The Shortest of Stories

Tonight’s post celebrates pure fun, bordering on silliness. It became the perfect activity for the end of a busy and joy filled day. The Inspiration Starter that I drew appeared at first to be daunting. I selected:

I have a couple of short stories in my creative brain, just waiting for me to free them. However, today was not the day for that. Those stories require time and thought, crafting and editing. Instead, an idea came to mind to try something that I have wanted to do, just for fun.

Most smart phones have a feature that suggests words for you as you type. My phone has three boxes above the keyboard with word choices. Here is a screenshot that shows the suggested next word as I type:

This feature can be helpful in that it can save time and provide the proper spelling of a word. Granted, the predictive word feature has caused me embarrassment in the past, when my phone automatically supplied the word it thought I wanted. (Ask my son about the text I sent him asking if he wanted to go to a party together…except my phone substituted the word “orgy”, and I hit SEND without catching it!)

What if…I wondered…what if I used the predictive feature to write a short story? A quote from Stephen King popped into my head…

I love that quote! Allowing my phone to shape a short story seemed to carry an element of surprise, much as a kiss in the dark by a stranger would! I was willing to try, and see what happened.

I began the first attempt with the opening word “During…”, and let my phone take it from there. I simply added punctuation when the sentences seemed complete.

I smiled at the result. And it is evident my phone has a memory and has picked up the repetitive use of the word Christmas. It amused me that there were a couple of sentences that referenced grandsons!

Encouraged by that snippet of a story, I tried again, except this time, I let my phone choose the first word. This story made me, literally, laugh out loud. In fact, I chuckle every time I read it. It’s a humorous story.

I noticed that I must use positively charged words a lot…words like wonderful, journey, grateful, blessings and family. My favorite sentence is The first two weeks in my journey I was a little too excited, followed closely by The only problem is that I am not sure if I have a problem. I have been accused of being too happy sometimes!

The part that makes me laugh the most though is the section, The new things for the kids are the grandkids. And…Thank goodness for the kids. The new one is so awesome!

In that shortest of stories, the phrase I am grateful shows up four times. I say and write those words often and my phone knows it. Gratitude is a core belief for me. And the phrase used twice, Yes, it sounds good, comes across like an amen or a so be it. I like that. It is a phrase I type often when responding to people. Seeing the words that popped up in these micro stories gives insight into my own story.

This was a fun little experiment in short story writing. There is nothing publishable here. But I laughed. And I let creativity guide me. And I got a glimpse into my own heart and mind. All good things, tucked into a seemingly random method of creating a story.

In keeping with my experiment, I’ll let predictive text finish up my blog post, typed below in italics.

Thank goodness for new things.

Journey 140: Cindy 500

Cindy 500

I’ve been in a playful mood, thinking about my blog post for today. It’s been a week with a couple of milestones so far: the completion of Aubrey’s first year of school, Dayan’s 16th birthday. I decided to write about a milestone that I’ve reached as well, while making a play on words for the blog title, this weekend being the Indy 500 race.

I’ve reached 500 posts on my Going Beyond Blog…507 posts, actually, over 505 consecutive days. 505 days of writing…every day.

The amazing part about this accomplishment is that two years ago this summer, I was challenged to do one thing, every day, for 66 days. The idea was that by doing something every day for 66 days, a new habit would be formed. I thought for only a moment before jotting down this word: WRITE. I wanted to write every day for the next 66 days, creating the habit of writing.

Cindy 500 if you wish to write, write

I’ve long had a interest in creating in this way. One of my gifts as a young child was a typewriter. I’ve had story-telling modeled for me my whole life, my mother being an amazing creator of stories. She told them to my sisters and me, as  children, and later wrote stories for our children, eventually publishing stories in books such as The Chicken Soup for the Soul series. She’s also had three children’s chapter books published. I started on that tiny typewriter, and wrote for years, into early adulthood….stories and poems primarily…later writing with a pencil in notebooks.

And then life got busy, with a husband and children. I thought, When the kids go off to school, I’ll write again. And I did, for a short time. Then I made the decision to bring my children home and educate them myself. We became homeschoolers and life shifted in huge ways. I set the writing aside, with no regrets. I raised my kids, taught my kids, was taught life lessons, by my kids. And when they entered college or married and left home, rather than return to writing, I entered real estate.

Cindy 500 youve got to write

No excuses. I could have made the time, structuring my day so that I had plenty of time for writing.  I did keep my desire to write alive. I created a monthly homeschool newsletter, with a feature article about what adventures the kids and I were involved in, and included samples of their work or cartoons and drawings they had done. In real estate, I created a monthly email as well, for several years, writing in an informational way. I even started a real estate blog years ago. Strangely enough, I found myself writing not about real estate in that blog…but life. Seeing the dichotomy, I posted in it infrequently, confused, I think, about what I wanted to share.

Life kept offering invitations, though, kept reminding me of my desire to write. That desire grew, fed by speaking and teaching opportunities. It is so beautiful, so amazing, that the challenge that was issued to me, to pick one thing to do, and do it for 66 days, came at a workshop led by Gary Keller, the owner of Keller Williams. That reminder came through real estate. I shouldn’t be surprised. It was where I was, and life meets us exactly where we are and invites.

Cindy 500 writing quote

I’d like to say that I nailed it two years ago…writing for 66 days. I wrote every day…for four days. And then I quit. It was difficult. I dawdled. I floundered. I let other things get in the way. I failed at that attempt at writing daily, however, the intention went out, the desire went out. I want to write…every day. And life, or the Divine….to me, life IS part of the Divine…brought me the perfect way to accomplish my intention.

I had no purpose connected to writing every day, when I made the first attempt. I had nowhere to go with it. For me, it wasn’t enough just to say I was going to write every day. I had to have a reason to write. So one arrived. As 2013 was drawing to a close, my new word, Beyond, came to me. I heard of Lu Ann Cahn and her amazing year of first things…doing something new every day. I embraced her idea, knowing that doing something new, daily, would definitely push me beyond my comfort zone. And to be accountable, to capture what I was doing each day, so I wouldn’t forget, I began the Going Beyond Blog…and wrote in it EVERY DAY….for 365 days. What I couldn’t do before, I was able to do with the blog, because I had a reason for writing. I linked creating with purpose.

Cindy 500 alchemist

The amazing gift of writing every day for a year was that I learned the discipline of writing. Full days, being busy, not feeling like writing…none of those excuses deterred me. I just did it. And I loved it. I reconnected with that creative energy that I had as a child and teenager….and I wrote. A laptop, and sometimes my cell phone, replaced my little blue and white typewriter. The sheer joy of writing became the force behind my daily posts…so much so that as 2014 was winding down, I knew I wanted to keep going, keep writing.

505 days of writing, and counting…that’s 501 days longer than what I was able to do before. I am so grateful that as my intention went out….life answered, and the Divine presented my word, my symbol, what I would do, as a way of offering me the opportunity to live my desire. There’s no stopping me now. I don’t know where this path is going to take me. I don’t need to know. I just need to write. And the Divine, and Life, will arrange the rest.

Cindy 500 box of crayons

Day 123: Leaning into Silence

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This morning, for my first, I met with 4 other lovers of nature and writing at one of my favorite places, the Wildcat Glades Audubon Center, located just south of Joplin right off of 43 Highway. Writer and teacher Susan Nunn led the group through a study of place, and what a wonderful location for the class to meet!

My friend, Cate, invited me to this study and I was so excited to take a writing class that involved time spent in solitude on the trails at Wildcat. Susan shared about the importance of really knowing a place, of moving deeper into what we think we know about the landscape we are in, or that we are creating for a fictional character, and discovering all that is true about a location and the people that might inhabit it. Using the examples of three different authors, she showed how each wrote from different understandings of place, and how that understanding molded their literary work.

We did a fun and eye opening exercise. Partnering up with someone in the class we didn’t know, we each wrote about our hometown on one side of a blank piece of paper. We then traded papers and wrote what we knew about our partner’s town, drawing from facts or our imagination, depending on how much we knew! I wrote about the city of my childhood, Tulsa, OK, while my partner wrote about his hometown of Pittsburg, KS. This was a very interesting exercise, as our perspectives were very different. Those who grew up in a town saw it in much deeper ways than those who wrote from little or no knowledge of the place. I noted also that my perception of Tulsa was from a child’s viewpoint, since I moved from there when I was 12. An adult would perceive that sprawling city much differently.

We then headed out onto the Wildcat Trails for an hour of solitude and three exercises. The first 20 minutes session was spent in observation, mentally noting what our five senses were recording. I found the tree that I first “met” on my winter stroll through the woods. I quieted the chatter in my mind and allowed myself to open to all that was going on around me.  The sun was warm on my upturned face. The breeze caressed my skin, carrying to my nose the scents of earth and flowers, even as it stirred grasses and rustled through the leaves on trees. Birds chirped merrily and squirrels frolicked through the underbrush. I noticed that the area I was standing in, near my oak tree, teemed with life. The oak tree itself had vines growing on it and ants and other insects moving busily across the bark.

During the next 20 minutes we were instructed to focus in on one object and follow that thread of thought to see where it would take us. I settled onto the ground, next to the oak tree, and leaning back against it, allowed my heart and soul to connect to the tree, feeling its energy, feeling the rough bark against my back. Thoughts fluttered into my mind that this was an ancient oak tree, nearing the end of its life. It had weathered many storms, survived pests and drought. The landscape, or place, around it had changed greatly over the years. Where once only woods existed, now people walked or jogged by, some more aware of their surroundings than others. I imagined roots growing from the soles of my feet, burrowing deeply into the earth, and my body lengthening, growing upward, arms outstretched. I could feel myself as a tree, there next to the oak, swaying gently in the breeze, feeling the permanence that being root bound would bring, and yet also feeling the swift passing of time that belied that permanence. What an amazing 20 minutes!

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The last 20 minutes were spent sitting quietly on a sandstone rock, near the river. I listened to what my heart was telling me about myself, in relationship to the time spent in this beautiful place. I thought about how I am like an oak tree, still growing, having not yet reached my full potential. I thought about how important it is for me to be mindful of the moment and not spend time rethinking the past or worrying about a future that hasn’t happened yet. My attention was directed to the river, where in the center, the current ran strong, and the water flowed freely. Near the edge of the river, the water slowed into stagnant pools, bits of debris clogging the surface. I saw, as I observed the river, that as I stay centered, my life flows, and as I move away from center, I get bogged down with junk littering my life, becoming stagnant and stuck.

At the end of our solitary hour, we gathered again at the Audubon Center to unpack for each other what we had observed, focused on and heard our hearts say. Each person had an amazing experience to share! And in the sharing, I learned more about my classmates and their stories and perspectives.

This was a wonderful study! I am grateful to Susan Nunn for leading us. I better understand the importance of knowing the place that I am inhabiting and writing about. I look forward to capturing more of today’s experience in my journal…and to future writing classes!

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