new year, new writing prompts

focused woman with laptop and notebook

Happy 2021, dear readers! I feel like the Earth just took a collective sigh of relief.

With the new year, I want to renew my interest in this site and writing. Serendipitously, my friends got me a Christmas gift that will help with just that – Five Minutes in the Morning: A Focus Journal from Octopus Books.

I already journal every day, but that’s mostly as a means of mental health maintenance and keeping track of my dreams, which have been wild lately; a recent nightmare saw Jair Bolsonaro becoming president of the United States. However, I’ve lacked any kind of structure with my writing. So far, this book has been an excellent way to refocus my attention.

I thought I’d share my progress with you as I work through the book. Feel free to take these prompts and apply them to your own writing – it’s only five minutes in the morning! Yes, you actually do have five minutes to spare if you make it a priority. The first prompt is an exercise to help you with that.

The book points out that a blank page can be intimidating, so it suggests you begin by writing your name. Then, imagine you’re meeting yourself for the first time and write how you’d introduce yourself. Don’t bother about going back and correcting, just keep writing for five minutes, or until you run out of things to say.

While the book makes it clear that what you write is for your eyes only, I’m going to share what I wrote because I’m a narcissist and because maybe it will help to see my scribbles reprinted here. I won’t edit unless it’s some really egregious spelling error, or if it’s personal information about someone other than myself.

Hi, I’m Ross. I don’t do much, but I am working a lot on myself. I’ve been doing a lot of inner-work this year, trying to be a more self-actualized, authentic person.

I love food, but would only eat out of caloric necessity if I had the choice.

I believe in the power of love, of the magic of the Universe, & I believe there is magic in all of us.

I love reading. I’m reading a bunch of different books right now: poems by Thich Nhat Hanh, A Course in Miracles, a book about feeding your demons – it’s about shadow work.

I used to say I was a writer, but that has felt less authentic. My ego was too attached to that identity so I had to stop for a while, but I just wrote something for my writers group that I feel pretty good about.

I can get lost watching squirrels play in the snow.

See what you can come up with in five minutes, and remember to go for honesty. Happy writing!

Oh, and between the time I wrote that and the time I’m posting this, I finished Thich Nhat Hanh’s poems. Here’s one of my faves from the collection Call Me By My True Names:

I Am Back to Open the Old Pages

Suddenly I welcome myself back.
The reference point is no longer seen,
and last night’s dream is full of illusory images.
The walls that help stop the winds and the rain
have formed a corner of warm space.
The flickering candles
evoke the incense perfume of a New Year’s Eve.
It rains.
Inside the house, dinner is served.
A few leaves of coriander
bring back the forms of the homeland.
Suddenly all frontiers are removed
just because of the midday storm,
and everything is revealed.
Isn’t today’s sun the same as yesterday’s?

Birds seen against the color of the purple evening.
The two ends of time join
and tenderly push me
into a new opening.
The curtains of the evening,
destined to catch space,
suddenly become weeping willows.
Clouds are calling each other
to meet at the mountain’s summit.

I am back. I find myself opening the old pages.
Fire has burned up all certificates.
Wordy mantras have proven to be powerless.
The wind is blowing hard.
Out there at the end of the sky,
the flapping wings of some strange bird.
Where am I?
The point of concentration is remembrance.
The real home is childhood with its grassy hills.
The violet tía tô leaves
contain an Autumn that is fully ripe.
Your small feet treading the path
are like drops of dew on young leaves.
My letters sent to you
are like the church bells.
A golden sky of flowers is contained in a mustard seed.
I join my palms
and let
a flower bloom
wonderfully in my heart.

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