Friday, May 24, 2013

The Prompt

I am still in the eddy.  I have been in it so long that I am beginning to suspect, the longer I linger, that the eddy is definitely one in which I am stuck and no longer one in which I am being saved.

I had coffee with my good friend Mel in early May and we discussed our writing. More truthfully, we discussed our respective lack of writing. Mel is caught up in her job, and I, of course, am in the eddy. We talked about the perceived difficulty of setting aside time in which to write. We talked about William Stafford and his morning exercises, about Sylvia Plath committing to write 1500, 2000, 3000 words a day no matter what, about Ernest Hemingway's beautiful descriptions of writing in A Moveable Feast.

And then I said "I suspect I would feel better physically if I started writing again." Mel nodded, perhaps thinking of her own hectic schedule. Then we looked at each other.

Lightbulb moment.

Out of that coffee conversation, Mel and I both pledged to start writing, somehow, something every day or at least almost every day. For me, the least scary trail back to regular writing was through timed writing prompts. After all, I figured, even I, swirling slowly in my eddy, could write for five minutes on a daily basis. So within a day or so of that fateful coffee date, I wrote out some twenty to thirty writing prompts on scraps of paper. Some were quotes from my quote books, some were images that flashed across my mind. They all went into a shoebox on my desk alongside a beribboned journal bearing the caption, "PROMPTS."

And then I started writing. One prompt a day, five minutes maximum, go.

Since May 5, I have missed two days, both due to my carelessness in letting the day slip through my fingers. But otherwise my little journal is slowly filling up. A few times, I have set aside the shoebox and merely written (prompt style, for five minutes only) about something poking my subconscious too much to ignore.

Since starting the prompts, I have a recurring image of a rafter in an eddy. It is a fast eddy, with rapidly swirling waters. I can see the paddler's arm upraised, gripping the paddle tightly on its t-end, about to slash downwards viciously and fiercely and decisively into the water to break free of the eddy.

Am I that rafter? Am I ready to break out of the eddy, no longer a safe haven, but rather a draining detour with an increasingly unwelcome hold on me? Do I have enough strength to get out of the eddy?

On the heels of our coffee talk, Mel and I exchanged emails about getting back into writing. "Be fearless and intrepid," she wrote afterwards.

Fearless and intrepid.

Fearless and intrepid mean different things, but for me it means picking up the pen and setting the timer. For me, it means honoring and respecting my own needs and allowing myself time and space in which to write. For me, it means closing my eyes, picking a prompt, and starting the timer.

One prompt a day, five minutes maximum, go.

"Be fearless and intrepid." Thanks, Mel!