Mirror, mirror, on the wall
+ a guest writing prompt from Tamzin Merivale
Welcome to Writing in Company. Each week I share some words and a writing prompt, meant to be jumping-off points for you to write about what matters. Use the prompts however you like—to journal, to draft thoughts for your own writing project, as meditation or prayer ideas, or for another creative endeavor. You can always look back through the archive for more ideas. Grab your pen and paper, and let your words loose on the page.
We were gathered at a conference, all around the theme of being Seen. In my afternoon writing workshop, I had just shared some ideas about mirrors.
How mirrors are often associated with the idea of magic. Mirror, mirror on the wall…
How the word “mirror” shares a word history with the word “miracle, ” both derived from the Latin mirari meaning “to wonder at, to admire.” Mirrors let us wonder at how we change and grow, and how we have the privilege of aging.
How a mirror image is always reversed, and shows us an image of a person rather than the person herself.
How 1 Corinthians tells us: For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. —1 Corinthians 13:12
How Edith Wharton said: "There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it."
And we had made a group list of mirrors we look into:
mirrors on the wall
mirrors over a sink
dressing room mirrors
By then the word mirror had taken on that odd quality of a word used repeatedly. Is that really how you spell it? Say it? What does it even mean?
I asked the women gathered to each pick up a tiny round mirror from the middle of their table, and use it as a prompt.
The groan was audible.
“Oh Julie, really?” one woman said, in a funny voice. Some others laughed, or commented to their neighbors, as they angled the mirrors to see themselves, and smoothed their hair.
I said: Write about what you see, who you see, or what the mirror brings up in you. If you need a place to start, begin with the words “She is…”
Finally, the room settled and the writers picked up their pens and started writing.
I was reminded of that reflexive groan—and also the rich and revealing writing that came later—when I read today’s guest prompt using the idea of a mirror, from the Irish artist and writer Tamzin Merivale.
I first encountered Tamzin in her guest post on The Isolation Journals. From a hospital bed, she wrote about a series of beds she had slept in and then invited us to write about the beds in our own histories. It is the kind of generative idea that I know my writing community loves, so when she responded to an invitation to provide a prompt for Writing in Company, I was delighted.
Enjoy Tamzin’s writing prompt for us, then find more about her art and work below.
a writing prompt from Tamzin Merivale
Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and imagine standing in front of a mirror.
Take a moment to look beyond the obvious things, beyond your appearance. Try to let go of any internal critique or discomfort that arises － ask yourself what’s there that doesn’t meet the eye?
What feelings and emotions are coursing through you?
What energy are you holding?
What light are you shining?
What story carried you here?
These things may be “invisible” but they are present － in my view, they are as tangible and real as the physical body you see before you.
If you’re struggling to see beyond your appearance, bring to mind someone you love or admire who enriches your life with their presence. Does that person know how special they are? My bet is that they don’t realise the full extent of the positive impact they have on you － human beings are exceptionally good at disregarding themselves.
Hold the image of that person in your mind and think of how they light you up. What is it about their company that you like so much? Can you pinpoint their energy and how it makes you feel?
Now, turn that back on yourself － you are that person for someone too. With that in mind, come back to your reflection in the mirror and visualize the light that surrounds you.
Where is it bright, shiny or colourful?
Where is there shadow, darkness or stagnation? Is it rough or smooth?
Can you see some movement, flow, or a direction?
Can you see love, flowing both to and from you?
Try not to attach meaning or judgements to what comes up, simply observe, notice and free-write about what you see.
more from Tamzin
A huge part of my work is showing people what they don’t see in the mirror, what they don’t fully recognise in themselves. I use energy and intuition to create portraits of someone’s powerful impact and light (you can find Soul Signs here: Introducing “Soul Signs” Energetic Portraits)
Alongside the portrait, I work with my clients to unpack their story, to shed the weights that may be holding them back or pinning them down.
With every client, I have noticed over and over again that we simply do not see ourselves as others see us. We don’t see just how much we light up a room with our presence, or how our smile makes a difference to someone’s day. We don’t see how dazzling we really are, or how our challenges and setbacks make us glow all the more. My job is to bridge that gap, and nothing gives me more pleasure than guiding people to see themselves and their stories more vividly.
Read more from Tamzin at her beautiful Substack: Resurface
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