Creative Writing Prompts
When I was doing my writing degree a few years ago, we kept being given tasks that involved writing prompts and it drove me mad. It felt like a useless waste of my time and energy, but as I look back now, I realise that every single opportunity to practice your writing is worth the time and the effort.
Here is a piece I wrote from a prompt.
IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS
How often do you hear people say that they left a relationship or ended a friendship because the other person drove them nuts? Things like not paying attention, not showing loyalty, leaving dirty dishes in the sink, forgetting an anniversary or not helping with household chores and kids are so often the catalyst to a partner or friend throwing up their hands and saying ‘enough!’ Sure, sometimes things happen that are catastrophic and change the course of our lives forever, like discovering a spouse is cheating, realising people you trust are lying to you, or losing someone close, but more often than not, it’s the little things that actually made them finally lose it.
I lost my sanity in my kitchen on a February summer’s day. Nothing catastrophic at all. In fact I was packing some things into my kitchen pantry and a roll of absorbent paper towels fell on the floor. I huffed (it was hot and I was tired), picked it up and put it back on the shelf only to have it fall again. With a louder huff I snatched it up and rammed it onto the shelf daring it to try one more time. It did. It was like a switch had been flicked inside me. I tore at the paper towel roll, clawing it to bits and cursing it to hell through tears and flying profanities. After ramming it violently onto the shelf bringing everything crashing down with it I stomped out of the house and sat in my car for an hour sobbing. Now, you’re probably thinking lunatic, right? In my defence there had been a lot going on in my life that had been building up, but again it was one tiny thing that actually led to the final explosion and the point at which I actually thought, things have to change.
A while ago I worked with a guy who had recently separated from his wife. I didn’t know him that well, but I knew he’d been in a long relationship and I offered my well wishes to him. It didn’t take him long to tell me that a few years ago she’d had a brief fling with a work colleague and they’d worked hard to get through it with counselling, but in the end, her complete disregard for his pleas for her to pick up her wet towels off the floor after a shower, were simply too much to bear. Now, I realise that this seems trivial and it’s fairly obvious that the marriage probably actually ended because of a lack of trust and unresolved issues from the infidelity, but why is it always something like a wet towel or the crunching of a carrot that finally brings us undone? Why didn’t he leave after the cheating instead of letting a wet towel signify the end? If she had taken notice of his pleas and stopped doing it so that he felt listened to and valued, would he have been pushed to the point of leaving the relationship? Maybe.
The biggest fight I ever had with my mother came after a passing comment about the fact that I had made her tea too strong. She and I had a strained relationship at times and we too had unresolved issues, but her criticism of the way I’d made her tea was like a red flag to a bull. Rather than discuss the fact that there were problems in our relationship we argued over the tea. My husband didn’t get out unscathed either. We almost divorced over his insistence upon eating peanuts beside me every night while watching television. I even looked up the provocation defence to show him that hypothetically my case might have merit.
I’ve also been on the receiving end of this kind of meltdown. Only a few weeks ago my six year old son was having a complete breakdown and I could not seem to get to the bottom of why he was so upset. When I finally got through the hysterics and could understand what he was saying, the trauma was one I had personally inflicted on him. Apparently, for his third birthday (yes, three years earlier) I had produced a Sponge Bob cake and he in fact had wanted Spiderman.
So, what can we learn from this? We can try to look at the real reason why someone is freaking out about the fact we left our shoes in the middle of the floor or our plate on the bench and be mindful of the ways in which we completely irritate the ones we love. According to my husband (I found out in counselling) it drives him crazy that I hang clothes on the back of the bathroom door (lots of them) and that I often put washing on before I leave in the morning and leave it there all day. Of course it made me want to be defiant and hang more on the door just to annoy him, but I realised that in order to cohabit with someone on a long term basis and put up with family members who drive us nuts, we have to try our hardest to understand how we irritate them and keep it to a minimum. (It’s also nice to actually care about how they’re feeling) Changing the little things that we can change for them offers a sense of compromise and makes them feel heard. Next time a loved one or friend tells you that the way you slurp your coffee is driving them to drink, consider a mouthful instead.