Welcome to Austin Bat Cave’s Virtual Literary Salon. Over the next few months, we’ll be featuring some of our favorite writers reflecting on the current moment and presenting writing prompts and literary challenges that will hopefully get you inspired and creating. We welcome discussion and your input. Each week, you’ll be able to comment on the post and share your own thoughts, ideas, and challenges. Please tell a friend! And if you’re able to, consider making a contribution to Austin Bat Cave and help support our creative community.
This week’s reflection and writing prompt comes to us from author Lara Prescott whose novelThe Secrets We Kept is an instant New York Times bestseller and a Hello Sunshine x Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick. The Secrets We Kept is Lara's debut novel and will be translated into over 30 languages and adapted for film by The Ink Factory and Marc Platt Productions.
It’s hard to write right now. Very hard. Seems impossible. In addition to the news that constantly swirls in my head, I have a newborn son at home, which is cause enough to take a pause from writing. The novel I’d been working a few weeks ago feels less urgent in this new world. I sit at my desk in the small writing studio with freshly painted blue walls—a former shed—and open the document containing the first few chapters. But instead of continuing, I look out the window. Some days I only look out the window until it’s my time to come back inside and relieve my husband of baby duty. On the days no words come, I feel a dull pain somewhere inside me that is hard to pinpoint.
But I’m trying to be easy on myself. I tell myself that the novel will come in time. Or maybe it will be transformed into something more urgent, something that will hold the necessary obsession it takes to sustain working on a project for years.
For now, I’ll just concentrate on what I see out my little shed window. It is midday as I write this. The dew that soaked my dog this morning has evaporated off the grass. The sun streams through the large branches of the live oak that hangs over the studio, keeping it a few degrees cooler in summer. In about an hour, the sun will creep to the back fence, to the small green sprouts of the vegetables my husband planted in colorful pots—tomatoes and eggplants and peppers and cucumbers. They are getting bigger by the day. Through the slats in our fence, I can see a child toddling around. He wears blue overalls and yellow boots. He is saying “mama” to a mama I can’t see. That tiny voice makes me feel less alone. It makes me feel like life is still happening out there.
Sometimes writing sneaks up on you like that. And for that, I’m grateful.
Now tell me what you see.
Share your thoughts and comments in the thread!
I have moments where I can see and hear and feel. I see the green lizards with their puffy red throats sunning on the wall in front of the spring flowers and the bees. I see a father walk a toddler around the block with extreme patience and feel the pleasant warmth of sentimentality. I hear my two college-age kids laughing along with us at the dinner table, a gift delivered several months too early. I hear the instruments' melodies as my kids practice, sound sneaking out from under their closed doors. And sometimes what I see and hear is enough to elicit the serenity, the awe, the silver linings. But far too often, very very often in fact, I cannot. I feel smothered and lost. I’m walking along the edge of an old familiar volcano crater. The crater is the collection of my life’s depression, anxiety, illness, grief, trauma. I have learned to navigate the crater over the decades; it has its labels and treatments. My proverbial “toolbox” filled to the brim. I know each section of my crater, each bump, this rock that is a bit heavier than that one, and see how the dirt looks just a bit different around the sinkholes. Now, there’s nothing in that crater caused by the pandemic and I have a version of gratitude for even just that - many people are experiencing things right now that will become their trauma, their grief. Sometimes it even feels like I’ve got a leg up the rest of the world. Coping with the sense of being trapped, of loneliness, of worry and panic? Been there, done that. But this last month of quarantine is heating up that volcanic center in a way that is different - a difference that I haven’t found words for yet. ---- Thank you for this newsletter, for Ms. Prescott sharing her thoughts, and for the prompt. You helped me to find words for today.