Pen to Paper: Pent-up Prose.
Covid-19 landed me in my seat - my writing seat. I put my writing hat on and started writing.
There’s nothing like living alone during a quarantine to help you bleed pain onto a “page.”
Writing became my outlet, my only solace. And just like that, I got a “like” on my first post. I had written a piece for the April 2020 Challenge, sponsored by Prose. My first piece on Prose. in two years.
Ever since I was sixteen, I’ve been searching for writing contests online. I felt like I had a voice. Like my experiences needed validity. Like my mental illness needed some kind of retelling, like no one on the planet knew what depression felt like. Or what it meant to suffer.
But let’s flash forward to 2018.
On one particular afternoon in Boston, Massachusetts, a decade after I turned sixteen, on an afternoon that hit a hundred degrees - not only sweat poured out of me, but the desire to share what I had just experienced.
It’s not worth getting into, but I had just seriously scared the members of my group therapy session. I had done something because I felt I had no voice.
Then I found Prose. My first rodeo with the website, my first stab at recognition. At recognizing myself.
While I sat on my couch that afternoon in the summer of 2018, sticking to my couch, I thought, maybe if I write about my experiences, they will be real. Someone might hear me and understand. Because isn’t that what makes it real?
Maybe while my experiences are not unique, my voice just might be.
I thought at first that, with Prose, I needed to write an expose. Something splashy. So I started with what had happened at that group therapy session. I wrote probably five hundred words, seemingly endless words, endless awkwardness and forced sentences. I didn’t have a flow and I knew that. I didn’t have the practice. I also didn’t know who I was talking to.
I felt like I was talking to a wall. No one commented on or liked my post. I didn’t go on Prose again for another two years.
At that time, I wasn’t sure what the Prose community was, or meant. And I simply didn’t have any content I thought was worth sharing, really: until I got a “like” on the April Challenge, I thought I was alone.
My first “like” was the first voice I heard back from the void.
My April Challenge entry wasn’t something I am particularly proud of now, but it was the start. Of Covid-19, and my relationship with myself as a writer.
There were one hundred heavily armed soldiers behind me as I wound my way through the deep forrestation surrounding the Congo River. There was no slowing down, and certainly no time to rest. They got on my trail at Monono, and pursued me through two full days of all out running under unrelenting monsoon rains. The pack on my back was heavy, being filled with millions of dollars worth of unprocessed diamonds which had been secreted away from the kimberlite mines of Botswana, and the DRC. I would be a rich man if I could make it to Lake Tanganyik, and if I could bribe a fisherman to take me to Tanzania, and if I could get aboard the train at the Kogoma railhead to Dar Es Salaam. Granted, there were a lot of “if’s” but it was also a lot of money.
I found a cave on the Kombola completely by chance. A waterfall had, over the centuries, worn away the rock behind the falls, leaving a space large enough for a man to walk into, while the water itself provided a veil to the entrance, and its roar drowned any sound that might give me away inside. I built a fire with wood from an abandoned pack rat’s nest for warmth, and laid my soaked boots and socks out to dry beside it. Using a stick from the fire as a torch, I went to explore the rest of “my” cave.
Near the backwall was a hole, a hole so deep and dark that my torch could not reach the bottom, but there was something down there, some bright spot in the darkness that piqued my curiousity. I gripped the torch between my clenched teeth and began to climb down, my fingers and bare toes gripping the cold, slick rock walls as I went.
I estimated I had climbed forty feet when my foot touched bottom. The torch was burned to nothing, but the strange glow I had seen from above remained, and shone brighter still in the pitch blackness of the cave. I reached for it. It was a... a... a laptop?
The computer was most likely dropped from above, as its face was cracked, but it still worked, so it could not have been here long.
Someone had been here! Someone who might return... and my bag of diamonds was still up above, along with my shoes, and my change of clothes!
I pressed the laptop’s face for light, and glanced down at it. “What was this site that it was pulled up to?“ I wondered. “What was this Prose.com?“ I began to flip through the posts, finally finding a cold rock to sit on while I read and tapped at the “like” button for my favorites.
“Hmmm...” I thought. “Maybe I should try posting a story?”
That was a year and a half ago now, and I am still at the bottom of this cave sitting amongst the cold, watery drips, and the slimy rocks, typing away at my stories, but I see no rush... those silly diamonds will wait until I finish one more Challenge!
Theprose.com and what it means to me
I have always been a writer, story teller, poet. Even as a three-year old I would draw complicated scribbles and tell my mother long fairy stories with twist endings. At least that is what she says now. Perhaps she is the story teller. But nevermind that.
Most children get photos of themselves on Santa’s lap, but my parents were university profs, who hosted visiting writers and poets. So I have pictures on Margaret Atwood’s lap, for example. I like to pretend I got some of my love for writing through osmosis, as if Atwood’s hands could give me some sort of creative advantage. If only!
Alas, despite my love for writing and my talent, I am unfocused and distracted. At a primary school reunion, my friends asked why I was not yet a published author. My answer? “I have too many stories in my head. I cannot focus on one long enough to complete a project.” My sisters think I have ADHD, but again I digress.
I discovered Prose in my attempts to focus on writing, finding something that would encourage me to write a little bit every day. I found it through a simple google search, and was instantly excited about the challenges. The artificial deadlines, pushing me forward, helping me meet my daily goal of writing anything, however bad.
So thank you Prose, and that you fellow writers who have been so welcoming and encouraging. If I ever do manage to complete a novel or publish a poem or short story, it will be not because of my natural creative spirit, or the influence of famous authors, but rather because a simple website with very kind, supportive peers, helped me start writing again slowly and surely.
How I Happened Upon TheProse.com
I was looking for contests. I have been writing since I was able to, but my mom didn't want me to enter my work into any contest because she didn't want anyone to "steal" my work. So, when I became eighteen, I realized that I was no longer restricted by this rule. She didn't discourage me, but she warned that if anyone "stole" my ideas, I shouldn't come crying back to her.
Well, the idea of someone "stealing" my ideas isn't TOO FAR FETCHED, but it was kinda absurd. How else will I share my work with the world? She wanted me to copyright everything first. But copyrighting costs money. Plus, I (being the perfectionist that I am) didn't want to copyright a lot of halfway done pieces and random whacky words that hardly make sense with no context. And, I have several stories in my head that aren't quite written down, and the ones that I've begun to write are nowhere near completion. I am constantly editing them, so how much money would I be out of trying to copyright it all?
Now, my mom means well, and I understand her concern, but I believe that the benefits of sharing outweigh the cons. So, I went on a kick where I was entering every single writing contest I could find. And, in my search of these, I came across a site that mentioned theprose.com. They advertised monthly contests with cash prizes. That's why I arrived. But, when I got here, I discovered an awesome community of writers. I discovered that the just-because contests were just as or even more fulfilling than the ones that offered prizes. I discovered a place where I could read awesome things by others, and I could share my own work.
I stood by for a while not posting anything. But, when I finally decided to post something, I just couldn't stop.
I'm so happy I found this place!
I am a female with attention deficit hyperactive disorder- primarily inattentive. For some reason, after days upon days upon days of being absorbed in screens, junkfood, and depression, I woke up today and looked up writing contests. I rarely finish anything that I start and I have not written much at all- I did take a class in college in order to prepare me to teach kids how to write and I loved it but it was just an elective course in the journey of preparation to help me learn to teach all subjects. I found this site and was instantly drawn to the freedom of expression and sense of community (as well as the numerous prompts- like candy!- to help get me started- (something that is often near impossible for me).
How did I find Prose? I am unemployed at the moment and saw a movie not long ago where a woman in the 60s and 70s turns to write-in contests to support her family and her alcoholic husband. I am not in a dire situation by any means, but it fascinated me. I researched to see if anything like that still existed and lo and behold. My motivation is definitely not money-I just know I have so much in my mind to be created and that I want to create- I just have trouble producing. I have only been on the website for maybe an hour and I am already feeling so much joy ..and relief? in a way? I think the spontaneity of answering a random challenge and just writing out whatever comes to my brain as soon as it’s there is what is so appealing to me. I’ve already submitted 5 entries and can’t wait to answer more challenges and prompts, as well as, get to know people in the community. I hope all of you have a wonderful, creative, and fulfilling day. :)
A Wee Bit of Prose
My introduction to Prose was quite recent. Despite being someone who has disliked English class throughout my high school years, I actually learned that I kinda had a thing for simply writing on my own. I wrote a few little poems and even a story. Only main issue was that I had no outlet to put my ideas onto. I asked my little sister whether she knew any sites where I could submit my pieces and she recommended me to this site so I recently ended up joining.
I was 19 cocky and going to be a pharmacist. My college writing TA was convinced otherwise. At the end of the semester, she left me with I'll get you in my creative writing class no matter what. Cue depression, self reflection, and trying on every major for size that comes with college. Sleeping through science classes; my eyes were opening to amazing women who changed and challenged the world with only their words.
Remembering my TA's words, I dropped journalism and tried to sign up for creative writing. Of course the week before the semester started, it was full. I emailed my former TA, she happily signed the requisite papers for the formerly, cocky pharmacy major. I can still feel the elation of my story being read aloud in class and discussed. People actually liked what I had written. Writing was beyond selfish. To think that my thoughts were important enough for others to read, and discuss was beyond preposterous to me.
I graduated. I quit grad school before I started. My heart wasn't in it. I was a writer. I wrote a novel. I had no idea what to do with it but I wrote a novel.
Then life came at me full force. My heart was broken. And I fell in love again. I got married. I had babies. I got divorced. I was a single mom. I found love again.
Suddenly I was 38 on the cusp on 39 and forgot that girl who wrote a novel. Who would pour her soul onto the paper.
I began chatting with my husband's cousin. An artist. Someone who makes a living selling his art. Someone who never sold out. He pushed. He prodded. He read my old work. He became insistent. I finally began to write daily just to shut him up. I filled his inbox with my daily rants, poems, musings. Soon that was not enough. What are you going to do with your words, was the next refrain.
The search was on. I stumbled upon Prose. I found an outlet for that former 22 year old idealistic girl who knew what she wanted out of life and dove in head first. I realized I can take time for myself. My kids, my husband, and my job all survive. I've found people who give critical feedback and who challenges the author inside. I've also found a way to silence that inner critic who whispers into my ear you'll never be good enough.
But most importantly, even though I have posted some really dark writing, I've found my happiness. I can write my thoughts and some days they soar and others they flop but I'm true to myself.
Up and down, again up and down.
Googled and googled @2pm.
With sleepy eyes.
Knew that I wasn’t good enough.
But wanna try, something new.
Wanna try something I afraid to attempt.
Suddenly, something caught my eyes.
Should I try?
Little bit nervous with new hopes,
on the search bar I typed “theprose.com”
I've always loved spilling my guts into a journal in the middle of the night. Writing has continuously found a way to sneak into my life unexpectedly, just like the feelings. Unexpected feelings spawn even more surprising words, and usually, I only need them to sting the page a little bit and echo in my own head, never to reach another soul. I usually have routine, work, play, love, mess, weekends, and weekdays, but once this quarantine came into play, I really only had myself to keep all of my mind in check. And that's when I started writing like a motherf*cker. I wrote another eight versions of the same unrequited love story that I can't seem to shake. I learned a few things on guitar and wrote a couple verses to a couple sad songs about growing up that I'll probably play for no one. Ever. I copied down some streams of consciousness about wanting/needing. Etc.
And after a while, I kind of wanted someone to notice. So I searched for outlets. And after a scam or two and a few websites that looked like deserted MySpace profiles filled with acrostic poems and pop-up ads for erotic anime games, I found Prose. So yeah.
If you're reading this, or have read anything else from me, thanks for letting me spill my guts.