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  1. Jean West says

    There is, I believe, the story of a great quest that lives inside me. I write non-fiction social studies education materials with great ease. I have written a biographical story of my childhood in Texas in the early 1960s, again with ease. And I am starting next week, for NaNoWriMo, my sixth Civil War mystery. However the quest story, the epic hero’s tale that Joseph Campbell wrote about…that has been stirring inside me for over five years now. I can feel it, but it has defied taking form. Michelangelo talked about brushing away the excess to reveal the form inside the stone, but all along, I’ve felt like a sculptor who stares at a block of marble, knowing there’s a statue in it, but it stays resolutely a rock cube. In the past few weeks, I’ve been pushing at the edges of a pair of characters, working on a detailed physical description, developing their personalities, trying to get to know them better, hoping that I’ll have a breakthrough. Are they heroes or imposters? Only time will tell.

  2. pam trefftzs says

    I really enjoy using these writing prompts from you. They are a big help. I am an unpublsihed writer who writes historical romance and historical mystery novels and urban fantasy. These prompts do give me the basic tools that I need to write.

  3. Karla says

    Note: This is kind of a long story. It references childhood sexual abuse and it is a bit graphic in one line. It is not about abuse per se, but in understanding my own reactions to it. I preface in this way so that you can avoid this story if you don’t want to read about these issues.

    The Untold Story

    Some people seem to have an “inner child.” I spent five years in psychotherapy and never found mine. I see myself as having more of an inner world inside my head, with places that are unexplored. The guardian of this world looks much like myself when I was a girl of around twelve, athletic and shy, more comfortable in the swimming pool than anywhere on dry land. This girl lives behind a stone wall that looks like something you would see crumbling around an abandoned prison, without the barbed wire and guard towers. I have an uneasy relationship with her, in part because I was introduced to her when she began tossing a cluster of stink bombs over the wall, presumably to get my attention. By stink bombs, I mean flashbacks or little bits of photographic or videographic images from childhood abuse that I thought I had resolved in therapy fifteen years ago. Five years of therapy, emphasis added.

    I’ve tried to be proactive in offering my attention to my stink bomb girl. I remember the first time I invited her to come sit with me and she vaulted easily over that wall, docile and trusting. I had thought that she might spit nails or try stab me in the heart with some kind of weapon she’s been sharpening behind that wall. I’m taken aback by her lack of hostility and her calm. She is unafraid. I don’t know how that is possible.

    There are stories that have evolved from her, not so much told by her but unfolding before my eyes. These stories don’t punch at me, or overwhelm me as if I am drowning in them, the way that some memories of my childhood have in the past. These stories have shared a theme about myself as a very compliant child, who did not feel safe to resist either the acts of abuse or the silencing that was imposed upon me. I have understood the reasons why I didn’t tell and didn’t resist, and I have come a long way towards self acceptance, then and now. But the story of myself as a compliant child doesn’t fit well with the adult woman who sees herself as brave, loud-mouthed, and who stands up for others for a living. It is not a story, as Dorothy Allison writes, that makes “a piece of magic inside myself, magic to use against the meanness of the world.” And I need my magic, or maybe I need my magic back.

    Sometimes my stink bomb girl looks so sad and lonely behind that wall, like a dog who’s used to being chained in the backyard and will nearly choke himself with joy when his owner spends two minutes in companionship with him, bringing food and yelling at him to shut up. I focus my warmth on her. I notice that she has a notebook and a pen in her hands. This is the untold story.

    “So write it down for me,” I tell her.

    “I am sorry that I disappointed you.” Tears roll from her eyes.

    “I am sorry”, she spills out the words, “that I didn’t yell and scream and struggle and chop off his hands and bite his penis off and roll down the car window and tell every person I saw what he had done.”

    If I were capable of saying something in the neighborhood of the right thing, I’d tell her that I am doing my very best to understand completely that compliance was her only option.

    “You had to do whatever he said or accept whatever he did. I don’t think that anything you could have done would have stopped him and any of those resistant actions would have been tough to carry out and super risky to try. They also sound more like actions that adults would think up, not eight year olds.”

    More tears from her. “I am sorry that I disappointed you by being passive and helpless.”

    I remember an earlier story, about something she kept from him–something that he wanted her to give up, that she refused to do? And I ask her, what is it that you refused to do, what didn’t you give up, no matter what?

    “I never looked him in the eyes.”

    She explains, “I would close my eyes and pretend I didn’t hear him demanding that I open them, or I would open them and I would look sideways, not seeing what was right in front of me. Or if he got even scarier because of that, I would open my eyes and drop a pretend curtain in front of them. It would seem like I was looking right at him, but I was really looking at a black screen.”

    In the story I tell myself, I did comply. I was very compliant, as it was necessary to stem his anger and demands rather than escalate them. It was smart to comply, but that’s not where the story ends. I also outwitted him by figuring out some ingenious ways to pretend that I was complying but yet still not give him what he really wanted.

    It reminds me of the folktale of the tiger who terrorized a village by eating people. The tiger snuck up behind people and attacked them, when their defenses were obviously down. The villagers tried to protect themselves by walking with others and in groups. This didn’t help, as the tiger just chose the weakest victim for his lunch. One day, a clever person put a mask on the back of his head and walked through the jungle, and the tiger ran away from him.

    The villagers outwitted their predator by wearing a mask on the back of their heads. I outwitted my predator by masking my rebellion with what looked like compliance. Different mask, same purpose. And a little magic in my story.

  4. Pam says

    I had a story. But I didn’t know it. It was a secret. It was a secret from everyone including myself. See, if I didn’t know there was a story, then the story couldn’t hurt me, right? It was untold.

    But what I was doing was silencing myself. I wasn’t aware of that until one night my inner self demanded to be heard and the story demanded to be told. It was the next day that I made an appointment with a psychotherapist. I had to tell my story, I needed one other person on Earth to know.

    But there is a fear of letting the story be told because then it might be true. And if it’s true, what does that say about me? What kind of self-delusions might be destroyed? How would bringing the story into the daylight alter my life?

    But I also knew that to be silenced is to be imprisoned. And it’s a tragedy to be the one who places your own self in the prison. So, I found the courage to tell my story. And amazingly, just by being heard, there was a new sensation of freedom.

    So, I believe from the bottom of my heart that it’s this action of simply being heard, really being heard, that offers the healing salve: the untold story becoming the told story.

  5. Amanda B. says

    It has been festering for about 8 years now. It’s about ice and snow, wind and white. It’s about being inside a sleeping bag, inside a tent that’s blowing with a fierceness of what’s coming next.

    And then, it’s about a phone call; a phone call that comes in on a huge white box that resembles the early cell phones. This is a satellite phone and the call is about my father.

    The team of six is circled around a drill that’s coring a short distance into the ice outside our deep drilling dome. The temperature has finally hit freezing, and the sun is shining. It’s a good time to drill the short cores out-of-doors. Spirits are high; even the Russians are smiling and having a good time as the soft flakes of snow dance down out of the blue sky. It’s finally warm enough to snow.

    Lonnie cuts the social atmosphere like a knife as he drives in on a snowmobile.

    “That’s enough for today. Let’s call it.” He says with a no-nonsense tone we don’t often hear from him.

    “But we are getting down pretty far and the drill is working fine! There is still plenty of daylight…” Victor protests.

    Lonnie says just one more word and everyone reluctantly disperses to get ready for dinner. I start to walk away as well, when Lonnie says he’ll give me a ride.

    Snowmobiles are fun, and at 14,500 feet above sea level, I am always happy to get a ride. We stop at the dome. It seems so much bigger inside since they moved the drill out. I understand at once that something is terribly wrong. And then he looks at me like a professor should never have to look at a student.

    “Oh god, who is it?” I ask, franticly spinning through the rolodex of family members that might have died while I was half a globe away…

    “It’s your dad…he passed away…”

    I fall to my knees, hands over my eyes, and spill my whole head into the cradle of my own hands, inches above a hard, cold ice floor, miles above the frozen dirt that must lie flat and sinking under the pressure of thousands of feet of glacier. Oh my god, no, oh my god, no, oh my god.

    “They think it was a heart attack” I hear him say. I hear him say it, I hear him say it, as I sit there on my knees, my knees beginning to feel the melting ice coming in through my snow pants that had been so successful at keeping out the wind and cold and snow until that moment. That moment when the sun began to shine on a glacier and the snow began to fall because it was 32 degrees Fahrenheit…and my dad was dead.

  6. Bobbie Anne says

    After seven years I decided it was time to share my untold story. I was sexually assaulted. It was done by a health professional in broad daylight in his office. I was shocked, appalled and hurt. I was asked what did you, the victim, do? I didn’t do a single thing to cause this. He had no right to do this. After therapy and other healing modalities, I chose to do something to show that I am a survivor. I am strong and I will not be silenced. I chose to exhibit my artwork and my poetry, with my name as my byline, not anonymous. I am a person, I was violated, and I have a voice. So, my poetry dealt with family violence and with rape. Yes, I can say it now. I have nothing to be ashamed of. The man who raped me is a retired police officer in the health professions. What did I do? I took away his guns and his license to practice in my state. Now the truth is no longer untold. There, I said it because I can. And it has set me free to go on with my life.

  7. nickola says

    “I had a dream last week in my dream was represented by a man signing copies of his life story. I approached him and he gave me 200,000 euro to go off and write my book. I was struck by how proud he was to have done this with no shame at all”

    200,000 euro is alot of energy, I think it’s time I stopped letting shame prevent me from writing my story and to feel proud of what I have come through.
    Thank you all for sharing your story.

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