Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Putting it out there

by Deborah

Last week, I told you about the online courses I am doing to try to stretch myself a little bit.  I'm on day 3 of the writing workshop and Day 9 of the courage workshop.  They both are time-consuming and thought-consuming, more than I anticipated, but I like having the stimulation, and find that I feel more fulfilled thinking about things other than just school lunches and Halloween costumes and grocery shopping.  Not that those aren't important, but neither do they make me a very fascinating conversationalist.

Every day, as part of the Cultivating Courage course, we have to try a brave move, something outside my comfort zone.  Well, my move for today combines both my courses together, because I am going to share some of my writing here.  That definitely feels brave.  Which is perhaps silly, because of course I am writing here on this blog on a regular basis.  But this is different.  This writing feels more....I'm not sure how to describe it.  Personal, but heaven knows I've been extremely personal here on this blog.  Perhaps serious, and professional, is the description I'm searching for.  Writing simply for the sake of writing, with assignments and structure, rather than the random blatherings I belch out here.  Not that I am claiming this work to be anything impressive, just the opposite really.  The whole point of the writing course is simply to establish the habit of writing every day, so we are given prompts and are asked to write for 15 minutes every day.  Which means most of our work is stream of consciousness and first draft.  But I feel the vulnerability in sharing it in this stage is important, not because I want feedback (the course doesn't do feedback, and I'm not looking for it here) but because I feel like I need to stop saying that I am going to start writing someday and start writing now, and be strong enough to start putting it out in the world.  And I know this is a pretty safe place to start.  (*ps*  if you do feel compelled to comment, that's fine, but please be gentle and tactful)

Our first day of writing had the prompt:  tell the first story you ever heard.  Day two prompt: tell a story about falling.  Today, day three, the lesson was on expanding.  She asked us to go back to one of our previous pieces and expand on a portion of it.  I chose a short paragraph from my day one piece.  So, here it is. 

ASSIGNMENT: Go back to one of the prompts you've finished already, and see where you can expand. Flesh out a scene, slow down the action, or examine an aside you brushed past and really focus on it. Expand and expand and expand some more, for as long as the fifteen minutes will allow.

 Previous prompt excerpt:
She was kind and I reveled in her attention, already aware that most semi-adults were uninterested in me. I remember following her through the towering sunflowers in her parent’s backyard garden, a maze of rough green stalks and aggressive giant yellow flowers, veering between panic at being alone, and thrilling to the game of chase. Occasionally I would round a cluster and find her suddenly, crouched and giggling. She would stand, and as I looked up to her, the sunlight would halo around her and the flowers, so that for one dazzling moment I couldn’t tell them apart.


It was a forest of hairy green trunks, a maze of sunflowers that rose to the shoulders of adults, and towered like flat-faced giants over my four year old head.  She was the neighbor’s daughter, a teenager, and I reveled in her attention, swiveling to her like the sunflowers to the light.  She would lead me by the hand into that forest, and she would kneel in front of me, her face lit with that exaggerated wide-eyed smile people do with children, instructing me to close my eyes and count to ten.  I nodded mutely, determined to earn her approval, even though the flowers scared me, with their stalks rough and thick as me at the bottom.  I obediently closed my eyes, plunged into darkness, and heard her feet patter away softly through the dirt.  I needed all my concentration to remember my numbers up to ten, so was too distracted to note that I was now alone.

 “Ready or not, here I come,” I called tentatively.  I peered through the semi-dark of the backyard garden, planted with nothing but row after row of oversized sunflowers.  The tops of the yellow trees swayed above me in the wind, creating a soft hissing that made me shiver.  It was the dead of Texas summer, cicadas buzzing their soundtrack of oppressive heat, but in this labyrinth the crowd of blank yellow faces above blocked out most of the sunlight, dappling the light onto the dry clay underfoot. I picked my way through the aisle, trying to avoid brushing against the prickly trunks and their large, veiny leaves.  I felt a mild panic that my friend would jump out from behind one of the plants and scare me, and so crept forward in uncertain lurches, craning around each trunk.  I felt an even stronger anxiety at being so alone, something that rarely happened to me in my short life thus far.  I always had a brother or a parent or a caregiver within eyeshot, and navigating this wilderness of vertical monsters on my own sent my heart hummingbirding about my chest.  I slipped between two stalks, holding the leaves away from my face, into the next aisle.  I felt a little braver at having touched the Wild Things and began to thrill to the exhilaration of the chase.  I loved Hide and Seek just for that blazing moment when you unexpectedly happen upon your prey, startling you both into shrieks of half-frightened laughter, and so I trotted forward with more eagerness, nestling my fear and excitement in my throat.  She was crouched at the end of the next row between two black-centered yellow mammoths, and I saw her at the exact moment she crashed forward and yelled, “BOOOO!”

I screamed with a giddy mixture of alarm and ecstasy and she tickled me while I writhed away trying to assert, “I FOUND YOU” over my involuntary laughter and breathlessness.  She stopped, gave a happy sigh that relaxed her shoulders and then stood.  She was the same height as the flowers, and her blond hair mixed for a moment with their golden ferocity in the overwhelmingly bright sunlight and for one moment I stared up, dazzled, unable to tell which was friend and which was flower.
That's my brave move for today.  Thanks for sharing it with me.

1 comment:

  1. you are most defintely a writer, This is incredible, I love all the detail and the metaphors are powerful! Rockin vocabulary woman, keep going cause you have a book in the making here!