Once upon a time I was brave. I didn’t need help. I didn’t need prompts like this, because the words flowed fast and strong, without any effort beyond a hand holding a pen steady.
And this is how fairy tales are born. Events that are half remembered with a fondness, a nostalgia and retold in such a way that they flatter the protagonist.
I often speak of being unaware of when I stopped being brave, when I became afraid of putting pen to paper, afraid of what might show up. I lament to the skies, the gods, the flowers, anyone who will passively listen that I used to be so much bolder and venture into places creatively dangerous and unsafe and look at me now! A passive observer of my own reality! How the mighty have fallen!
The reality is likely closer to I was never brave.
Not in the way I’ve twisted the narrative to think I was.
The reality is, at any given moment I was probably high, scribbling madly, trying to capture that intangible feeling that goes with such activity. I was a youthful brain, exploring and wondering if everything or nothing was true, applying all rules and none of them, trying to find some semblance of identity within the myriad of voices stretching over time, all determined (hopeful?) that they might be universally, intrinsically relevant.
Of course I go back to some of the writing and see the gold, but it was far more dirt than shiny.
While I have no misgivings about the way I used to be, to constantly argue that it was better in some ways because I recall fun, fearlessness, a certain amount of abandon with regard to my writing style or anything else is to negate everything that has created the who I am now. There’s a certain attitude toward happiness being equated to recapturing the essence of youth, of that unfettered playful spirit that throws caution to the wind and is unapologetically free!
It’s not that I’m cautious now, it’s likely that I’m just more discerning with what I expel into the ether, knowing that even the intangible has substance of a sort. Also, I feel like it’s possible for that unfettered playful spirit to adapt just as readily as the rest of my emotional states of being seem to have. I am a consistent work in progress, which suggests that regressing back to the person I used to be might nullify a lot of the work that has been done.
Of course I like it when things are easy. When things just show up and I can spit them out and be done with it, move on to the next shiny. But some things aren’t easy. There are those who might consider that nothing easy is worthwhile, only things one has to work hard for, to strive for are the only achievements of any account. I don’t think that’s always true. Some things show up a little easier. That doesn’t invalidate them.
I started thinking about this prompt on Jan 1, which is the date it was ascribed to. And I struggled with that time old notion of ‘it’s first so it has to be perfect. It has to lead the way into a year that will be filled with words, learning, joy, success! It will set the tone, the precedent, the foundation on which all other writing of the year is based!’ But no pressure or anything.
And so for the first five days, I had that damn song by the moody blues in my head. It’s a fun sing along song, with a premise of ‘we were so good, do you ever think about how good we were and wish we still had that?’ And the video is essentially a woman who hates her current life, is living for the days that used to be, finally says fuck it and goes to the concert, sure they’re going to reconnect and everything will be great now, and gets left behind. Which makes sense because that’s where she lives. In a time that doesn’t exist. In a place that might never have existed except in a story she’s told herself so many times it’s become true. Doesn’t mean it is.
So I let the words percolate, settle into my sub, un and regular consciousness, sure that something amazing would show up because I’m so determined to be the brash youth I used to be, to let go of all the blinders, impediments, and fear I’ve somehow accrued since the days when I would fill writing books with a torrent of blather and rant.
But something amazing does show up, every single time.
That felt like such a lovely closure place to end it, but it doesn’t quite feel done. So I shall continue until such time as we arrive at the end, and then I shall stop, to quote the King of Hearts from the other side of the looking glass.
When I woke up this morning, I knew that today was the day. Partly because tomorrow is a whole new prompt, but also because today was the day. I almost sat down before any of my morning rituals (dress, drink water, stretch) and got right to work, but that would have resulted in something that wasn’t ready.
I think it’s good to challenge one’s self, to determinedly step out of a comfort zone now and again because it’s nice to be surprised by the a capacity for such things. If one is ready to do so. If you’re not ready, it won’t be as fulfilling an experience as it could be. I really don’t believe that life begins at the edge of your comfort zone though.
(If it does for you, that’s great, but we’ve reached the point of the rambling where I remind that anything I speculate on applies only to me as I’m the only person I will, can, and should ever truly speak for.)
And so to an extent that’s all these writing prompts are, me issuing a challenge to myself. A jaunty, sure we know we can write about whatever shows up, but what if we make some happy little parameters to encourage things to show up on a regular basis?
Because it’s not just about the stories that want to be written. Or the characters who lay dormant waiting for their time to shine, to sing, to scream to the heavens, the gods, the flowers and hopefully someone who actively listens. Or even the scenes that want to unfold at just the right pace even though they desperately want to whisper omg wait til you see what’s next! because they understand the merit of good timing.
It’s about me caring enough about myself to acknowledge that sometimes I need help to get into a mode where the words flow fast and strong. Sometimes I need a push, a prompt, a reminder that it’s not enough for the words to show up.
I have to, too.