1.1.2015 Journal Prompt

January 1, 2015: She couldn’t stop.

Happy New Year, Friends!

As some of you know, I started putting up these daily journal prompts in early January 2012, and have done so almost daily (ok, I missed one day, but made up for it; and put another one up past midnight another time…so sue me.) That means–let me check my math–more than 1,000 image and text prompts. And hundreds of responses from readers who have used these prompts to jump start their own writing engines. Nothing pleases me more than to hear from someone that they were inspired by something I posted.

This year, I am going to try something a little different. And what is that, you ask? I will come up with a sentence each week, and over the course of the following seven days, will put the same text prompt up with different images. The idea is that it will start different story ideas with each post, even if the sentence stays the same. (That’s the idea, at least.)

The first sentence you will find above. I will use it for eleven days this time (just this time) and then will move to new text and image prompts on January 12.

As always, I am eager to see what these prompts do for your writing. Please share (if you feel so inclined) your writing via the comments section of this site.

And as always, too, I thank you for reading. -PMc


9 Replies to “1.1.2015 Journal Prompt”

  1. Gloria opens the window of her small study and sits at her desk. The light from the window is thin and grey, but if falls fully on the desk and so she is able to write. On the wall by her desk is a gilt framed mirror, pock-marked and scratched. Gloria glances at her own reflection from time to time and it is as though she does not recognize herself there.

    Her hair is neatly cut and caught in ribbons of grey and pink silk. Her hair is dark like the wings of rooks and her skin pale. She has given her cheeks a pinch of colour. She smiles at herself in the mirror, a small movement of her lips and her eyes. Then she beds her head to the paper in front of her and she dips the pen she holds into the silver ink-pot.

    ‘Dear Matthew, thank you for your brief note. I had wished for more from you but I have read your words so many times since opening the letter, that it does feel like there was more. Dear, dear Matthew, do you remember when we last met, what we said and what we did not say? Surely you do. If I close my eyes I can still feel the small pressure of my hand on your arm, and you leaned in close to me and said something faint as whispers, something meant for only me to hear and so your breath was on my cheek you were so close. I almost kissed you then and thinking of that moment now I do not know why I did not – and if I had it all again, you whispering in my ear, and the wine making me light-headed and the music pulling my feet to dance, if I had that moment again I should most certainly kiss you now.’

    Gloria, seated at her desk, was dressed as though for a ball, though her feet were bare and she wore no shoes. Across her shoulders lay a shawl of white lace, and from her ears hung pearls. She sat back and reread what she had written, her lips giving shape and sound to the words. She nodded with satisfaction at the last line, and the mention of the kiss that was only a thought and not something real.

    She did not know this Matthew, other than through the brief description given in the newspaper and some details concerning a dance he had attended on his twenty-third birthday and where he had stood alone watching the girls there being plucked like flowers by men with more courage than he had.

    Gloria, took a fresh sheet of paper, laid it flat on the desk before her. She looked again at her reflection in the mirror and smiled.

    ‘Dear Matthew – if that really is your name – I am writing to express my displeasure at your conduct yesterday. It is a matter of duty on such occasions for gentlemen – if they be both gentle and men – to ask the ladies to dance. This is a convention that is understood. And I so wanted that you should ask me and yet you did not. I fluttered my fan at you and smiled when you were looking and I shamelessly placed myself where you could see me for the better part of the evening. Still you did not ask, though I think the thought might have been in your head. Shame on you, dear Matthew for abandoning a gentleman’s responsibilities so.’

    Gloria laughed then, and she set aside this letter and began yet another, and in this way passed a morning writing to a man called Matthew who was more and more real to her with each letter that she wrote.

    The nurse reported to the doctor on Gloria’s preoccupation and handed him almost fifty such letters. ‘It was as though she was possessed,’ said the nurse with some presumption. ‘She just couldn’t stop.’

  2. A New Year’s gift for Lindsay and Patty:

    Journal Prompt 2015-1-1

    John had just reached for his first coffee of the night when the doorbell rang. “Looks like a long night,” he said to his partner Joanie. He looked up at the old black and white security monitor to see a young woman accompanied by a middle-aged couple. “Your turn,” Joanie said with no emotion. “They’re yours.”
    John got to the door thinking it was odd. On third shift they usually saw only the drunks and street people who were trying to get a place to stay by saying they were suicidal. Three hots and a cot, they called it. But this group looked different. Well dressed, well fed, not the typical midnight group.
    John was working the Screening Center at the hospital psych unit downtown, the only involuntary unit in the county. He and his coworker were to screen for admission to the unit, and divert to community services when appropriate.
    Letting the three in the door they were arguing frantically:
    “Mom and Dad you are making a big mistake. You shouldn’t be doing this.”
    “Laura we are only doing what’s best for you,” her father argued forcefully. “This is all for you own good.” There wasn’t any sign of a physical struggle, just arguments. After walking them through the metal detector the threesome were ushered by security into an interview room.
    “There’s something about working midnights that changes your view of the world,” John thought as he was walking down the hall. In the natural world there are nocturnal animals that roam the earth, perhaps to make way for the rest of life in the daylight. We humans however were meant to sleep at night. Get eight hours to heal form the wounds of the day and prepare for the next. Those of us wandering the earth at night are pushing the limits of normal endurance. Those who came to the door of the Screening Center after midnight were somehow unhealed and unhealthy. Beyond the bounds of normal, pushed beyond their limits.
    “Damn” John thought to himself. “What am I supposed to do with this one?” This was always the challenge of the night. No supervisors around to check with. At least that was the good news. Just another coworker with whom to do a reality check once in awhile. No psychiatrist ever wanted to be called at 2:00 am: “Just put them up and we’ll check them in the morning,” was usually the sleepy verdict. John and Joanie were on their own in the dark night. As are countless others around the world trying to keep guard of the world’s sanity.
    When John got to the interview room they were still arguing. The fluorescent lights always gave out a ghoulish glow to those in its rays, and the three looked as if from another world, not quite alive.
    John started out with a hopeful tone: “OK now what is going on?” Looking at the dad, “You said something about doing something for her own good? What would that be?”
    Laura quickly spoke up: “They’ve got it all wrong. They’ve got it all wrong. I don’t belong here. I’ve done nothing wrong.” She kept emphasizing the word “wrong” as if that would take care of the problem.
    Her father produced a large yellow legal pad from under his coat. “Take a look at this,’ he pointed as if with pride at his discovery five pages of single spaced hand written notes. “Look at this. She’s in her room hunched over her desk all the time writing on these legal pads. She won’t stop. Writing all this crazy stuff. About dragons and yellow flame and coils of scales and serpent’s tails.” He paused to catch his breath as if for emphasis: “She’s hallucinating, that’s what. She’s crazy. My wife an I are really worried about her. She belongs in the psych unit.”
    Having finished his speech he quieted down for a moment. His wife did not say much except to make little sounds of agreement during his speech.
    Glancing at Laura during this soliloquy John could see no visible sign of psychosis or delusion. Just anger and anxiety about where she was and what would happen next. A normal reaction, John thought. I would be the same way.
    Laura protested again: “Dad, you and Mom got it all wrong. There’s nothing crazy about this. I’m just writing.”
    At this point John got up to put an end to the arguments.
    “OK, I’ve heard your story.” Turning to the parents, said “I need to spend some time with your daughter to decide what we’re going to do next.” At that point Joanie, who had been keeping an eye on us, came to the door and escorted the parents to another room.
    As soon as the door shut behind them Laura announced:
    “I’m not crazy. I’m writing a novel. They got into my room and went through my stuff without asking.” She was pale and anxious, shaking with fear and anger.
    John said clearly and slowly to quiet the pace down: “First of all, you’re not going the psych unit. I’m in charge of that and you’re not going.”
    Then a pause. “I just need some time with you to see what’s going on.”
    Laura stopped shaking and began to calm down. She took a few deep breaths. Her color began to come back even in the unnatural light of the clinic.
    Finally, steadying herself, she reported:
    “I’m a college student. I’m living at home now to keep my expenses down. I want to go on to graduate school and become a writer. This paper—pointing to the legal pad—is part of a class project.”
    So John and Laura settled down for a half hour conversation about their favorite authors and the local college scene. No evidence of psychosis or delusions there.
    John looked over the legal pad: “I’m not used to this kind of writing. Is this for a children’s book or more for adult science fiction?”
    Laura responded “I’m working with these images of things, scary things, to see what will happen, what will they do next. All of us in the class are working on this. And everything was fine until my parents busted into my room.”
    John reflected “Probably time to think about moving out of the house.” A rather obvious point but one that Laura had not yet grasped. “Do you have friends you could move in with, or is there another arrangement?”
    Laura thought she did: “The dorm is expensive and the food is terrible.. I’ll work on something tomorrow.”
    John got up again: “I guess it’s time to talk to your parents,” and went to usher them back in.
    “Well, what did you find?” her father asked with some insistence. “Can we go home now. You’re putting her in the psych unit, right?”
    John had them all sit down again. It seemed to work. Just in case he paged security to stand by in case it got out of hand.
    “Laura and I have talked and I find that she is not hallucinating. She is not delusional. In fact she is a very creative young woman and you should be proud of her.”
    “But what about all those crazy writings?” He looked deflated but at least wasn’t escalating.
    “What about all that crazy writing!”
    “Dad, I’ve been telling you but you won’t listen. I’m taking a class. It’s an assignment.”
    John then spoke those final words of the mental health intake specialist: “Laura does not fit the criteria for inpatient mental health treatment under the state guidelines.” Then a pause to let this settle in. “I’m sure you mean well for your daughter’s welfare, but she is doing quite well. She is not a danger to self or others.”
    John listed quickly the options available for outpatient mental health treatment, but was aware that they were not really listening. “Laura is over 18 years of age and now can make her own decisions.” John wasn’t sure who he was talking to by this point but wanted to recite the mantra.
    The threesome shuffled off past security into the darkness. Laura was saying as they walked out the door “Dad I tried to tell you, I tried to tell you.” She couldn’t stop.

    Lindsay this is in response to your post on Gloria. The difference is that I believe your post is “flash fiction.” However this post is based on an actual event that took place about 20 years ago. The names are all changed, but the story is real. Hope that’s not considered cheating on this blog. Truth is somewhere between fiction and reality. I felt compelled to post this after reading Lindsay’s excellent depiction of obsession and creativity.
    Happy New Year to all.

    1. Thanks, David. No such thing as cheating on this blog. I think many of our stories, true or otherwise, come from those moments we carry around: observed, imagined, remembered. Sooner or later, we gotta write them down, yes? Happy New Year, and may we all spend time with “all that crazy writing.”

  3. David, thanks for sharing this true story. However, I would add to what you have said that truth is a funny beast and can be found in the strangest places, and can, I hope, be found as much in fiction, too.

    Thanks for the gift.

    1. Well said, Lindsay. A funny beast indeed. Which is at least one reason we write. Look forward to another writerly year.

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