I have not ‘written’ in a very long time. I’ve been teaching creative writing for 8 years but I stopped writing myself almost 5 years ago. A couple of years after my first and only book was published. I started this blog during that time and if you’re curious about that process and ‘second novel syndrome’ feel free to peruse the past posts.
I’ve changed dramatically as a person in the time since I stopped writing and have been recently coming to terms with a lot of those changes and what they mean about my life and the choices I make. And, probably because of this (I’ve always written, not to create new worlds, but to deal with my own changing reality), I’ve recently felt the urge to start writing again. Also, I suddenly realised I was far away from the pressure of ‘writing a second novel’, having pretty much decided that was possibly never going to happen, and therefore felt comfortable with just writing, with no end goal. It was this kind of directionless writing, the purpose of which was only ever to work through or analyse myself, that eventually lead to the writing of my first book.
So today, I found myself giving one of my classes some frankly good advice about writing just for the sake of it. Just to figure out what it is you think. And I felt compelled to do just that. So for the first time in years, I engaged in the writing exercises I had set my class while they did. I started by showing them some ‘list poems’ from The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon. Then I gave them some possible headings to choose from and asked them to write their own ‘list poems’.
The heading I chose for myself was “Things I want to write about”…because, well, I wanted to know.
Things I Want to Write About:
White male privilege.
Little boys’ anger. Little girls’ loneliness.
What men do to women. What women do for men.
Why my marriage was a sham. Why all marriage is a sham.
Why I love weddings.
What it feels like to be free of someone else’s mental illness. How I’ve learned to manage my own.
Why love is oppression.
The panicked hot feeling of wanting to feel again, but not knowing how.
How vulnerability makes me angry, sick.
Me, me, me and him. And all the hims.
She, she, she and you. And all of you.
From there I asked them to choose their favourite line and use it to start ten minutes of automatic writing. This means writing for ten minutes straight without letting your hand/pen stop moving. You are not allowed to edit as you go, worry about fine phrasing, fix mistakes, worry about grammar, spelling, punctuation etc. You are free to write crap and go off topic etc. It is literally a brain dump of words and phrases and ideas. The material created during automatic writing can help inspire other writing or itself be turned into/become it’s own piece. I have cleaned up what I wrote so it’s readable.
Me, me, me and him. And all the hims. All the hims that I kissed, sucked fucked. All balled into one amorphous blob of boyness. All maleness and anger and coy suave naivete. All I wanted was to make them happy. To make them feel as good as I could. To be a good thing, a good girl, the best girl, a girl that’s not like other girls. But what does it mean to be a girl not like other girls? Apparently it’s a good thing. Does that mean all other girls are bad? Are not good. What is a bad girl? Isn’t a bad girl the one who sucks and fucks her way into your heart? But you have no heart because you have a prick instead and if you have a prick you are taught that a heart is meaningless, needless, confusing, unnecessary. Hearts are a thing that girls deal in. Pink hearts, red hearts, pumping blood, angry blood, deep black menstrual blood. Blood that makes me go, sorry babe, not tonight, that makes you go, ew, I think I’ll stay up here. But really you don’t mind, the prick. You are happy to stick your dick in the wet stickiness as long as you don’t have to look, to taste, to smell. To feel. You are happy to feel the wet, the warmth, the slip and slide, as long as it doesn’t get on your hands, your face, your hair. ‘Cause what would happen if the egg got caught in there? What if the spunk went flying and some hit the egg and a baby grew right there in your perfect, floppy, unwashed, boy hair. Would you get someone to cut it out? Go to the barbers and have a short back and sides and abortion? Would you let it grow there? Weighting you down, weighing your big empty head down, your head that never worries about these things because why would you? Not my problem, her problem. Birth control? Her problem? Condom? Her problem… diapers, nursing, crying, growing, teaching, loving, all her problem. Oh look, I changed a diaper, don’t I get a pat on the back? Didn’t I do good? I even held him all by myself, after I birthed him from my perfectly crafted bedhead.
The first one, the first he, the first one that really mattered. The sandy one with the five o’clock shadow, the one who thought he was in a movie. Who wanted to be in a movie because then everything would mean something. Because then he would get what he wanted in the end. If he ever figured out what that was. If he talked like a line of scripted dialogue, said the cool things, the funny things, made the girls laugh, then in the end it would all turn out right. He wanted to be constructed, a character…And the character was good. Well drawn, believable and charming. Realistically unique. I wanted something real underneath, but I realise now, years later, that the character was all there was. The character was real because he created it. That was who we was. One liners, crafted syntax, Jack Daniels, and cartoon cats. He was The Encyclopedia of Romantic Appeal. And making girls laugh. He was in love with being in love. In love with that scene. The scene, as I started to drive away, the scene where he walks up to the car, where he puts his head in the driver side window. Where he makes me stop the car and look at him. The scene where he says, Don’t go. Don’t go follow your dreams. Don’t become a fully realised person. Stay here and be with me. Being with me is enough,surely. Being with me will be who you are, won’t it be lovely? Won’t it be simple? But no no no it is never lovely, it is never simple….A love like that, that wants you to only exist for its sake, is an oppressive love. One that kills everything inside you. That makes you into someone else. No, something else. Makes you into something. A thing. Any thing. A thing that makes him happy. That does all the work for him. A thing that regulates his emotions, makes him feel good about himself and no one else.
Finally, I asked them to take the first and last words in each actual line and construct a poem using only those words.
He Hearts meaningless movie
Perfect scene where I stay here
What have you wanted?
Things I wanted:
He; funny. Believable.
He; drawn. Not good.
I realise you created that problem
Inside regulates. Floppy head. Diapers.
Into red. From red.
His love weighing Me
Who else is sorry?
The look. It’s there.
Their short mind like a thing that was…
I feel good about this. About writing. Just to write. Just to see what I think. Just to see who I am.