untitledJanuary is a time for new starts and creative bursts. Despite the bitter cold and desolate landscape, this is a wonderful time to generate fresh content.

Take this One Week writing challenge. Spend 15-20 minutes every day for the next week.


Day 1

Pick a photograph that speaks to you. One with a story behind it that isn’t entirely contained in the visual information. Paint a portrait of this snapshot moment in words. Include the backstory not revealed by the image.

Day 2

Sketch a description of a character, a specific person, in words. Physical attributes, behavioral traits, challenges, goals, motives. Can you capture their voice?

drseusequote2Day 3

Find a poem or a short quotation which inspires you. Without quoting or plagiarizing phrases, write an essay about the images, memories, ideas, and feelings the work evokes in you.

Day 4

Put together the playlist of 10 songs for your story. Why these songs? What do they mean to you?

Cilantro_plantsDay 5

Think of a smell you remember so pungently you couldn’t ever forget it. Write about when and where you were when your olfactory senses imprinted the memory indelibly. Describe the memory. Reflect upon its import.

mermaidDay 6

Select a myth, a fairytale, or archetypal narrative to reflect upon. David and Goliath, Oedipus, Cinderella, Hamlet. Pull the first one that comes to mind. How do you connect with it? With which character do you identify? Rewrite the myth from this character’s point of view.


Day 7

Write an essay about what you know to be true about a) cabin fever b) cardinals or c) casseroles from your own experience, knowledge, eyewitness observations, expertise, or professional position.

If you leave your writing in the comments, I promise to read and respond to your creative efforts.


16 thoughts on “7 Day Writing Challenge

  1. Here’s my contribution on the smell challenge (true story):

    The Demons of Point Reyes

    Now, that question shocked me. How anyone in the United States not know how a skunk smells? But there she was, sitting next to me in the car, asking in earnest. “What do skunks smell like?”

    “We’ve already driven through skunk aroma several times today alone,” I told her.

    But Barbara lived in Europe, a skunk-free continent, and hadn’t recognized the odor. And she hoped this vacation – a drive through the western states – would give her that special American experience. I promised I would point it out the next time we passed a road kill.

    Neither of us could know a skunk would spray us that very night.

    We checked into the youth hostel in Point Reyes, California that evening, and after dinner, I proposed an adventure. Point Reyes is known for its wildlife. “Let’s go out and look for owls,” I suggested. We stepped out the door, turned a corner, and followed a path past a woodpile. Then it happened.

    We never saw the skunk. One second everything was okay, and the next the stench whacked us like a charging stag with lowered antlers. We gagged, our eyes watered, and we stumbled away from the woodpile to an open field. It was beyond anything in Barbara’s European experience; agony etched her voice as she implored me: “What on God’s holy earth was that?”

    “Congratulations,” I told her. “Now you know what a skunk smells like.”

    But I was also making some quick calculations. Would we need tomato juice to wash ourselves? The nearest grocery store was twenty miles away. If I took my own car, it would stink for weeks. Surely the guests in the youth hostel would offer to drive to town for us.

    But when we opened the door into the lobby, help was the last thing we got. What we did get was a lot of screaming. Several people were there, and they made a concerted effort to kick us out of the hostel. Don’t come back in here, they yelled after us.

    We wandered up to the top of a hill and sat down to discuss our options, commiserating about the odor, a lingering stench that clung to our skin and clothes. Without the light pollution from the city, the sky was so dark we could see the Milky Way, and during the course of the night, the stars distracted us from our misery. When we are dejected, how often it is that we can find solace in something larger than ourselves.

    At 3:00 a.m. we snuck back into the hostel, showered, and stuffed our clothes into plastic bags. I’m happy to report that we didn’t need tomato juice. Water, soap, and shampoo drove our demons away.

    Around noon the following day, while we were headed north to the redwoods, we passed another road kill. Barbara turned to me. “I know that smell,” she said. But she was smiling.

  2. Day #2 Challenge —

    A character named Marie and she’s 60 years old. Marie is morbidly obese. She goes everywhere in a super size, sleeveless Mumu, often adding a long sleeve, thigh length, sweater. When she walks her dress rises in the back to show the flabby, wrinkled flesh behind her knees.

    Her neck is short and her long brown, stringy waist length hair makes her neck even shorter, the end effect being that of a very big hag.

    The hag walks around in her cracked, puffy feet with overgrown and broken toenails, using a walker to help her maintain her waddling balance.

    She greets people with a toothless smile and always has a negative comment about something or someone, ending her conversation with “…..don’t you think”? Marie loves to spread malicious gossip and is in her glory when she gets someone all riled up.

    Her greatest challenge is cleanliness. I know this because she has a rotten body odor, greasy, stringy hair and constant bad breath.

    Marie’s voice is deep, hesitant, throaty, almost sultry, until she becomes verbally aggressive and offensive. When she goes on the defensive her throaty voice becomes sinister and threatening. She is quite prone to swearing to emphasize her opinions.

      • HaHa – thanks! I suppose you might well have met. If not, hope you don’t!
        I sent Day #3 via regular e-mail. Not sure what is happening with me and these pictures but it’s fun!

  3. Day # – Playlist of 10 Songs I Love

    1. The Times They are A-Changin – Bob Dylan
    2. My Blue Heaven – Duane Eddy (Who just happens to be my cousin)
    3. Hello, My Friend, Hello – Neil Diamond
    4. Hey Jude – Beatles
    5. Pretty Woman – Roy Orbison
    6. Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon & Garfunkel
    7. Left Side Of The Bed – Mark Gray
    8. Sometimes When we Touch – Mark Gray & Tammy Wynette
    9. Jesus Take The Wheel – Carrie Underwood
    10. Starry, Starry night – Josh Groban

    I picked these songs because they pull at my heartstrings and #7 and #8 in particular bring back memories of Romance in Washington D.C. , Comedy Clubs on Friday and Saturday nights, , Monument Runs in the day time, plays and Irish Whiskey on the rocks! #1, 2, 4, & 5 were “younger day” songs and just bring back fond memories of good friends and good times. Pub days?? Uh Huh. #3,6, 9 and 10 just leave me melancholy and leave me feeling small in a big universe.

    I love music and there is very little that I don’t like. If I were to shy away from some it would be the heavy metal. I like a good strong drumbeat also. I am also fond of Tina Turner but cannot remember any of her songs!

  4. Day #5 – Smell

    Sulphur Water. I hate the putrid smell. It smells like rotten eggs and rapidly sends the nausea rushing to my throat. If I don’t go back to fresh air my next accolade is adding my up-set stomach to the already foul smell.

    I was probably 8 or 9 when my parents visited my mother’s sister who had a brand new carpet. I was not feeling well and one whiff of the house made me sick to my stomach – all over my Aunt’s new carpet. I’m not sure who was more mortified, me or my parents but my siblings thought it was hilarious. My Mother and Aunt cleaned up the carpet while I was banished to the car. No one offered to clean me up, the story is still being retold.

    Although I have learned how to control the initial impulse, I make sure to quickly exit from any area that has even a hint of sulphur.

  5. Day#6 – Myth – Guess I probably can relate to: The Little Match Girl and also The Red Shoes.

    Until March 13, 1993, the day I bought Women Who Run With the Wolves, my life was one of “making the best” of what-ever situation I found myself in.

    My Mother died when I was 15. I had four younger siblings. My Dad turned to alcohol to numb his pain. I graduated to Mother. Married at 19 , had three boys. Divorced at 28. Single Mom and working. Married me an alcoholic at 30 and then birthed two daughters. Saw the light (or saved my soul again). Another divorce.

    In 1993, with two marriages and five grown children under my belt and a demanding, unreasonable Boss, as my daily dose of idiocy, I read the Myths and stories of the Wild Woman archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D.. At age fifty-four, thanks to this decades of work by her, I unlocked and admitted all the ways I’d been fooling myself , threw most of them out-the-window and ingrained and implanted on my brain the following bits of truth!

    1) If you are in an environment when people do not care – get out! Just turn your back and walk away.
    2) If you have resigned yourself to your “place” in life, unresign yourself and come out kicking ass.
    3) Find yourself some people who warm and nurture you. Every woman deserves an Allelujia Chorus.
    4) To succeed, move forward and thrive, the ONE THING you need to recognize is that anything or anyone that does not support your art, your life, your creativity , is not worth your time. Harsh as this is, you must figure out how to walk away.

    I could not rewrite my past life but I have unlocked my creativity and I am reasonably content to let my fear leap out and bite me so I can meet it head on, feel it, and get it over with. I protect my time, slow down and take my time, and know that nothing will stop me from my soul-spinning. psychic mending loving and living
    Woops – just realized I did this and forgot to Post It. Here goes!

      • Thanks Jill for offering the post and responding to the writings! I learned some stuff (have retrained the brain so I am writing regular again) and think it is time that I get back into a group somewhere. It is hard to write without any feedback. This was a fun little week’s learning experience.

        Hope your cabin fever does not set in for long………….


  6. Day #7 – Cabin Fever

    I seldom get Cabin Fever.

    I think it is wonderful to have time to read, write, scrapbook, quilt, and if the four walls begin to close in, I bundle up and go out for a nature walk, unless there is a Hurricane out there or four feet of snow.

    If it is snow, I just stand on the porch and watch the wind and snow blow around, the birds try to find food or the branches of the trees dip and bend. By the time you’ve done this for a few minutes you are all too ready to go back to the warmth of the four walls!

    If it is a Hurricane, even the reading, writing, scrapbooking & quilting cannot take away the cabin fever because the wind and rain is so severe that concentration is virtually not there. In that case there is a lot of praying to do, and jumping at things going bump and crash and you are grateful to be inside, continually hoping that your protection does not flood or blow away.

    Worse comes to worst – – there is always the food to eat and the bed in which to sleep!!

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