Writing Prompts

Word Prompt: Depend | Story Prompt: from the book “Tiny Beautiful Things” by Cheryl Strayed

‘At the time, I believed that I’d wasted my twenties by not having come out of them with a finished book, and I bitterly lambasted myself for that. I thought a lot of the same things about myself that you do, Elissa Bassist. That I was lazy and lame. That even though I had the story in me, I didn’t have it in me to see it to fruition, to actually get it out of my body and onto the page, to write, as you say, with “intelligence and heart and lengthiness.” But I’d finally reached a point where the prospect of not writing a book was more awful than the one of writing a book that sucked. And so at last, I got to serious work on the book.

When I was done writing it, I understood that things happened just as they were meant to. That I couldn’t have written my book before I did. I simply wasn’t capable of doing so, either as a writer or a person. To get to the point I had to get to to write my first book, I had to do everything I did in my twenties. I had to write a lot of sentences that never turned into anything and stories that never miraculously formed a novel. I had to read voraciously and compost exhaustive entries in my journals. I had to waste time and grieve my mother and come to terms with my childhood and have stupid and sweet and scandalous sexual relationships and grow up. In short, I had to gain the self-knowledge that Flannery O’Connor mentions in that quote I wrote on my chalkboard. And once I got there I had to make a hard stop at self-knowledge’s first product: humility.

Do you know what that is, sweet pea? To be humble? The word comes from the Latin words humilis and humus. To be down low. To be of the earth. To be on the ground. That’s where I went when I wrote the last word of my first book. Straight onto the cool tile floor to weep. I sobbed and I wailed and I laughed through my tears. I didn’t get up for half an hour. I was too happy and grateful to stand. I had turned thirty-five a few weeks before. I was two months pregnant with my first child. I didn’t know if people would think my book was good or bad or horrible or beautiful and I didn’t care. I only knew I no longer had two hearts beating in my chest. I’d pulled one out with my bare hands. I’d suffered. I’d given it everything I had.’


I’ve been looking out this window, never once imagining I could open it. Not knowing I could just swing it open and let the night air in. Feel the breeze enter my room. Feel the cool night air. I open it wider now – just a crack won’t do – swing it wide and sit there, within the frame, teetering between there and possibility.

This window that I never realized, never imagined could open, is a wonder. I feel the shell around my heart crack and split wide revealing my true face to the moon. Who recognized me and laughed.

I laugh with the moon and dance in the dewy grass outside my window. Swing my hips and blow kisses to the sky. Fireflies come and light my hair, my elbows and knees, my hands and feet, showing me places I’d forgotten and still I dance. My heart grows and becomes the moon, bursting from my chest.

– MEC 3 August 2022

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