Your Next Writing Prompt

I am a great lover of writer prompts, and I seem to have accumulated a dozen books of them. Books that I almost never open…

This year, however, I’ve had a major realization around writing prompts.

My realization began with my new little poetry project that builds on my old one-bad-poem practice. I was doing some reorganizing (an on-going process) and I happened to take down my 2007-2008 book of poem drafts. Early in my five years of writing one poem a day, I revised and re-revised and turned a good percentage of them into actual poems. But by 2008, the practice was beginning to fall apart.

Two thousand eight was the year my mother’s memory problems first came to our attention. In 2008 I was teaching full-time and (if I’m remembering right) I began teaching the very rewarding and very time-consuming Creative Nonfiction class (which changed my life). In 2008 my older daughters were teenagers — 14 and 14 — and though I am apparently in some denial about my year with them, I know from my younger daughter’s 14th year that it can be a roller coaster (she was only 8 years old in 2008, and a delight). In 2008 my dad’s health was slipping a bit and becoming a concern. In 2008 he told me that he thought he was going to have to sell his cows (which he never did, by the way). In 2008 I said yes to a big committee at my church.

So I was writing every day, but it’s really stretching it to call what I wrote a “poem.” It was more like a moment to stop and make an observation and jot down a few lines. In 2009-10 I completely lost it and stopped getting the poems typed up…which eventually led to calling it quits. But in 2008 I was still typing them up. And I’m so glad.

Here’s my realization in a nutshell; it isn’t original, and this isn’t the first time I’ve come across it, but it’s well worth repeating:

What you pay attention to, grows. 

Rereading a “poem” (or whatever it seems to be), writing it into my journal, retyping it, doesn’t take all that much time (and I’m very very forgiving if all I do is read it and make a note or two). But…

even when you haven’t much time — perhaps “especially” when — stopping for fifteen, or five, or ONE minute and paying attention to what you want to create more of will work magic.



5 replies
  1. Carolynne Harris
    Carolynne Harris says:

    I loved your history of 2008 and girls lives and ages and writing – I love writings because they help us understand the now. And your dad and cows and mom’s memory failing.

    Seems like yesterday and then we have the great AHA moment.

    Laura Shapiro wrote a longish book called WHAT SHE ATE – starting with Wordsworth’s sister- then Eleanor Roosevelt and I just finished Ava Braun Hitler’s mistress – now that is ancient history. Ava was so young a teen in beginning. Hitler and Trump so much the same – oops think this too long – loved your blog all blogs

    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      Perfect! And not too long. I will look for WHAT SHE ATE. Have you read Kate Atkinson’s WWII novels, LIFE AFTER LIFE and A GOD IN RUINS? They are great as audio books, too.

  2. Janet
    Janet says:

    I’m really curious, Bethany. Why do you think you are “apparently in some denial” about your twin daughters? 14-year-old year?

    Do you mean, perhaps, that because Emma’s teenage years have turned out to be hard, it’s reminded that the current reality doesn’t match your (rosier) memories of Pearl and Annie at that age? Or did you read about problems with them in your 2008 folder?

    You don’t HAVE to answer this! Love, J

    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      When I read about A & P in my 2008 journal and poetry book I KNOW they were hard (one benefit of keeping a journal, in my opinion!). Pearl had a boyfriend at age 14, after all, and did things like running away in order to see him. Annie did not like us and spent all of her time at her friend M’s house.

      Do not apologize for typos!

  3. Janet
    Janet says:

    p.s. I too thought that this post was very helpful, both for my writing and my life. The details about your 2008 grounded it so fascinatingly., as Carolynne notes. The way it’s set up makes the revelation enlightening.

    (Sorry for the question mark meant to be an apostrophe, and for omitting “you” in “reminded (you) that ” . . . Just don”t get old, Bethany ! I really don’t recommend it at all.)


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