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Writing Prompts for the Broken-hearted

From Brick 107

Brick 107

When you connect powerfully to a story, you’re actually connecting to your deepest truth. Your ancestors want to connect with you as much as you want to connect with them. Your emotions are your sacred guides. Follow them down to the muddy bottom of your ocean. The alien beings who live here are only frightening because we don’t know them yet. Lie in your grief, swallowed by darkness so profound it makes no difference if your eyes are closed or open. Anger walks stiff-legged like a spider crab, a swarm of crabs scrabbling over you from one feeding ground to the next. In this dream, you can breathe the frigid water. The weight of the ocean flattens you. A jellyfish glows firefly-yellow, pulsing above you.

You will rise when you’re ready.

When you’re lost in a book, you’ve entered an altered state. You slipped the cage of your thoughts and roamed through someone else’s imagination.

If you think back to the most brutal moment of your life, to the moment that broke you, that shocked you so hard you couldn’t feel, you were in an altered state. Grief brings us to a burning field. Whether you run through it or stand still, the flames rake you with agony.

The fire burns through its fuel. The dark smoke hovers like a fog. You’ll grow new skin, but at that moment your nerves sing raw.

The person who comes back is you, but transformed. What do you see with your new eyes?

You can think without words. Words are the calligraphy of stars on the black vellum of the sky. Yet space isn’t empty or still. Thoughts roam here as difficult to detect as rogue planets flung far from their home galaxies.

Human eyes evolved to help an early version of ourselves hunt prey in an ancient ocean; words are just as clumsy. The tools you need to see your universe are not just the craft you hone but your willingness to put to words the parts of you that make you uneasy. Black holes haunt your heaven. They warp space, bend time, and cause nearby stars to scream x-rays as they shred into swirling lines of light.

Text and subtext: your writing is both the stars and all the things unseen in the churning darkness.

A small songbird hits your window and lies stunned. Pick it up with a tea towel, careful of its fragile wings. The tiny shake of its beating heart. Sunlight making the moist seams of its eyelids glisten.

Are you sad when it dies? Do you put it in the garbage or wrap it and bury it in the garden? Do you tell yourself that you’re ridiculous for caring?

This world exists because our sun is remarkably sedate, because our moon is an attentive lover exciting the oceans, because Jupiter eats asteroids and comets all day. You’re allowed to be sad. Grown-ups are supposed to be strong, and only toddlers fling themselves in temper tantrums when they don’t get what they want. The heaviness that permeates your life is all the little sadnesses unmourned. All the dead planets, all the silent moons—our radio signals singing into the void. Maybe there’s nothing after this life. Maybe you’re surrounded by angels. Maybe we simply come back until we learn enough. Our universe is so wide and wild; it’s hard not to feel insubstantial, forgettable, alone.

You can put your strength down. I’m sitting here with you at your kitchen table. You don’t need to say anything.

Your grief is an honour song. This is your testament to what has been lost. This is the most gruelling song you’ll ever sing. The cost is enormous. If you bear this burden alone and you still sing, then what you’re doing is something humans were never designed to do. If you are crushed, if it crushes you, this isn’t shameful. You stand on the beach by yourself watching a tsunami roar toward you. You sing in the face of your own destruction.

Eden Robinson‘s latest novel is Return of the Trickster.

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