08 January 2011

Writing Prompt: Fear & anger is ruining your country. Write for love..

I suppose this blog will need a prequel at some point to explain how exactly it is that, after an exhaustive year of reading and writing (and writing, and writing) for school, I've decided write a collection of essays to be published as a book.  Directly, it's about gender, which is to say indirectly it's about loving oneself, loving others, and celebrating diversity.   And when I say celebrate diversity, I don't mean like one of those awkward HR meetings with a brown bag lunch where they remind you to please follow the company policy of not being awful to brown people and maybe women, and maybe even queer people.  I mean celebrate diversity like throw a big party because I'm queer and monogamous and not religious and you're poly and straight and a Unitarian Universalist and neither of us need to save or convert or convince the other.  We don't have to sing Kumbaya, but we can at least have a block party together.  I won't even complain about the nitrates in your hot dog while I eat my organic quinoa salad, unless you happen to ask me why I have the food preferences I do.  Promise.

I've had little fits and starts of writing here and there, outlining essay names and some ideas, and feeling very foolishly proud and ahead of the game for having one essay already complete.  (What game I don't know since I'm unemployed and maybe four people even know I'm writing the damn thing.)   This is ridiculous because the completed essay is actually what inspired the book idea and until today I hadn't completed another essay, but I digress.  The devastating news of an assassination attempt on US Representative Gabrielle Giffords prompted me to write what will likely be the penultimate essay on the book, which is directly about loving oneself, and one's neighbor as well.  I see that as an antidote to fearing both one's internal reality and/or one's neighbor, which is the root of much oppression & violence.

I have lots of thoughts on that, but for now, I'd rather concentrate on writing, and the process thereof.  I remember learning to write here and there.  Persuasive writing was in the fifth grade.  At some point I got instructions on using more description in my (apparently sparse, utilitarian) writing, and later instruction to be less flowery and get to the point.  Only one college professor ever devoted a class period to writing, despite having to write multiple papers in nearly every course in my major and having  to write a thesis to graduate.  Additionally, I was generally considered one of the strongest writers among my peers, even in honors classes, and my experience of education is that the weakest students in a give subject received the most attention.

I am also a fierce critic and editor of my own work because I have complex ideas which I desire to explore fully, first broadly and then in minute detail, parsing arguments and laying things out in a spectacularly clear way, while still making attempts to remain as concise as possible.  Add to that a poet's soul, a penchant for snarky humor, and a bit of a perfectionist streak and I often find myself crippled by the second paragraph.  A blog wants to become an essay, an essay wants to become a book, and a book wants to become a multi-edition history of the world that brings together politics, particle physics, post-modern theory, and various other things beginning with the letter "p."  I then try to step back, reel in, use highly specific language to reduce overall verbiage, and focus my writing as narrowly as possible.

Today, I felt like I was writing one of the most emotionally raw, honest, and important pieces of my life and I had to let ALL of that bullshit go.  I don't know many writers or follow a great deal of them on Twitter but it seems that once again Kate Bornstein has been my mentor, even from afar.  I remember her tweeting about "crap drafting," and though I have no idea whether she originated the term, it has stuck with me.  It reminds me almost of the way on writes morning pages as prescribed by The Artist's Way, which is to say without any regard or attachment to what ends up on the page.  Of course morning pages are specifically NOT supposed to be writing as in an essay or novel, but more like a purge of the mind.

However, the tactic, I believe, works just as well for "real" writing, fiction or non.  It took writing this huge momentous thing to give myself over to it because nothing I've ever written before was so important to get out of me and on to the page.  I was writing about experiences so deeply personal and intense that I knew any editing by the second paragraph in would absolutely kill it.  I know that barely any of what I wrote will make it into the final copy.  I know that I was unfocused, and made poor connections between the story I was telling, and the (for lack of a better word) moral of that story. The thing is, I've rarely been prouder of anything I've written, not because this was written well, but because it was written honestly and I now have the raw materials that can be crafted into something beautiful.  I am trusting in my ability to crap draft now and revisit later.  I think this has opened up a path for the book to actually get written, instead of being an interesting conversation piece of something I'm "working on."


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