The Writing Prompt

I often say to myself: “oh I should blog about that!” But then I don’t, and then I forget the topic, and then weeks pass and I still haven’t blogged.

Writing prompts come closer to assigned work which means—especially with a deadline imposed—I’ll actually write the thing, whatever it is. My TueNight writing worked that way. And it always started like this: “hmmm…the prompt is “sisters,” what could I possible have to write about that? Ridiculous because I have three sisters and they, more than my parents even, were the very structure of my childhood.

It’s like looking at those New Yorker cartoons without captions. I start with absolutely zero thoughts, often end there too, but when I see others’ captions I think: of course! And for proof this is so, what do we make of the police officer in an interview room grilling a kid and then in walks another officer with a  clown wig and balloon animal? Me: hmmm… well… nothing comes to mind really.  Screen Shot 2018-04-16 at 12.45.31 PM.png

the forgiveness project women writing

Earth as One Big Forgiveness School (and other thoughts from Anne Lamott)


In her writing, Anne Lamott has a wry and gentle way of pointing me in a good direction. She doesn’t want to be the object of attention, although she garners radical amounts of positivity when she posts. Rather, she is like a signpost that says “try going over there instead.” In her first TED talk, she identifies 12 things she knows to be true, as informed by her 60-plus years on earth (which she celebrates, she says, because she’s glad to know longer be in the death throes of late-middle-age). Here are the truths that mean the most to me:

  1. Insisting on helping people all the time is the sunny side of control. Stop helping so much. Stop getting your helpfulness and goodness all over everybody.


  1. Nothing outside of you will fix you. It’s an inside job. (Her parenthetic exception: unless you’re waiting for an organ.)


  1. Food: try to do a little better. “I think you know what I mean.”


  1. Almost everything will work again if you unplug it in a few minutes, including yourself.


  1. Quoting Ram Dass: When all is said and done, we’re really just all walking each other home.


  1. Earth is one big forgiveness school. (My parenthetic truth: I’m pretty sure I’m not a star student.)


  1. Grace bats last. I read this in an essay and I don’t know what this means. Even so, I hope it’s true.
the complaint department writing

did you ever …

not blog for so long that they change the interface up on you — and you can’t figure out how to do it, even when you have something really interesting to say?

exercise Good Intentions writing

Hello 2017


As is my custom, I start the year with good intentions, this one being a 30-minute run, for which I was rewarded with a view over the Black Rock Harbor, the Fayerweather Lighthouse and the Port Jeff Ferry. 2017: so far, so good.

articles of faith writing

A noble life

This book from Lily and, along with Anne Lamott’s Small Victories, I am inspired to write again, after a long dormant spell. The change of scenery helped as well — a week in the desert with views like this every day: 

Here is what I wrote poolside at the Desert Hot Springs Spa, courtesy of Lamott and triggering a vow from me to leave them behind: Resentments are wire-monkey mothers, something to hang onto because we believe we have — or deserve — nothing better.

story telling therapy Uncategorized writing

the end

Imagine you are a writer (I have trouble with this part too) and there’s a terrible little story rolling around your head. It has to do with something you just learned, something that reverses what you thought was true, something frightening or threatening. The reason it rolls around in your head is that you can’t seem to integrate it with the other stories that make up the story of your life.

Got that?

I am exploring whether telling the story is a means of dispensing with it. Or resolving it, giving it a beginning, middle and end. Isn’t this the purpose of myths and fables and fairy tales? They usually start with a distancing tactic, something like:

 “Once upon a time…”

“In a country far, far away…”

“A thousand years ago or more, when the flowers could still converse with the animals….”

The first line of a fairy tale is written to reassure the reader that nothing that will  follow is remotely possible. That the distant past and the far-away setting and the improbability of the magic and cruelty that happened “in that place and at that time,” was devised to give the reader comfort. This is just a story. Fear not.

a mouse begs the lion to spare his life
a mouse begs the lion to spare his life

So suppose we do this with our own terrible little stories. Put them between a couple of thick and dusty covers of a book. Close the book. Don’t read them again. Or do but with the final sentence foretold, a closure built into the experience in the form of “the end.”

family writing

Police Find Mom Hiding in Bedroom at Teen Party

Remind me to dedicate a whole chapter to a scene like this one. No judgment: being a mom of teens is so perilous.


resolved: endeavor to be close enough to ok most of the time

I’ve identified four resolutions, none of which brush greatness or excellence or even, if ranked on one of those 1-out-of-5 scales, “somewhat better than expected”-ness.

And here they are:

  • leave well enough alone: this has to do with parenting, about which I will not say more except that it could probably be shortened to leave them alone.
  • endeavor to be close enough to OK most of the time: this is the title track and the track that leads me away from striving toward perfection in all I do and say. The track that makes me despair when small things go awry, the track with the swamp into which I wallow. This one could be shortened to: stop trying to be so perfect.
  • embrace criticism: This came to me yesterday. I know I am touchy about criticism. I either receive it and apologize (I’m sorry I let you down) or receive it with anger (how dare you judge me when you’re so…) Neither reaction has a good outcome. Both make the criticizer think less of me: she’s so insecure, you can’t tell her anything or she’s so arrogant (the coat insecurity wears, fooling few), she never makes herself accountable for her errors.
  • embrace failure: I know in theory that when we fail, we learn and get better at whatever it is we’ve failed at. Clear-eyed, we say “we failed because..” and “we won’t do it that way again, next time.” I say “in theory” and switched to the first-person plural because my way is more along the lines of: I failed therefore I am never going to try that again. Staying at failure, stopping at failure, remaining forever and always a failure at that thing, whatever it is.

It occurs to me if I can get these four less-ambitious (or maybe more ambitious, we shall see) things right then “greatness” will be more possible.

Or maybe I won’t need greatness after all.


No thank you

Another nice rejection letter, from a very famous publisher whose identity I will conceal (why? not sure) but whose logo is the animal that is most likely to be depicted wearing a tux. An excerpt is here. Sigh.  “It’s engagingly written, if offbeat (decidedly offbeat), and very smart – but it doesn’t feel quite mainstream enough for [our] list.