Loneliness Matters: A Story, a Writing Prompt and a Poem
Writing Challenges and Prompts
Writing challenges and prompts can be very useful for writers. They often stimulate the imagination and creativity and can be very inspirational. By participating in a challenge or basing a composition on a prompt, a writer may be able to practice new styles of writing and explore new skills. The process can be fun, satisfying and educational at the same time.
I enjoy creative writing and often use prompts to give me ideas. I created the poem in this article from a prompt obtained from a short story. The story was written by Brenda Chamberlain, a twentieth-century writer from Wales. Her life and writing inspired me to think about loneliness and the problems that it causes.
Examples of Writing Prompts
A writing prompt is anything that stimulates new ideas for writing topics. It may consist of words, a picture, an object, a scene or even an experience.
Written writing prompts may consist of a single word, a phrase, a sentence, a paragraph or a question. The writer may choose to use the words in the prompt inside their own writing or to write something based on an idea triggered by the words.
A picture used as a writing prompt can trigger a description of what's happening in the picture, why it's happening or what happened next.
Attempting to create a piece of writing from a prompt is a type of writing challenge. The term "writing challenge" is sometimes used in a slightly different way, however. It often tries to stimulate a writer to achieve a new goal, such as writing a certain number of words in a day, writing for a specific number of days in a week or writing in a new genre.
Brenda Chamberlain: An Artist and a Writer
Brenda Chamberlain was a Welsh artist and writer who lived from 1912 until 1971. She was born in the city of Bangor in Wales and trained as an artist at the Royal Academy Schools in London.
While in London, Chamberlain met John Petts, an artist and a craftsman. The pair married in 1935 and returned to Wales in 1936. Here they established the Caseg Press, which published greeting cards, postcards and bookplates.
During the second world war, Petts became an ambulance attendant in Europe and the Middle East. Chamberlain remained in Wales and temporarily became a poet instead of an artist. She published the Caseg Broadsheets with Alun Lewis. These contained poems by Chamberlain, Lewis, Dylan Thomas and Lynette Roberts.
Chamberlain and Petts divorced in 1946. After her divorce, Chamberlain continued her writing and also returned to art, for which she won awards. In her later years she suffered from bouts of loneliness and depression. Sadly, her psychological state eventually led to her death.
An Epidemic of Loneliness
News reports today talk of an epidemic of loneliness or a loneliness crisis. Even allowing for some exaggeration, it certainly seems that the number of lonely people is increasing. Different people have different ideas about why the loneliness problem appears to be getting worse. Whatever the reason, some people need help.
Loneliness and depression are not the same thing, Severe loneliness can lead to depression, however. Researchers have discovered that loneliness is also bad for physical health. Investigations suggest that chronic loneliness disrupts sleep and increases the risk of some diseases, including cardiovascular problems.
Being alone doesn't necessarily mean that a person is lonely. Some people are content in solitude. For others, though, the desire for connection with other human beings is strong and unfulfilled.
I've explored the topic of loneliness, but I'm not a mental health professional. Anyone who is experiencing chronic or serious loneliness should seek help from a qualified person. Self-help after reading suggestions from professionals may be successful. If personal counselling or therapy is necessary, however, it's important to get it.
Overcoming Loneliness: Some Possibilities
Many people are lonely at times. A person who is frequently or chronically lonely may need help. Loneliness can be caused by a variety of factors, including knowing or having access to only a few people, having superficial or unsatisfactory connections with people or feeling uncomfortable during social interaction. Solutions for loneliness therefore vary.
A lonely person may need to contact an organization, a counsellor, a relative or a trusted friend for help. Joining a group or class that explores a topic of interest or helping people in need by doing volunteer work may reduce the feeling of loneliness. Walking into an area containing people and exchanging a greeting, a comment or even a smile with someone else may be helpful for people who find social interaction difficult. Determination and repeated practice may be needed, especially if some of the attempts to interact are unsuccessful, but the end result could be very worhwhile.
Keeping a pet is often recommended as a tactic to relieve loneliness. While a pet can be wonderful company, it's important that a person thinks about the pet's wellbeing as well as their own before they bring it into the home.
Doing research to discover how other people have dealt with loneliness may be helpful. Specific people and written material can be inspirational. I find the quote below inspiring, since nature is an important part of my life.
Here I sit between my brother the mountain and my sister the sea. We three are one in loneliness, and the love that binds us together is deep and strong and strange.— Kahlil Gibran
Northwest Wales: The Temporary Home of Brenda Chamberlain
The long and thin projection in the map above, the Snowdonia National Park and the island of Anglesey are all located in the county of Gwynedd in northwest Wales. Bardsey Island is the tiny speck next to the tip of the projection. The island may have partly prompted Brenda Chamberlain in her writing of the story called "The Return".
The Return: A Short Story by Brenda Chamberlain
As a writer, Brenda Chamberlain is known primarily as a poet, although she also wrote novels. She wrote at least one short story as well, which I have in my copy of "The Penguin Book of Welsh Short Stories".
The story is called "The Return". It's a moving tale of a woman named Bridget who is in love with a dying man. He lives on an island separated from a mainland village by a dangerous sea channel. The man is married to someone else, but the couple are separated. Nevertheless, Bridget faces disapproval from the villagers for her relationship with the man.
After a short time away, Bridget travels alone from the village to the island in a heavy fog. At the start of the trip she learns that the wife of the man she loves is planning to visit the island in the near future.
During the difficult boat voyage Bridget becomes surrounded by fog and is forced to lay anchor overnight. As she sits in the boat, she thinks about her life and her love. The quoted sentence shown below describes Bridget's experience as she awakens from a dream during her night at sea.
Brenda Chamberlain lived on Bardsey Island for a while. The island is located off the coast of northwest Wales in the county of Gwynedd and is known as Ynys Enlli in Welsh. The Welsh name means "Island in the Currents". Dangerous rip tides surround Ynys Enlli. Historically, the island was an important religious centre. It's known today for its interesting wildlife, including dolphins, porpoises, grey seals and birds. To me, the island sounds very much like the one described in "The Return".
Video of Bardsey Island: Waves, Wind and Animals
A Writing Challenge, Prompt and Poem
Participants in the writing challenge which triggered my poem below were asked to first choose a sentence from a magazine, newspaper or book. We were then asked to write a story or a poem, starting each line with a word in the chosen sentence and using the words sequentially. As an alternative, we were allowed to base our composition on the sentence in any way that we wanted.
I've used all the words in my chosen sentence in my poem, but they aren't used sequentially and they appear anywhere in a line instead of always at the start. The poem describes a woman's escape from loneliness and depression and her fear that the companionship and happiness that she is currently experiencing are only temporary.
Out of dream, she swam into consciousness, painfully leaving the dark figures of fantasy.— Brenda Chamberlain in "The Return"
Loneliness Lies Sleeping
Loneliness lay sleeping
and depression curled within;
dark figures of the night
asleep in strange repose
She crawled away from darkness
for fear of waking pain,
and heard the distant call
of friendliness and care
She swam towards the light
through consciousness and hope
and touched the ancient dream
in wonder and delight
She stood amidst the love
and tendrils of concern,
and welcomed happiness,
a fantasy no more
Amidst the tears of joy
at leaving grief behind
an icy shiver ran;
remembrance of the past
The road led into life
and out of cold despair
She took the path revealed
to find community
Yet still they slept within
quiescent but alive
sending chilling dreams
of being painfully reclaimed
© 2015 Linda Crampton