Writing Prompt Omnibus

I’m behind. Other writng has taken precedent. Going to spend the next few minutes trying to catch up with all of Sarah’s writing prompts I’ve missed so far and write *something* for them. I need to stretch my writing muscle more than I have, and do the writing I actually do need to do as well as the experiments, work, etc., as well as that self-care thing I tend to throw out the window first– and just doing something because I want to do has felt like a rarity lately and so I’m going to do this right before I head to sleep. Typos ahead.

11. You wake up one morning and, unbeknownst to you, your vitamins have been swapped out for a magical pill that gives you a secret super power. You reach for your daily vitamin and take it. Within a few seconds of swallowing, you start to feel a funny sensation…

What power does this new pill give you? How do you know? What does it take to discover it?

Appropriate to my life right now, the ability to slow down and speed up time in my own defined reference frames. In some ways, organizing the world into time bubbles is a step above managing an email inbox (something else I haven’t been great at).

I’d take the pill, and then reach towards the coffee grinder and upon touching it, focusing my attention that way as well as the urge to get my coffee made already, the grinding happens in a near instant. I notice the clock on the oven still registers the same time. Something weird is going on.

Being in a hurry, I am also able to boil water, pour them over the grounds and get my coffee ready to go while the oven clock has not ticked a minute yet. It all then returns to normal and I head out the door and get to work where I know I need to get organized and take my time. This attention seems to make everything around me go blurry while I am in my own little shell doing my task. Once it’s done, everything is back in focus again, and barely a few minutes have passed outside my own bubble.

12. When you walk outside, you start to notice something strange.

The seasons have shifted, and they no longer come in periods of quarter-years. Instead, the seasons begin shifting much more rapidly, changing each week, and then, changing every day.

How does this affect your life? What changes?

Nature has given into the go-go-go world of modern western life. It’s tragic and there’s no longer really time to apreciate each season, the flash by and repeat so quickly. But perhaps snow days are more common. That might be a good thing, the new weekend. When it’s winter, that’s the day off.

13. Today, write a letter to your 10-year old self.

Or, as an option: write to yourself, four years from today.

What would you say?

Dear Self +4,

I hope you’re there and have made that career transition and are actually a real communications professional.

And I hope the anxiety of your life has subsided.

Sincerely,

you, 2016.

14. List all of the machines you use every single day, and how they improve your life.

Give them each a name (or give a few of them a name), and tell the story of where they came from. Talk about how they came into your life.

What do the machines talk to each other about when you’re not paying attention?

Computer, phone, tablet, Kindle. The content I consume and generate is like oxygen. They’re probably al horrified at how I don’t take enough time to keep the files as tidy as I’d like.

Car. A to B, occasionally to C and back. Reliable, freedom, but I don’t like to use it that often if I can help it.

In the lab, thermal cycler, centrifuge, incubators, fume hoods, stir plates. All have seen a lot more failure than successful experiments. They know how hard science is.

15. Write about the last time you told someone “no.” How did it feel? What happened? What was the result? 

Can’t think of a time when this happened? Write about someone you really want to say no to, and describe how you’ll do it. Be specific.

I do want to say no more often. No to social things that feel like obligations or ones that come up at the last minute (24 hours notice, at least, please).

Saying no to the things I don’t need, decluttering.

Saying no to my cat. I like him, but he really can’t keep poking me with his claws every morning.

16. You’re strolling through a city and you walk by an empty warehouse, construction site, or an abandoned barn.

Normally you would just walk by, but something about the building tempts you to go in and explore it. When you go inside, you discover…

A secret school. One where I can learn all the skills I’ve wanted to learn but never had quite the time for. There would be an extensive library.

17. They say that tears can help us cleanse our emotions, sinuses, brains, and even our immune systems.

When was the last time you cried? Write about it.

Were they tears of happiness, distress, sorrow, or relief? What was the nature of the cry? What was the result?

It’s been awhile. This is something I just can’t do in front of people. And rarely do I do it when on my own. Not that I dont’ want to sometimes. I do. When it does happen, it feels relieving in some ways, but also like whatever pain is there in my mind isn’t gone, but just some slight pressure’s been lifted off of it before it builds back up again. But the valve is too often stuck.

18. Write about a time you really felt refreshed and renewed. Maybe it was a dip into a lake under the trees on a hot summer day, a cold drink of water, or a cozy fireside with a blanket and a book.

When Ican get up early, go for a run and go get coffee. Especially in the winter time.

19.Write about waking up. 

Waking up is a struggle. I don’t sleep well very often lately. I don’t want to wake up and face my day too often. What will make me look forward to waking up? I don’t know. But I used to leap out of bed. No longer.

20. The internet is gone. How do you spend your day?

For as much as I love The Internet, a day without it would be great. I’d dive into a whole stack of physcial books I have that are neglected too much.

21. Describe someone who is a hero to you, and explain why.

I can’t cite anyone specific just now, but seeing people go an extra mile for someone else, seeing moments of kindness and generosity, whenver they crop up, those feel like heroes to me. And those out there living with something hard– depression comes to mind, but there are other things too– they persist in the face of darkness, sometimes internal darkness. And don’t give up.

(Yes, I also do like a lot of the superhero movies, including Star Wars: TFA’s Rey).

22. What rules do you love to live by? What rules do you live to break? 

It’s not one I love, exactly, but erring one the side of not doing things hastily or too quickly. Deliberativeness, taking time. Because doing things tends to make things more complicated, not less, hastienss or just taking on too many things means my work tends to slip.

I like breaking the informal cultural rule that says life is for working as hard as possible, taking no time away for a life, etc. Vacations make you weak, all that workaholism. I do work hard, but then I really try to enforce one true day off a week though that’s often hard to carve out.

23. How does writing make you feel? When does writing feel “right” for you? Why are you so compelled to keep writing? 

And if you struggle with it, why is it so hard to do? Why is it something you want to do? What holds you back?

I wrote this last month in this space: “Writing is Life”.

This exercise feels pretty right (write?). Getting words on a page feels like getting things out of my head so I can close loops that are there. I hope I can actually make part of a living off of putting words to the page too. It’s fun to play with words, language, get the phrase just right.

And I hope that I can share a new idea, make a connection for someone reading that they would not have encountered before.

When I struggle, it just feels like work, like I have to do it. Like nothing I am committing to writing is good enough to hit publish on or submit. I feel like I want to connect, reach out, but there is a strong part of me that also says “be careful, you can’t say this to the world”.

It tips back and forth. From being easy to being really hard. It can get hard when I simply can’t carve out good blocks of time for it, or I get stuck on a part and need to let it sit, to think, to do some more research.

Tonight, after a frustrating night of not getting much done, I decided to to this right before bed. And I think it’s actually gone pretty well.

 

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Author: Ian Street

Ian is a plant scientist and science writer relating stories of plant science and scientists on his blog, The Quiet Branches as well as other outlets. You can find him on Twitter @IHStreet.

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