Writing Prompt

This week we're doing a writing exercise based on the following writing prompt:

At a used book sale, you purchase a leather-bound volume.  At home, you thumb through the pages and an old letter tumbles out.  What does the letter say?  Write the letter.

Writing prompts are great ways to exercise your creative muscles.  It's fun to start writing and see what comes out when you take away the pressures of writing for publication.  I look at writing prompts as a chance to exercise the purely instinctive, creative side of the brain.  Admittedly, any thing we write here is going to be more filtered, because we know that someone is going to see it, but I think writing prompts like this one can be a great story starter, a way of introducing yourself to themes or subjects that are hovering right on the tip of your subconscious.  So go ahead, try it.  Leave a comment with an impromptu paragraph or two, or just do it on your own. Who is your letter from?  Who is it to?  Who left in the book- the sender or the recipient?  Does it matter?

San Diego, CA- June 1988


I should say something.

I know this letter is the closest I'll ever come to saying it, but even now, I'm not sure if I'll ever give it to you.  If you're reading this it means I've done the bravest and dumbest thing I'll ever do in my entire life.  That, or you're snooping in my things where you don't belong.

Or do you? Because if you're snooping and you found this, it means you're in my room, and if you're in my room, then maybe it's because you actually belong here.  Maybe I told you after all.  Maybe it means something.

My timing is screwed, I know.  It's not like you even think about me anymore.  You think about her.  It's okay, I get it.  It's not like I expected you to spend the rest of your life pining for me. Or maybe I did.  Can you blame me? 

By tomorrow night it won't matter.  I'll smile and hug you and wish you well, and then I'll pelt you with handfuls of dried rice.  You'll laugh and scoop some off the ground and throw it back at me, and when our eyes meet there will be that spark of something that makes my stomach do a little flip.  But then you'll turn that smile on her, and I'll remember that spark isn't meant for me at all.

Or is it?

I guess we'll never know.

Unless I say something.



Love the prompts, love the exercises, love the letters you two have written! Won't be able to try it myself until the weekend. Added to the file. What? 3 day weekend??? Right on!!! Have a wonderful one. (totally breaking all exclamation points taboos--I blame it on the pink eye...)

PB: Exclamation point taboos were made to be broken!!!

Okay, here's my letter. This was a fun prompt, but I didn't expect to get so serious with it.

I knew you would find this letter if I hid it here, among the books you call friends. You can't look at a book without picking it up, thumbing through it, getting pulled into story.

You call these books "friends" and I imagine your surprise when one of them betrays you with this note.

Because the stories are the problem. A woman obsessed, you cannot stop. You paused briefly to give birth, but before your daughter was even weaned, already the pen, the paper, and the book were there, open before you while she slept at your breast.

No one needs to tell you these years are fleeting. You watch them scream past, measuring them in unsellable manuscripts, pausing to breathe and scream back only if something, or some little person, dares to disrupt your solitude, silence, sanctuary.

The guilt of the time you take for your failings is heavy indeed. No wonder you take photographs, evidence of what time you do spend with her, hoping that those frozen memories will be enough to convince her, when she's older, that everything you did, you did for her. That it was always about her, never you.

Let me tell you a secret: the dedication at the beginning of your manuscript - published, unpublished - will never be a substitute for you.

Put down the pen, and play with your daughter.

Thanks for sharing Beth! Did you write this letter to me? You've definitely tapped into an emotion that haunts a lot of us. We're actually planning a series of blogs on write-life balance and family support networks in the future. Would you mind if I quote this letter for one of my blogs?

Talia, quote away; I am flattered. I'll probably put this letter up on my own blog next week, because these feelings do haunt me. It's a letter to me, from me, which is why there's no salutation or closing.

If any of you have perfected the balance necessary for family & writing, I'd love to hear about it.

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