Writing Prompt: Senses, Setting, & The Grocery Store

Hey everyone!

How have you all be faring this holiday season?

I gotta be honest, I haven’t been doing so great. Don’t get me wrong, my anxiety has been under control, but I’ve had a migraine since the beginning of November. There have been a few pain free days here and there, but the migraine symptoms like foggy headedness and fatigue follow me around like a stink. It’s awful and makes it impossible to get anything done.

I’m happy to report, though, that as of the day I am writing this post, I am on my second pain/migraine symptom free day! I feel human as opposed to a walking Zombie doing her best impression of “alive”.

It’s the holidays that do it for me. The drastic change in weather and temperature. The 4:30 PM sunset. My muscle memory associations with the season. In years past, there has always been so much to do and so little energy with which to do it. But as I continue therapy and actually enacting things like BOUNDARIES! And CONSISTENCY! And SAYING NO! I’ve found that there are parts of me I have to mourn, the parts of me that did everything, said yes to everything. But then, that version of me was resentful of the people who made demands of my time and energy when I had neither. So, this version of me is better. More consistent. She doesn’t show up to everything, but when she does she’s present. And it’s the presence that counts most.

Any way.

Being pain and migraine symptom free has inspired me to share some writing. In March 2020 when I threw myself back into writing, I started taking courses with The LA Writer’s Group. I had originally been looking for the Gotham Write-In’s I used to take in the city on Friday nights, figuring they’d be online since Covid had shut the world down. But I was pleasantly surprised to find Nicole Criona’s class.

LA Writer’s Group is a magical space. And Nicole does a fantastic job of nurturing her students and teaching practical application of writing strategies in a low stakes environment.

This group was where I found the inspiration for my first novel. It’s also where I met someone who would become one of my best friends.

If you are looking for a writing group, LA Writer’s Group is where it’s at. And since classes are offered via Zoom, it’s highly convenient, no matter where you are in the world.

Back to the scheduled program.

So, earlier this year (January 8th, 2022 to be exact), I logged into a class with Nicole and wrote a little something that I want to share here.

The Prompt: Describe a scene in which a character is in a noisy, busy place. The goal is to use sensory details and setting to create the scene.

This is what I wrote.

I sat in my car in the parking lot steeling myself for the impending chaos. I tried to get here for 9, but that was no guarantee of peace.

One breath. Two breaths. Close my eyes. Go.

I leave the safety of my Corolla and tread cautiously across the pavement, stopping short when a champagne colored Nissan Altima swings into the lot with a head of write curls at the wheel. Someone’s grandma fresh from the salon.

A woman with a screaming toddler gets to the carts before I do.

“I want to go home!” he yells.

“We just need to pick up a few things,” the mom says as she wipes down the sticky looking orange bar with a Lysol wipe. She hoists the grumpy kid into the basket, and me and the toddler make eye contact.

Me too, kid, me too.

I ride the wave of anxiety through the automatic doors.

Here we go.

FLOURESCENT LIGHTING! A Muzak station of Hall and Oates blasting from an invisible speaker! The produce section swarms with people, fat, thin, young, old, who all resolved to be better in the new year. They inspect organic lettuce and check tomatoes for bruises.

I get to the peppers, only to be cut off by a frat boy in a backwards cap and joggers. I look like a potato in my oversized hoodie and yoga pants. So, I smile awkwardly and vow to go back to the peppers later, when Mr. Abs is gone.

The dairy aisle is no better. The sea of patrons is thick. People hug in the middle of the aisle like a family reunion because that’s what people do in small towns.

But me? I’m just here for a brick of cheddar.

Well friends, that does it for this week. Let me know in the comments how you’re doing this holiday season, what you’re reading, what you’re writing!!

I’ll be off next week, but will be back with a post on December 31st. In the mean time, I wish you days of happiness and creativity.

Published by Robyn Neilsen

I am a writer and educator based out of New Jersey. My creative nonfiction essays and flash fiction stories have been published by Thought Catalog, Vocal Media, and On Mogul. As a lifelong learner, I enjoy honing my craft through writing workshops with LA Writers Group, Gotham Writers, and The Moth. I am currently querying my first novel and am actively working on my second.

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