Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Is it really losing?

The best and most challenging song I've heard in a long time is called "Losing" by Tenth Avenue North. It's all about forgiveness, which has not historically been my strong suit. They hit the nail on the head with their lyrics, talking about how we feel we have a right to our pain and we tend to think that if we just hold on to it long enough then maybe the other person will recognize that they're in the wrong. The particular line that always hits me is "We think pain's owed apologies and then it will stop, but truth be told it doesn't matter if they're sorry or not. Freedom comes when we surrender to the sound of God's mercy and his grace"

Too many times over the years I've found myself holding on to hurt, demanding an apology like that's going to make it stop hurting. But the truth is, that's not how it works. It stops hurting when you decide to stop letting it hurt you. For a while I wouldn't even listen to this song when it came on the radio, I'd turn off the radio instead! It was so hard for me to accept the fact that I wasn't gaining anything - and the people who hurt me aren't losing anything - when I was holding on to the past.

Maybe you don't struggle with forgiveness like I do. I know people who you could stab in the gut and ten seconds later they wouldn't be mad anymore. They probably won't let you come that close with a knife again, but they're not mad. I have to teach myself to be that way, because my natural inclination is to hold on to that pain, remind them of it every time I see them, remind myself of it every day, and all in hopes that this will somehow bring them their just reward.

I guess I was missing the part where I'm not perfect.

I was thinking about it today, as I caught myself mulling over past pains again. I have no problem saying that, with a past like mine, I have no right to judge people. I do my best to accept everyone because I know that I certainly have screwed up. But somehow, in my human brain, I missed the part where I was forgiven of those screw-ups, and so I really have no right to not forgive others.

The chorus of this song says "Father, give me the strength to forgive them, because I feel like I'm the one losing." It's accurate. And I think from now on that's going to have to be my prayer.

Watch the youtube music video here

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Writing prompt 1

It was the first snowfall of the year - and the last one. On December 31st, in the year I turned 29, a blizzard hit and dropped six feet of snow on our little village. As the first winds howled, we all breathed a sigh of relief. We'd been expecting it. From the toddler children to the residents of the old folks' home, we'd all been watching the sky and wondering where our snow was.

Blizzards don't phase us here. No, to a mountain town like Itamee, large quantities of snow are far from unexpected. We all, all 147 of us, like it better that way. With snow on the ground, we're all a little more relaxed. We sleep better, laugh more, and rest easier. It's almost like we're a whole town of enchanted snowpeople, all of us turned human by some magic that would die without the snow - and leave us lifeless as well.

Finally, the snow was here, and we could all breathe again.

Writing prompts I will use

  1. It was the first snowfall of the year.
  2. He hadn’t seen her since the day they left High School.
  3. The city burned, fire lighting up the night sky.
  4. Silk.
  5. She studied her face in the mirror.
  6. The smell of freshly-cut grass.
  7. They came back every year to lay flowers at the spot.
  8. The streets were deserted. Where was everyone? Where had they all gone?
  9. This time her boss had gone too far.
  10. Red eyes.
  11. Stars blazed in the night sky.
  12. He woke to birdsong.
  13. ‘Shh! Hear that?’ ‘I didn’t hear anything.’
  14. He’d always hated speaking in public.
  15. She woke, shivering, in the dark of the night.
  16. The garden was overgrown now.
  17. He’d never noticed a door there before.
  18. She’d have to hitch a ride home.
  19. ‘I told him not to come back too!’
  20. His feet were already numb. He should have listened.
  • The room where they spent their childhood. Their current house or living area. A city. A farm.
  • Being in touch with the things you are passionate about help you write deeper more meaningful stories. Create a list of five things you love, now pick one thing and have a character like it as well. Write one page on this loved object from your character's point of view, make sure to change it up a little so that the character's view of the object is slightly different from yours.
  • Now, write a list of ten things you hate. Have one of your characters like that thing you hate. This will expand your ability to see things from someone else's point of view. Write one page.
  • Three characters enter a room; an old embittered woman, angry at life and full of regret, a young idealistic boy, and a mother of a newborn baby. How does each character describe the room?
  • Introduce the antagonist in a story, allow his physical description and body language to convey his/her sinister or selfish nature.
  • Describe your main characters hands in one paragraph, try to convey as much about his/her personality in the description.
  • Memories are a major force in our lives; we are our memories. Have your character make a journal entry about a particularly vivid memory she/he has. Make it as real and vivid for the reader.
Creative Writing Prompts: Setting
  • In a paragraph describe the setting for a haunted house.
  • a paragraph describe the setting for a love scene.
  • In a paragraph describe the setting for a fight, either verbal or physical.
  • Describe the rooms of the following three characters; an artist, a spoiled child, a military leader.
  • Here is a classic creative writing prompt that can be found in almost every writing workshop. Describe a building from the point of view of a man who just lost his only son in war. Do it without mentioning death, war, his son, or himself. Describe that same building at the same time of day and weather conditions, from the point of view of a man who has just discovered he's going to be a father. The same rules apply however, don't mention birth, or babies. (If you feel more comfortable change it to a woman's point of view.) The point of this is to challenge yourself to see through your characters eyes. What is ugly and brutal to one person, in one frame of mind, may not be to another.
Creative Writing Prompts: Point of View
  • Mark is a thief, but after his third burglary, he is caught by police. Write his story in first person (from Mark's point of view), omniscient point of view (the all knowing, all seeing "God-like" voice), from limited third person, switching between Mark and one of the police officers who arrest him.
Creative Writing Prompts: Plot Development
  • Can you plot out a murder mystery? Give it a try. Write out a rough plot for a mystery, making sure to include false leads, and the real clues, as well as suspects for the crime. (If you've never read or seen a mystery, try another genre your familiar with, romance, sci-fi, horror). Are there any plot points common to this genre? For example, usually in mystery the antagonist's (bad guy) identity is hidden. In romance, the basic plot goes something like this; independent girl meets attractive man, she either dislikes him right off the bat or they fall madly in love, eventually they get together, something happens that makes it look as if they won't live happily ever after, the problem is solved, and they ride off into the sunset together. While I've watered this down a lot, you see the point. What plot elements are common in the genre you write in? How can you work with that, or change it up a little while still giving the reader what they expect?
  • In order to fully understand plot, it's a good idea to study the books of writers you admire. Try plotting out two novels you've recently read and enjoye\d. Make sure to include all the major plot points, and twists. Now do it with two short stories. This allows you to see how much tighter a short story is in comparison with a novel. Now that you've plotted it out, are there any weak spots? Places you might have gone a different direction? What works for the plot? (Note: if this seems like a lot of work, try plotting out a couple of movies and then sitcoms, or hour long drama series. Notice the difference between TV and movies; it's similar to the difference between novels and short stories.)
  • In the above example you made a plot outline for a longer piece of work, now try summarizing the entire plot of the novel or movie you choose, and condense it into one sentence. Write that sentence. Can you do the same with a story of yours? If not why? It's helpful as a writer to be able to condense a plot like this. It helps us find our themes to a story, our main ideas. Something that can get lost in a longer, more complex piece of work.