Time to Wake Up

We had a 60-degree day last week, which was an abnormally warm day for March. So abnormal that piles of snow still loitered in parking lots and front yards while people walked their dogs without coats on.

There is a park not far from my office, and during the summer, I eat my lunch on a bench and then walk around the ball diamond for exercise. Since it seemed so warm, I drove to the park on my lunch, only the air was too cold to sit outside and my walking path was still blocked with residual snow.

I never used to like springtime. I prefer fall. I never feel more alive than when everything around me is dying. The voices of the world disappear and all I can hear is my own.

Springtime, to me, was just more winter–dark and gloomy and cold. There wasn’t any grand transition there.

It was T.S. Eliot who wrote “April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land.” The lilacs are sleeping, Mother Earth, and so are we. Why must you disturb us? No one likes to be woken up before the sun comes out.

I have since been converted. I now stand with the rest of the Michiganders and welcome springtime with open arms. The winters are harsh and long, and they only seem to be getting harsher and longer as the years go by. So when it gets above freezing, we break out the flip-flops and go play outside.

Later on that warm day, I found myself near my college alma mater with a few minutes to spare, so I turned in the main drive and drove through the campus. I passed the soccer fields. The snow on the faux turf had been scraped to the side so the bright green “grass” was enclosed by an ice wall. Students in shorts kicked the ball to and fro.

I went by the golf course. The women’s team was out on the driving range in skirts, their uncovered legs disappearing behind snow banks, their golf balls forever lost among the leftover white. Through my rolled-down car window, I laughed out loud at the absurdity.

I realized that Michiganders aren’t like T.S. Eliot’s lilacs at all. We aren’t annoyed that we’ve been awakened from our hibernation. We embrace it. We don’t care that the time is not right–the calendar says it is yet winter–but we act as though it is the middle of July. We stand on the dead land as conscious and breathing beings. We want it to be summer, dammit, so we make it so.

As I sat in my car, the sun’s warmth tanning my left arm, and the dark shade cooling my face, I appreciated the transition that I was forcing on nature. The earth may not be ready to wake up, but I am.


Writing Prompt Wednesday

They don’t tell you much when you start adjunct teaching. They don’t tell you how to write a syllabus or structure a class. They don’t tell you what methods work and what methods don’t.

Fortunately, no one had to tell me to start my class period off with a writing prompt. As a longtime student of literature, I simply know that the only way to start a class is with a writing prompt.

From a teacher’s perspective, it’s a device that works wonders. First, it kills time during your class—that’s a whole ten or fifteen minutes you don’t have to be teaching, which trust me, is always a relief. Teaching is a non-stop sport that doesn’t allow for many breathers, so you take them when you can get them.

Second, it warms up the students’ minds and fingers, gets them thinking about words and ideas, helps them focus their thoughts so they might become comfortable with their own opinions. It’s astounding how scared college freshman are of their own opinions.

But there’s another wonderful benefit to writing prompts that I enjoy not just as a teacher but as a writer: writing for the sake of stringing beautiful words together.

With a blog or an essay or a story, there always has to be a point. You must give the reader what we in the biz call “universal meaning.” If your reader can’t relate to your writing, you can’t get an A.

With a writing prompt, you have ten minutes to write and you’re not allowed to stop writing. You don’t have time to worry about universal meaning. You don’t have time to think about the reader. You don’t have time to be critical or editorial.

You simply write. You create. And you see what comes of it.

Allow me to demonstrate.

Pick a subject: the broader, the better. Let’s do “St. Patrick’s Day” since it was yesterday. Set the timer and begin.


*The bagpipes whine mournfully over the bright green hills. The drums are soft and subdued and yet I can’t help tap my toe and bounce my knee to the rhythm. The screech of the violin strings. The fast moving feet of the step-dancers. Their skirts flap back and forth as they kick their feet high in front of them. I learned to step-dance in England when I visited with my high school band. The daughter of my host family showed me on the back patio. Step, step, step, step, kick, ball change. We hopped back and forth across the length of the in-laid bricks, our hands at our side, our hair swinging from side to side across our shoulders.*

DING! Time’s up.


Is it great writing? Not yet it’s not. As soon as the timer dings, I can begin to craft it into great writing.

But what does it mean? Does it have to mean anything? To me, what’s important is: does it spark something in your memory? You’re probably now thinking about St. Patrick’s Day yourself—what you do, what you remember, what you think about it. You might be thinking about YOUR trip to England or the time you learned a dance move. Set the timer. Write it down.

This is such an important part of writing, in my opinion. It’s casual and relaxed. It helps you generate material. It helps you find ideas you may not have thought of otherwise. Is it publishable writing? Not usually. It’s writing for the sake of writing. It’s writing that leads to better writing. It’s the starting point for what may be a great blog, a great essay, a great novel.

It’s practice. And every writer needs practice, no matter how long they’ve been writing.

And so I hereby declare the instatement of Writing Prompt Wednesday.

If you are a writer, or if you like to write (one and the same, if you ask me), won’t you join me? Let’s take a little breather from teaching the world how to think, how to feel, how to love. Instead, let’s sit in the quiet, the *ticktickticktick* from the timer the only sound, and string beautiful words together.

**“He wanted to cry quietly but not for himself: for the words, so beautiful and sad, like music.” – James Joyce**

*What are some topics that would make good writing prompts? Leave me some suggestions below! Or write for ten minutes about St. Patrick’s Day and post your writing prompt results in the comments!*

Write it in ink

One of my all-time favorite movies is David Fincher’s 2010 “The Social Network,” the story of how Facebook started. It’s a brilliant film with exceptional acting and mesmerizing dialogue, among other attributes worthy of praise.

But it has a sentimental factor for me as well. It transports me immediately back to college. Mark Zuckerberg is the same age I am, was at Harvard the same time I was at my not-so-prestigious state school. And shortly after the film opens, we see Mark enter his dorm suite (one much more lavish and roomy than I ever had) and turn on his computer, where the familiar white-and-blue branding of the Livejournal homepage shines bright.


I, too, sat at my desk, tapping the keyboard at all hours of the night, multiple times a day, chronicling my undergraduate life for the whole world to read. Really, it wasn’t the whole world—it was ten friends who went to the same school I did. I filled my entries with inside jokes and complaints about homework and whatever shenanigans we college kids engaged in.

I was able to enjoy life twice: first, actually experiencing it and second, afterwards, on the internet, reading my friend’s different versions of what happened. We wrote about our lives with exaggeration and extravagance and often without discretion. “As if every thought that tumbles through your head was so clever, it would be a crime for it not to be shared,” explains Fincher’s fictional Erica Albright.

We shared. We sometimes shared too much.

Now a decade later, it’s quite unnerving to know that my Livejournal rantings are still floating out there in cyberspace. It’s like a time capsule waiting for someone to stumble upon it, unearth it, and get a glimpse of what life was like in West Michigan for one strange college student. But it stays up there (for now) so I can live my life twice, no matter how novice the writing or how embarrassing the stories.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why I did that, why I bothered putting my life on the internet, why I continue to do so through social networking sites. Why does anyone? But Fincher is a sneaky bastard. The answer is in the title.

To network socially. To connect to each other.

“The internet isn’t written in pencil, Mark. It’s written in ink,” snarky Erica enlightens us.

I have published a portion of my life online. My interactions with others are written in the ink of the internet. Bodies are mortal but words live on forever. Words let us live again.

And so I keep writing. I get to live life twice, three times, twelve times—as many times as I care to read about it.

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About Me

>>”For a long time now I have tried simply to write the best I can. Sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can.” – Ernest Hemingway

Hello. Welcome to my blog. Pull up a chair, and I’ll make you some tea.


My name is Jenny. I’m a writer of the common and the ordinary with the hopes to make them uncommon and extraordinary. I write truth, I write life. And now I do so for all to enjoy. I like to blog about my attempts to embrace my passions and bring more happiness to this 30-something American life.

I am a Michigander through and through. We’ve got cities, we’ve got nature, we’ve got beaches, and we’ve got beer. Who could ask for more?

Please feel free to look around. I hope you like what you see.

>>“One of the most terrifying aspects of publishing stories and books is the realization that they are going to be read, and read by strangers. I had never fully realized this before, although I had of course in my imagination dwelt lovingly upon the thought of the millions and millions of people who were going to be uplifted and enriched and delighted by the stories I wrote.” – Shirley Jackson