Visual Writing Prompts – Day 1

Hello, fellow time travellers!

Are you longing for a bit of a solitary creative refuge in the middle of this quarantine?

Many of us continue to remain holed up in our homes across the globe. These many weeks of solitude (or sharing space without any breaks) leave us struggling with our sense of peace each day.

One of the ways I work with my writing groups to help ease anxieties and create space right now is through flash fiction using famous artworks as inspo.

My obsession with beauty, passion for museums, and love of storytelling led me to it, and students have adored the combo.

So, in celebration of art, support of museums, and an offering of solitary creative space, I’ll be posting a visual writing prompt each day along with light instructions to help guide you in this sweet process.

To kick things off, let’s go with Thomas Cole’s The Journey of Life: Youth. I love this painting for its ethereal quality and room to create your own interpretation. It hangs in the American National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Be sure to take some time and linger on this beautiful painting in high definition and with a bit of historical context at: https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.52451.html

Instructions: Pick a character from the painting (or make one up) and lead them on a journey through it.

Things to consider: What do they discover? Who do they meet? Is there a conflict that makes this adventure a bit more exciting? Do they find what they thought they would?

Have fun writing! No pressure! No masterpieces needed! Just dream on paper. xo

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Pandemic Day 6 – The Introvert’s Guide to Self-Isolation

Day 6: The teenager at our house ripped my face off yesterday.

Nearly a week into our quarantine, she is ready to slay dragons—and not in the way I prefer her to approach beast slaying.

Don’t get me wrong, lockdown in a small Vancouver apartment with four people who are cranky, scared, and not sure how bored bored can get is, well, slightly limiting.

However, when I say things to her like, “There are, legitimately, hundreds of books for you to choose in this house. Pick one and read it” I can confirm it results in outbursts that provoke horrors such as taking a teenager’s phone away for a few hours (God, no!), coping with the muttering irritation, and avoiding all contact with said teenager for at least an hour in order to keep from experiencing the Wrath of Khan.

Okay, I get it, I am not funny. So, I will stop trying to be. Here’s my point:

My big kid, she’s an extrovert. Her life revolves around her social activities and her tight friend group.

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Me, well, my social activities tend to involve building worlds and crying over the losses of characters who live in other universes. Not to mention, when it comes time to slay dragons, I make sure I’m only out dealing with the ones who have it in for the human race. Dragons are cool. We should proceed in the slayer department with prudence. If you need a cool weapon, though, I got you.

This lock-down is challenging her beyond all comprehension.

We’ve all seen the jokes and memes that are now slightly tired. Introverts have been preparing for the moment when they rise as superior self-isolators. We are, I will tell you, superstars at it. I’ve worked from home for most of the last 14 years. I feel like what I am about to share with you qualifies as Ph.D.-level introvert advice to those of you who actually like to interact with other people.

1. It is okay to find yourself batshit crazy one day and in need of extreme amounts of human contact.

Even introverts (gasp) require some amount of stretching out into the world. So, we see you and know your pain.

How we do it: SKYPE, Zoom, Discord, FaceTime. Yes, that’s right, we don’t actually go see people. We clip our hair back, wash our face, put on a socially acceptable shirt, and jump on a call to talk about whatever.

I’ve seen Maggie Tai Tucker do a virtual waffle-off with a friend.

Matthew Ramadan and Danny Ramadan did a video on how to make self-isolation margaritas.

My sweet friend Lee Ann Mordecai Steyns is hosting FB Live sign-language classes for kids.

I hook up with my writing partner every week to share pages, talk about our novels, and keep each other motivated to keep telling stories.

2. DO NOT sit on the couch or at your desk the whole time.

Oh mah ghad, people. If there is one thing introverts know, it is that your body will begin to ache and cry out for you to get up off of that couch at about hour 24. Yes, I realize that is a lot of hours and I’m making poor attempts at humor again. However, watching every episode of The Man In The High Castle, Witcher, Outlander, The Walking Dead, Westworld, maaaaay actually result in you wishing you’d made much better choices when your ass is killing you and your back has staged a full revolt.

Introverts know this because, well, we regularly repeat this regretful mistake and then HAVE to spend every day at the yoga studio for a month to repair a 60-episode TV or three-book series reading binge. EVERY DAY. I hope you understand how much human contact that is for an introvert.

There is this thing called YouTube. It has exercise videos, dance videos, music videos. We introverts strongly recommend you find the one you like and hop around in your underwear for a while. We do it all the time (no one knows this because we don’t see anyone). Every third show, take a break and move.

3. Beware of the snacking monster.

One of the strange, unexplainable consequences of modern boredom is that we get all food crazy. When people who move a lot start to get into quiet spaces, snacking comes into play big-time.

Not all introverts are snacking experts. However, I can attest to many a day where I’ve not left my desk other than to gather the pretzels or the cheese or mix drinks. Oh the list goes on.

I can also attest that you will not spot how this is impacting you until you peel the pajamas you’ve been wearing for three weeks straight off of your body and try to put your cute jeans back on. You get my drift, right?

Solution: Consider why you are eating. Also, consider that if you eat all of your snacks now, you are snackless for many weeks to come unless you have the great urge to go to Safeway in the middle of all of this. This could play in your favor, I realize, in that a lack of self-moderation means you HAVE to not snack later. Your choice though. No judgement.

4. I mean this with all sorts of love, don’t be aimless.

Aimless introverting has resulted in many a solitary human not dealing with life well. We all need goals, and if your aim is to watch as much TV as you can for the next few weeks, excellent. Just set that goal for yourself and give it your best go.

There’s a whole lot of talk out there about exploring the quiet and letting yourself be bored and giving yourself a chance to slow down.

I am all for that.

However, I also know that five days into letting myself freeform through life is also a personal recipe for slipping into major depression. Once there in the midst of a psychiatric episode, it is much harder to cope with everyday life, much less a pandemic.

Solution: Know yourself well enough to know what you need every day to keep upright.

For me, I follow this strict routine:
1. GET DRESSED. I do not linger in my pajamas because it makes me feel like I’ve accomplished nothing. This comes from YEARS of working at home and finding that a morning routine helps me focus and center myself. Fresh clothes and looking in the mirror at a put-together human is personally very soothing.

2. MAKE LISTS. Even if it is a list that involves basic daily chores, I write them down and check them off. Again, I accomplished something even if it was just doing laundry.

3. MAKE YOUR BED. This is a big one for me. I make it every day, sometimes it is the only thing I get done around the house. It’s a psychological trick that works.

4. DRINK WATER. I know, this sounds like every other post, but I swear this matters more than you can imagine. If I didn’t alternate my coffee with water, I’d be out slaying more than dragons.

5. OPEN THE CURTAINS. We are not cave-bound. Let the light in. You need it right now.

Okay, that is my speech.

Go rise, extroverts. We introverts have your back.