Have You Surprised Yourself Lately?


I’m a fan of writing prompts. When I’m stuck, looking for inspiration, or in need of my mind to think differently, I turn to prompts and exercises from various sources. One exercise I came  across challenged the writer to produce something scary, something that has been prohibited by either yourself or our politically correct obsessed culture, and run with it. The idea struck me as there are so many topics I’d love to touch on and have never touched. The purpose of the prompt is to propel one’s thoughts forward in order to gain a fresh perspective on one’s work and what they are capable of, to create boundaries and break through them. The role of the author is to introduce and at times deduce meaning, so if I haven’t written anything lately that makes my  jaw drop, something that let’s me know I’m making waves not just sailing on them, have I done my job?

My goal for now is to forget everything. All the rules and procedures, plot advances, techniques in structuring dialogue, all the many points of view a story can take; I’m forgetting all of it. Working at a library I come across the newest of new fiction and non-fiction on a daily basis and let me tell you, there are no rules to abide by anymore. I’ve seen books detailed like maps with props to help guide the reader along the way, I’ve seen novels with thought bubbles and notes in the margin, lithograph-like prints in the pages and no it wasn’t a graphic novel, though I have read graphic novels written like prose with topsy-turvy artwork to achieve balance.

This is the age of no holds barred creativity. I don’t know who’s holding the reins, or who dictates what’s cool and what’s not, but there are markets out there for just about every kind of writer under the sun. If you dream of being that obscure, under the radar writer, you can do that. If you want global success and notoriety, you too can do that without selling your soul…maybe.

With social media letting us know who’s doing what, where, and for how much, it makes it all the more easier to get caught up in a perpetual rat race. Comparing your rate of work, where  you’re working, who’s in grad school, whatever, is a great way to blow a bottomless hole into your confidence and self-esteem. Don’t do it.

What are your strengths? Master them. Your weaknesses? Hone them, turn them into strengths. A professor once said to me, “At some point you have to step out of the mosh pit.” At the time I didn’t get it and answered, “But I never do mosh pits at a show.” Silly, young, Imani. I get it now. He meant if I’m always doing what I’ve always done, I’m not going to get very far. I guess he was my Obi-Wan Kenobi in disguise.


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