Let’s not regard this as a real post; let’s regard it as homework, since that’s what it is. That way, anyone who reads it is helping with my homework.
Our new season of classes began yesterday, and my first one–chosen specifically to unlock my mental writing block–is called “honing your writing,” or something like that. Just to be clear, Osher classes usually don’t require homework, but some Greek smartass a long time ago said If you wish to be a writer, then write!” and that’s more or less what the writing prof said too. So all of us promised to try to write a few words EVERY DAY for the six-week duration of the class. So here I go, with the idea of combining the two blocked areas of my life–writing/blogging–to see if I can overcome both.
Yesterday’s class included an in-class exercise of finding our stories by Bubbling. I remembered doing it long ago, but with the prof standing over us with a bullwhip (I jest a little) I began with the note page you see below. (That’s my handwriting–lousy, huh?) For years I’ve wanted to do a long piece on the place where I grew up. Some of the people there, my family too, were real characters to say the least. And my life growing up on a farm in the 40’s and 50’s was so different from the lives of my children and grandchildren, I want to leave it as a legacy. That way, should they lean too heavily to self-importance, it will remind them my humble beginnings. Maybe someday they’ll be happy to have it. So here’s my first bubble. From there I bubbled whatever came to mind. I found I didn’t run out of ideas, but I did run out of time. Does this bubble look like a best seller to you?
What makes a book a best seller anyway? I suspect it happens when a book begins to sell well enough that suddenly everybody wants to be in on whatever the latest cool read is and goes out to buy the same book, especially if it has lots of explicit sex (Think: Fifty Shades Of Grey and Lady Chatterley’s Lover of my day). I’m sure I’ve acquired books in that guise myself. If you can’t produce the cool stuff yourself, then be one of the first to read it. I think that’s how it works. Then there are the others that don’t need explanation (Think: The Book Thief and To Kill A Mockingbird). Anyhow, I’ve come to a good place in my writerly life. I still want to learn to write the very best that I can even if I’m too old, too lazy, or not smart or talented enough, because the older I get the harder it gets to organize my ideas.
So where do I begin? Nothing in class was new, I admit, though it’s good to be reminded. I know the best place to begin is not necessarily at the beginning, but in the middle of something. I think of it as putting the reader right there in the scene as an unseen observer. But I did learn a new Latin phrase In medias res! In the middle! Our next in-class exercise was to write without editing–for five minutes–a scene that begins in the middle, and see where it would take us. Here’s mine.
Look at her! Eighteen years old and she had never been to the circus, never done much of anything to tell the truth. Now she had a boyfriend who called her “Princess,” so when Barnum & Bailey came to town she asked him if he would take her. Now here they were, sitting in the bleachers up high enough to see all three rings at one time. The ring in the middle was empty, but in the first one she watched a man dressed in fancy britches coaxing a tiger through a series of hoops. But it was the high-flying trapeze artists that were lining up to enter the mid ring that intrigued her the most.
In my mind as I wrote I was seeing the net stockings the tired-looking performer was wearing, especially the hole in the back, on the thigh, that I was pretty sure she didn’t know was there. Suddenly the circus I’d always thought of as so glamorous looked a whole lot different than it did in my dreams. Did this circus portend her future, her life as an adult? But five minutes didn’t allow me time to include those images.
There! That’s enough for one day! I’ve done slightly less than 700 words already. Tomorrow, or should I say “next time,” I’m not sure where the muse will take me. Perhaps I’ll write about a few of the other questions a writer faces, such as a beginning hook (to snare the reader from the get-go). Or maybe I’ll write about things that bug me in general, like grey-haired 0ld men with flat-top haircuts.
Meanwhile, if anyone reading this aspires to be a writer themselves, then I refer them back to the opening paragraph and that Greek guy’s words: If you wish to be a writer, then write! Feel free to use the prompts that I’ve shared from my class. And then let me read it.