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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Invisible Writing

"My book was born of inner conflict and frustration, and an urgent need to be vocal, to have a voice. I needed to put on the page the stark details of this illness, and the stories, questions, insights, desires and debates that had careened through my mind for so long. I needed to restore the image of myself as a person in the world, to find my place after having been displaced. If the work of illness is restoration, in the case of a contested illness like ME/CFS, it is also the work of illumination, of making visible what has been unseen: the struggling body, the faulty enzymes and T cells, the medical myths that have erased this illness."

-- Dorothy Wall, author of Encounters with the Invisible

Today’s Word Count for the Novel: 119, 846. (669 words removed.)

Page Count for the novel: 443

Hope Clark, who has lately become my writers' guru for encouragement and writing opportunities, has a contest about Invisible Writing.

I know something about that. Writing was what I didn't accomplish these last few weeks.

Perhaps we'll consider this blog a rough draft for the contest. Invisible Writing is what stays in my head and can't emerge when Life strangles me with other things.

We've all tried, over and over in a day, to get something done and it just won't. Not for lack of trying, but for simply stumbling over a new crisis or road block every time you turn around.

You might be the mom managing a posse of toddlers, and you just sat down at the computer, thinking nap time is well underway. Lo and behold, a fight breaks out in Crib Land. There is no one around capable of adult conversation; there is no one to protect Writing Time. The future looks bleak with endless years of diapers, educational videos, and carpools. Parenting leaves you feeling like a failure, which leaves you exhausted and not exactly jazzed to write.

You might be a member of a family where the arts aren't valued. If you dare say, "Today I wrote," you get funny looks and even laughs. You get, "Since you're not doing anything, could you help me...?" Writing Time is a meaningless term to most people who love you as best they can; they indulge your idiosyncrasy, or they ignore it. You must seek way beyond your circle of contacts to find someone who is a peer or a mentor.

You might be the person toiling in an office 40+ hours a week who's carved out Sacred Writing Time, but when you show up to the page at the crack of dawn, late at night, or on weekends, your spirit is so crushed by politics you can't even lift your hands to keyboard. Instead you find yourself surfing jobs on the Internet. No one who supervises you values your writing when you use it for work purposes, and no one cares if their bad choices bleed stress into your writing time.

You might be anyone who tries to write but is mired in grief and stress over the illness or death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, the move to a new place or job.

These aren't excuses in my book. These are life events that hurt so much you can barely squeak out your pain or find enough sanity to focus.

I'm a Virgo, so I'm almost OCD about organization, and I'm dutiful to a fault. I'm also a talker and a purple prose writer (why say it in 2 words if you've got 200?) So it takes a lot to shut me up and slow me down.

These last two weeks, Life has left me speechless on the page. Oh, I've been sad and I've been angry in the moment, and people have heard about it. But even the pages in my journal can't get written. This blog is a breakthrough. And still, I wonder what words might have been written if life didn't intervene. Those invisible, lost words.

Stephen King warns in his book, On Writing, that life shouldn't serve art. How often I want it to. I place the writing task before people. I escape into the task.

There's the other rub: how to love your passion without it enslaving you. Sometimes I fight so hard to find the time that I lose sight of what's most important. You have on your warrior's helmet to make that writing as visible as possible, and in the process, you lose someone or something along the way. Family, friends, colleagues, happiness -- all lambs to the slaughter.

Today on my altar of writing no one awaits my knife. This moment is safe for writing and everyone in my circle. I abandon no one for it. In the moment, writing appears, like a glimmer of fish surfacing, then darting back down. The faint swish of fins through water; the bright yellow eye. See how it gleams.

Writing Goal: My ultimate aim: 150,000 – 170,000 words and a complete fourth draft ready for hard-copy editing by December. I am also writing a new short story for the Good Housekeeping Short Story Contest, due September 15th.

Writing Prompts: Please note that writing prompts should always be pursued in emotionally-safe environments with the supervision of someone who interested in encouraging good writing, self-awareness, and reflection. A wonderful resource is Pat Schneider’s Writing Alone and With Others.

© Lyn Hawks. Writing prompts for one-time classroom use only and not for publication in any form elsewhere without permission of this author.

Elementary Prompts

  1. What's invisible in your life?
  2. What do you wish wasn't invisible?
  3. What would you do if you were invisible?
  4. If you could make something invisible, what would it be?
  5. Imagine that you are someone who must write a very important note in invisible ink. Who are you? What are you writing? Why? Write that note in your own code and fold it up several times. Secure it with tape, staples, ribbon. Will you deliver it?

Secondary and Adult Prompts

  1. Write about invisibility. Do you ever feel unnoticed? Like you don't exist? When?
  2. List all the things you would make invisible if you could. Pick the most important one and explain why it should disappear.
  3. What makes your writing disappear?
  4. What would you do if you were invisible?
  5. Imagine a career where you must wear a cloak of invisibility -- special intelligence, witness protection, military, or any other work where you must be careful to protect yourself, others, or information. Describe that career and why you would or would not want to pursue it.
  6. Watch this short film about moments of life. Write about invisible moments.