So here I am for a belated check-in on the week that was, at the exact midpoint of the Creativity Workshop. This seems like the ideal moment to give a shout out to Merrilee Faber for the fabulous job she’s done hosting the workshop so far, guiding us all through this grueling* course with encouragement and humor, somehow consistently posting inspiration and nourishment for our writers’ souls, plus practical advice to boot.
Merrilee, you’re awesome!
I know the ranks of the workshop participants are thinning by the week now, but it is no reflection on you or the course, I’m sure. If my own experience is anything to go by, the reasons have something to do with how tough it is to churn out a story every week, consistently, and within a set framework. It’s rough going sometimes — but then it’s also invigorating and motivating and illuminating.
I’ve learned about myself as a writer and taken steps forward with my work and my understanding of The Work of an artist, period. That kind of education is the prize for those of us who feel called to do this crazy, kamikaze thing* and spill our words — and our hearts and our guts — onto the pristine blank page every day, over and over again.
Anyway, that last bit, consistent accumulation of words, I failed at that this week.
I believe I sat in the chair all of two times with my story in mind, and the first time I didn’t even get 300 words written before I went off to take a nap. By week’s end, I managed barely a thousand words, and I’m sure they’d never end up in the final version. They read like a rambling backstory, the kind of thing I freewrite in preparation for a novel. And I probably wouldn’t attempt that novel, if that’s what I had to go on.
In my defense, however, we topped a hundred degrees (with heat index) several days running, and the humidity was intense, and since I work at home in a house without central air, I’ve had no escape. I actually went to a Hollywood summer time-killer blockbuster in order to sit in a freezing cold room for nearly two hours.
Oh, and toward the end of the week I figured out I could drive to our little public library for some relief. Usually when I go there, I grab a stack of books and leave, because I hate reading in a cubicle, and reading in one of the circle of comfy, overstuffed armchairs in the center of the floor plan makes me feel as if I’m on public display. (Ooh, Mom, look at the reader!)
Nonetheless, I may find myself occupying an old-school cubicle for writing purposes this week. That position might also have the effect of forcing me to focus, with no distractions like dishes or laundry or garden or internet calling to me as soon as I try to form a sentence on paper. Talk about two birds with one stone.
Also, F. bought a window AC unit for the bedroom this weekend, and now that it’s installed, I should be able to get a good night’s sleep. Maybe the story output will improve somewhat, just because I’m not so grumpy in the mornings (which is generally when I write).
Of course, there is always the risk that this new addition to our home will inspire more midday retreats to the cool bed for a nap with Leo, who seems to know the right way to handle these temperatures.
Let’s just hope I make the right choice. (You are welcome to cross your fingers for me.)
This week’s story is based on something that actually happened to me in college: meeting a man in the emergency room of a hospital while we both waited to have one of our limbs x-rayed for breakages. It was strange and weird and in the end he turned out to be creepy, although I didn’t know that when I left the hospital on crutches, elated because he wanted to take me to the upcoming school dance. (Never mind that I could not dance with a broken ankle. Inconvenient details like the brand new cast now attached to my leg were not allowed to intrude and pierce the bubble of my adolescent fantasy that my future true love had just found me in an empty hospital hallway in the middle of the night. Yeah, right.)
But in this week’s version, in order to write a real, flesh-&-blood, three-dimensional male character, I am going to reverse our physical conditions, change the whys and wherefores of the incidents that got us individually to the hospital — and then make the female character in the midst of a full-blown, babbling mania.
Don’t you think that tiny, windowless corridor might start to feel a bit uncomfortable, especially with no other people around, not even a busy nurse coming to check on them for what feels like hours? (Sounds a bit like Sartre’s Huis Clos for university students, n’est-ce pas?)
And because of his broken ankle, my male protagonist will be unable to just walk away. He could probably crawl away, but really I hope I don’t need to take it that far. It will either be funny or crazy or horrible, but the scenario should force him to reveal some depths of personality. And also, I might exorcise a few personal demons of memory by writing it this way — and hopefully have fun doing it, too.
I’ll let you know soon. Meanwhile, look out for the integral settings exercise in this space, coming soon.
*So I exaggerate. Let’s call it “poetic license.” Truthfully, the course has been very challenging… but mostly because I have to master my own inner psychology daily to get my butt in the chair and actually write. The other stuff seems to be incidental to this most crucial of tasks — and it turns out it becomes harder to do after I fail at it a few times. If I push through the resistance anyway, I get on a roll and it’s easier to write every day: just following the energy, you know?
(The photos are a few more abstracts from my new, playful photography pastime. This series is tentatively called “Childhood.”)