Hello Readers, Writers, and Friends,
I am considering a few changes around here. I know that I mentioned wanting to use this as a place to write other things. Non-fiction-y things. And I find that I have the time and space to do so on Fridays. But then what about the fiction?
I think from now on Flash Fiction Fridays will become Mini Fiction Mondays. And Fridays will become a day for reviewing movies and commenting on my life more broadly. I love talking about story telling more generally, and I’d like to write about it more, if for no other reason than as a way to clarify my own thinking on the subject and cement my beliefs around the way I write.
That means you all are super lucky. You get a Flash Fiction Friday and a Mini Fiction Monday back to back as I transition. Hooray.
And in the vein of writing outside of fiction, today’s prompt is a little different. It is a writing prompt that I have seen in more than one place, and it’s more of a journaling prompt, but at it’s heart it is still fiction.
And a reminder. I still cannot type worth beans. I still make egregious errors, and once I start writing on the prompt, I don’t stop. I don’t go back and fiz. Sometimes autocorrect gets it, sometimes it doesn’t. I do this as a reminder to myself and everyone else that no one is perfect right out of the box. No one writes a masterpiece that is free of all errors on the first go. We edit the stuff that matters. We smooth and chisel and sand away the rough places until our work gleams and is ready for prime time.
But not here.
Here we go with the flow. We let it ride. We see what comes up and where it wanders without judgement. Sometimes it’s fun, maybe even pretty good. But it’s always messy. And that’s ok.
Today’s prompt is: Your future self sits down next to you at a cafe/diner/the park/whatever. What do they have to say to present you, their younger self?
This is my favorite place. The ambiance is stone and wood and bookish delights. The chairs are deep and old and inviting in that way hat makes it seem like you’re never getting up out of them again. The hot chocolate is made with Nutella. And I settled in to my favorite chair, the maroon one, with my steaming mug and accompanying croissant, with a book in my bag, ready for an hour or so of solitude among the masses. I was just pulling the novel from my bag when a woman took up the chair next to me, blue with a yellow patch on the arm.
She irritated me immediately. There were dozens of other places to sit, open booths and benches, a few stools, a sofa in one corner even, but she had to encroach on my space. i considered getting up and relocating, but this was my spot.
She just have seen my hesitation, maybe even my scan of the room to confirm that she was breaking the cardinal rule of introverts–you leave at least one chairs worth of space–becasue she laughed and said, “Oh, I won’t be here too long. I just wanted to ask you something.”
Ahe was the kind of older woman who could have been 59 with an extra dose of wisdom in her eyes or 79 with some secret youth serum. She wore a deep purple sweater with a cowl neck and here hair, blonde and brown and grey all streaming together, up in a french twist. She smiled at me with apple cheeks and the ghost of a dimple beneath each. She looked at me as though she knew me, her eyes taking all of me in, and yet never quite landing. Like she was looking through my own soft grey sweater and eye makeup and into the self we keep hidden from the world.
“Ask away,” I finally said, putting my book on my lap to show that I was indeed planning to start reading the moment she left me in peace to do so.
She leaned on the yellow-patched arm of the chair, coming in like we were part of some great conspiracy. “What are you waiting for?”
“Huh?” The question could mean anything. Was I waiting on more drinks or baked goods from the counter? Was I meeting someone, and what did I expect for that liaison? Why was I biding my time here in this snug little cafe, when there were other things to be doing? But I knew in my heart of hearts she wasn’t asking any of those things.
“Come on, you know have the talent. And you think about all the ways past you wasted her time, don’t you?”
I nodded, conceding to this woman that I carried a mountain of regret with me most days, wondering how things might be different if I had just…
“Then what are you waiting for? Permission? An imitation?”
“Maybe,” I said, mulling it over. “It would be nice to have an invite. To know I’d be a welcome addition to the table.”
“No one is going to beg you.” Her words were harsh, but her voice was gentle. The kind of gentle that comes when you’re speaking the truth, and you know it, so there’s no need to force anything. “And all the other stuff that you think is keeping you from it, it’s not going to go away.”
“Does it ever get easier?” I asked, hoping that this sweatered sage would tell me something comforting. But I had the distinct impression that she hadn’t sat down to be a comfort.
“No. It just get different. And the time doesn’t slow down for you, even when you wish it would. So stop wasting it and wishing it wawy.”
I looked down at my book.
“Oh, that’s not a waste. Don’t beat yourself about having your nose in a book, sweetie.” The crinkles at the corners of her eyes spoke of a deep love of both reading and laughing. “But move forward, every day. You know how they say you have to give a character a deep desire in a scene, even if it’s just a glass of water?”
“Sure.” I’d heard it any number of times in lectures and workshops. It had improved my writing on more than one occasion.
“Make yourself move forward, even if it’s just a sentence, just a line. Even if it’s just taking a walk with all the garbage in your head, instead of sitting on it.” She reached out and took my hand. Her skin, soft and light as paper, was cool and dry. “You have fewer minutes than you know. Stop giving them to Pinterst and Youtube. Stop handing your attention to dullards and mediocre makers. Your minutes are yours. And they are so much more precious than you realize.”
One more minute. Just a minute. How often had I said those words to my children? And how often were they a lie?
It was never one more minute of distraction. It was never just a minute of checking out. And it was even more of a lie, when I said it to myself.
How many other lies had I let myself believe for too long? My throat tightened, I blinked until i was sure I wouldn’t let this presumptive and perseptive woman see me cry.
“Thank you,” I whispered, both grateful and desperately hoping the woman would leave now.
“No, thank you. My life wouldn’t be my life without you.” She gave my hand one more squeeze and then she dug into her purse, which had been hiding on the far side of the chair. “One more thing.” She handed me a clean handkerchief, the traditional cloth kind that had fallen out of favor with the advent of disposable paper tissues. It had a present moon with a rabbit perched on the edge embroidered in blue on the corner. “Switch to these. You’ll find you like them better, and when tissue is tricky to come by, you won’t be bothered by it.”
I ran my thumb over the stitching. It was just the sort of thing I would like, elegant and cozy, a hint of the domestic arts without the pretentious fuss of being overdone. I looked up to thank her, and ask her where she’d gotten it, but she was gone. And my hot chocolate was getting cold. And I didn’t have a minute to lose.
As always I hope you enjoyed this, and that it will prompt you to do some writing of your own. Comment with your own fiction or the links to where we can find it.