Writing Prompt #1 -The Obstacle & the Path: What’s your biggest creative challenge, and how do you overcome it?

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The following post was from a writing prompt from Death to Stock Photo, where I get a lot of my images from for my posts. I am going to try to write each prompt both on Medium (where they ask to submit each prompt) and also on this blog. Please let me know what you think! — Ryan

There are three parts to every story: the beginning, the end, and everything in between. The beginning allows you to introduce your reader to you, the writer. It allows the reader to get acclimated to your writing style, any characters (including yourself) that might be included in the story, and the general pace of the story. Then you get to the meat of the sandwich-story. You develop a relationship with the characters and you make up your mind about what the setting looks like in your head, how a character sounds to you, and where we think the story might be going. We connect with the story and go through the ups and downs along with the characters. Then there’s the end. That part of the story where the author lifts the reader up and, ideally, teaches them something.

The end is my biggest struggle as a writer. I do a good enough job at pulling my readers in and selling them on whatever topic I’m talking about. Most of what I write aren’t stories as much as they are my views on the “Dad-Bod” craze or why I gave my dog 27 nicknames and how they each came to be. The beginning and the middle are easy enough for me to write (most of it comes out as a stream of consciousness which is why I’m a better blogger than I am author), but I always get hung up when it comes to the end.

What I try to do is take some of the pressure off of myself. I think I always want to make some grand statement at the end of a piece, but the best advice I’ve been given is to just not think too much about it and end it. The best messages aren’t delivered at the end of a piece, but rather throughout the story that allows the reader to connect with whatever it is you’re trying to say.

I always go back to what Danny Vinyard said in American History X about his brother saying it’s best to end things with a quote because someone else always said it better than you can. This might be true in a lot of cases, but instead of beating your head against a wall trying to think of the perfect closing for a story, just end it.

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Potty Talk

What I am about to say is equal parts uncomfortable and necessary. It’s about public bathrooms, primarily ones around the workplace or at places like Starbucks where you might recognize someone if you go there more than once. There is an issue with public bathrooms that has gone on for too long and no one has the courage to talk about it. Well, that ends today.

At my office, there are a three bathrooms that the men can use. Two of them are your standard, two-piece bathrooms that have a sink, toilet, and very private door that keeps the outside out, and the inside in. It’s comfortable (enough) and offers as much privacy as one could ask for outside of the comforts of their own home.

The third bathroom is a bit bigger and falls in line with what you might expect to find at most restaurants, department stores, concert venues, or any place that has a maximum occupancy of more than 18 people. This bathroom features two urinals, two sinks, two stalls, and, oddly enough, two showers.

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Harmless enough, right? ABSOLUTELY NOT! This is me, a man, complaining about something I can only imagine women feel all the time for having to use stalls anywhere they go. We can all pretend it doesn’t exist, but there is a window into that little cage that doesn’t need to be there and it’s time to address it!

What window?

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That window.

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THAT WINDOW!

Like a magnet, our eyes are drawn to that little sliver of space in between the door and stall wall and God forbid someone is using it because somehow our eyes manage to connect with whoever it is in the stall. The stall sits in direct view of anyone walking in to the bathroom. No I don’t want to look, but of course I do. Even if I am going in just to use the urinal, I have to take inventory of everything in a split second to know if I need to find another bathroom.

Did someone just #2 it in there? I’ll pass.

Is someone #2 in there currently? I don’t want to be the guy who is just peeing while someone else is pretending they’re not there, uncomfortably NOT doing their thing while I do my business and wash my hands.

It’s an unwritten rule that if someone is using the stall in a men’s bathroom, anyone else has to pretend like they don’t notice anything is different.

It is. You know it is and I know it is. But in order to not be weird in the office, I’ll play the game.

You might say, “everybody poops,” to which I would agree, but not everybody has to know about it. Women have been living by that mantra for generations and men pretending that’s true is the only thing that lets us humans coexist for the first couple weeks of dating.

The best inventions identify when there is a problem and solve it simply. At some point, somebody got really tired of his papers blowing all over his desk, and the rock he found outside just wasn’t feng shui enough so he invented a paper weight. It’s time we stop pretending that we can’t see people pooping when we walk in to public bathrooms and close the window for good in this very serious issue!

My first thought is to have some piece of loose fabric covering that sliver of window so that it wouldn’t get in the way of the door swinging open or shut, but it would also allow the privacy needed to #2 in peace.

Another idea would be to have the door almost wrap around to the side of the stall so that the window gap would not face directly into the stall. You can keep the handle where it is, but protect the gap by moving it.

Whatever someone decides, feel free to take 100% credit for this and make your millions. As long as I have my privacy when I need it, I’m a happy guy.