Literary Reflections is pleased to announce April’s featured writing prompt Selected Shorts. We had a record 11 prompt submissions to our April question, which was “Do you write “in your head” as you go about your daily tasks? If so, describe your thought process. If not, reflect on how you generate writing ideas and fit writing into your daily routine.”
Heidi Scrimgeour wrote:
I write in the shower.
For me, writing is less a physical act with pen and paper and more about stolen moments of mental space. They’re few and far between but guaranteed; as soon as I set foot in the shower the wispy ideas and snatched threads of dialogue rain down as fast and free as the water.
It replenishes me, my daily writing shower. Sometimes it happens while small fists bang devilishly on the shower door. Sometimes my wet writing reverie is brought to an all-too abrupt end by the need to issue time-out sanctions and resolve small boys’ disputes.
I long for the shower space. Proverbs says that hope deferred makes the heart sick, while a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Most of the time, I carry a kind of heart-sickness with me: a longing for a time when I can write uninterrupted, without the chaos of these ever-present tiny budding souls whose seemingly endless needs tear me from myself and from my words.
I couple that with the knowledge that one day I’ll miss these small days that seem so purposeless and yet are infused with teaching them how to be — a task as purposeful as they come. I know one day I will berate myself for all the ways I wished this time away; I’ll wish to be able to repay all the times that I lingered in the shower in return for one more chance to drink in the delicious undiluted joy of mothering two small, fuzzy headed boys.
But now, juggling my need to write with the needs of my children is like constantly deferring hope. Even as I write this I know naptime must be coming to an end any minute now. I try not to resent the abrupt conclusion of this stolen moment. But even as I wrench myself from here and ascend the stairs to greet the urgent cries of Mama! I am torn in pieces.
I tempt them into silence with the TV while Mama finishes her words. They squeeze in beside me, struggling to navigate the way Mama slips from song-singing playmate to distracted scribbler on scraps of paper. I fight the urge to pull away, to clutch frenziedly at the words before they float away, consigned to a place of darkness where forgotten-ideas taunt me while I sleep.
As I move from this to Mama, dizzy at the shift in gear, I feel as guilty as an adulteress slipping back beneath the sheets. My loyalties are divided, and it feels as if I must sacrifice a part of me to let the other flourish.
But I write like this. Guiltily, desperately, with a heartsick longing. Yet when I give myself to this, to this wrangling of desires, I find that elusive fulfilment; my tree of life. And my daily shower makes that happen. It’s water to my writer’s soul, and when that part of me is watered, I’m a better Mama and a better me.
You can contact Heidi at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.onefeistymama.vox.com.
Magdalena Garcia wrote:
When I was 8, and learning to write cursive, I wrote everything I heard in the air just to see how the words would unveil themselves visually. At first I did it openly, legs up against the back of my mother’s seat, looping my finger around in the air, following the disc jockey’s rambling. Soon, I began to be more covert about my need to birth the words into existence and would instead only “scribble” on the palm of my hand.
Since then my writing has continued to hang invisibly in the air. I hear a comment, witness an incident or read a quote and the need to compose, to respond to the movement within me, surges and then the shoulds come knocking and the wave dissipates. Once again I have talked myself out of writing. The exquisitely complex beauty of the world disappears, and I am left with the self-imposed strain of to-do lists and expectations.
My husband is an artist who makes a living making and teaching art, and if it were up to him, I would let go of my unrealistic expectations of myself and honor my desire to write whenever possible. He has always pushed me to write not only because he knows I love it, but more importantly because he understands intimately my need to write. He honors his need to create, and therefore, lives his art out-loud. I, on the other hand, keep my creativity undercover as I slink around in the “real world” with my “real job,” wishing to be more than I let myself be.
Recently, stepping into a new part of me, I have begun honoring the thoughts that reverberate. Instead of waiting for the echo to die out, I grab the thought and rummage through my purse for my 99 cent composition book and scribble past the to-do lists and phone numbers for which it was intended. With the inception of this new willingness to value what speaks to me, I have found my way into a writing group. A co-worker mentioned her after-work writing activity and before I could plan the right way to ask, I was spilling my need to write all over her. Understanding my longing, she offered an invitation to join their weekly meeting.
Being a part of a writing group has convinced me of my need to commit to a time to write. Today, even when my desire to win the perfect-mother-of-a-toddler award, the cleanest-house-on-the-block award and the most-responsible-employee-of-the-year award hits me hard, I take contrary action. I sit down to write before heading home from the office or after the baby has gone to bed, ignoring the piles and clutter. And as the river of words begins to flow, the shoulds that can eat me alive sweetly wash away. As I write I am transformed into that child in the back seat, mesmerized with words, yet now with the desire to make them permanently visible. I am beginning to figure out how to “write between the cracks” of my life.
You can contact Magdalena at email@example.com.