Friday, July 27, 2007

Round the Block

I meet up with a couple of people once a week, if we can manage it, in order to write together. We have done this for years. Sometimes what it written in the sessions becomes poem or story, other times it stays just as it is and serves no particular purpose. We like to do it and it is a convivial form of writing practice.

Today I brought along my Writer’s Block which is actually a block of ideas, images, words, all designed to “jump-start your imagination.” But sometimes the very notion of all the possibilities scares me. They are doors I don’t feel able to walk through. Then at other times I can open any thought, any image at random and go into it. Whatever “it” is welcomes me with open arms, but it can feel strange leaving at the end of the allotted time, as though walking out of a relationship just begun, ended before it has been given the chance to flourish. When I think of the many writing sessions I have undertaken, on my own or with others, my sense is that I was bridegroom and the words and images were brides who all said yes and opened to me, and I left them all stranded and perplexed. They waited for a while and then shrivelled away, disappointed. I could have gone back to any one of them and made something but they all wanted, expected so much of me and I couldn’t settle for anything smaller than they were, nor could I give the commitment wanted of me. Perhaps this is how it is to be a philanderer.

I wonder if it’s reproach I feel (mine or theirs?) as I open the door and catch sight of their faces; is it that I know how much is involved in the engagement and that I haven’t a hope of fulfilling my obligations or that I can’t spare the emotional and physical energy for even a brief affair? It is the hope they place in me that scares me, the fact that they have not stopped wanting.

786 Ideas to Jump-Start Your Imagination, says the block. The image of a car, yes? This is what came suddenly to mind this morning; a car that can’t get started on its own because the battery is flat, so you attach the leads to a vehicle whose engine is up and running. You jump start, the engine revs and you go for a bit, sometimes slowly, sometimes roaring along the motorway, doing the ton. Then you stop, turn back, go home, always before you reach your destination. You had set out for Cornwall, Ireland, France, Africa even, why not? But you don’t get to any of these places, you turn around and go home.

Then I opened the block at an image of a mangled and broken-to-pieces car. There were men in protective jackets and helmets gathered around, attending to it or attending, perhaps, to the people inside it. Synchronicity. And that’s another thing: so many of the journeys seem to want to begin with a trip down Misery Lane or Disaster Highway. On the other page there is simply “9.11”. I have never, will never want to use such an event to jump-start. Not that I have anything against it on principle, but I have nothing meaningful to say about it. Well maybe I have got something against it on principle. Why should I use this kind of disaster as a vehicle for one of my abortive journeys?

So I turned the page: “Write about the worst lie someone told you.” I could have made that one up, I suppose, but if these jump-starts are any good they usually draw from the source of lived experience – a slide into the ditch of Misery Hollows. I am not in the vein.

Flicking to the next thing brought something a shade lighter: “Write about the worst driving you’ve ever done.” No great incidents there, nothing that involved anyone getting hurt, nothing more than an unsightly dent in the side of my car, and not even another driver involved. Actually, no story. But yes, of course story (I know, I know) – context! Can I be arsed, though? I was driving the car in the grounds of Sussex University where I’d been at the bookshop looking for a couple of creative writing books because (being a teacher of such) I wanted to keep my finger on the pulse. Irony? And I simply edged the side of the car along a place where I was not aware of an obstruction. No, really.

One last flick of the block: “Invent a character who sees a phone number on a restroom wall.” What is a rest room? A euphemism, like all these words. Anyway, the next bit: “Describe what happens when he or she dials it.” This is quite good because in this day and age once could do that while still sitting and finishing one’s business, because of mobile phones – though the image they helpfully provide shows a set of push-button numbers, the kind you would once have found in telephone booths, the sort with letters grouped in threes underneath each number.

And why would this character, he or she, dial a random number in this way? Pluck something out of the air and see where it leads? For the same reason, perhaps dear reader, as I open the Block looking for the jump-start. Because there are times when one has to go somewhere – anywhere, begin a conversation, take a risk. There may be danger. There may be the fulfilment of a dream. There may be nothing. I thank you.


Kahless said...

I have had a bit of block lately, a few idea's have sprung from your post. Thanks. I like the line...

'take a risk. There may be danger. There may be the fulfilment of a dream. There may be nothing.'


Anna MR said...

Hei Singsypet, I liked the line Kahless liked, too (and hello, Kahless, I have been loitering with intent at your house, mighty mad over there, love it a lot), and as a fellow Prince, dear heart, I also liked
"I was bridegroom and the words and images were brides who all said yes and opened to me..."
although I have a feeling I maybe shouldn't have. I fear maybe I would have liked to be a philanderer, at least in one of my lives...?

But seriously, my dear - it's as if you are describing life itself. Which is probably why your stuff is so good - because it feels like life itself.


jyhrr - the sound of a big wheel turning

Reading the Signs said...

Hi Kahless, I've read some mean (in a good way) and inspiring pieces over at yours. Who'd be an artist, what? Always a bit on the edge.

As you should know and all, brother prince Anna, (you spotted the bridegroom, ha!). Thank you. It is like life itself, mine at any rate. I tell you, life ain't easy for a boy named Sue. I don't know why I just said that, but that's no reason not to set down a good song line.

Anna MR said...

Ha, Signs, you think a fellow Prince would miss a thingy like the bridegroom you just mentioned there? No way. And the thing is, I very much understand why you'd choose to put your words just so. Because I think there is a certain masculine quality (for the lack of a better word, ok, anybody else who is reading? We are stuck with language, unfortunately, and its conventions, and masculine/feminine don't always correlate to gender, orientation, etc) so then, where was I? A certain masculine quality to taking words and making them yours. If you like. And I do. You do too, and I deeply admire the way you do it, Signs...

qcowjpi - Queen, cow, Jesus, π - now there's hidden deep meanings in that row of characters, wouldn't you say?

rfvuie, however, requires more thought to unfold. I'll leave this one to you, Signs. It has something to do with being a refugee in life, I'm sure

Reading the Signs said...

hello Anna, it's cursed inconvenient that I've been brain-fogged to the hilt otherwise I'd have added something to what you just said. The prince in Sleeping Beauty -Dornröschen (thanks again NMJ) for preference, hacking through the thorns - c'est moi. Also, it must be confessed, the princess condemned to a 100-year sleep for pricking her finger on a spindle. But I'll more readily admit the prince.

Nothing to add to your lovely word ver interpretations.

NMJ said...

Can I just say, I love following yours and Anna's linguistic acrobatics . . .

And this is a great post.

Though I have nothing helpful to say about writing except I am starting to hate my book.


Reading the Signs said...

NMJ, you can say it, and I am now turning a few cartwheels while Anna does a pirouettes on the high wire - and then the remark about my post will have me doing a spot of flying on the trapeze.

And can I say that, at the present moment, with all the tweaking and such, you are like the cook who has been labouring long over a special meal and is no longer able to appreciate all the flavours, textures and merits of the dishes. But she will once she takes her apron off and sits down with the guests.

There must be a shorter and better way of saying this. Someone?

Nicola said...

Martha and Mary?

Having always been Martha,slaving over the cooking pot, glowering at Mary enjoying herself at the feet of the artist.

NMJ said...

Signs, This is a perfect way of describing how I am feeling, thank you, it brought me comfort. Am a bit strung out just now.


Reading the Signs said...

NMJ, I am so looking forward to the publication of your book - to holding a copy in my hands and telling people about it. I can imagine the whole process of getting it out there is stressful.

Nicola, yes it's Mary who is supposed to be the "spiritual" one, isn't it - but who is the one who later comes up trumps and recognises the Big Guy? Martha the cook, as I live and breathe. Yay!

Oh, by the way, there's a message for you from His Horsemanship TPE in the previous comments.

Anna MR said...

Hello, lovely all. Cartwheels, pirouettes on high wires, faerie tales and intelligent company are characteristic to this nook in space. Just to tell you (and to all the other brilliant people here), Prince Signs, I love it here at your house...

Reading the Signs said...

Well this house loves having you, your royal highwireness