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Writing from Anticipation
by Sheila Bender

Return to Creative Nonfiction · Print/Mobile-Friendly Version

Here in the Northwest, despite the unusually cold temperatures we recently experienced, daffodils, crocuses and blossoming fruit trees add yellow, purple and pink to our current landscape. Under a week of consistently sunny skies, we find ourselves anticipating spring. We wake to light and prepare dinner before dark. The winter season's short daylight slowed us down and brought us inside to read and reflect -- all valued -- but I find myself rejoicing: Such light after the short days of December and January; such bright harbinger of the coming long days of summer!

When I walk past the shyly bent heads of the newly blossoming daffodils, I think of a favorite William Wordsworth poem:

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Outdid the sparkling waves in glee;
A poet could not but be gay,
In such jocund company;
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

The poem makes me realize that I not only anticipate spring, but also what I might write that will bring me a "wealth of images and memories."

To get started with some new writing, I created some prompts inspired by the word "anticipation." I believe they will help me generate freewrites (ten to twenty minutes of writing time each) that I'll then develop and shape into essays and poems. I also think the prompts will help you commit your experience to the page, no matter the part of the world you live in or the weather your season brings:

(1) Think about what you are anticipating. The finish of a project? The welcoming home of a child away at school? A promotion or a new job? The opening of a new restaurant in your neighborhood? A vacation trip? An award? A new job? A new responsibility? A new pet? A dream coming true? Or, perhaps you anticipate something sadder--the loss of a relative or a friend, the end of a relationship, the demolition of a building you love, the end of a project or job. Additionally, you might want to write about anticipating medical test results, an accountant's report, the trial of a relative or friend, or the tally of a vote.

When you note something that most interests you right now, write about what it is that you are anticipating and what it is like right now where you are doing the anticipating. Describe where you are with images that come in through the senses and what you are anticipating with details that show and evoke the person, event or situation.

(2) Write about a much earlier time in your life when you anticipated something with great excitement or with great dread. What happened when the anticipation was or was not fulfilled? You might write about anticipating the arrival of a baby sibling, a litter of puppies, a new bicycle, a particular relative, a friend coming home, or the opening night of a play you were in. Alternatively, you might write of partings--the day you knew you would have to say goodbye to someone who mattered, for instance, or have to leave a community you enjoyed. Graduations, promotions, transfers and accepting awards offer such a writing opportunity.

Fully imagine the arrival or the departure you are thinking about. What did you think things would smell, taste, sound, look and feel like? What did things smell, taste, sound, look and feel like when the arrival or departure actually happened?

(3) Think of something you would like someone else to anticipate that the person is not already anticipating or at least not anticipating with a fully drawn idea: growing up, marrying, having children, traveling abroad, going to college, learning a particular form of creative expression, or finding a career, for instance. In the form of a letter to this person, write what you wish for him or her and how you know that the very anticipation of the thing or event you wish for the person changes lives.

(4) Make a list of words that rhyme or half-rhyme with anticipation: constipation, trepidation, emancipation, unification, creation, for example. Read over your list and write about a time you were anticipating something and experienced a situation associated with one of the rhyming words.

(5) Think of another time you were in a state of anticipation. Write twelve paragraphs about that time, one for each letter in the word anticipation. Starting with an "a" and following with an "n", etc., make the first sentence of each of the twelve paragraphs open with a word that begins with the next consecutive letter in anticipation.

Now that you are warmed up to the idea of writing about what you are anticipating, and have done freewrites from these exercises, you will undoubtedly find something important flashing "upon that inward eye."

What you connect with will help you revise this material for shaping essays and poems, to create fields of your own "sprightly" daffodils. Although anticipation can cause anxiety and is also a way of keeping from living in the moment, it is nevertheless a part of our lives and a fecund source from which to write. As Emily Bronte wrote in her poem "Anticipation":

To the enduring seas - ;
There cast my anchor of desire
Deep in unknown eternity;
Nor ever let my spirit tire,
With looking for what is to be!

Make use of this very human trait as it plays out in your individual experience.

Find Out More...

Essay Writing: When It's Just Too Personal - Heather Haapoja

An Exercise in Essay-Writing - Sheila Bender

Finding Your Writing's "Occasion" - Sheila Bender

Personally Speaking - Kathryn Lay

Writing the Personal Essay - Mridu Khullar

Grab That Memory Before It Slips Away! - Uma Girish

Copyright © 2008 Sheila Bender
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.

Sheila Bender is a poet, essayist, author, and publisher of http://www.WritingItReal.com. Her poems appear in many North American literary journals and anthologies such as Poetry Northwest, The Seattle Review, Writers' Forum, Northern Lights, and We Used to Be Wives, among others. Her many books on writing include Keeping a Journal You Love, A Year in the Life: Journaling for Self-Discovery, Writing Personal Poetry: Creating Poems from Life Experience, Writing Personal Essays: How to Shape Your Life Experiences for the Page, and Writing in a New Convertible with the Top Down. She is a past contributing poetry editor to Writer's Digest Magazine and is on the faculties of the Colorado Mountain Writer's Conference and the La Jolla Writer's Conference. She holds a Masters of Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Washington and a Masters of Arts in Teaching from Keane College in New Jersey.


Copyright © 2017 by Moira Allen. All rights reserved.
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