If you follow my instagram, you might have seen my latest visual writing prompt. I started sharing a visual writing prompt, basically a picture that can be used to inspire creative writing of some kind, every Sunday.
I love a writing prompt. When I’m stuck, it’s a tool I use to get out of my head, to start playing, to drop into another story that can help me to get the words flowing until I want to drop back into my bigger projects.
When I was younger, I bought a book of visual writing prompts, and I loved it. Finding small details in the photos to inspire bigger stories was so much fun. It helped me to get out of my head by exploring visual imagery and looking for stories there, instead of starting with a word-based prompt.
So I’m going to keep sharing my Sunday prompts, and starting now, on Mondays, I’ll share my own piece of flash fiction inspired by the prompt of the week.
How do you feel about prompts in your creative practice?
Have you ever used creative prompts that weren’t word-based?
Let me know in the comments! (I’m always looking for new tools to play with!)
The Path Home
My feet hit the dirt path, packed tight by hundreds of feet walking this path before. The air kisses the cool glacial streams before greeting us with a chill. The sunlight warms our skin in response. I forget how I got here for a moment, who I’m with, that I will ever have to leave. But then Matty cleared his throat.
“So,” he says, voice trailing off. And I remember.
“Yeah,” I say, “I mean yeah, I’m thinking, not yes to, well, what you asked.”
The trees of the forest loom over us and I want to look up and get lost in their branches. I want to walk for miles, alone, climb the mountain to find the spring source. I want to get away from here, from this moment where I have to choose.
But Matty had been the one who’d proposed the hike, obviously to make cornering me into a conversation easier for him because he wouldn’t have to stare across a table at me the entire time.
“Rose, you can’t be serious about staying out here. You don’t know anyone. Your family is back home. We’re waiting for you to come home. We want to know you’re okay.”
“I don’t need you taking care of me,” I snap.
“That’s not what it looked like when I pulled you out of the house by force because you’d refused to leave for three weeks, when you’re hair was matted to the back of your head and I had to cut it out.”
“Fuck off,” I say, picking up pace, but Matty jogs to keep up.
“Come on Rose, I just want you to be okay. It’s going to be a lot harder for us to come get you if you have an episode out here. You have no one here.”
I stop dead. Matty has to stop in front of me and take the few steps back, turning to face me.
“You make it worse.” I say. My voice is already shaking, but my fists are clenched.
“You do! I see you and Mom and Dad and Chloe and immediately I’m back to that helpless kid I was when I was little. I can’t grow up and learn when I keep getting forced back into that. You won’t let me do anything on my own. At least out here I can get a job. I can make friends. I can pick my own therapist and psychiatrist and build my own support system.
“Since coming here, I haven’t had a single panic attack. I haven’t been too afraid to leave the house. I’ve struggled to get out of bed, but I got out of bed. And I didn’t need you or Mom to come drag me out of bed or make breakfast and watch me eat it to make sure that I ate at least one meal that day. I haven’t needed you.” I tighten my fists, digging in my nails hoping the pain will stop the tears.
“Rose, it’s only been a few months,” Matty’s voice is nearly a whisper.
“And when it does happen, if it happens, I have my team of medical support, my therapist I’m seeing twice a week, my psychiatrist once a month, my doctor every three months, my support group every other Thursday, my coworkers I see almost every day, my friends that I’m making. I won’t be locked in my house for months without anyone noticing just because you aren’t here.”
“I don’t know Rose. Don’t you think it’s better at home, safer?”
“No Matty. I don’t. And it doesn’t matter what you say during this hike or at any point before you get on a plane and fly back to the east coast, I’m not coming home. This is my home now.”
I raise my arms out wide, as if giving a hug to the trees around us. I look up to see the sun filtering through the leaves above us.
“I’m learning to take care of myself. Maybe you should too.”