As we move toward the halfway point, and ever closer to Halloween, I am thinking a lot about what my traditions around Halloween and Samhain are and how they relate to my writing in these little posts. Like most things, there are many layers–my childhood in a conservative Baptist church where Halloween was synonymous with the devil, a lifelong love of dressing up and trick-or-treating despite this ban, and then later in life my Celtic Pagan practice with Samhain. Ghosts, spirits, and witches feature prominently in my work and my ideas that germinate in this season, so it has been particularly fun to see opportunities and challenges with these prompts that have taken me outside of that realm! What draws you to Halloween? Does this crop up in your creative process at all? I would really like to know!
I mentioned on twitter that my favorite nursery rhyme was always “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary” because of how much I adored The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett and the 1993 film adaptation (which released when I was seven). So I decided to, rather than write a story based on a nursery rhyme, to expand the verse and change it to fit the theme.
Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With lures, and snares, and spells, and swears,
And pretty maids all in a row.
Mistress Mary, dark and scary,
Where to next will you go?
To here, or there, maybe everywhere…
You won’t ever see me to know.
Mary, Mary, adversary,
Shall we ever meet again?
On darkest nights with absent lights
To you I will come to sow.
Mistress Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow…
I am baffled by this idea, and I don’t know from where it comes. It creeps me out, and it is impossible for me to write anything for this prompt because I am just…unsettled by it. I am awful at every aspect horror. I can’t watch horror films, I very much appreciated Joey putting The Shining in the freezer when it got scary because I am exactly that way, and I do not write horror stories. Is this an episode of Buffy that I somehow forgot and then it came back to me in the form of this prompt? It feels like a Buffy episode…
I am struggling with the days where I can’t execute the prompts. I set a goal of doing the prompt every day, and I did work at this one, but I have thus far failed in that goal. So now, it is a different kind of work exploring why I stepped aside, analyzing if it was something I should have done, and then making space for compassion for myself in these small failures. It is good to remember that the writing process embodies so many other works and practices outside of getting words down on a page/screen. Be compassionate toward yourselves, friends! We can pick up our pens again tomorrow and start again. And as always, stay determined.