September 18, 2019

Wednesday, Sept. 18


I’ve taken a couple of weeks off to get ready for the fall writing workshops; please forgive my absence. But I am back! And I’ll be giving you the prompts I’m giving the workshop participants, so you can keep up with that aspect of the workshop even if you can’t be there. 

I’ve been considering the concept of self-awareness lately, how we see ourselves. Is it possible to reach real clarity in knowing who we are? What makes us exceptional? What makes us imperfect? What distinguishes you from me? 

The way you wear your hair, perhaps. Or the way you walk, a rushed, striding gait, as though you are trying to catch a fleeing train. Or a hiccup of a walk; you’re certain you’re about to trip over an invisible obstacle. Or you suck your upper lip in and clench it with your upper teeth. You twirl a strand of hair around your forefinger. You avoid looking people in the eye; you look people in the eye too long for propriety or comfort. 

Think about yourself and the way you look, behave, speak. Then write 500-1000 words with you as the protagonist, the main character, using your own name in your story.

Here’s a brief example:

“Jane felt the tears flood into her eyes, as if an interior alarm had sounded and all her tear trucks had responded. She blinked repeatedly. She swallowed hard. She breathed long, deep breaths. No use. Water blasted over the brink of her lashes.

“Stop crying,” he said. He drew his lips into a razor-thin line in his horror-movie version of a scowl.  “You’re always overreacting.”

That was it. The words he had said for years sounded new somehow, even though she had heard them a thousand times before. Tears turned to fury. Fury turned to a flood of flung pottery, of fuck yous, of a finality she had not known she had in her. She stumbled down the steps to the basement and grabbed the big suitcase, thought twice and grabbed the smaller one too, then staggered two flights up, the fire of her fury flaming her face. She flung her clothes into the suitcases. There was too much, far too much. But she stuffed and she pushed and finally, because all reason had left her and because she was so certain this was right, she threw her body onto each suitcase and forced the zippers closed. 

He stood at the bottom of the staircase; his big body blocked the front door. She hoisted the suitcases as if they were shields, missed his bulk by a hair, and stormed out the back door.

“Be careful,” she said, smirking and staring him down in a way she hadn’t known she could, “not to overreact.”  

So give this a shot. You are your character. Use your name. Make stuff up if you want to. Tell the truth if you don’t. This is an exercise in describing yourself. Make sure you change at least one of your features drastically, to give you some distance. 

And be sure to have fun. 

As always, next Monday when you have finished this prompt, share it with someone. If you have been one of my workshop students, of course share it with me.