The Black Box Assignment

The Black Box Assignment

I recently attended a Creative Writing conference at MTSU. This was the fifth year for me to attend; something I look forward to each Fall. This year’s theme was The Writing Life, because “being a writer is a full life experience.” The table centerpiece was a tree of inspiration, both inspirational quotes and writing prompts designed to encourage the creativity of writing.

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I’m still trying to digest everything I took in today, and decide what I’m going to do with it. One session I attended, which was called Writing Outside Your Comfort Zone, stands out in my mind. During the session we were asked to visualize something in the room or in our homes, and then to use 10 different adjectives to describe what we had chosen. The leader, an accomplished writer and poet, didn’t tell us what we’d be doing with it until after we’d selected both the object and the adjectives. Then she told us to write a poem using all 10 of the adjectives, and that the poem had to be about a loved one.

No problem, right?

Of course, it’s challenging enough to write under the pressure of time; especially an unrealistic time frame positioned in the middle of an already short session, and surrounded by a group of strangers. But for me the pressure added to the excitement of accomplishing something on the spot, rather than spending a lot of time rethinking and second guessing everything.

We set off to just writing.

I think that was the point. Getting out of our comfort zone starting first with not doing things the way we always have; not using the same words and phrases and other habitual behavior that we can easily get caught up in.

But had I known where she was going when she asked us to select an item, I’m certain I would have chosen something else. Yet, as I sat and just allowed myself to write, free flowing thoughts, using the prompts I already had listed, it felt good being creatively forced to utilize words and descriptions I would likely have never incorporated into a poem. At least not this type of poem.

When the time was up…I had created something. It wasn’t the best something, but it my something.

My writing. My creation.

To be honest, it wasn’t until I got to the end that I realized where my mind, and those prompts had taken me. And as I read back over it, both a smile and a tear appeared, as emotions I wasn’t expecting took over.

I don’t know why I raised my hand in agreement to read mine out loud. But that was another hurdle I was okay with having jumped over in this process.

I’m sure I’ll be tweaking it more over the days, while it’s still at the forefront of my mind. But for now, it is what it is.

And I’m okay with that.

The Black Box

A large black box.

That’s what they see.

Flat. Electric.

Just sitting there.

Until the power comes on.

Then it comes to life.

Informing.  Confronting.  Engaging.

It talks. It tells. It asks questions;

some questions you’d rather not hear.

It steals. Yes it steals, time.

Teasing you for the moment,

and in the next moment, hours have passed.

For me, it’s comforting; a connection.

Plopping down on the soft cushions,

watching the old shows you used to know.

The music; a theme song.

The characters we laughed at together.

Inspirational.

Sometimes sad.

Because of you.

Because of time.

No longer sharing what was once our time;

together

Your time, alone.

Forever gone.

fullsizeoutput_4292Here I am with author Kamilah Aisha Moon, holding one of her book of poetry, Starshine & Clay.

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What Most Writer’s Have in Common

“When David Pepin first dreamed of killing his wife, he didn’t kill her himself. He dreamed convenient acts of God.”

That is the opening two sentences that start a new book, Mr Peanut, I picked up yesterday at a Writer’s Conference. I had not planned to purchase any books this year. It was my third year attending the Writer’s Loft at MTSU, and each year I’d come home with a book that I never got around to opening and actually reading. But after hearing the author, Adam Ross, share as the keynote speaker, I felt compelled to pick up a copy of the novel.  I think what struck me most while listening to his humorous look at his journey into making a living at being a Writer, was how long it took Adam to get published; how many years passed from when he started his first novel, until when he actually finished it; and how determined he was to finish what he started, in spite of the aspect of not knowing if anything would ever get published.

Adam was the father of girls,  and shared that he wanted his daughters to know from example, the importance of finishing what you start. It hit an interesting chord with me this year that previous years hadn’t particularly done. Like Adam, I have multiple short stories and novels started, but set aside (“then you get to the middle…”); and stacks of unedited poetry and prose in drawers, boxes, and folders all over my office. They have traveled safely with me from house to house; especially over the past 10 years, but I haven’t taken a serious look at them in more than a while. I’ve convinced myself that I don’t have the kind of time I need to get back to it; to finish it. But yesterday, as I heard one writer after another talk about the reality that everyone who wants to be a writer, can and should find the time to write, I accepted the fact that I was making excuses.

I’ve said to others, more times than I can remember, that you find the time to do what’s most important to do.

What I need isn’t convincing. I need action. I need to stop finding the times when writer’s block discourages me, and utilize more times when I sit still and push through; work through the creative blocks by fighting back.  

If I’m honest, I can’t say I’ve worked hard at engaging in the very craft I claim to enjoy so much.

One of the mentors of the program made an interesting comparison at the start of the conference. She asked two questions. Why do we want to get Published? And why do we Write?

Publishing, she argued, is for the acclaimation of the value of our work; or for the money or to build a resume. But when we speak of why Writers write, we have to first look at what motivates you to write? Is it to entertain? To explore a particular theme? To revisit history and walk in someone else’s shoes for a moment.

What motivates me to write? What am I trying to accomplish when I write? What’s keeping me from writing; from completing the many projects I’ve started?

“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” — Thomas Mann