To write more, write more

 
Undulate. That’s today’s writing prompt from WordPress. English is not my mother tongue, and I had to look it up:

undulate

“To move with a smooth wave-like motion.” Got it. I’ll “undulate” my way through this post, which is about the usefulness daily prompts have proved to have for the reluctant writer I used to be.

“I sit, I stand up, I walk, I sit down, I get coffee and then some more. I’m not a patient writer. But then, once in a while, I get completely absorbed in the task before me and ideas and words flow freely. The sun sets and when it seemingly suddenly rises again, I’m still sitting there in front of my computer.” This is how I used to describe my writing habits. I really wanted to write on a regular basis, but there was a resistance inside me so strong that it seemed like a physical barrier.

Then I discovered the daily prompts from WordPress. “To write more, write more,” they reminded their bloggers in 2010 and encouraged us to write a post every day in 2011, presenting us with a daily writing prompt. “Yeah, right,” I said but jumped on the challenge, and the resistance faded away as the days and weeks went by. I began to think about the resistance as birth pangs, unborn stories struggling to find their way into the world. There’s only one thing to do and that’s to sit down and start writing.

Another writing initiative I enjoy is the annual NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month, which is actually a global event), modeled after NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and founded by poet Maureen Thorson in 2003. The challenge is to write a poem every day throughout April. Cinquain, ottava rima, tanka, and pantun have been among the daily prompts, not to forget the dreaded sonnet. I’m a narrator more than a poet and didn’t expect much to begin with, but I was surprised by how easily the words and word-pictures came to me. Come April, I might give it a try again.

In the meantime, I rely on the daily prompts from WordPress to keep my writing going. They are like daily push-ups to keep the writing muscle in shape.

 
WordPress Daily Prompts: Undulate

Grown-ups always need explanations

 

Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.
— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “The Little Prince”

Grown-ups always need explanations, the narrator in The Little Prince says. Once, when he was six, he saw a picture of a boa constrictor swallowing a wild animal. With this picture in mind, he made his first drawing:

littleprince1

The grown-ups thought it was a hat, when in fact it was a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. He then made another drawing to simplify things for them:

littleprince2

They advised him to put away his drawings and become something useful instead. He became a pilot but remained unimpressed by grown-ups. He still showed them his first boa restrictor drawing, and they always said it was a hat.

Later, when the little prince asks him to draw a sheep, he draws a box and explains that the sheep is inside it. Obvious, isn’t it? They both think so.

littleprince

littleprince_cover
The Little Prince, delightful storytelling

 
WordPress Daily Prompts: Age

Snippets of everyday moments

On the bridge over the highway, some preschool children were waving at the cars passing by underneath. A truck driver spotted them and honked his horn, and the children jumped up and down in delight. I jotted down the story in my notebook.

At the grocery store, my eyes caught a young woman with a long shopping list and a story started to spin in my head on my way to the milk shelves. Notebook time.

From snippets of everyday moments like these, great stories can be born. Maybe the truck driver is transporting red apples from Italy, and maybe the young woman with the long shopping list will buy some for her apple pie. There’s a line running from a family’s apple farm in the south of Europe to a truck driver spending endless hours behind the wheel, honking his horn at a group of children while missing his own, to a woman with a desperate look in her eyes at a Nordic grocery store shopping for a family dinner she’s not capable of making.

Of course, the beauty would be to write the actual stories of the people we meet. Like the one of the man who stood bent in a 45-degree angle over a garbage bin he used as a stand for his beer cans, hacking and hawking and coughing up a slimy glob that landed a couple of feet away from him. He gave me a friendly “Hello” as I walked by. I waved back. I wonder what his story is. He’s in the notebook, too.

***

Great ideas thrive in a great notebook. I have checked out five: Hunting for the perfect notebook

WordPress Daily Prompts: Snippet

Good stories die hard

Timeless classic: When a character you created decades ago — one with red hair, sticky-out pigtails, freckles, strength, and the name of Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Efraim’s Daughter Longstocking, Pippi for short — continues to inspire, both because of who she is and because of her mismatched long stockings. Knit yourself a pair.

pippi
I love these! Found them on Pinterest.

Swedish children’s author Astrid Lindgren (1907–2002) was a wonderful storyteller.

A childhood without books — that would be no childhood. That would be like being shut out from the enchanted place where you can go and find the rarest kind of joy.
— Astrid Lindgren

 
WordPress Daily Prompts: Knit

Charles Bukowski: It is Your Life

 
 

Invent yourself and then reinvent yourself and stay out of the clutches of mediocrity.
— Charles Bukowski, from “No Leaders, Please”

Read the full poem below or listen to Tom O’Bedlam reading the poem:

 
NO LEADERS, PLEASE
invent yourself and then reinvent yourself,
don’t swim in the same slough.
invent yourself and then reinvent yourself
and
stay out of the clutches of mediocrity.

invent yourself and then reinvent yourself,
change your tone and shape so often that they can
never
categorize you.

reinvigorate yourself and
accept what is
but only on the terms that you have invented
and reinvented.

be self-taught.

and reinvent your life because you must;
it is your life and
its history
and the present
belong only to
you.

By Charles Bukowski

 
WordPress Daily Prompts: Clutch, Notable

My story, my rules

 
 
I hold his fate in my hands. I might show him mercy for what I had him do on page 12, but not just yet. Maybe on page 189, maybe never. My story, my rules, right?

Happy endings are best achieved by keeping the right doors locked.
— Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad

 
WordPress Daily Prompts: Mercy

A Writer’s Nest

 
 
A WRITER’S NEST
In the bitter-sweet world of words
I cannot escape because
they were entrusted to me
when my destiny was carved out,

        I sip coffee from mugs
        with city names on them
        while sketchy characters
        on yellow post-its
        put their lives
        in my hands
        and await their destiny.

This is my writing nest
where I rule and
create worlds within worlds of words.

Zol H., 2017

 
WordPress Daily Prompts: Nest

Orion’s Belt

I wrote this in response to a NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) daily prompt and, being a narrator more than a poet, I have always thought it would make a good scene in a story. The actual challenge we were given was to make the everyday seem poetic and keep the poetic language grounded. I like the contrast between poetic and everyday.

ORION’S BELT
I look up and try to think of the mightiest word
to describe the multitude of stars in the firmament
Heaven’s own navigation lights for lost sailors to find their way home
I know I always feel safe seeing Orion’s Belt in the night sky,
still in line: Alnitak, Alnilam, Mintaka
I smile wryly at my own thoughts and shiver a bit
It will be colder tomorrow
Snow will fall soon

Zol H., 2016

 
WordPress Daily Prompts: Atmospheric

Writer’s block illustrated

“A dubious writer struggles to come up with a storyline, but finds that his imagination gets out of hand.” That’s the introduction to the six-minute short film “Writer’s Block” by Robby Spark.

A writer finds inspiration everywhere, right? That’s what our guy in the film hopes for. From his café table, he sees a car with a “Pirate Pizza” sign on the door and on he goes with a story about two pirates dueling on the beach. Day and night and day and night and… until he hits the Delete button. Then he is inspired by a couple in love a few tables away and starts afresh with two lovers gazing at each other and enjoying a meal underneath the starry sky. Suddenly they are attacked by ninjas. Delete. In the end, all the characters, the dueling pirates, the couple in love, the ninjas plus a dozen others, end up on the same beach and the chaos is complete.

If you ever wondered how it looks like inside the head of a writer who tries to come up with a storyline, this is it.

 
WordPress Daily Prompts: Dubious, Bewildered