I recently received an incredible gift of encouragement and creativity in the form of a book filled with writing prompts. My colleague and friend gave me 642 Things to Write About by the San Francisco Writer's Grotto as a demonstration of her support and belief in what I have to offer the world. We should all be so lucky to have a mentor like her. I wrote a LinkedIN post about it here, if you want to know how much she inspired me.
I've been enthralled by the book because it really promotes freedom of expression and getting my brain into a place where words just stream from my mind - exactly the place I need to be mentally in order to put my full-length book idea to paper, erm, screen. I've had such a fabulous time writing to the quirky prompts that I thought I would share some from time to time for my reader's entertainment.
If you get inspired by the prompt feel free to write up your own version and share in the comments!
Prompt: A house plant is dying. Tell it why it needs to live.
Oh, green celestial spirit of the earth!
You must exchange CO2.
You must expel the oxygen.
Your vibrant self
a poultice for mine eyes.
Your stalwart counter-top presence
a reminder of nature's constancy.
Live. Another day. Live.
Prompt: You are an astronaut. Describe your perfect day.
I woke up as our tiny, C-class space vessel rounded the nearest-while-safe orbit past an almost-super nova gas giant. I'm of the opinion that the deadliest things in our long human history have always been mesmerizingly beautiful. Volcanoes, from afar, look like giant splashes of fiery color, lightning strikes blaze luminescence and blinds you while enticing you to look. So too, with this super-nova-to-be on screen, it's purplish, red glow acting as a night light as I ease myself from the final tendrils of sleep. "Lights 25%" I croak in my signature morning voice. "Hi Babe" comes through the comm. He must have seen the activity node flash on his console indicating I'm up-and-at-them, an ages old expression that has lost all reference to whomever "them" may be. "Morning!" I echo back brightly to my co-pilot and husband, "how long have you been up?"
"I took her off autopilot at 0600. Didn't want to leave the autonav to all the fun."
"Heh, yeah," I agree. "Did you eat yet?" A glance at the infostream band around the room tells me it 0800, my guess is no. "Nah, didn't want a RAT and I figured you'd be up soon." I hear a grin through the comm. Ration: Astronaut Type, as it's marketed by the creators who wanted to make a supplement form of nourishment that provides the human body all the essential nutrients and aminos necessary to survive treks into deep space, can keep for 30 years, can be opened and consumed with just teeth, and tastes like the bioboard packaging it comes in; which young astronauts are told is edible as well (though I've never tried it). I'm not surprised he wanted to wait it out.
"Ok," I smile back, "I'm off to the galley. Omelet with a side of organospuds coming right up."
"How'd I get so lucky?" He asks and I imagine I'd see his wide smile if I flicked on the dash cam. I slip on my comfy NB inter-space loafers (I seriously would never go to space without them) and head to my favorite place on the vessel.You never know what a day in space will bring you and it's best to have a full belly and well-protected feet.
Prompt: Tell a story that begins with a ransom note
wE'VE goT tHE mutT. PAy Us $150,000 or eLSe! BItcOiN aCct: 5213215.
YoU hAve uNtiL 6:00pm oN TuESdaY oR You'LL NevEr seE FIFI AgaIN!
The view of my report was interrupted by a frail, translucent hand, mottled with liver spots and punctuated with hot pink nails. I glanced my eyes up at the hand's owner while keeping my chin down at my desk, a skill ingrained in me by years spent as the rookie of the police force in a town of 1500 residents. Having been assigned the first desk in a row of five, I was accustomed to bearing the brunt of the walk-ins. I darted my eyes sideways to see that Hayes, 3 years my senior, has noticed and subtly chosen to ignore the presence of the supplicant at my desk. I plaster a grin on my face and direct my eyes to meet the citizen I'm about to serve and protect. "How can I be of assistance, Mrs. Stomsku?"
"Oh, Officer Clems! It's horrible!" her pitch tells me she is very distressed by what my quiet three years on the force is telling me will likely be some kids prank. "It has to be those terrible Lorban kids who moved in last fall! They've been giving my poor Fifi the stink eye all summer when she's just barking to keep their grubby feet of my precious petunia beds!" I stack the report I was working on top of the "to-do" pile and reach for a blank incidence sheet ready to dedicate all my efforts to getting her dog back safe. What can I say, I'm an animal lover and I like to do my best no matter what task I'm on. "Ok, Mrs. Stomsku, let's start from the beginning, when did you see Fifi last?"
Prompt: The long-lost roomate
The sight that met me at the door after the minute and a half of incessant doorbell ringing while I scrambled into pants, tripped over the threshold to my front entry and whipped back the deadbolt was not one I could have predicted. There stood the beleaguered figure of my long-lost college roommate, Christa, erm, Christen, no....Christine's her name. She only lived with me for a half a semester before dropping out to be closer to her boyfriend. What the heck is she doing here? I thought. I must have stood there thinking for too long because she tired of waiting for me to invite her in and blasted past my shoulder into my entry and into the sitting room beyond. "Hey!" I shouted and darted in behind her.
That's it, folks. Hope they were at least a fraction of the fun to read as they were to write. :) Until my next post - Amy
I love my morning commute. And, I’m not making a play on words and describing loving to work from home (which I do, too). No, I’ve recently discovered a way to enjoy the traffic trek. The secret is so simple. Don’t make the journey alone. Many benefits ensue once you commit to sharing your 5-20 cubic meters of vehicle space with another.
The first perk is obvious and has huge impact: THE CARPOOL LANE goes faster. I’d love to give a great big bear hug to the person who invented the carpool lane. That jolly invention makes me feel as though we are not just cruising in our lane to our destination but rather passing all the other single passenger vehicles in a RACE TO THE FUTURE!
I also love my morning commute in the carpool lane because I’m not a fan of battling traffic and since my office is the first destination on our route– I don’t have to drive. Ever. I’m fortunate because my husband is the other occupant of our commuter car and he likes to drive – especially in his nimble Mini Cooper S - maneuvering lanes, dodging mergers, and avoiding general mayhem. After “Han Solo-ing” us through the single passenger SUVs, lumbering work trucks, and SS’s (standard sedans), he drops me off and continues on his way.
I’m pleased with our carpool because I feel that, in a small way, it’s helping reduce carbon emissions (one less vehicle on the road and fewer minutes that the engine is running). And, even though it is nominal, I take a small satisfaction in the fuel savings we reap by not firing up the less economical vehicle that waits for us in the garage at home.
The excellent conversation and getting to spend more time with my favorite person in the world is also a benefit. That element, however, completely depends on who is in the car with you. If my commute sounds appealing, my advice is to check first whether commuting with your favorite person saves carbon, fuel, or time. Commuting with a coworker from the same neighborhood to your office building is likely the easiest carpool to arrange but that last perk might be missing. You may have to settle for a ride with a less-than-favorite individual – it would probably still be worth it- probably.
Precious minutes, hard-earned money, carbon emissions; if reducing those valued resources lost to your daily commute sounds good, hop on board the carpool lane…erm..train.
The corporate world is not all ergonomic chair reclining, patting backs, and smiling brightly as solutions miraculous develop on our desktops. We've all had days when that straw sifted lazily down the breeze onto the camels back -when our eyes wanted to roll so far back into our heads we'd need an OR team to go find them -when one more request to re-send one more email chain we KNOW the requesting person was on has us gulping deep breaths and counting to ten. I recently had one of those days shoulder to shoulder with another member of my team and her response to the pressure left me contemplating my own reactions and thinking of how I can emulate her more.
I consider myself very solutions oriented. I don't consider excuses a valuable use of time and instead try to gear my discussions and meetings towards action items that solve whatever problem we've stumbled upon. After spending the day with my calm and pleasant coworker, I noticed my reaction to hearing excuses or complaints was increasingly to shut down the conversation abruptly, typically with a frustrated tone whereas she continuously focused on closing down the negativity in a positive way - not an easy thing to do. She did this in a really simple way, by being kind.
In my previous roles where I was front-facing with clients, I was in a daily practice of listening patiently and responding with a positive regardless of the situation. If a client called and needed access to a resource, I would let them know I heard their frustration and was there to help. Somewhere in my transition to internal service, I had forgotten the value of a friendly word and positive redirection. After spending the day with observing the patience and courtesy from my days of yore, I had an interaction with a different co-worker where miscommunication caused some friction. It was understandable that both of us would feel out of the loop and somewhat frustrated. I immediately noted her tone was irritated and resolved to not let any of my frustration color the tone in my voice. In that moment I remembered my co-workers kindness and dusted off my customer service skills to turn the conversation positive and end our interaction on a happy note.
I took away a few lessons in this reflection.
1. Kindness is customer service and everyone deserves it -both co-workers and clients.
2. If you can hear frustration in their tone, they can hear the tone you give back.
3. Patience and courtesy must be practiced daily.
If you've had a similar experience or anything to add - feel free to comment!