a blog by Ellen Davies

Writing Prompt: Waiting

Here is a writing prompt from Nancy Slonim Aronie of the Chillmark Writing Workshop: Waiting.

If you’ve read some of my earlier posts, you’ll know that I met Nancy at Kripalu when I took her workshop on Writing from the Heart. Her instructions to us were to take the writing prompt and spend 30 minutes on it.

No more than 30 minutes. The temptation is to keep writing and writing and revising until it’s perfect. But the goal is to write–to get the words out. Instead of perfection, we’re going for inspiration.

Are you ready to write?

Open your notebook and find a pen. Or use your laptop. Set a timer for 30 minutes. Take a few deep breaths to center yourself. Think about the prompt: Waiting. Then start writing. Go with your first instinct. When the timer goes off, stop. Read over what you’ve written. Then post it here.

Here’s mine.


Waiting, at the barn. I have waited in the car. I have waited sitting in a soccer chair under the trees. I have waited while wandering around the horse trailer, because nobody brought the soccer chairs.

You love horses. I understand. I have waited while you sound off, again, passionately, about how much you love horses, and how you wish you were old enough to drive so that you don’t have to inconvenience me, and how this next horse competition is the most important one, ever.

I have waited to speak. I have waited to explain myself. I have waited until you are done, so that I can say I know, I get it, I am fully supportive of you. I have waited for a different way to explain this, for new words or insights, for inspired, magical words that will finally reassure you. I have waited for you to understand me, that my support of you means endless hours of waiting for me. 

Meanwhile I am waiting in the car, in my ski jacket, with my wooly hat. I keep a stadium blanket in the back seat for really cold days. I bring the New York Times. I sometimes start the car engine and run the heat. The barn is a long drive—too far to drop you off and then go somewhere else.

When the weather gets too hot to sit in the car, I take the soccer chair out of the trunk and sit under a tree, in the shade. There is usually a breeze. I bring my library book. The cell phone service is lousy out here.

At horse shows, I wait while you tack up. I wait to be useful, but you want to do everything by yourself. I wait in the shade while you warm up. I wait outside the ring while you compete. We wait together for the judges’ scores. Then I wait for you to load up the trailer. Soon I am back in the car, waiting, while you unload the horses and tack and shovel out the manure.

One scary night the horse colicked, and we waited together for the vet. We waited for sleep, lying on the floor of the tack room, but mostly we just waited until it was time to check on the horse again. Waiting for him to get better. Later I anxiously waited for the vet bill, dreading the cost.

A few months later, the horse became injured. We waited again for the vet, the radiographs, the diagnosis. We waited out an entire year of stall rest as he healed. Then we waited for the truly awful news, that he wouldn’t heal. The decision was quick—we didn’t wait long to make it. The horse was in pain and there was only one thing to ease his suffering.

Then you were in pain, we both were, and I waited for you to feel better. I knew I would be waiting a long time. Your trainer knew that this sort of loss might turn you away from horses forever, so she did not wait. She hurried you back into riding, and she hurried to find a new horse for you.

They say that good things come to those who wait. I wonder what those good things are. Meanwhile, it’s quiet out here, and I can hear the horses whinnying to each other. I hear the clop-clop of hooves as they are walked to and from the barn. I can smell the familiar barn smell of horse manure, hay, and leather. I feel the weather as it slowly cycles from cold to warm to hot, from dry to damp to soaked. I wait.

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