This week's Tinderbox meeting produced some really interesting pieces after a 25 minute free-write with members. We decided to delve into the idea of our first impressions of ourselves - and then we turned it all around and wrote about someone ELSE'S first impression of us. Some of us wrote from the point of view of relatives, friends, pets. Some of us wrote about our very young selves - even birth memories! Some of us wrote from the perspective of mothers filled with hopes for their children. Some wrote about the desires in their adult lives. Some wrote from the point of view of a secondary character of their current fiction project, seeing the main character through fresh eyes. It was FANTASTIC! And I want to share some of this revealing work because we all left feeling so revitalized! And...well...kinda naked.
Vulnerable is good in writing. (tweet that)
In that spirit, I've offered to publish my own, unedited piece here today to give courage to the others who will share their writing with you in the next few days.
This piece is written from the point of view of my maternal grandfather shortly after my premature birth and the loss of my twin sister. It's pretty stark. I cried when I read it for the group. It's amazing how our grief connects us. The experience of putting words to these emotions was powerful, emotions and thoughts I imagine coming from my grandfather that will absolutely make their way into my current fiction. But more than that, they reveal ME to MYSELF. That's the magic of a good prompt to strip us of our excuses and get us unblocked so the EXPRESSION flows and we discover the unique voice we have to bring to the world!
If your creativity is blocked, maybe take a chance on this writing prompt. I'd love to hear how it works for you. ...More things will be revealed!
So, enjoy. But grab a hankie, dude. xo
By Kimberly Brock
Children are supposed to be gifts, but they aren’t supposed to be angels. They aren’t supposed to be saviors. This little girl came into the world, barely a wisp of life, barely breathing, entirely the wrong color, the color of desperation. She is a gasp.
I watch her mother and grandmother wrestle over the death of dreams and they look at this child like she will be a magician. They expect her to open her eyes and see them as they wish they were, not as they are. The need her to suckle and grow on their love, dependent and full of tireless appreciation. They need her to make up for disappointment and death. Instead, she is sickly. She is limp. She is feverish and fitful and uncompromising in her misery. She will not be their joy and they want to shake her until she is compliant.
Instead, she sucks all the air from the room and still struggles to breathe. She gives them weeks with no sleep. She demands more than their grief can provide. She cries. She is weak. She is failing to thrive. They are failing. I watch them wrap her too tightly in soft blankets that overheat her skinny, strange body. They are trying to make her a fat, happy Gerber baby and angry that she can’t make the best of what they have to offer, all their best efforts and she hates them. They are not what she wants and they’re mortified.
She is a lonely thing. She is my own holy trial by fire and the great love of my life. I know because she quiets when I rock her through the night. I pat her bottom til she stops bleating and even as her sweet, warm breath makes my neck sweat, I think she will die, too. I think nothing we have to give will ever fill her up. She is grief. She is a black hole that asks everything and throws our incompetence and guilt back at us. She is greedy and terrible and beautiful in her selfishness.
I wish I could take her, bundle her, get her in my truck, tucked on the seat. We’d drive far from here. We would find the light some place that would warm our blood, away from graves and ice storms and cold women. We would fill our bellies with biscuits and butter and watch crows on wires, talking and cackling. Her first smile was with me. I want to hear her laugh at those crows. I want her to grow up wise as those birds, sharp and slick and black. I want her to fly away from here. I want her to take a deep, deep breath and grow in all directions until she is larger than all of us. Until she won’t fit in that impossibly small hole in the ground.
Today's guest post for Tinderbox Society is from Rena Blain, a self-proclaimed newborn writer! She joined the 8 week Tinderbox Workshop fall series two weeks ago and...
THIS is her first blog post -- EVER!
I'm so happy to share it here. I hope you'll read and share this sweet story. And leave Rena a comment or two, to welcome her and her voice to the party!
THE COAT RACK
One day Blue Coat had a hole that needed to be patched. She came to Coat Rack and asked if she could hang on the rack’s hook. Coat Rack, being made of strong Oak, said, “Sure, I would love to help.”
As Blue started to hang, Coat Rack thought to herself, “Her hole wasn’t that big and I really want to help people.”
Then came Red Coat, who had a torn sleeve. She asked if Coat Rack knew how to mend it. Coat Rack stated, “Hmmm, I am sure we can figure it out. Hang here while we look at this.”
As Red started to hang, Coat Rack thought, “Whoa, now I can’t see on either side of me. But that’s okay, it’s only temporary.”
In the meanwhile, Yellow Coat, with a broken zipper, came and hung herself upon Coat Rack’s mighty oak arm all on its own.
“Ouch” yelled Coat Rack. “You just scratched and scuffed some of my wood.”
Yellow snapped, “I didn’t mean to.”
Coat Rack felt bad for Yellow so she dismissed the hurt and said, “It’s okay, Yellow. I will help you, anyway.”
Before Coat Rack knew it, Purple Coat arrived. Purple gasped, “Coat Rack, you look full, but I really could use a place to hang. I only need a small mend in my hood.”
Standing up tall like the mighty oak that Coat Rack was made from, she said, “Purple, you have been my dear friend the longest. I would never leave you in a time of need.” So Purple hung on Coat Rack.
As Blue, Red, Yellow, and Purple continued with their hanging, Coat Rack was scuffed, scratched, and could no longer see because each of her arms were full. Over time, the constant added weight made her tired and not feel well. Where she once stood tall, polished, and strong she was now scratched, dingy, and weak. Her legs wobbled a little. One of her posts was loose. But apparently she still looked to be strong and stable to others. Or maybe they just ignored her struggle, because no one offered to help her.
Then one day the Coat Rack said to herself, “I cannot do this anymore. I tried to mend the ones I could. I cried with the ones I couldn’t. But I can no longer support myself, much less these others, too.”
She dropped all the coats.
Coat Rack started to withdraw and stayed to herself. She spoke with others but never really invited them to hang. Then one day, she decided to grab the sander and slowly sanded the dull stain. It hurt at times but she knew it was for the greater good. Once all the dullness was gone and the scratches were mended, she tightened her legs and then her arms. All that was left to do was to apply some varnish to make her nice and shiny.
But then, Red and Blue coat became jealous. Yellow Coat thought she became cold-hearted. Purple Coat was the only one who understood and remained loyal. Coat Rack wished they could understand that she was only one coat rack and could not help everyone. She could help them find the tools necessary to mend their problem but only they could make the actual repair.
Coat Rack could no longer put everyone else above her needs. And so she decided. To remain strong, she would help when she could but would no longer carry the problems of others.
If someone became jealous, she did not let it bother her. They could sand their dullness just like she did. If someone thought she was cold-hearted, she did not let it bother her. They could tighten their legs and arms too. Most of all, Coat Rack assured the coats by her own example that they could apply new stain and varnish to their own parts. Because no one could repair themselves better than they.
Without all that extra weight, she could stand tall and see clearly. Coat Rack remembered the mighty oak at her core and felt renewed and stronger than ever.
Rena Blain is a newborn writer and a native Georgian living just north of Atlanta. Over the years she has expressed her creativity through cross stitch, crocheting, scrapbooking, and quilting. However, she considers her biggest creative accomplishment to be her work helping others through her own practice as a Licensed Massage Therapist. You can find her here: www.southerntranquilmassage.com
Since taking a high school elective in the 80’s called Enjoy Reading, Rena has embraced the creativity and thought process that came with reading and storytelling. Currently, she is practicing writing short stories while also enjoying being a wife and mother. One day she hopes you’ll see her name in print!
My life broke. That’s the best way I know to explain the past nine months. I’d been going ninety to nothing, publishing my first novel, loving my family hard, raising three kids, each in a different school, managing aging parents, aging pets, peanut allergies and a husband whose work kept him out of town for a good portion of every week. And I was managing. I was moving. I was shaking. I was paying attention. I was doing everything right. And then…I woke up one day and the people in my life started dropping like flies.
In truth, no one actually died, but every person who was significant went into their own personal crisis and I was the last (wo)man standing. I’d been a celebrated teacher, an award winning author, a beloved wife and mother and daughter – that didn’t stop the breaking. It was more than I could manage. And it was nothing I could mend. As the ones I loved struggled, I felt my foundations tremble. My hands were completely tied, my heart was broken, and I’d never been so alone. So here’s what I did: I went into my closet and shut the door.
The thing is, I love my closet. It is my nest. It is my metaphorical womb. It is my most favorite place. And because I have my closet, all my life I’ve been a person who persists. I’ve been a survivor. I’ve been the person who is grounded. I’ve been able to turn inward and find what I need because I lived a rich, creative, thoughtful, faith-filled life. I believe in miracles. I believe in magic. I like to act like I’m all rational and worldly, but truthfully I am a die-hard optimist in a pessimist’s clothing. But that day in January when I went into my closet and I shut my eyes and went to gather my strength and belief in good, good things, a terrible thing happened.
I was empty. Depleted. Exhausted. Where I’d always been able to come out of that closet refreshed, with a plan, ready to take on what came next, suddenly I couldn’t even bring myself to open the door. And I kept thinking the same things over and over. Mostly, I’d catch myself thinking one thing, an unfinished thought: I wish…I wish…I wish…
And when I turned to my work, the thing I thought would get me out of my mess – writing – I discovered every creative person’s nightmare. I was blocked to the bone.
What happened to me? Life broke. And the pieces created a great big dam.
For the past few months I’ve been floundering and questioning. I’ve been wandering around, blinking like a mole, picking up pieces and tucking them into my pockets. I’ve been doing a lot of sleeping because it’s hard to get out of bed. I’ve been eating lots of carbs and reading lots of books and taking care of my house and not answering the phone at all. I’ve been fighting cynicism. I’ve been afraid. Of so many things. Of having nothing special to offer the world. Of being ordinary. Of days passing and watching them go by without being inspired…or inspiring someone else.
Friends and family have watched me, uneasy. It’s scary for them, too, I think. They’ve never seen me…well…stop. I mean really, seriously STOP. But I did. And something new started to happen. I realized this: creativity – the source that has always been the soul-restoring energy available to me in that nest-closet of mine – is like any other thing on this earth that FLOWS. It needs a clear path.
If I wanted to continue to survive – and especially to come back from trauma – it was going to be up to me to learn how to take care of my creativity. And that started with taking care of myself. I started by taking care of myself in all the extravagant, thoughtful ways I wished to be cared for. (Which also gave me the renewed strength to care for those around me.) I worked in ways that felt good instead of exhausting, clearing a path for my creativity. (I learned to say no to a lot of things, too. I’ve never had a problem saying no. But I did have a problem saying yes to the wrong things.) And then I allowed myself to enjoy all the unexpected ways that recovering my creativity brought well-being and purpose and joy back into my life.
Sound like I’ve gone all Oprah? Well. Not really. Half the time I’m still guessing. I don’t live in Chicago or know everything. I know very little, actually. And I like it that way. I like that I’m learning from so many women who are also on this path. So when I started looking around at the women in my life, the girls I see at the grocery store or the school meetings, ladies who sit beside me at church or on airplanes, or book clubs, I started to notice so many of them are whispering things to me.
I’m lost. I’m burnt out. I don’t even have time. I don’t even remember myself. And…I wish. LOTS of I wish.
Tinderbox Writers Workshop came out of I WISH.
I’m calling it a writers workshop, but really it’s a creativity workshop. I believe stories are the surest path to our source – our hearts. Stories teach us how to speak our truth. Stories change everything. Stories teach us about our wishes. Stories are the home of every creative effort, no matter the form.
I’m a believer that if you want something in life, you should create it. And then you should share it. I wished I could create the life I wanted each day. I wished I could create a space for women who are blocked, who are stuck, who are silenced or depleted or just searching for a safe place to discover or recover or express their gifts. I wished for a space for women to share and explore and CREATE and celebrate their stories and voices. I wished to nurture my own soul and the souls of sisters and daughters. I wished for a sanctuary where women can learn to live fully, joyously, passionately – lives lived from our creative core.
I hope you’ll join me.
Discover your story. Recover your voice. What do you wish?
I met guest blogger and Tinderbox Society member, Jodi Burrus, a few years ago when a friend and I drove to Birmingham, Alabama to meet a mutual friend and fellow author, humorist Robin O'Bryant. We sat around a table for dinner and laughed ourselves silly, talking about our families, our writing and everything in between. I left that dinner wishing those women lived closer to me. I felt recharged. I felt my energy and confidence return. It might have been the wine or the artichoke dip, but I think there's something about sharing our stories that feeds our souls. I wanted Jodi to share her story here with you so maybe some of that magic could be recaptured and spread over your day today.
If you've ever struggled to make time for yourself, time to be still and quiet in a crazy busy life, time to listen for your own voice in all the hubbub...this one's for you!
Jodi's blog speaks to the power of friendship in our lives to nourish our creativity. Find her at thedrunch.com.
"When you meet a friend for Drunch, you know you’re going to kick back, unwind and say what you want to say. Whether it’s Marriage and Family or Nips and Tucks, no topic is off limits. Stop by The Drunch to catch up on what’s being said around the table today."
Jodi's doing a great giveaway, too, so leave a comment for her. Your going to really connect to this post and want to chat about it. Share your thoughts and yourself here and you'll win, either way!
by Jodi Burrus
Writing…until you’re a published author, people will refer to this as your “hobby,” not realizing It means so much more than the word “hobby” implies. It's not a pair of fuzzy slippers knitted at Christmas.
Still...I've not published a full-length novel, and my writing isn't a source of income. Not a "real" job. So where does writing fit in my crazy, mixed-up life? It doesn't...there's just no room.
I should explain...I'm a mom. Not just once, but four times over. Boys -- ages 9, 8, 8, and 8. That's as real as it gets.
I juggle the schedules of all six members of our family. I cook a healthy dinner (most of the time), and pack lunches, and do laundry, and remember karate outfits, and clean up dog hair, and mop the floors (sometimes). We go to school. We go to church. Sure, it looks like multi-tasking, but my focus is ALL on raising 4 boys and maintaining a somewhat sanitary/sane/livable home environment. All my eggs are in one basket. There is no TIME for writing.
But I do it anyway.
I can't help but think of my writing as the bloodletting treatments of old, where the tumultuous humors were drained away in order to leave their host healthy and sound. Sure it's junk science, but as a metaphor for writing -- it's good medicine.
Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. You just sit down at a typewriter and bleed." For me, the words build day after day, night after night, until the pressure demands an outlet. I struggle with allotting a set time every day to write. Sometimes it just doesn't work out. Kids get sick. I get exhausted. Life happens. So I've given myself permission to play hooky.
Sometimes, the laundry sours in the washer. Dinner becomes takeout, and guess what? You guys need to buy lunch at school tomorrow because I didn't make it to the grocery store today. And you know what? Life goes on. There may be some rumbles from the peanut gallery, but the earth continues to spin.
So the words flow...in fits and starts. Disjointed scenes, disrupted voices. Pages I want to burn, and phrases I wish the world could see. Is it a pointless exercise? I don't think so. I'm simply being who I'm supposed to be. Will I publish a full-length novel someday? I hope so. But if it never happens, I'll still be here...my pen dripping words onto the page.
Need a little encouragement to get your own creative juices flowing? How about a copy of the anthology “Winter Wonders” — a collection of short stories that includes Jodi's very first published YA Fiction, “The Fat Files.” Leave a comment here or on her blog at www.thedrunch.com Or send a tweet to @thedrunch saying, “Count me in!” for a chance to win.
tinderbox society blog
Life lived from your Creative Core.