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The Point of Inspiration…the Opening

How do you begin a short story?  It helps to have a good idea, one that has sparked your own curiosity and imagination.

Sometimes, as in this case, it can start with a class assignment.  Several years ago, a writing instructor offered this prompt…Write about a secret revelation.  Does that get your imagination going?  It did for me.

At the time, I had become fascinated by the spires of Bryce Canyon (having come across a photo of them in a magazine).  That seemed like a good opening, a starting place.  And, perhaps, a good way to capture my reader’s attention.

The Point of Inspiration (in 3 parts)
© by Christine O’Brien

     She was either to blame or to be credited for his secret passion.  It was certainly a fate of sorts, meeting her below the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon.

Pointing upwards and to the east, she handed him her binoculars, saying “That’s Inspiration Point.”

And then, in a quick breath almost inaudible, “Do I inspire you?”

“What did you say?” he asked shaking his head as if he had water in his ears.

Swiftly, she changed the subject “Have you been here before?”

“Never,” he answered.

“How about I be your tour guide for the day?  I know these spires like, like…”

“…the back of your hand,” he offered.

“I was looking for an original metaphor,” she said.  “I hate cliches.”

“Cliche or otherwise, I’m all yours,” he said, noting her muscled calves and tall sturdy frame, a spire herself he found himself momentarily thinking in metaphors.

*****
Does this opening make you curious to know more?  About the characters?  About where this story is going?  How is it going to lead to a secret revelation?  If it has caught your interest, then, it’s done what was intended.  It has hooked you as the reader.

 

 

The Story of Pandora’s Box

I’m guessing you’ve read this Greek myth.

For the writer, writing has a quality of opening Pandora’s Box. When I write, I’m opening up more than my journal or notebook, I’m opening the unknown.  In the unknown, everything, all possibilities, exist.  What is going to be roused in me or you remains to be seen.  That which has remained hidden to yourself is given an opportunity to emerge. This can feel scary. Feelings can be tweaked, excavated trauma (I’ve referred to this in an earlier blog).  You decide if it’s worth bringing up again in this unearthing.

With writing (especially fiction and poetry) and art-making, there is nothing straightforward.  You don’t just sit down and write and remain unruffled.  You are taken places.  You volunteer for this journey a bit unwittingly.  “Yes, I’m a writer therefore, I write!” What you soon come to realize is that you have gone down a rabbit hole and you are being compelled as much as you have chosen the journey.

Who or what are you going to meet along the way?  White rabbits, card soldiers, tin men,  fairy queens, purple people eaters.  You don’t know.  It’s yet to be discovered.  Which Pandora’s lid is going to be opened in you?  What is going to leap out from your own inner underworlds and scare the heck out of you?  How did that get in there?  You can turn tail and run; slap your journal shut and find another interest.

Or you can continue the venture of discovery and inner sorting through the writing process.

Writing Prompt:
Consider how you manage your own writing journey.  If you are writing Non-fiction, are you less likely to encounter the unknown?  Or, in your research, do you uncover something that sends you there–into the unknown–regardless?  If you are writing fiction, do you get thrown off course when you are diverted down the rabbit hole?  What does getting back on track look like for you?  Or is the diversion where your writing really wants to go?  Is there a best way to sort the chaff from the gold and carry on?  Scan_0004

 

 

 

 

 

Opening my journal…
opening to the unknown.

e e cummings

One of his poems of gratitude:

i thank You God for most this amazing
day for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky, and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday, this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

by e.e. cummings

Sigh.  This is one of those poems that I like to let wash over me.  Imagining that I’m laying on my back on a Huck Finn type raft, floating downstream, gazing skyward, dreamy.  Hearing e.e. cummings read his poem for the first time, I felt joined with him in this prayer poem of gratitude.  Wow!

Writing Prompt:
What does this poem evoke for you?  Read and/or listen to it a few times.  Savor the way the words flow.  What images arise?

 

Origin

owl4An online dictionary definition of the word origin:  “the point or place where something begins, arises, or is derived.”

Isn’t that a word that we investigate over the course of our lives?  One of those words that invite the existential questions that humans, from serfs to philosophers, ponder throughout time.

The unanswerable…yet, we go there in our thoughts, perhaps more so in times of grief and loss.

Origin, the word itself, looks pretty.  Like I could design a painting around it.  That which emerges from the emptiness, the black hole, the no-thing, the fertile void from which everything has risen.

Writing Prompt:
Get quiet.  Sit comfortably.  Soften your gaze or close your eyes.  Imagine…nothing.  The void.  The emptiness.  The deep quiet.  The solitary feeling that connects you to everything.  How long can you comfortably sit with this?  Notice.  What thoughts arise and can you allow them to dissolve into the nothing?  What passing thought stops you and prompts you to pick up your pen and write?  Then, write for as long as you must.

Ah, Origin.

Hounding Yourself

Take your journal with you today.  On an errand.  Out to lunch.  To the grocery store.  To the Dentist’s Waiting Room.  To the park.  Wherever you are going, take your journal!

Log everything.

Following is an example of a journal entry I made while having lunch at a Thai restaurant.

Errand completed.
I drove to a favorite Thai restaurant.
Only two other women are having lunch
so I get immediate service.
This sinus condition–
spicy Thai food is often the cure.
I sip my medium hot red curry
as the restaurant suddenly bulges
with the late lunch crowd.
Two older men,
looking somewhat beaten by life,
sit at the table in front of me.
Urgh.  It’s not the view I want
while eating lunch.
I avert my eyes
though they inadvertently rivet
to…
I rearrange the water carafe, teapot
and a bottle of soy sauce,
strategic guardians,
to occlude this less than desirable view
of pants that sit well-below a man’s hefty waist
exposing the infamous butt crack.
I’d change my seat however the
restaurant is suddenly full–
a migration of citizens
hungry for Thai food.
I frown and raise the book I  brought–
Paul Hawken’s Blessed Unrest–and try to read
about the ideology of isms
how an ism creates a movement
with its own set of dogma
and gathers followers like a dog attracts fleas
and then, believing it is the ultimate truth,
how this ism proceeds to force
its belief system on others.
And those who are prone to manipulation
who fear thinking for themselves
get on the tram
and point fingers at the others
who are left below on the ground
isolated in their own set of beliefs.

****
A journal can serve as a storehouse of image details for your fiction (and possibly nonfiction) writing.  There is no right way, no one way to keep a written journal.
In this instance, I take an external circumstance and follow my thoughts in reaction and/or response to what is present.  I am not concerned with punctuation or correctness of grammar when I write in my journal.  I am following closely, like a hound at my own heels, to get things down as they occur to me.

Writing Prompt:hat1a
Consider this.  What is your style of journaling?  How do you use your journal?  Do you enjoy keeping a journal?  Is it useful to you in the other writing that you do?

Where would you go from here?

An old Journal can provide the inspiration to
get you writing…even someone else’s writing can prompt your own.

Here’s the Writing Prompt for today.  Following is an excerpt from one of my old journals.  Pick up from where I leave off and see what flows for you.  Or, if there is one sentence that could serve as your springboard, borrow it and write.

“I’ll tell you this…
A body likes comfort
lingering in bed this morning
it’s time to put on the flannel sheets
These shores of comfort’s complacency
the siren’s call to distraction
versus the call to action
the planet’s doom
Where is my friend
for the end of the world?”

Query:
Did you try it?  If so, how did this work for you?
Leave a reply under comments if you like.

flowergarden.2014

Dream of a Legend

IMG_9912One of my first poems, written over twenty years ago, was a copycat poem inspired by Gregory Corso’s poem,  Dream of a Baseball Star.  I call my version…

Dream of a Legend
© by Christine O’Brien

I dreamed of Maid Marian
sitting at daybreak
on the steps of the whitehouse, singing.

She was in a flowing gown
and her longbow lay at her feet
–wood and taut.

“Gloria Steinem says you are the Legend,” I cried.
“So do I.  I say you’re the Legend!”

She picked up the bow and with nimble hands;
stood there primed as she would in Sherwood Forest,
and smiled; flinging her schoolgirl irony
towards some invisible foe
–awaiting the cue, all the way from Nottingham.

It came; hundreds came!  like fireworks!
She drew the bow and let fly and let fly and let fly and hit
not one single target nor bullseye.
A hundred misses!
Friar Tuck, dressed in a tuxedo
Shouted:  TO HELL WITH YOU.
And the “merry men” bellowed their dismay
dispersing the ghostly noblemen from their palaces.

And I shouted in my dream:
Marian!  send the arrow:
Open the hearts of the men:
Hooray for the equality!
Yes, the woman the peacemaker!
Let a minstrel’s song praise the true Legend!
Glory the truth be told!

Writing Prompt:
Borrowing someone else’s poetic form and inserting your own content (or passionate plea) is often a great way to find inspiration.

Note:  Whether or not you are a baseball fan, do Google and read Gregory Corso’s original witty poem!

 

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