It’s hard to write a story based on someone else’s idea. That’s what I’ve learned from the first round of our Matchbox Project. When I asked you – Alphabet Soup’s readers – to send in story prompts, I wasn’t expecting to receive so many or such good ones. Over the past four weeks, while I tried to integrate your suggestions, I learned that the reason why my natural writing process always begins with my own idea is that the instructions for writing the story are already contained within that idea. But when it originates from a different mind, the creative path gets a lot trickier, and the first—and most critical—thing I had to do as a writer was to find a way to make the idea my own—to turn it into something relevant and vital to my life.
I managed to go through this fascinating process with a story prompt sent in by Tamara (I won’t give the specifics because I don’t want to ruin the story), which dealt with instability and change. And what could be more fitting for a writer trying to write a story using a brand new method he’s never tried before? Thanks, Tamara!
In two days, we’ll open another round of the Matchbox Project, so if you have a good idea for a story, or an inspiring photo or picture (unfortunately the platform only lets you post images as links), share it with me after you get the Sunday newsletter. Now that I’ve learned how to let go a little, it’ll be easier.
At the end of his private yoga class, when Gavri paid the instructor, instead of thanking him or chirping “See you next week!” she gave him a penetrating look and said, “You have to learn how to let go.” Gavri nodded without answering. He found it irritating that she would say something like that, out of nowhere. She was his yoga teacher, not his therapist or his spiritual guide or whatever it was called, and he took classes with her to treat his back pain. That’s all. That’s as far as it went. Shiri, the instructor, was a little chubby, but it’s not like Gavri would have dreamed of telling her, “You should really lay off the junk food,” would he? People sometimes don’t know their place, he thought to himself on the way home. He walked up the stairs in his apartment building, but when he got to the third floor, something seemed very wrong. On the right side of the stairwell, where his apartment door should have been, was the neighbor Stella’s brown wooden door with the sign saying, “The Kirschners,” while his own familiar white door, with their names and the boat that Omri had drawn at preschool, was now on the left side.
Gavri tentatively put his key in the lock and the door opened right up. Omri and Mirit were in the living room, singing along with a kids’ song that was playing. Omri ran over and shouted, “Daddy! We built Lego towers at preschool today and the teacher said mine was the tallest!” “My little genius,” Gavri said with a smile and mussed Omri’s hair. Then he whispered to Mirit, “Honey, what’s the deal with the door?” Mirit had no idea what he was talking about. “It’s on the left side,” he explained, and when she gave him a questioning look he became a little impatient. “Don’t you remember that our apartment door was on the right?” “No,” Mirit said with an apologetic smile, “but you know what an awful sense of direction I have…” “Mirit,” Gavri said firmly, “look at me. The door was definitely on the other side of the landing. Do you believe me?” “Of course I do,” Mirit said. She laughed, but it was a slightly anxious laugh: “I totally believe you. But why are you making such a big deal out of it? Does it really matter which side of the building we’re on?”
That evening, Gavri ran into Stella on the landing, and when he asked if she happened to remember which side her apartment had been on that morning, she looked at him as if he’d lost his mind. Thinking about it as he lay in bed at night with his eyes open, he decided it really wasn’t such a big deal. From a real-estate perspective it had been a profitable move, because now they had a rear-facing apartment, which was worth at least twenty thousand shekels more. Still, he had trouble falling asleep.
At his next yoga class, he tried to engage his instructor in small talk. He told her that thanks to the class he’d started reading about Buddhism and he found it very interesting. Shiri nodded and recalled that someone at her teacher training had said it was related, but she was more into the physical side of yoga. When he got home after class, he had trouble finding their building. It was strange, because all these years it had been right next to the 15 bus stop, and now all of a sudden it was on the other side of the street. Omri was waiting for him in the living room, wearing a new pirate costume that Mirit had bought for Purim. “So, what do you think about our little pirate son!” Mirit exclaimed. Omri waved his plastic sword around: “Argh! Give me all your treasure or I’ll feed you to the sharks!” “Adorable,” said Gavri, “adorable. I just have to ask, honey, if you noticed that… our building moved?” Mirit gave him a worried look and whispered, “My love, please don’t start that again. Stella told me you asked her about this business with the...shifting. It made her very anxious, and you know she’s not all that young or healthy anymore—” “No, no,” Gavri interrupted, “it’s not about the apartment. It’s just that…our whole building…well, it used to be next to the square, and now it’s on the other side. Didn’t you notice when you came back from preschool today?” “No,” Mirit admitted, “I didn’t. Why? Is this side not as good?”
The following week after yoga, he was tense the whole way home. The building hadn’t moved this time, but Gavri discovered that their apartment was now on the fourth floor. He was about to bring it up with Mirit, but he decided to drop it. He stepped out onto the balcony. Now that they’d switched sides and climbed one floor higher, they had a view of the sea. Mirit followed him outside and handed him a glass of Diet Coke, and they sat gazing at the view in silence. “What are you thinking about, my love?” she asked and stroked his face. “Nothing,” Gavri said with a smile, and put his hand on her shoulder, “just something my yoga teacher told me a while ago.” “Want another Coke?” Mirit asked. “No thanks,” Gavri said, “I’m good.”