Writing 101: Don’t Stop the Rockin’

Today is a free writing day. Write at least four-hundred words, and once you start typing, don’t stop. No self-editing, no trash-talking, and no second guessing: just go. Bonus points if you tackle an idea you’ve been playing with but think is too silly to post about.

My brain is going non stop these days about one single subject.  (Listen up, Writing-101-powers-that-be, I’m going to be fixing my typos.  Stop trying to ruin me!  We’ll just pretend that it’s not editing.  Okay?)

Okay, where was I?  Lately I’ve been thinking – obsessing even – over something that happened over 20 years ago.  It has always felt like that day was a turning point in my life and not in a good way.  It was the day that the relationship I had been in for over 3 years ended.  It made an impression, what can I say?  Let me tell you the story:

It started in the summer when I was in a community theater production.  I was hesitant to take the role because it would take away from the time I had with my boyfriend.  The one I’d been dating three years.  Basically through all of high school.  I took the role anyway because it was fun and I loved theater.  The night comes for the performance that my family and boyfriend were scheduled to attend.  My part kept me off stage for most of the first half of the musical.  When I finally took the stage, I was able to look out into crowd and quickly found my family.  Beside them was the empty chair that should be filled with the boyfriend.  Of course I panicked!  But the show must go on, so I powered through the rest of the scene.  At intermission, I lost it.  I was angry!  I was confused!  What was happening?  Of course I couldn’t leave the back stage area.  We wouldn’t want to spoil the illusion of the low-budget community theater production we had going on.  Besides, we didn’t have understudies, so what would have happened if I’d not gone back.  Well, I know that answer now.

Finally, the show was over.  I hurried to change out of my costume and went to find my mother.  I asked her what was wrong. She said she wasn’t sure.  She only knew he had shown up before they had left for the play and had picked up his stuff and left me a note.  What!?  No I’m really in a panic.  What was happening?

I drove home as fast as I could safely do so.  I lived about 20 miles from the town where the theater was.  I was also giving one of the other cast members a ride.  I’m pretty sure he thought he was going to die.  Now remember, this was 20 years ago and I was a teenager.  I didn’t have a cell phone.  I wasn’t trying to call the boyfriend and ask what was going on.  I needed to get home and find out for myself.

When I got there, I found carnage.  Well, first I found a few of my belongings neatly stacked on a stool.  On top of them was a note.  I picked up the note and walked to my bedroom.  That was where I found the carnage.  The sweet little brown teddy bear he had given me and we had named after the boyfriend lay there on my bed missing one head.  He decapitated my teddy!  I read the note but still didn’t understand what was happening.  The things he thought he had heard about me (maybe that he did hear about me) were simply not true.  He had heard I was cheating on him.

We got through this rough patch.  We actually got back together.  But things were hard.  Things were never the same.  A few months later, we broke up over the phone.  He told me to “have a nice life.”  It was the harshest words I can ever remember hearing.

All these years later, I still look back at that time and feel like it was a moment that changed me.  I quickly became a different person.  I started making terrible decisions.  Decisions that affected my personal life, my career, my love life.  Lately I’ve been obsessing over how much I want the chance to go back and make those choices over.  I know I can’t.  But I do have to find a way to go back and find closure.  Sure, I know that sounds cliche.  It’s just what’s on my mind right now.

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Writing 101: Your Personality on the Page

We all have anxieties, worries, and fears. What are you scared of? Address one of your worst fears.

Today’s twist: Write this post in a style distinct from your own.

The chair is uncomfortable.  The room is too hot.

She speaks.

“What are you afraid of?”

“That I won’t get better.”

“What would that look like?”

“Well, I just don’t want to go through this every week and come out on the other side of it knowing nothing has changed.”

“What do you want to change?”

“The way I feel.”

“How do you want to feel?”

“Happy.”

“When was the last time you felt happy?”

“I don’t know.”

“That’s sad.”

“I know.”

We are silent.

This time I begin:

“I can’t remember what it was like to feel happy.”

“Then how will you know when you are?”

“I won’t spend every day wishing my life was over.”

“So what do you want to do?”

“I know I need to do the work.  My head has accepted that but my heart hasn’t.”

“How can I help?”

“Tell me what to do.”

“Okay.  I can do that.  When you go home, I’d like you to start by…”

“Don’t be a smart ass again.”

She smirks.

“I remember your satirical list from last time.”

“Okay, let’s start with something simple.”

“I’d like that.”

**Author’s note:  In honor of National Mental Health Awareness week, I’ve chosen to publicly address my fear of never “getting better” in my struggle with depression.  

Writing 101: Your Voice Will Find You

Okay, my muse has up and deserted me.  This is the third prompt in a row that has completely befuddled me.  (Yes, doubters, I really do use the word “befuddled”). Is it really that hard to come up with an event I would hate to have cancelled forever?  Apparently, it is.

So I gave this some thought over my lunch hour. A few things came to mind as possibilities: Iowa Hawkeye football games, our annual Thanksgiving Dinner, Christmas Eve service at church and others all a few others but none really made sense. I mean, how would any of those even get cancelled or taken over by evil forces? Maybe I’m just not being imaginative enough.

Finally, something did come to mind.  It’s not an event or even a big important occurrence, but it seemed like something that would work.  Recently, a commercial customer of mine (I work at a bank) came in and told me his restaurant was closing. Now I used to eat at this establishment at least once a week and truly enjoyed it.  That was years ago.  In the past few years, I have probably only been in their 3 or 4 times. Still, when he came to me with the news, I immediately thought it was all my fault.  I thought, “Wow, if I’d only gone there more often, maybe they would have had enough business to stay open.”

Of course I know that’s nonsense.  How would the presence of one additional customer really make a difference?  But this is how I think, like all of the time.  You know all of those competition shows on television that ask you to call in and vote for your favorite? If I don’t call in, and my favorite goes home, I feel guilty because my vote could have made the difference.  If a fundraiser doesn’t meet their goal, I feel guilty for not contributing, even if it was never of any interest to me in the first place!  When I see that an animal shelter has a pet to rehome, and they’re in Texas or Oregon or some other far-off place from my home in Iowa, I feel bad that I can’t give the fur ball a place to live.

So, if I had been able to come up with some event that would absolutely crush me to know I could never attend again, I know exactly how I’d feel.  I would know it was all my fault.