Mannequin Monday – Filling the Void

What do I give myself to when faced with a wide open day? How do I fill the void? A life shift offers opportunity, unexplored space. What will my story be?

Storytelling makes the world go round. I’m reading News of the World.

And again, I offer you another story bite of my own for this week. “The Playlist.”

What I’m Reading/Working On

A friend, a writing coach, asked this week in a social media post: what is your writing goal for this year? I replied by saying, fill the void. A bit humorous, maybe. A touch enigmatic. I’ll explain. My life circumstances have changed dramatically in the last several months. There is now literally a void, a large open space, in my life. How to fill it? So easy to say, I have tons of time to write. Not so easy to actually write.

I need structure to write. I’m not referring exactly to a writing outline, a book plan. There is a blank page, an empty screen, waiting for my words. I re-energized my weekly blog about a year ago with the Mannequin Monday concept. Drape the blank form with thoughts and ideas. The structure I began with was one I borrowed from several online courses I had taken with the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. Listen to or read a transcript of an author talking about their approach to creative writing. Reply to a few discussion questions, and offer comments on the work of other participants. Read a writing lesson. Write an exercise inspired by the lesson.

The structure worked for me. I had a pattern. I was not creating entirely from scratch every week. And so Mannequin Monday came to be. I am now 50 weeks in. The structure has evolved somewhat. Simplified to What I Am Reading and What I Am Writing. But the focus remains the same. Fiction. Storytelling.

Credit: IMDB

A brief mention of what I’m reading this week. Paulette Jiles’s book News of the World, on which is based the new Tom Hanks film. I like the main character’s occupation: a printer who also travels the country with current newspapers, charging a dime a head to read the news of the world to his audience. The story is set in the years following the Civil War.

I am five chapters in. Perhaps a bit too much backstory for a short book, but a great read so far. More comments next week.

What I’m Writing

Once again, I used Ray Bradbury’s writing guideline: nouns and titles. Make a list of words, titles, phrases. Let a story emerge from the words. Here’s my latest effort.

The Playlist

Terry Briggs could carry a tune singing in a group. He could dance with a partner. But alone? Melodies eluded his voice. Dance steps resembled a wooden soldier.

And he was alone now. Alone sitting in his worn recliner. Alone staring out at the midnight dark beyond his patio. Alone with a  favorite playlist. He called it Missing You. Song titles like Remember Me, For the Good Times, Only the Lonely, Cry me a River.

Next to his chair sat a glass with two fingers of bourbon. The same two fingers he had poured three hours ago. 

Terry boosted the bass a touch. He was a bottom feeder. A bass lover. The first song up, Stevie Ray Vaughn’s Tin Pan Alley. Moments into the music Terry stood, scratching the stubble on his face. He began swaying, slowly, stiffly, to the guitar. The bass rolled up through the floor, up his bare feet, all the way up into his soul. His arms dangled at his side. He brought them up, closed his eyes, played air guitar along with the music.

His legs complained of even the slight movement. Weeks of sitting in the recliner now talked back to him. No matter. He thought only of her. Gone now. 

Next song up, Hallelujah. A classic. Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew ya. He dreamed of her beauty, her eyes so full of life. Her laugh, a  beacon to the downhearted. He swayed with a bit more energy. His feet slid gently across the wood floor. Maybe there’s a God above… 

He paused his swaying. Reached for his glass, looked at it, put it back without even a sip. He wrapped his arms around his torso. He felt his eyes moisten with tears. Not tonight. He shook off the tears.

Would you hear my voice?

Next song up, Ripple, from the Grateful Dead. Would you hear my voice? He wondered, do you hear my voice now? Is your spirit open to my words? Do I need to even speak for you to hear me? Again, he felt the warm, solid bass through the floor. His feet tingled. Easy, steady…

Ripple transitioned to Only the Lonely, Roy Orbison. Lonely. Such a fearsome word. 

Terry reached for the remote, skipped ahead on the playlist. Madeleine Peyroux with Dance Me to the End of Love. Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin. He pulled up a memory. Stopped swaying for a moment. A school fundraising dance. The DJ had played the Macarena. She had sat down after a few strains. He kept dancing. When he turned, he discovered there were no other dancers left on the floor. Awkward.

Ah! Janis Joplin. Feeling near as faded as my jeans. Terry moved his feet across the floor. Tried to feel the music. But his focus was on the lyrics. We sang every song that driver knew…He smiled. We did it all…sang all the songs, spoke all the words, felt all there was to feel. Terry danced to the keyboard, feeling his knees loosen a touch, joy overriding the sadness. He stepped across the floor, sliding his feet, reaching for the rhythm. 

Joplin crossfaded to Norah Jones singing For the Good Times. Lay your head upon my pillow

Kid Rock’s Picture came up next. With Sheryl Crow. I ain’t seen the sunshine in three damn days…I put your picture away…sat down and cried…His hands rubbed his belly. The guitar gnawed at his insides.  Since you’ve been gone my world is just dark and gray

A crossfade to Los Lobos. Take My Hand. Baby, dry the tears from your eyes and hold my hand as we walk into the night. Terry stood still, turned off the music. Sat in his chair. Opened his hands palms up on the chair arms. Feeling her warmth, feeling her hands take his. Feeling his hands close over hers. The smooth coolness of her hands. 

Terry leaned his head back. Sleep came, finally.   


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