A few weeks ago, Nadine Tomlinson posted a pretty cool writing exercise on her blog.

She posted a picture and then asked interested writers to create a seven-sentence story based on the picture.
Writers who participated left their short stories in the comments section.

Check out Nadine's Seven-Sentence Story post here!

I thought it would be fun to try something similar.

While listening to the Itzhak Perlman piece below, what poem (that is about 12-15 lines in length) are you inspired to write?

There are no rules, feel free to write about whatever the music inspires you to express!

Some say it’s love that makes the world go round.

What a sweet thought…

Unfortunately, I found chocolate to be much sweeter than thoughts of love and for this reason, there was a dark time when chocolate was the shiny key to making my little world go round (no, that wasn’t a fat joke).

On a bad day (be it a freezing winter’s morning or the hottest afternoon in July), I’d pull into the drive thru of PJ’s Coffee, twitching with angst as I’d tearfully sob into the speaker, “Please, one Super-Duper-Grande hot chocolate with extra chocolate and extra whipped cream… hurry Bob!!*” 

Once the hot chocolate was in my hands, I’d drink away my worries and the universe, realigned, fell back into its orderly ways.

This frantic drive-thru scenario was reenacted at least once a day.

As any addict will tell you, feeding one’s addiction can be expensive.

In six months’ time, I’d spent at least $378 on hot chocolate alone.

Writing short stories heroically saved, not only my life, but my ability to pay bills and continue purchasing food other than chocolate.

Here’s how it happened…

One evening, after listening to This American Life (or some such equally grown up-ish radio show that makes me feel old) on NPR, I came to the conclusion that I had something in common with the overdramatized victim of the NPR story. I too, used food (and chocolate infused drink) as an emotional band aide.

I realized that it would be much less expensive and a lot healthier to, when frazzled, instead of grabbing ten snickers bars and a steaming cup of hot chocolate, simply write a short story.

After all, writing about a determined character who faces frustrating circumstances and pushes through until she reaches her happy ending is empowering!

So, instead of closing my eyes and nearly inhaling whatever piece of chocolate I’d bought, I kept my eyes open, wrote, and as the words began to flow, it gradually dawned on me that things weren’t so bad! My depths of despair weren’t as deep as my character’s and even more importantly, if she was able to overcome her obstacles, then so would I.

I’ve heard that when we dream, it’s as if our mind is filing away bits of random information (most of this information coming from our subconscious). I feel like the same happens while I’m writing. Worries, fears, and thoughts that I haven’t acknowledged (probably because, until now, they’ve been buried under layers of hot chocolate) surface and find their place in my stories.

 While I’m writing, I can’t help but look at my characters and see myself. In so doing, their happy ending becomes more than just a part of a story, their “happily ever after” becomes something that just might happen to me, if I keep trying.  

…and isn’t a happy ending a million times tastier than the best cup of hot chocolate? J

How is writing therapeutic for you?

*Please note that there is no such drink at PJ’s, I was usually just out of my mind whilst ordering.  There is also no barista named “Bob”, I simply said whatever name came to mind.

Maintaining healthy relationships with the people we love requires consistent effort.

So, preserving a friendship with someone who is a serious writer requires effort and is, at times, beyond challenging : )

Listed below are three basic traits that we can put into practice when dealing with our "writerly" friends.

  • Respect the writer's time and privacy. If the writer asks that they not be bothered for a block of time or if they do not ask this, but are, all of a sudden, no longer responding to your phone calls/emails/text messages/tweets, you can assume that they are not upset with you but are writing and in need of privacy to continue writing. When the writer reaches a stopping point, they will notice their missed messages and get back to you. The best thing that a friend can do when this occurs is to not take offense, feel unloved, or pressure their writer friend to "get out more" but to respect the writer's need for privacy.
  • Always be honest. If your writer friend asks you to read a manuscript, it is a good idea to first, keep in mind that it took a lot of courage for the writer to share their work. Secondly, it is a good idea to keep in mind that to be helpful you must be brutally honest. Reading the entire manuscript and then giving your friend a short response such as, "Nice work!" or "That was great!" is not helpful. To be a good friend, show that you care about the writer's chances for success by pointing out, not only what you liked about their story but everything you did not like. You may think that you don't know much about writing, but if you have the ability to read, then your opinion is priceless! (if you didn't like their work at all, then praise the writer for their courage and ability to write, but be sure to detail what you didn't like about the manuscript- this is helpful because it is the only way the writer will get better).
  • Be Respectful of a Writer's Career Choice. If your writer friend works part-time so as to focus on their work, this may seem odd. You might even notice that, because of your friend's devotion to their craft, they do not have as much money as their other friends. Sometimes, watching the writer's struggle will fill you with the urge to encourage your friend to at least think about getting a regular job and having a normal life. While you feel this way because you care about your friend, such encouragement is not a good idea. When the writer chooses to, at the expense of personal comfort, pursue their art, close friends and family members are often quite vocal in their disapproval. This usually results in the artist struggling with feelings of incompetence (thinking, "if I had more talent, then they'd understand and support my decision" or "maybe everyone's right, maybe I'll never make it as a writer")  and even loneliness. What the writer needs is at least one friend who, even if they don't fully understand the writer's life choices, respectfully supports the writer's decision to go after the craft they've fallen in love with. 

I'm very grateful to have a couple of friends who are extremely supportive and I can't thank them enough for putting up with my weirdness! : )

What I love about these individuals is that they are honest, caring, and respectful.

I've learned a lot from them about what it means to be a friend and I hope to continue learning!

What about you? Whether or not you're a writer, what are one or two qualities that you look for in a friend?