Prompts, Exercises, and Those ’70’s Songs

Seems like writers can’t go anywhere without being challenged to do writing prompts or writing exercises. It used to be I felt they didn’t teach me anything, especially when compared to books on writing that made me learn the craft better. Then when artist Lisa Hsia sent me regular prompts, I realized they work great for warming up preparatory to working.

Yesterday, while trying to clean the office, I got distracted by piles of paper scraps – those vital pieces that aren’t organized so we can find them when we need them. And yep, I found a list of writing prompts/exercises. This one caught my eye: Seventh Grade Soundtrack.

Knock Three Times by Dawn. This was hugely popular and I was embarrassed when it would play. Why? Because what kid wants a mom who loves the same song they do? It would play on the TV and mom would sing along. She’d sit in her chair with dad on his end of the couch, puffing his pipe. I’d be lying on the brown and yellow shag carpet in the middle of the living room floor with siblings scattered around. We were the remote controls of the time.

Black Magic Woman by Santana. I liked this song but always felt a little uncomfortable, a little lost, knowing there was something I was missing out on, didn’t understand, didn’t yet know. Of course that meant I also felt just a little racy and grown-up listening to it. A future not yet grasped but on the distant horizon.

Mr. Bo Jangles by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. There was a deep craving when I heard this song, that I also didn’t yet understand. I was writing stories by then but didn’t know how deep that went in my soul. I only knew that when I heard this song I ached to know the story, what happened, why, what happened after. I wanted beginning and ending, not just middle. I still do.

He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother by Neil Diamond, during the year we’re talking about. I still listen to this song and it still brings up melancholy feelings, the hope for society, the sadness that we’ve never attained the goal; back then the realization that the hippy era was fading without having accomplished world peace. And now, the realization that so much time has gone by and we still haven’t. I wish this was a theme song now when reading the news about the refugee horrors.

Oh my gosh – One Bad Apple by the Osmonds, I Think I Love You by the Partridge Family, I’ll Be There by the Jackson 5. Instant flashbacks to slumber parties. With girls, now women, some now grandmothers, all still my best friends.

Slumber parties!

Slumber parties!

And way too many to write about all the memories attached to them. But I’ll list the titles here as my Seventh Grade soundtrack – the songs I loved as I transitioned to Junior High wearing the hated skirts and knee socks (no pants allowed, let alone jeans), cat eye glasses, freckles, not fitting in, horribly shy, blushing at everything, a story world more real than the real world, daydreaming on the school bus.

Indian Reservation (Raiders), Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling (Fortunes), Ain’t No Sunshine (Bill Withers), Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves (Sonny and Cher), One Tin Soldier (Coven), Sweet City Woman (Stampeders), Draggin’ the Line (Tommy James), Rainy Days and Mondays (Carpenters), The Drum (Bobby Sherman), Me and You and a Dog Named Boo (Lobo), Joy to the World (Three Dog Night)…

I need to stop. I’m starting to sing out loud. And now I’m warmed up to go do some writing.

How about you? What memories are attached to your seventh grade soundtrack?

4 thoughts on “Prompts, Exercises, and Those ’70’s Songs

  1. 🙂 I know most of those songs and refer to them as Oldies… 😉 But then I was in seventh grade in 1990/91 and was either listening to German pop songs on the radio or the German folk/country music you associate with Bavaria and Oktoberfest. The second kind was very uncool to listen to, so I usually never told anybody. My class mates went to their first concerts when I didnt even know those “New Kids on the Block” and their kind of music… 7th Grade started a wonderful 4 years of awesome school for me, with two wonderful class teachers and a really nice class that grew together very nicely over those 4 years to become good friends, even with the geeky ones. I think it is for a big part thanks to those two male teachers who were strict but fair and didnt allow any bullying but focused on team work and including everybody. Those were the best times of school for me! Oh, but I think I also liked ABBA which was ok to listen to… 😉


    • Oldies??? Did you just refer to my music as oldies? That’s it; you’re fired. Seriously though, it’s funny to me how a ‘soundtrack’ gets so associated with specific memories, emotions, people, time periods in our lives. Like your teachers.


  2. How about:
    Jim Croce’s I’ll Have to Say I Love You In a Song.
    Alice Cooper’s Schools Out for the Summer.
    I’m Easy by Keith Carridine.

    For some reason, all I can think of is my pre-algebra class. It was transition year for me because I had gone to a more rural school and now was in Junior High, and there were barely any recognizable faces in my classes. We did get to wear pants, which was amazing, since I didn’t ever consider my town very progressive. I think I was possibly an alternate twin of yours with the black frame glasses and, I played violin!

    Of course I moved away, but when i go back to visit family, I crack up because the Junior High building became luxury apartments and I can’t imagine any one living there–we all professed at the time how much we hated it and wanted to blow the building up.


    • Alice Cooper and Keith Carradine! That brings back memories. Though Keith brings back memories of his brother Robert, the actor who, at that time, was in the John Wayne movie ‘The Cowboys’. And I always liked Jim Croce. You’re braver than me mentioning the violin – I left out the hated clarinet…I imagine that was a hard transition from rural to a larger school. I wonder sometimes why those few years out of the sum total of our lives have such a huge impact on us.


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