I live in Nebraska--one of those square-ish states in the middle of the country. Outside of football, my adoptive home isn't often celebrated beyond its borders. It's cold, flat, and filled with corn, conservatives, and rabid football fans--just ask anyone who has never been here.
There's an element of truth to this, of course (it is often horribly cold, there is a shocking amount of corn, and Husker Nation is a sight to behold), but it's not the whole truth.
Nebraska has a true plains beauty, with glowing fields and (slightly) rolling hills. Its people are kind, as our dreadful new state slogan attests. It’s home to Willa Cather, the Sand Hills, Saddlecreek Records, poet laureate Ted Kooser, the Prairie Schooner (one of the oldest literary journals in the country), and Jun Kaneko. We are the birthplace of Kool-Aid, Johnny Carson, and Alexander Payne.
All of this home state boosterism leads me to Mary Pipher, psychologist, author of Reviving Ophelia, activist, and Nebraskan. Her recent op-ed in the New York Times let "Nebraska" be printed without "corn," "football," or "Starkweather" in a national news outlet and that always makes me happy. She also lets me champion the virtues and diversity of my state under the disguise of a long-winded introduction to today's writing prompt as I'm headed to New York (and cocktail conversation that is certain to include "You still live in Nebraska?" and “I drove through there once. It’s really flat”)...
To repay you for your patience, this one is really several prompts rolled into one, all of them uniquely yours:
Finding Your Voice
By diving into the experience of writing, you will learn what you truly think and who you really are. Your self-exploration is a way to pay attention to the world, within yourself and outside yourself, and to experience what Allen Ginsberg called "surprise mind."
Try answering these questions on paper:
What makes you laugh, cry, and open your heart?
What points do you repeatedly make to those you love?
What topics keep you up at night, or help you fall asleep?
What do you know to be true?
What do you consider to be evil?
What is beautiful to you?
What do you most respect in others?
What excites your curiosity?
If you were the ruler of the world, what would do first?
What do you want to accomplish before you die?
--from Mary Pipher, Writing to Change the World (Riverhead 2006)