A Challenge From Damyanti


I have mentioned, in the past, a writer who I have “met” online who I feel is amazing: Damyanti of Daily (W)rite.  Just about the same time I became incensed over Indiana’s decision to essentially eliminate cursive writing in their schools, Curse(ives), Foiled Again (their making Cursive Writing an elective only), Damyanti had an epiphany with writing: What happened to just plain paper and pen, and sending a letter through the mail? Some young-in’s may be confused by all this, but I jumped at the chance to do this with her.

Set with three Herculean Challenges of Writing, I will do what I normally don’t do here: make this about the process of, instead of the product of, writing. This is what I got in the mail from Singapore, where Damyanti lives:

Challenge #1:

Answer all the questions on this card [enclosed] the day you get this letter and if you want, later, on random days. Keep the answers, and if you would like to, send me a copy.

  1. What Do I Need Now? I feel that what I need, now, is something that I have squandered a bit in the past: Time. I find that working full time, and investing so much into the campers in my charge, I’m not giving myself time to really flex myself creatively for ME. It is that Catch 22 that I have often felt: I AM doing something I’m really enjoying (directing “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” finally); it’s just it’s Monday-Friday, 6am to 7pm (with travel, getting dressed, etc)…and I often rebel against holding these hours job wise.
    1. How Can I Give it? Being more creative with my time, and not procrastinating, would give me more time that I do have. I don’t have to play word games/Bejeweled on FaceBook, and I should not get lost online when I need to write.
  2. What Does My Work Need Now? Full commitment to what I said I would do: two hours of writing a day.
    1. How Can I Give It? Stop being afraid of all the positive comments I get on my writing. Yes. I back off a bit, sometimes, in the fear of not holding up my “end of the bargain” to the readers/fans; a good part of my procrastination comes from sometimes not seeing what I write, my skill as a writer, being as good as the expectations from the readers about my work.
  3. What Does This Moment Need Now?  Realize, no matter what it is, my fiction is reaching people in a way I never believed it would. Or could. Same with my poetry. I’m not even sure why I fight it so much.
    1. How Can I Give It? For me to get over myself, my insecurities &/or in-credulousness, and just write.
  • Observe the elements with all of your senses inside and outside.
  • Look Down (detail); Look Up (big picture); Look Out (vision); Create, reflect, re-energize.
  • Bring what you need back to your work; your creative best.

Challenge #2:

Go to the website http://cityofsharedstorieskualalumpur.com and read a few of the stories, Write interesting facts and vignettes about your city, the city you call home. (The site calls for stories, of no more than 1,600 words). This is my FICTION story:

Driving down the hilly streets of Yonkers, in search of a bakery run by a religious order (the cake she had ordered for her husband’s birthday, from his favorite bakery that delivered to his job, was waiting for her), Susanna made a right turn…and came across an enclave of prostitutes. There was no mistaking the scantily clad females for the craft they plied. Men in cars lined up, some just looked and sped away. Some stopped to haggle with this girl or that as they bent over, shoving ample near naked tits in the drivers faces. Many of the trolling trolls would  then whisk them away for the gratification that money could buy.

Susanna had at first driven by, incredulous at the discovery she made. Shocked, she drove to the corner, make another right, and pulled the car over. Her heart was beating fast, and Susanna found herself with her mouth gaping open wide as she took short but sharp breaths. The scene she had hastened to pass was only a few blocks away from a school and a local museum. Controlling herself, she pulled away from the curb, went to the light…and made a right turn, followed by one more that took her again to the run of street walkers.

This time, Susanna pulled over at the beginning of the block, under the late afternoon shade of one of the few trees in the area. She sat, and watched. The working girls ignored her while paying very close attention. All sizes and shapes prowled the line of cars. Curses rang out with raised middle fingers that mixed with the music from the cars and the few who laughed their situation.

She was as curious as she was saddened by the spectacle. This was the first time that she had ever seen prostitution in action, in real In-Your-Face action, and at forty-two years Susanna had not thought she could really be shocked by much. 

That is, until a familiar looking car, with an all too familiar man driving that car, turned the corner, slowed down, and beckoned to one of the women. She was young, looking almost as young as their High School aged Annie. The girl bent down, laughed, and nodded, and walked around to the passenger side door of the car and got in. They drove away.

Susanna opened up her car door, and she just made it out of the car as she bent over and puked.

Challenge #3:

Before opening my letter [there is a sealed envelope now waiting for me], describe the sort of stationary, ink and hand writing you expect to find inside. After opening the letter, describe your impressions of what you see and read.

  • Before: This one is tough. With all the care that has gone into the writing/thinking challenges I expect the paper to be crisp and clean, not flowery stationary. Knowing Damyanti’s site, that is how I envision this. The words, the language, seem important, not the trappings. ( I find this funny to say as I JUST changed, a few days ago, Tale Spinning’s paper & background to have a little more style. No one has mentioned it, but it’s a big thing for me.) I expect cursive writing, in the style of the original note of the challenge, and I’m not sure at this moment if Damyanti will keep the red pen she used for the challenge note or the black on the inside and outside envelope. If it goes with the thoughts from earlier, it’ll be the black.
  • After: Well, right and wrong. Right that the paper was crisp and clean (folding of non-withstanding). The language and style was what I expected: beautiful, and if I said it out loud it would have an exquisite mouth feel to it. I think I will read it out loud, just for that as well. Wrong, in that it was in the red pen. Not a big deal, but… when you look at what things mean…RED. Passion leaps to mind. Passion of writing, of inquiry, of language, of the hand written word as opposed to this flat typing of fonts.The long missive was a pleasure to read, but since this was a private letter, I’ll save my private thoughts for…

My goal, now, is to hand write a missive back (for it’s now after midnight and I have to get to bed for a full day of rehearsal). I have a lot to ponder, and besides my return writing, I have the return volley of a Challenge to Damyanti.

I hope you enjoyed this, are inspired by this, and you pick up a pen/pencil/quill, and write to someone for the sheer pleasure of expression. Let me know what you think.

Is This Not Art? Is This Not Beauty?

6 responses »

  1. Lovely! i never imagined you would choose to share your challenges on your blog, but I’m thrilled you did. Waiting for your letter now.

    The challenge for the fiction was 1600 characters, but 1600 words is good too..great job on that!

    Also the red pen is because I love writing with colored pens (blue, green , orange, pink, purple, red), it makes my writing flow…never thought of passion, but yes there is a lot of passion I put into my writing, hope it makes me a good writer some day.

    You’re such an enthusiastic writer and your work is so vivid and moving…I hope the first challenge gave you the space to mull over your writing, and helped you work towards giving it all it deserves.


    • Damyanti: ooops on the characters/words. I did this late at night long after I should have already been in bed…so, glad I was “forgiven” on that. Sigh. I should have been in bed by 11pm, not up to 1pm answering your letter.

      “Good writer some day”? You know I do not believe that statement from you, of you, about you. So… same to you on your writing, as you wrote to me about mine.

      This will be fun to discover. Thank you.


  2. What a wonderful challenge – would have been lovely to see the envelopes and get a sense for that writing 🙂 I noticed you changed your style and apologies for not saying anything. It’s not that it’s not looking good because it is, I love the colours combined with the simplicity of the background. I hope its a keeper 🙂


    • Hi SJ: I am cleaning up my emails (just got home) and will write back to Damyanti. This is just a fun and wonderful new journey to take.

      No apologies necessary re: the new page layout. I do plan to keep this as I feel it really fits a writers blog.

      Thank you for the support.


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