushed on, following as closely as we could through the mass of people.

We climbed a sticky staircase that lead up to what I can only assume was the holy of holies. Huge windows went from floor to ceiling, dimmed lightbulbs encased in class spheres hung suspended from the ceiling at artfully varied heights. The floor was wooden, polished with use in the middle. It was the top floor of the club, the huge dance hall, open only to people who actually knew what they were doing.

Why, oh why was I here?

Upon closer inspection, there seemed to be plenty of other people if not as clueless as me, at least as awkward. The onlookers gathered close to the walls and the bar, leaving a large oval open space in the middle of the room. That oval was where only true dancers dared to tread. And boy, did they dance.

All eyes were turned to them, and everyone watched in awe as couples twirled and spun, the men masterfully making the women look amazing, the women moving like goddesses. In spite of my Irish, Scottish and German blood, my hips started to sway.

That’s when I was accosted.


“THEN WHY ARE YOU IN A SALSA CLUB?!”

“WELL…”

…How could I explain? I was brought here by force? Peer pressure? I shrugged weakly, shook my head and gave what must have been a pathetic grimace.

It turns out the young man couldn’t dance much, either. In halting Spanglish, he told me he had taken a couple of salsa classes, and he would be happy to show me the basic steps. My companions were between us and the dance floor, craning their necks to see and be seen. They were close enough that I felt safe, and so in a corner of that temple to salsa, he shyly took my hands and we started to move.

Despite some treading on toes and awkward giggling, we had gotten into what could pass for a groove when suddenly the music changed. A salsa version of “Happy Birthday” began to play, and we all crowded closer to the dancefloor to see what was happening.

A plump young woman in tight black pants and a teal tank top was dancing alone in the middle of the floor. Her body seemed to move in line with her own curves, smoothly and confidently. She danced with her eyes closed, a smile on her face, totally unselfconscious. Then a young man stepped out of the crowd and took her hand. There was no interruption to her movement—he simply glided in and suddenly the two of them were dancing together in what looked to be a choreographed routine. But then another man stepped forward. Seeing him, the first man smoothly passed the birthday girl’s hand to the second man, and on went the dance, as seamlessly as the first.

One by one, men stepped up and took turns dancing with her. There was never a halt, a hesitation or a misstep. I thought it couldn’t possibly be improvised—nobody dances like that! But then one of my group, a young man fancied by a girl I was with, stepped forward. I knew for a fact he didn’t know the birthday girl. And yet he took her hand and spun her around the floor.

My new salsa teacher slipped his arm around my waist as we watched, and tried to whisper (but due to the volume of the music, ended up shouting) in my ear, “You could dance as well as she does.”

I said nothing. I just gazed at her. For a brief moment, I allowed myself to believe him.

Bompa’s Boat

This is the third in a series of essays based on a writing prompt.

3. The Vessel: Write about a ship or other vehicle that can take you somewhere different from where you are now.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

It wasn’t officially christened Bompa’s Boat until after he died. But it didn’t matter—we all knew whose boat it was. Even when he retired as captain, it was still his.

It wasn’t—still isn’t—a fancy boat. I couldn’t tell you the model or what kind of motor it had. It was about 4 meters long and had a raised space in the bow. Underneath he stored the anchors and life vests. Against harbor master’s rules, his grandkids used to sit at the bow with our legs dangling through the railings, over the edge.

Blinding sun, bright blue sky. The heat of summer stinging my skin. The smell of salt and sunscreen. My mother looked the picture of elegance, sitting with one of her long legs crossed over the other on the little seat right in front of the steering wheel. Behind her, shielded by the windscreen, stood my grandfather at the wheel with my dad by his side. The captain and his first mate smiled behind tinted glasses. My brothers and I vied for prime seats at the bow.

Once through the harbor Bompa would open up the throttle. Then all you could hear was the roar of the motor and the whipping of wind in your ears. Impossible to speak in anything less than a shout, so we didn’t bother. Each of us would silently take in what we enjoyed most about Bompa’s Boat. The speed, the feeling of floating, the salt spray. Shrieks of laughter as a larger boat’s wake splashed us.

Each generation of our family has been transported to a happy place on Bompa’s Boat. Everyone had their favorite destination. Some liked Ship Rock. Others preferred the sand bar that surfaced at low tide. Though it was a long trip—all the way around Gooseberry Island—my favorite spot was Barney’s Joy. As the tide ebbed, the current from one of the inland ponds flowed out between the dunes, through a narrow throat and into the bay. That throat was Barney’s Joy. We’d anchor offshore, dive in and swim with our life vests or innertubes to land. Then we’d trudge up the stream a ways, jump in and be whisked out to sea. It was heavenly to float on that current, surrendering myself to the tide. Better than any water park lazy river.

Now my dad captains Bompa’s Boat as my husband stands by as first mate. I cross my legs on the seat in front of the steering wheel. Our boys and their cousins shriek, stumble and laugh in the bow. Sometimes I feel my grandfather is there, too. Smiling his quiet smile, basking in the joy his family still gets from Bompa’s Boat.

https://www.pictorem.com/74827/Empty%20Diving%20Board%20And%20Water.html

On a Diving Board

This is the second in a series of essays based on a writing prompt.

2. The Unrequited love poem: How do you feel when you love someone who does not love you back?

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

It felt like I was standing on a diving board.

Blindfolded.

I didn’t know if there was water in the pool or not.


I could jump.

The water could be cool, clear and welcoming.

Or I could hit rock bottom.

I could back away, back off the diving board.

And go back to not knowing you.


Sometimes it felt like you were next to me.

Other times it felt like you were somewhere else.

Maybe sitting in a deck chair, suntanning.

Sometimes you seemed to care.

Other times you were cold.


It turns out you were smarter than me.

You understood us both better than I understood myself.

We’d cling to each other in the water, dragging each other down.

We’d both drown in murky waters.


You wanted to control me.

I wanted to love you.


So I backed off the diving board.

I walked away.

I left you standing, eyes uncovered, clearly seeing what could have been.

Did you regret not talking me into jumping?

I decided I didn’t care.


Because in the end I loved myself.

I loved myself more than I wanted to love you.

https://morealtitude.wordpress.com/2009/03/15/evening-star/

The Evening Star

This is the first in what I hope will be a series of posts following a daily writing prompt. The prompts are taken from ThinkWritten.

1. Outside the Window: What’s the weather outside your window doing right now? If that’s not inspiring, what’s the weather like somewhere you wish you could be?

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

I’d need a sweater if I were to stay out much longer. The sun has set, but there’s still plenty of light. The first thing I notice when I get out from under the portico is the evening star, shining brilliantly in a pale blue sky. I smile as soon as I see it.

Swallows, or maybe starlings, are darting around, hunting in the dim light that is something between day and night. They’re noisy and swift, making quick, sharp turns. Someone’s been grilling and it smells spicy and sweet. I look around for the glow of a barbecue, but all the front balconies are still. Though all the parking spaces are occupied and I know everyone’s home, I feel alone.

I shiver, and remember why I came out. Nothing in the mailbox, drop the shopping bags in the back of the car, disturbing the peace with the dissonance of the automatic tailgate’s beeping.

I turn back to look up at the evening star before heading back inside, back into lockdown. It feels delicious to be alone out here. I watch as day ends and night begins. Then I shiver again.

As I turn to go back inside, I think to myself, “Better wash my hands.”

An Uptick in Readership

I got an email from Google Analytics the other day. It told me that suddenly I’d had quite an uptick in readership of my blog. Hooray!

Progress?

This was exciting news!

Don’t get me wrong, my numbers are DISMAL. Absolutely abysmal. It could be because I’ve shamefully neglected this blog over the years. It could also be that I’ve never really written this blog with a mind to SEO or driving clicks.

But suddenly in February my numbers weren’t quite so dismal. (They were still bad, but not rock bottom bad, you know?)

What had happened??

I assumed that this was because I had returned to writing on a fairly regular basis.

I write an article and then automatically publish it to a number of social media platforms, including the (rather neglected) Facebook page I have for this blog.

But as anyone who works in the blogosphere knows, the more you write, the more people read.

So, hooray!

But that’s not all…

Granted, writing more frequently and publishing more on the blog is bound to attract a few more readers. However, what seems to be the catalyst in my readership increase is…

Drumroll please…

RAVELRY!!

Yup! That wonderful website, that glorious database of all things yarn is the reason for my (slight) increase in traffic on my blog.

Let me explain.

I checked out a local Stitch n’ Bitch group back in the fall, and as they haven’t kicked me out (and even seem glad to see me!), I’ve started to attend regularly.

The lovely ladies of this group have generously added me to their Facebook page, and also to their list of Ravelry friends. And since I have links to my blog sprinkled around my Facebook page and my Ravelry profile, BAM! Some of these curious souls clicked! And voilà!

I would never have known the reason for my blog’s sudden surge (HA!) in popularity (GUFFAW!) had one of my fellow stitchers (n’ bitchers) not mentioned to me last night that she had been reading my blog.

So to all you wonderful ladies of the Stitch n’ Bitch…

THANK YOU FOR READING!

It really does mean a lot to me.

And here’s where you can find my Facebook page, and my Ravelry profile.

Can Anybody Hear Me?

Can Anybody Hear Me?

Is it just me?

Or is applying for jobs a bit like trying to be heard above a loud, noisy crowd?

I guess that’s exactly what it is. I’m trying to make my resume stand out over hundreds of others. All those others are probably stronger than mine in many ways, and weaker in others.

But how am I to know that?

Have I gotten a response to any of my job applications? So far, just one.

Admittedly, it was a good response. I got an interview. Didn’t get the job, but hey, it’s a start.

While I know that I’m trying to be heard over hundreds of others, sometimes it feels much lonelier than that.

It feels like I’m standing in a huge, towering, dark and empty stadium. My little voice echoes and is then swallowed by the enormity of the space.

When you send an application off to an anonymous careers platform, it feels like you’re standing on that enormous stage and throwing pathetic little paper airplanes out into the empty audience.

One after another, after another, after another, after another…

One a day, every day.

Back to work!