Note to Self

Photo of an airborne person with feet on flames, leaving a burning road, used as prompt for microfiction
Photo by Dan Carlson

Love & Equanimity. Two words scrawled in a mental note without context, all that remained of countless self-help books that had held so much promise. Words jumbled with trivia, numbers and names of faces long forgotten; it wasn’t till I pieced them into one coherent thought that I finally burnt bridges over stagnant waters, feeling light (almost airborne).

 

Inspired by Sonya’s Three Line Tales, Week Twenty Five. This will suffice as THE post marking a big-ish milestone for me- the eve of my fortieth. Here I come!

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Terminal

Photo of ferry terminal at twighlight used as prompt for a flash fiction story
Photo by Charlie Hang

And so I have done it again, ignoring the glaring neon warning as he ferried me across decades to the losses that anchor me to vacant spaces; the chain pulling taut with less and less give as flotsam and jetsam gather and entangle in its rusty links.

On shore, telegraph poles line up like dominos before the fall, the dialogue between my ghosts echoing down the wire; different faces, same conversation.

I bid farewell to thee and seek refuge on my island, for I am the lighthouse keeper.

 

Inspired by Sonya’s Three Line Tale Week Twenty Three.

Expectations

Image of cupcakes on a tier wth white creme topping used as a prompt for a flash fiction story
Photo by Stephanie McCabe

Proposal, ring, dress, venue, invitations, flowers, hair and makeup, photographer, seating arrangements, navigating family politics- a never-ending to-do list along the well-trodden path espoused by wedding planners, magazines, her girlfriends who’d gone before her, and of course, her mother.

Looking through the tiered treats at the smiling faces, giddy from champagne and sugar, she wondered whether this milestone, her bridal shower, was going to be the one, the last hurdle before she has the guts to call the whole thing off and throw herself off the trajectory she’d been riding on autopilot.

The call was getting harder with growing expectations and mounting debt; sighing, she took another cupcake, after all, there was another fitting to accommodate fluctuations between now and then.

 

Written in response to Sonya’s Three Line Tales, Week 20. It’s a fun challenge- Sonya has a knack for selecting beautiful photos that inspire so many different stories. Half the fun is reading what others come up with – join in if you have time!

Art Imitating Life

Writing the synopsis for my novel, I have been following the guidelines on structuring and planning a story as set out by my writing course. For a long time (over a year), I was frustrated by the repeat of questions about my main character’s desire, the challenges she faces, the stakes etc, not to mention the tediousness of breaking each component of my story into setup, complication and payoff . I was sure I was sapping my story of any originality and killing any joy in the creative process, but I trudged along hoping it would all get better and easier. Well, it did. At least it got better – easy hasn’t happened yet.

I had a breakthrough some months back, finally understanding the purpose to all the planning. Now I can see that breaking up my story into discrete story units each with a set up, complication and payoff, and a central dramatic question raised and usually answered,  makes for a multi-layered, complex and engaging story. The hard work in all this planning will ensure there is purpose to my prose, and down the track, when I spend more time on the narrative, my character (to borrow loosely from a Kurt Vonnegut quote) will have a purpose even while drinking a glass of water- perhaps with a central dramatic  question of whether she sees it as half empty or half full. Okay, I butchered that. The actual quote is “Make your characters want something right away even if it’s only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time”.

I know not everyone follows such a format when they write a novel, but this is the only way I know how, it being my first attempt, and I am glad to be learning so much. Surrendering to the process which once felt stifling, I appreciate that setting boundaries for the creative process by defining character arcs, central dramatic questions and a theme to name just a few elements, I can create an intricate world to explore through my character’s particular circumstances and life view- a richer, more authentic human story than I would tell if my character’s inner and outer world lacked the connection that comes with consideration and planning.

My revelation also extends to a belief I now hold, that even if my story is never published nor read by anyone other than my tutor, It is worthwhile simply because it is a life teacher, a sentiment captured beautifully in an M.C.Richards quote I came across in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way All the arts we practice are apprenticeship. The big art is our life. Another brilliant quote, also found quoted in The Artists Way, and attributed to Alain Arias-Mission is The purpose of art is not a rarefied, intellectual distillate- it is life, intensified, brilliant life.

These are some of the lessons that have been revealed to me on my parallel writing and life journey: Continue reading

RED

Robert

I’ve tried to remain strong, and positive, and mindful, and all those things they say you should do. Who are “they” anyway? What do “they” know about what it feels to be dying? I’d bet they would say “but we are all dying”. I wish I could stop the racing thoughts. I can’t still them. Okay, Robert, take a deep breath and be mindful. Right now, I can feel Elise’s hand in mine. It feels warm and soft. Her slender fingers interlaced with my stumpy, calloused digits. The air feels nice and warm on my face. I can feel it. I am still alive. It is the time of the “golden hour”, making the scene before us in the park grander than at any other time of day- people are moving past in varying states of urgency. You’re doing well Robert- mindful, stay mindful. Elise squeezes my hand. It must be hard for her too. I turn my head to scan her face for what it may reveal. A smile. She smiles at me, but before I can return it, a little red sweater that I see an old lady knitting competes for my attention. I feel like I have been kicked in the stomach, as thoughts of yet another life experience I’ll be denied catches me unaware with its sudden announcement. Elise and I won’t have a child. I feel the whole seven or whatever number of stages of grief in the span of seconds, the length of time it takes for my eyes to flood and spill tears, forcing me to let go of Elise’s hand as I cover my face, in an effort to cool my flushed, hot cheeks.

Elise

I feel his tight grip on my fingers. I can’t free my hand discreetly; it would be a very obvious intention to remove mine from his. It will only be a short walk through the park to the car and then I can let go. I don’t love him anymore; I haven’t for a long time and kept putting off the inevitable. Do I have to continue with the charade now? Do I tell him? Is there any point? Should I just stick it out for the month he’s been given? I feel like I am bearing the whole burden of someone else’s final moments. Telling him will mar any happiness he may experience, but by not telling him, won’t I be denying him the benefit of a real, honest view of life before he goes? Feeling guilty, I squeeze his hand and feel his arm brush against mine as he moves close to me and stops, turning a little to look at me. I manage a smile but he returns a pained expression of quivering lips that refuse to reciprocate my offering. He is crying. Has he read my thoughts? Following his gaze, I turn to my left and see that he is looking at an old lady sitting on the park bench, knitting a red pullover.

Dee

I love whiling away the hours in this park. Sometimes I’ll sit with a book, and sometimes whatever knitting I have on the go, but always with a cup of hot tea from my thermos, and a spare cup in case a passerby looks like they could do with one. I was just thinking I hadn’t yet seen anyone I’d offer a cuppa to when I saw a tall, slim man and a short, plump woman walking toward the park’s exit, hand in hand. I’m good at reading people and could see that even with the intimacy of the clasped hands, they were far too far apart for real intimacy. There was no conversation, just a silent walk as they both looked ahead. I was intrigued by the sudden change to their pace, with the man slowing to a stop and catching my gaze. I smiled, well used to being caught out in my pastime of people watching, but was caught off guard by his tears as he kept his eyes fixed on me while the woman  turned to look where he was looking. Do I offer them a cup? I didn’t know what would be appropriate in this instance, so I reached to rearrange the ball of red wool and continued knitting the little jumper for my grandson.

 

Prompt from Writing 101, Day 9 Point of View. Today’s Prompt: A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write this scene. Today’s twist: write the scene from three different points of view: from the perspective of the man, then the woman, and finally the old woman.