writing exercises

Okay — I lied about yesterday. Last night I finally started to feel better, so I did that day’s exercise.


I finished that with “The last time I saw Smoky”. I’d thought about writing about my dog, Smoky, who died when I was 16 — he was 17 — but I didn’t want to do another memory piece. I wanted to do fiction. So I ended up writing about a guy who had connected some kind of pump to his system so his pores emmitted smoke. It was a Big Brother society, everyone was watched all the time. Smoky was one of those watchers. The POV person was a professional snitch, working during the times when Big Brother blinked. The last image was of Smoky dead. He’d been executed, hands bound before him, smoke bleeding from him, following along the trail of blood in the center of the alley.

Astonishing, to me, isn’t an adult emotion. Astonishing implies surprise, as well as amazing, a wide-eyed speechlessness and wonder. It’s extreme for an adult to be astonished — it isn’t a word that I use lightly. I ended up doing a short bit about something that I actually do find astonishing — the spring, how the flowers bloom, year after year. Miraculous, though, would probably be a better term for my feelings about spring. I ended up writing about Suzuki and his magic flute (Hi Laurel!) Suzuki lived in the woods. He played his flute as he walked along, listening to the notes as they echoed back to him, trying to stay in the center of them. Then one day his flute led him to a waterfall, and that was astonishing to Suzuki. The flute couldn’t echo the sounds of the waterfall — it couldn’t mimic the bass, deep notes of the water striking the rocks. Suzuki pounded on things to find that echo, pounded the ground with his feet, pounded the trees as well — until one echoed back. He made a circuit of the hollow trees — they were far too large to carry back to his camp — stomping the ground and strking the trees and singing the high notes of the stream.

During last night’s exercise I kept wanting to slow down, go back, rewrite. I wanted to add more details to the bar where the POV character and Smoky met. I wanted to add more descriptions of Smoky’s robes, how they billowed around him when he had the pump turned down and the smoke turned all wispy. But the exercise isn’t about re-writing, but writing. I’m glad that I forged ahead, got to that final image before the time ran out. There’s a chunk there that could be turned into a mystery story — though instead of a pump it’s probably going to have to be some kind of chemical reaction of his epidermis with the surrounding air that creates the smoke.

This morning I didn’t want to rewrite so much. While I really hated last night’s piece, though there’s something there that I might recycle at some point, this morning’s piece was much better. Now, they’re both writing exercises that will never see the light of day — at least not without serious work. But I felt better doing the piece this morning. I felt more like a writer, able to use words better, able to use the appropriate turn of phrase, or get that striking image. I’ve been missing that for a while, this feeling of being a writer. I can usually sit down and pull a bunch of words out — I have the training and discipline to do that. But this writerly feeling has been missing — that joy’s been gone for a while. I’d been hoping that some practice might bring it back (well, that and the new meds.) I don’t want to say Yay! yet. This is way too early. I’m still not experiencing life as a writer — and I miss it horribly. But I’m slightly optimistic, that after four days I caught a glimpse of it. My goal is to do these exercises every day for a month. Then we’ll see if I can figure out how to transition from just doing exercises to doing real writing again.

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