Have you a pattern for your life
wherein you’ve cut out stress and strife,
only allowing perfection?
Is every day a new confection—
cherry pie and chocolate cake?
No rejection? No heartbreak?
No erstwhile friends or jealous crazies—
your entire life a field of daisies?
It must be great, without a doubt,
but what have you to write about?
The prompt word today was pattern.
The Prompt: Winning Streak—What’s the longest stretch you’ve ever pulled off of posting daily to your blog? What did you learn about blogging through that achievement, and what made you break the streak?
I’ve written every day since April 1, 2014, except for yesterday, when I couldn’t get online all morning. I then got involved in working with the illustrator of my next book, who came to visit for two days to work on the covers. They are now finished, except for the lettering, and he’s done a wonderful job. Thrilling! I actually did answer yesterday’s prompt today and I’ve answered every other WordPress Daily Prompt since May, when I switched over from the NaPoWriMo prompt. I have not, however, managed to post a pingback to the WordPress Prompt page 3 or 4 times in the past and have not now been able to do so for the past 7 days, which is frustrating. I wonder if anyone reading this knows what the problem is and why some can trackback/pingback and others are unable to?
Blogging and the WordPress and other prompts have given me two things: a daily audience and pressure/permission to make writing a priority. I write every day, first thing, with very few exceptions. I now exercise in the late afternoon instead of the morning, giving me the entire morning to write if I need it. If I have activities, I get up early to write and sit waiting for the prompt like the parent of a teenager out after curfew.
I also sometimes post things I’ve written as a draft, waiting for a prompt to which they will relate. This serves as a backup as well, but so far I haven’t had any writer’s block. I think writing every day helps to prime the creative flow. I expect it to be there, so it always is. I also try not to censor myself. It’s necessary to let thoughts flow naturally. One can always delete or edit things later, but sometimes what feels not up to par when being written actually ends up being good. We need to give ourselves a chance and to be as supportive of ourselves as we are to our fellow writers.
Today’s the day I’m leaving to spend two months at the beach
to try to write a novel that‘s been just beyond my reach
since I wrote the first three chapters when last I spent time there;
but since I returned home, I’ve just been tearing at my hair
searching for the next word—the next turn in the plot—
in vain for though I’m waiting, the words seem to be caught.
And so I’m going after them. I’m driving there today
to see if at a different spot, I’ll have something to say.
I don’t have any friends there, or any obligation.
Understand, I’m going to work, and not for a vacation.
I’d thought to start two weeks ago, by joining NaNoWriMo,
but couldn’t figure out the site, though I knew where to go.
And so I’ve just kept writing my daily blog instead,
deciding that with just three chapters done, the book was dead.
That may be so, but nonetheless, I guess I’ll try once more
and so within the hour, I’ll be walking out the door.
My alarm clock didn’t function, so I am already late,
but I could not let you wait in vain for our daily date.
Will I be here tomorrow? My mind is most conflicted.
I really shouldn’t, but I fear that I’m badly addicted.
I get up early at the beach to dodge the morning sun.
By 8 ‘clock, my daily two hour walk is always done.
Perhaps while I am walking, my book will find me there
so I will find the plot again—and grow back all my hair.
So it’s adieu for now, perhaps. We’ll see how I will do
at writing words for chapters that I fear have been too few.
Just how it will all wind up, I do not have a clue.
All I know is that I’ll sorely miss the lot of you.
Pine for your fine company and all your ideas, too,
I’ll miss my daily visits to this lovely WordPress zoo!
The Prompt: Waiting Room—“Good things come to those who wait.” Do you agree? How long is it reasonable to wait for something you really want?
Lately, the mornings had grown crisp. Even here, below the tropic of Cancer, where they were rumored to have the second best climate in the world, they suffered a few weeks of weather where she regretted having neither heat nor air conditioning in her house. Its brick and concrete walls held-in the cool air. In the summer, this was a welcome fact. Now, in mid-November, it created the effect of the cold storage locker at the butcher shop in the small South Dakota town where she had grown up.
The butcher shop had a room-sized walk-in freezer that functioned as a meat safety-deposit vault. People in the town paid to rent private lockers. Ranchers could bring a live cow to the butcher and he and his family would kill it, age the meat, wrap it in neat packages labeled hamburger, rib eye, chuck roast, rump roast or sirloin; and then stow it away in drawers big enough to hold an entire dismantled cow. When she was very small, she could remember going to the locker with her mother or father to get the week’s meat from the drawer that had their name scrawled on a piece of masking tape stuck on its front.
The locker also sold ice cream sandwiches by the carton of 50 or so, which they would take home and store in the freezer compartment of their refrigerator. They were square little bars—half the size of the bigger ones you could buy individually at the supermarket, and she grew chubby the year she turned nine—probably mainly due to her mother’s lack of rules about how many could be consumed daily. When the supply grew sparse, it was replenished by whoever went to the locker—her mom or dad or oldest sister.
It is early morning and she puts off getting out of bed to face the brisk air. Water is streaming into the pool. She can hear its hiss as the hot volcanic water hits the cooler water of the pool. Pasiano the gardener clears his throat. Later, when Yolanda arrives, the dogs will grow restless and bark to be fed. It is not the bright morning promised by the precognition of the weather channel. Even through the white scrim of the manta cloth drapes, She can tell that the sun is muted. The past two days have been marked by intermittent rain showers coming from a sky permanently cottoned-over by a layer of clouds that now and then the sun peeks through. As she lies in bed typing, she can see a light ray through the curtains, but it fades quickly away.
8:01. It is now legal for the noises of the day to begin. The neighbor’s spoiled son roars by in his ATV that is muffler-less. The harsh sound slashes a gash through the gentler sounds of the day: the whisk whisk whisk of Pasiano’s broom, the surge as a steadier supply of hot water streams into the pool from the pipe hidden within the concrete form of a plumed serpent that spews water from between the fangs of its open mouth.
She has fantasized about stringing a wire across the cobblestone road to spill that teenaged brat from his ugly machine. This is the violence prompted by an early morning slaughtered by his ear-splitting exit. On weekends, he is up the hill and down the hill with his friends. Once, when she went to protest, they steered their monster tricycles in her direction, veering off just as she jumped back onto the sidewalk. She couldn’t hear their laughs above the deafening din of three bikes, but the girls on the back of the vehicles turned to look at her as they roared away, and their mouths were stretched in broad grins of amusement over this aged gringo who had come out with a frown to comment on the fun of youth.
They have gone. She can hear their mechanical beasts speeding down the road toward the carretera, their loud roars terrorizing neighborhood after neighborhood as they pass. She returns to the house to make the phone call to the office that will protest this noise and this small terrorist action.
“Yes, senora, we will look into it.”
“Will you call their father this time?”
“Yes, senora. The father is in Guadalajara now, but when he comes, we will call him.”
“They veered their bikes toward me so I had to jump back on the sidewalk!”
“Yes, senora. We will tell them.”
She hangs up knowing they will not tell the parents anything. They are important enough to have a huge house here in the tennis club where she lives— house they use on occasional weekends. A house which sits empty for most of the year. A house where they once brought their children and their cousins and friends to swim in the steaming hot water of the club pool or their own pools. A party house for their children, now that they have reached their teen years.
The father would be an important business man with connections, perhaps a judge or politician. It was rumored that one of the houses on her street, one further up the mountainside, was owned by a member of the cartel.
Whatever the truth of this, the complaint would not be made. In Mexico, so long as their misdeeds did not come too completely to the surface, the rich were invulnerable—cushioned by a layer of privilege augmented by mordida. No foreigner who chose to come up against a Mexican would ever win—no matter how large the misdeed. Murderers might be caught, but the case would then fade away in time so that they might never be tried, but again would be released on some technicality given birth to by mordida. Houses and land paid for in full by gringos could be reclaimed by entrepreneurs or ejidos powerful enough to know the right judge or the right politician.
Now the roar of the ATV’s is forgotten with the passing of the first truck hauling gravel and stone up to the construction site at the highest point presently reachable on the mountain. One day those mountains that rose so beautifully above her would be filled with houses to the very top; but for now, as the noise of the churning engine fades into the cold white sky, she contemplates what she will write about now that the demands of the prompt have been met. She will not write a funny rhyme today. Her mind has already been trapped by the mood prompted by the demands of this day’s topic.
She wonders how the parts of what she has written can be brought together. It is as though she has written a beginning and an end with no middle. Perhaps that was how a novel was begun in the mind of a novelist—to start out with meat in a cold storage locker and end up with a neighbor’s son terrorizing the neighborhood on an ATV. Was that how it went? Could she stuff those two vignettes with enough information to stretch them apart like a bota bag full of sweet wine? Did she have the capacity to grow those grapes, the skill to ferment them and siphon them into the bag she has created on this cloudy morning that only now was beginning to let the rays of sunlight through? That strong Mexican sun made more powerful by the high elevation of this place at the almost top of a mountain on a street set at such an angle that if there were ever snow here, she could step outside her house and sled in one straight line down to the lake that was a mile away, across its frozen surface, all the way to the other side.
The Prompt: Today you can write about anything, in whatever genre or form, but your post must include a speeding car, a phone call, and a crisp, bright morning. (Wildcard: you can swap any of the above for a good joke.)
For some reason, I woke up at 4:30 this morning. Of course I knew there would be no prompt yet, but as I combed the internet for distraction, tried in vain to write to my own topic, joined NaNoWriMo and tried without success to find a photo for a cover and gave up, (who picks a cover before they write the novel?), tried to find the real website for NaBloWriMo and gave up (only to see,eventally, that they posted it with the prompt this morning).
I finally was reminded of the days I’ve sat for hours waiting for the prompt or have received a timely one only to find the link doesn’t work. And so those other days of waiting are what inspired the seemingly unreasonable post below. (Who for God’s sake expects a prompt at 4:30 in the morning?) Daily Post, we do appreciate your efforts so hope you can have a sense of humor about our complaints. One thought, though. I just discovered the feature where you can set a post to automatically publish at a certain time in the future. Could you do this with the prompt so it would consistently be published at a certain time?
7:05, and still I wait.
Have you forgotten we have a date?
Without your promise, I might move on,
but in your game, I’m just a pawn.
You move me here and move me there.
You do not even seem to care
that I’m here online, held at the brink
as I wait for prompt or wait for link.
Daily Post, you’ve drawn us in,
addictive now as heroin.
We can’t get on with our day
until you tell us what to say!
Your hook and line is without bait,
yet still we let you seal our fate.
If you’d just post your topics sooner,
we wouldn’t have to pull a nooner!
Okay, fair is fair, so here is the real prompt for today and I promise to write about it as well:
The Prompt: The Spice of Success—if “failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor” (Truman Capote), how spicy do you like your success stories? (My answer to this is now posted in a different post.)
My mind is a growling dog.
While I stew and fuss,
she jumps the screendoor,
Rude me, to turn my back
on the only playmate
who wants to play
the same games I do
every day, every hour,
because I fear that initial
plodding through silt
page after page
in search of the stream
yawns so wide
that I have to enter it,
to wander its inner closet
where for decades
In some dark corner
where I spank the dog
or search the bedside table drawers
of a lover called out at midnight,
I find the river’s source,
rings and I’m off
gathering crumbs from a forest path,
leaving lost children
stranded in their own story.
Stray puppies—I collect every one,
wild orange funnel flowers
washed in an afternoon kitchen
just before the invasion
of five o’clock sunlight.
All of them I carry back
to hidden places
to rub against each other
into the language of this place
where life goes in,
The Prompt: Is there a cause — social, political, cultural, or other — you passionately believe in? Tell us how you got involved . The cause I most believe in is getting in touch with your authentic and true inner voice. This is what I do when I write. Would that more people involved in making decisions that will alter our world would do so. This poem is really about the creative process where, when done right, there is only truth. It is also about all the things that get in the way of this process.
Wood, horsehair, bamboo, Wall Scupture 17″X23″, Judy Dykstra-Brown
The Prompt: Writer’s Block Party—When was the last time you experienced writer’s block? What do you think brought it about — and how did you dig your way out of it?
It was in 1986 and I was in a writer’s workshop in L.A. that was run by Jack Grapes. For the past five years, I had been writing daily, studying screenwriting and then poetry and working as a publicist and P.R. assistant for a TV production company. My whole world had become writing after I quit my job as an English teacher and move to CA to do what I had been teaching others to do for the past 10 years. Then, suddenly, I could not think of anything to write.
I had seen this happen before to others of Jack’s workshop participants and he seemed to have an uncanny knack of finding unusual solutions. For one talented writer who was pale and listless under her spiked hair and punk clothes, he prescribed a program of daily exercise and, miraculously, her poetry came alive as she did. But for me, Jack prescribed another remedy. “Do art!” he said. “I forbid you to do any writing at all. Instead, I want you to do art!”
But I wasn’t an artist, I protested. I didn’t know how to do art! Jack continued to insist. He told me to go to the dime store and to buy whatever interested me and to put it together as a collage. And so for a week, this is what I did. I bought a rubber mouse, a block of Morilla paper, acrylic paint, Popsicle sticks and confetti. I glued the mouse and confetti to the Morilla block, constructed a fence around them with the Popsicle sticks and cut out words to surround them that said, “Party mouse wants to come out and play but can’t!”
I broke Jack’s rule and wrote, filling sheets with words that had no logical connections with each other, then cut them up and made sculptures out of the strips of paper. I took the foil lids of empty individual plastic jam and butter containers brought back from a trip to Europe and cut them up, gluing them down along with other strips of words to form three-dimensional shapes, forming other object/word sculptures.
At the end of the week, I believe I had about seven works of what I didn’t think anyone would even loosely call “art.” Jack had told me to bring them in with me; but when I got to his walkup apartment in Hollywood, I left them in the car, embarrassed to show them. There were 25 others in the workshop. Perhaps he’d forget. I should have known better. When it came my turn to present, he asked me if I’d followed his “prescription.” When I admitted I had, he asked where my product was, and soon Bob (a man in the workshop who would in less than a year become my husband) and I were negotiating the stairs, carrying my “sculptures” up to face their first audience. I remember being so embarrassed to show them, but I was as accustomed as everyone else in the workshop to doing exactly what Jack said.
The reaction was the opposite of what I expected. Everyone loved my sculptures. One of the women in the group who had a gallery on Melrose asked if I’d like to have a show at her gallery. I was stunned. No way. I wasn’t an artist! But from that day on, for ten years I did no writing but did only art. I started out gluing found objects on stones, then when I married and moved to northern CA, I studied metalsmithing and papermaking and made my living for the next 13 years exhibiting in galleries and doing craft shows across the country
Ten years later, as the curator of an art center, I staged a show called “The Poet’s Eye/The Artist’s Tongue” that featured art that included words. This was when I started writing again, and I’ve been writing ever since. When I came back to writing, however, it was from an entirely different place—a place of “not knowing.” I wasn’t trying to write according to a preconceived idea of what writing should be, but rather from a place of intuition and what wanted to be written.
By forcing me to do something I knew nothing about, Jack taught me how to do something I knew how to do so well that it stopped me. My expectations were too high for myself. All of the things that happen naturally when one goes down deep in themselves and just writes got dammed up in me when I thought of what they should be instead of just letting them happen. By doing something that I knew nothing about, I learned how to better do something I knew too much about, and I’ve been writing ever since!