Here we are: Day #30 in a 31 Day Writing Challenge! It’s time to start reflecting.
I started this challenge with a plan to lean in and try out a type of writing I don’t really agree with; writing to a prompt. I chose Quick Writes by Donald Graves and Penny Kittle as my source of prompts. I wrote to quite a few over the month. Here’s what I’m thinking:
-I’m glad I took on the project. I think it’s important to try things myself in order to develop a broader understanding and to better explain my thinking about a topic.
-Some of the prompts led me to interesting places. I definitely discovered topics that I would not have if it hadn’t been for a prompt. I wrote about learning to drive with my dad and my parents’ divorce. I explored some powerful memories and experiences.
-Some of the prompts pushed me to be more creative than I would have been without them (drawing my hand, or writing from a shopping list, for example).
-I didn’t have to struggle for an idea when I wrote to a prompt. That’s kind of a plus and a minus for me. It was nice to know that there was going to be something to write about every day, but I think it took away an important part of the writing process – finding a topic that I care about and want to write about.
-I did build in some choice (One of the reasons I’m against prompts is because I find that they are often teacher-driven and don’t allow for choice – a key to engagement in my opinion.). I looked through the prompts and decided on the ones I wanted to try. Maybe this is cheating, but it was the only way I could do it.
Overall, I still think it’s better if writers choose topics of their own, but I’d be willing to offer children the choice of trying out writing to a prompt every now and then. Maybe it would lead them to some interesting topics. Maybe it’s a way in for some writers. Maybe prompts can provide a warm up if a writer is stuck. I’m a bit more open to the use of prompts after taking on this project. I see some value in the exercise.
OK, I’ll admit it. I’m tired of slicing. Yesterday and today I really struggled to find a topic. I looked through the prompts and nothing really sounded good. My last few posts haven’t been that great either. Maybe it’s just the Monday Blues thing, but 28 days of writing is a lot.
On a more positive note, I think I’ve developed a nice routine for writing. I’m hoping it will be a routine that has some lasting power. I’ve decided that early evening is the best writing time for me. I’m really a morning person, so this has kind of surprised me. I’ve found that between five and six pm I can carve out some quiet time. The bulk of the day is behind me, and it’s not time to get ready for dinner quite yet. I’ve had time to get home from work, walk the dog (now that the days are longer), change into my comfortable clothes, read the mail, and take care of anything that needs immediate attention. It’s my husband’s time to watch the news and the dog is settled.
I make myself a hot tea or pour a nice cold class of juice or water with lemon, get some chips or cheese and crackers, and sit down at my writing desk. I take some time to reflect on the day, mark my gratitudes, and sort through possible writing topics or prompts/invitations. I can try something out, reread, revise, and rethink without the pressure of having to publish right away. I can even walk away for awhile, do a load of laundry or look through some of my home emails, and then come back to my writing with new energy. By the time I need to turn my attention to watching Jeopardy and eating dinner, I’ve usually got some writing that I can send out into the world.
So although I’m tired and losing some steam at the day 29 mark, I’ve really developed a writing habit. This was definitely one of my goals for the challenge, so that makes me happy.
Thank goodness for sisters. This weekend my sister Christina came to town. Her original reason for coming was to visit our dear friend Thelma, who is gravely ill. Although the reason for her visit was quite a sad one, I was really looking forward to spending time with my sister. I was looking forward to visiting the hospital with her and seeing the look on Thelma’s face when she saw her dear Christina. I was looking forward to one of our long walks together when we can talk and talk, sharing stories of what’s going well and what we are struggling with. I was looking forward to dinner with our dad, who is now 91 and doing so well!
But then I had a bit of a scare that landed me in the hospital for a day or two before her visit, so everything seemed to take on new level of significance. Just knowing that Christina would be arriving the day after my incident was so comforting. Knowing that she would smile and give me a big hug. Knowing that just having her near would make me feel a bit safer. Knowing that I could talk openly with her about my fears. Knowing that she knows me so well and would know just what to say.
Every now and then I have an experience that reminds me how kind people are. These last two days have made me feel grateful for:
-My friends and colleagues. (A special shout out to our school nurse who knew exactly what information to gather and what to do. She made me feel safe in a scary situation.)
-The fact that sometimes you just happen to be in the right place at the right time.
-Every staff member at Norwalk Hospital. (Even after two of the toughest years imaginable, these people – security guards, parking attendants, nurses, doctors, pharmacists, kitchen workers, room cleaning staff – are working to make people feel welcome, safe, and healthier. And they are doing it with joy!)
-My husband (He keeps me grounded and takes care of everything with such a sense of calm.)
-My cell phone (It kept me entertained and connected since I didn’t have a good book in my bag – lesson learned.)
-The sunshine and fresh air and flowers and trees and birds and bugs and everything else out there in that beautiful world.
Today I don’t need a prompt. I’ve had all sorts of slice worthy moments over the last few hours. Let’s just cut to the chase and say I ended up in the ER with a rapid heart rate. Move forward some more (so you don’t worry), they got my heart rate under control.
And just in case you are feeling like you could use a chuckle right now, when I sent a text saying I had been in afib, autocorrect changed it to aging. I mean really. Kick a girl when she’s down!
I have so much I want to say tonight. I’m honestly overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude. I’m feeling so lucky to work with amazing people. Today we had a cultural food extravaganza. One of our paraprofessionals suggested the idea during a professional development session focused on how to develop spaces of belonging. The group of people in the meeting loved the idea. I asked our principal (fellow Slicer, BTW) and she embraced it. Our paraprofessional team set to work. They invited the staff to bring in food from their culture or country of origin, coordinated dishes and decorations, set up tables with tablecloths and flags for each country, and created a spectacular event for the entire staff. We all ate, learned about different countries and ingredients, we celebrated differences and found connections. We gathered. We ate. We laughed. We celebrated. We were part of something bigger. We belonged. I have so much I could write, so many foods to describe, so many feelings to capture.
Instead of writing a lot, I’m going to try to capture this big feeling in a one short sentence. Here we go:
Yesterday, I wrote to a prompt that asked me to draw an outline of my hand and then fill it with memories that are connected to my hands. One friend and fellow slicer suggested that I try a poem, so here it goes:
My hands are my mom’s hands.
One of her gold rings on my finger.
My hands are my hands.
They hold rings that celebrate engagement and marriage.
They hold hands – parents, husband, children, an ill friend.
They’ve held babies, and look forward to holding many more.
My hands work dough to form biscuits and bread.
They hold mugs of morning coffee, books, pens and pencils, a tennis racquet, my dog’s leash.
My hands hold a spot for that tattoo I’ve wanted ever since my mom died.
OK, I’ll admit it, I found today’s prompt/invitation really interesting.
The prompt: What stories do your hands tell? Trace around your hand and fill it in with memories that are connected to your hands.
I traced my hand. Then I stared at my (real) hand and tried to think of stories that involved my hands. I do know that I have my mother’s hands, so I instantly thought of her. I don’t like my thick veins, but since they remind me of my mom, who died a number of years ago, I feel grateful that I carry her with me every day. I kept the drawing on my desk for a few days and kept adding memories. I definitely think there are ideas here that I can write more about. I think this might be interesting to try with kids. Here’s what I have so far: