Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Benefits of Aging

Walking in, we knew last night’s writing class would be different.  We’d been asked to bring our pieces from the previous classes so we could begin a new process.  The first write was standard.  We were given two prompts from which to choose and we wrote for five minutes.  The second write was a bit different.  We were asked to look through our previous pieces, select a line that might have additional possibilities, and write it on an index card.  The cards were then placed in the middle of the table, shuffled, handed out and we each wrote using the prompt of someone else’s line.  As always, it was fun to hear where people went with their ideas.  The third write was entirely different from what we’d done before.  We were asked to go through a piece we’d previously written, select words or phrases that held the essence of the piece, write those on an index card and then rewrite the piece, using those words or phrases, to make the piece better or take it in a new direction.

Once the instructions were given, we all went to work reading through our notebooks trying to decide which piece to dissect.  This class is made up of a diverse group of people and our writing styles are just as diverse.  Me?  I write short pieces and I always hope to make them complete pieces.  As I looked back through my work, I realized I didn’t want to rewrite any of them.  I did come up with one promising line that I wrote at the top of a new page, “His words were just the background noise,” but I didn’t feel compelled to write from this line.  I sat there for several minutes trying to bring my brain around, but without much success.  Finally, remembering an idea from a previous class – always keep your pen moving – I just started writing what was going through my mind.  I basically wrote a rant on why I didn’t like this assignment:

Okay, I don’t like this assignment and I think my brain is throwing its own little temper tantrum.  “No, I won’t do it.”  Not that I can’t do it, I just don’t want to do it.  I write what I like.  I write in complete thoughts.  I don’t want to go back and pick a piece apart.  So, I’ll just stage my own little rebellion.  I’ll just have a little rant here and ignore the assignment.  Everyone will think I’m deep into the “new” piece.  They won’t know my new piece is my “I rule Debbieland.  I’ll do as I please” attitude about being told what to do.

This exercise makes my brain hurt – and not in a good way.  Sometimes I like my brain to hurt.  I like to feel that I’ve stretched it into a new pose – thought beyond my muscular comfort level.  But this kind of brain hurt is beyond where I’m able to stretch.  This type of hurt is like trying to do the splits when I know my body simply isn’t capable.

Afterwards, as people shared their writing, I passed, but I did own up to what I had done.  I realized on the way home that being able to say, “No, I don’t want to do that,” is one of the benefits of aging.  This was a pretty significant little rebellion for me, the person who has always been a model student.  It felt good to just say, “No!”  I would not have done that in my younger years – ah, the benefits of aging.  But then, as I thought about the writing assignment, I realized there is a piece I wrote that I might like to expand.  I’m not sure I’d go about it by picking out specific words or phrases and rewriting, but the idea of making that piece into something more is now intriguing me.  Perhaps I was wrong to let my brain stage its little temper tantrum.  Perhaps I should have been more open to this new idea for a writing prompt.  Perhaps I was wrong.  I surely wouldn’t have admitted that in my younger years – ah, the benefits of aging.


helen said...

The benefits of Write Around workshops continue to amaze me. Here you are a skilled writer finding insights from the experience and I see the same thing happen in the workshops we have at Oregon Burn Center. Many of our folks have struggled with writing for decades, yet they find their voice in those workshops.

Patricia said...

I like both your acceptance of your right to not follow the assignment as well as acknowledgement that you might have gotten something if you had.

I love how these workshops make me think.