The Write Practice

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Finding Big Inspiration in the Smallest Detail

I am the fortunate writer to have the pre-Thanksgiving post, so naturally, we need to honor gratitude, no?  Truth be told, I am in one of those life seasons where I am looking for answers to BIG things. Job things. Geographic concerns. And when the answers don’t come in my time frame, I need to turn my attention to and be grateful for the beauty that fills my life in an everyday way—and find inspiration there. Things like … that first cup of coffee, a kind e-mail, a morning hug from my kid, a client who wants more from me, a tree silhouetted against the sky, a walk at dusk with my dog.  Or a handpainted rock.

Marianne Richmond, 2013

Marianne Richmond, 2013

The same goes for our writing.  While we trying to get the big stuff down—genre, characters, plot, narrative story arc , we need to focus, too, on the smallest supporting cast if you will—the objects and experiences that can either be overlooked OR unearthed, examined and celebrated.

Here’s the backstory on the my Smile Rock:

I made this for my mom when I was about seven or eight, and she loved it.  It adorned various places in my childhood home—her dresser, in front of the door, on the front porch.  When they sold that house and she gave away 80 percent of her and my dad’s belongings (including the antique Christmas ornaments… ya, another story), she moved the rock with them to their Independent Living apartment which became their Assistant Living apartment.  And when they moved for the final time to the Memory Care unit in the nursing home, she took the rock then too.  This rock was meaningful to her because I made it.  Seriously, she told me many times how much she loved my rock.  And in doing so, I heard her telling me how much she loved me.

What’s a detail you can bring to your story through which you can introduce the concept of gratitude?

PRACTICE

For fifteen minutes, write about your character interacting with or observing an object that evokes gratitude and love. Why this object?  What’s its history? Why does it evoke gratitude? And just for Thanksgiving—feel free to write about YOU, memoir style, and what in your life evokes gratitude.

About Marianne Richmond

I'm Marianne Richmond—writer, artist and inspirationalist. My words have touched millions over the past two decades through my children's books and gift products. Basically I put love into words and help you connect with the people + moments that matter. You can find me on my website, Facebook, and Twitter (@M_Richmond21).

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  • tolu

    Thank you for today’s post and all your post. I have been reading them for a long time, and it has really been helpful.

    • Marianne Richmond

      Why thank you!

  • Julie Davis

    in “The Fault in Our Stars,” author John Green has one character say “The universe wants to be noticed.” When you think about it, we hardly ever do, because we are too busy rushing here and there. I am at the beach this week and have had time to notice sea oats tossing in the breeze, beach foam, sanderlings running in and out of the surf, even dead cockroaches in our beach house. It’s a very Zen practice — being present.

    • Marianne Richmond

      Guilty, too, of zipping on by the little things as I look for big things. Working on it, working on it….

  • plumjoppa

    After the funeral, when the casseroles were covered with saran wrap, my
    mother gave me the flag that covered my father’s casket. She told me to
    take anything else that I wanted, and left me alone in the house. I
    knew, before I entered the bedroom, what I was looking for and where I
    would find it. The small resin statue sat on his dresser, where it had
    for the last 28 years. It said, “Remember me Dad? I’m the kid who loves
    you.” The statue was molded into a small boy hugging the legs of a
    man, who had a full head of hair and was smoking a pipe. I was Daddy’s
    little girl, my father was bald, and didn’t smoke anything. Funny, until
    now, I never noticed that it looked nothing like us.

    • Marianne Richmond

      I love this. Thanks for sharing it!

      • plumjoppa

        Thanks! The story of your smile rock inspired me.

  • http://www.frivjuego.co/ Friv juego

    I love this. Thanks for sharing it! Life always gives us plenty of Vulture, the smiles and the happiness of the term, but tears. But more important is that we have been born, lived and worked was a human being, we need to love the things you are and love to used to love.

  • http://www.healingbywriting.wordpress.com/ Sherrey Meyer

    Marianne, I enjoyed reading your story. I just posted on memory triggers, and your Smile rock is one of those. For me, one of my favorite is a photo of me in my first piano recital dress. The photo is B&W but I remember the pale pink organdy fabric my mother chose, and the lace on the collar, sleeves and adorning the skirt. My dad took the picture in front of a blooming crepe myrtle in our front yard. The blossoms were a deep pink.

    What stands out for me in this memory is my mother’s dislike for sewing. If something went wrong or was less than perfect, she lost her temper and boiled over with epithets of all kinds as to how she would never sew again. Of course, the timing for her beginning sewing of any kind was just before my younger brother was born (I was 8 and Mom had lost 4 children between us). Dad bought the sewing machine just before my brother’s birth! Who, at 42, needed a new baby AND a sewing machine? Not my mother definitely.

    However, the treasure in this memory is despite her dislike for sewing and a new baby in the house during the next 12 months she made this lovely dress for me, my first long dress. And on the day of the recital and the photograph she made sure Dad went out and bought a small corsage of pink carnations. My hair was curled to perfection, or so Mom thought, and in the photo my happiness was shining. This was one of the few good memories from my childhood, and I treasure it deeply.

  • The Cody

    The white urn sat prominently on the fireplace mantle. While sentimental, it didn’t match the rest of the elegant pieces, the expensive clock or the busts of Mozart and Beethoven. Heck, it didn’t even match other urns. It was a round plastic tub, scratched and plain. It once had a wrapper on it, but that had been stripped off years ago by Windy’s mother.

    Her mother was now in the urn. At least, Windy’s favorite memory of her was.

    On July 19th, Windy marched to the fireplace – like she had every year for the past six – and carefully lifted the tub. The lid was on tight, but she wouldn’t risk spilling a single drop in the wrong place.

    Holding it in front of her like a torch, she quietly walked in to the kitchen and set the urn on the table.

    Grabbing a bowl, she opened a box of Mini-Wheats, her mother’s favorite. The expiration date on the box was a long time ago, but Windy didn’t care.

    Smiling at the package, she poured a few square hunks into the bowl. Then she took out the milk and dumped a few splashes on top.

    Tears welling with sadness and love, memories and times forgotten, she began screwing off the urn’s lid. Then she grabbed a spoon and stuck it in. Hearing the crunch of the metal on powder, Windy began to cry; she’d heard that sound every day for years.

    Absently wiping a cheek with the other hand, she lifted the spoon and sprinkled the powder on the cereal. Then she took another spoonful and did the same.

    Settling back in her chair, Windy began to eat. Every bite was precious, and she chewed far too many times, letting memories of her mother flood her mouth.

    When it was over, Windy grabbed the lid and, like she was part of some fancy ceremony, set it on top of the urn and screwed it into place with both hands. The words, ‘Splenda’, written in her mother’s handwriting, flew past her eyes with every turn. Actually, her mother always wrote hastily so it actually said, ‘Spleda’, but Windy knew what it was.

    Placing the urn back on the mantle, Windy knew there weren’t many scoops left. She desperately hoped that, by the time the spoon scraped the plastic at the bottom, she wouldn’t need it anymore.

    • plumjoppa

      This was wonderful! Love the detail of “Spleda.”

  • http://thewritepractice.com/ John Fisher

    I am thankful for a lady at my Seniors program named Ruth. She will be 90 years old in February, she says, “if I make it.”

    Ruth’s twin sister, who lived in another state, died a couple of weeks ago. Ruth, a widow with physical mobility issues, is not able to travel to be there at the memorial. She now exhibits a certain degree of fragility that was not there before.

    I am thankful that Ruth comes to Seniors and works through her grief. I am thankful for each and every time she has turned to me or another in the past few days and said, “You know, I’m the last of five siblings.”

    She is an outstanding example and teacher of how to deal with the realities.

    Today, having stood to follow the driver out to the van to go home, she beckoned to me: “Come here.” And she gave me the sweetest hug, and said, “Now you take care of yourself, honey, and have a happy Thanksgiving.”

  • Brianna Worlds

    I rubbed the edge of my pendant subconsciously, automatically seeking the sweet, protected feeling it gave me. I felt every individual crevice that marked the edges that made my loop pendant what it was, knowing just how and where the colours shifted and faded by memory.
    I’d had the necklace for as long as I could remember, since I was a child. I never took it off, and it never rusted. It filled me with a sense of peace, reminding me of lazy summer days in the sun, and intense, wildly fun ski days on wildly fun mountains. It was bittersweet now, knowing I might never do these things again, but the pacifying nature of the simple cold touch was irrevocable.
    ~~~
    Practice cut short by the end of school break!

  • Claire

    She twirled the Claddagh ring around her right fourth finger absentmindedly then became aware of what she was doing and began to think—does the crown face outwards or inwards to mean a special commitment to someone? She couldn’t remember what she had read when the ring had been given to her. It had been years ago, but it didn’t matter because in whatever direction the crown was facing, she knew that her heart and love belonged only to him.

    It had been years since their last encounter, and she wondered if she would ever see him. At times she would agonize over this thought, but her greatest fear was thinking of the possibility that she would never see him again, and this frightened her.

    Her consolation was the Claddagh ring that he had ceremoniously placed on her finger a long time ago as a symbol of their love. She was grateful for it because of its significance, but most of all, because it would always evoke memories of a beautiful and unforgettable past.

  • Claire

    She twirled the Claddagh ring around her right fourth finger absentmindedly then became aware of what she was doing and began to think—does the crown face outwards or inwards to mean a special commitment to someone? She couldn’t remember what she had read when the ring had been given to her. It had been years ago, but it didn’t matter because in whatever direction the crown was facing, she knew that her heart and love belonged only to him.

    It had been years since their last encounter, and she wondered if she would ever see him. At times she would agonize over this thought, but her greatest fear was thinking of the possibility that she would never see him again, and this frightened her.

    Her consolation was the Claddagh ring that he had ceremoniously placed on her finger a long time ago as a symbol of their love. She was grateful for it because of its significance, but most of all, because it would always evoke memories of a beautiful and unforgettable past.

  • Rebecca

    I sat in the waiting room, clasping the little monkey that Jesse brought me. He brought it for me years ago when I was depressed. Summer passed and autumn started to settle in, the days got colder and colder. My moods began to reflect the gradual winter that slowly encroached, planting seeds of sadness into my mind and stomach.

    I spent most of the month crying in Jesse’s arms, apologizing to him for being in this sad, sorry state that I was in, thanking him for caring about me and recapping the events of my day – it was mostly a combination or work, therapy, therapy homework and things that made me sad.

    One night, when he drove me home from therapy, he needed to get more fuel into his car. He stopped at a petrol station and brought me a Kinder Surprise. He told me to keep the toy and to cling onto it during his work hours. I smiled and held him. His warm arms squeezed me tightly. It was at that moment where I felt a tiny glimmer of hope spark inside of me.

  • Deirdre

    I’m not keen on butterflies, but I love my butterfly brooch. My son Tom is eighteen now, but when he was eight, he became ill and developed breathing difficulties. In fact, one terrible night that November, he stopped breathing. His life was saved by the rapid and expert first aid advice given by a paramedic over the telephone. He recovered slowly that winter and the following summer, went on a school trip to a nature reserve. He came home with presents for me and his Dad. My present was a small tin butterfly brooch, brightly coloured and shiny. Every time I look at my brooch, my heart is filled with the deepest love and gratitude. Our boy came back to us that night and lived through a happy childhood to become the fine young man he is today. I still don’t like butterflies too much but I’ll never part with Tom’s butterfly brooch.

  • Contrary Bear

    Olivia sat absentmindedly on her silken sheets, staring off into the distance. The world seemed to be spinning wildly out of control, on a top with bad balance. She could feel herself shutting down and receding. It was what she did best. After all, when the world turned it’s back on you, you turn your back on the world-right?

    It was a moment before she realized she was clasping the necklace she was wearing in an iron grip. Looking down, she gazed on it with crinkled eyes. The flat, circular surface shone in the hazy light of her lamp, reflecting silver sleekness. But what always drew her eyes was the emerald delicately placed in the center, commanding attention for its beauty.

    She could only imagine where it had been. She knew who it had belonged to- her late mother, who died with her father when she was only a year old. But from there, she had no details. Where did her mom get it? Did she wear it everyday? Was it a gift? She couldn’t be sure.

    Looking down at it, she felt a tiny part of herself solidifying, even with the earth spinning round. Maybe it was nothing, maybe it was just her calming herself… maybe. That could all be true. But as she held the necklace in her hand, turning it over, she knew that wasn’t the case. This necklace represented her mom and all the love she held for her, and that was enough to stabilize her, even if it was just for a moment.