Writing Without Makeup


I belong to a writers’ group, a gathering of ladies who meet on one Tuesday afternoon a month, to share what we have been writing most recently. Each one is a beautiful woman, whose beauty radiates from within when she freely opens up to the rest of us in prose or poetry, telling us her heart’s story. Sometimes one of us is in an emotional season that is particularly bleak, a winter time of grieving over a lost spouse, a lost parent or a lost child. At those times the mood of the writing has often been bleakly intense in its terrible beauty.

Another writer may be in the springtime of her memory as she tells the tale of a houseful of happy children, born like little lambs in this new and strange country, Canada, far from the home she left behind, in the shadow of a windmill.

Some of the ladies write of the here and now, simply telling us what is, not what was or will be. I think of them as summer time writers— in the rush of the moment, packing the picnic basket that is soon empty, picking the flowers that are soon faded, but not thinking of anything but the special time that is now, and the gift that they are giving as they write.

I like to think of myself as writing in a fall season lately, a season of fruition but not completeness, a season of harvest. As I relish my bounty of both moments and memories simultaneously, I savour the joyful remembrances of  my siblings in one moment, and the mental snapshots of their children and mine in the next. Then all at once my writing is interrupted by a sweet little voice from the couch behind me, as my napping two year-old great- nephew awakens and, eyes still half closed, serenades me:

“Row, row, row da boat,

Downda, downda, stweam.

Mary, Mary, Mary, Mary,

Life is budda dweam.”

Yes, my basket is full to overflowing in this my favourite season of writing,  and I look forward to sharing something I wrote this morning with the ladies in my group a few hours from now.

Apart from reading a prepared  piece of our own choosing, we will each be reading another. Elise, our leader,usually assigns us a topic  to write on for a set period of time. For anywhere from two to ten minutes we will madly dash off as much as we can, without doing any editing. There really isn’t any time for it even if that’s our usual habit. It’s a real hand-cramping experience for someone like me who either types or writes with a write— pause— check, write— pause— check, rhythm. How relaxed we have all become with one another, that  allowing others to see the flaws in our unedited writing is no big deal.It’s a little like answering the door in the early morning, without any makeup, OK, if you know it’s a close friend. So, today’s post will include one of the pieces that I did that way. It’s typed word for word from the scribbled page in my writer’s club notebook. These pieces sometimes end with “and that was why we decided that we should—— ” with something important hanging in thin air. In that case the writer may give a quick verbal conclusion. Sometimes the unexpected happens as we work in this way, and someone’s piece is amazing, but that has never been my good fortune. I have, however, found that sometimes I have written something with really good potential.

If you like to write, I would suggest that you try this to see where it takes you. It feels a lot like that moment when, as a new driver, you finally loosen your grip and let your mind go to automatic pilot. You relax enough to enjoy the ride and savour the moment, rather than focusing on where your hands are positioned on the wheel, and exactly where the speedometer needle is sitting, at ten second intervals.Sometimes though, the sound of that timer ticking away can seem an awful lot like the noise of an impending disaster from under the hood. Then I try to do what I always do; I just ignore it.

The following piece is the result of four minutes of writing. The topic assigned was “a taste”. I played it safe that day by writing in verse, which just seems to come easily to me:

I Never Met An Ice-cream I Didn’t Like

Pistachio, Penuche, Peanut Butter Brickle,

Dripping down my smile lines;

I’m always just too fickle

To choose a single flavour,

So I have to have three scoops.

Perfect in steamy weather

When one’s hair and spirit droops:

Blueberry, Banana, or even Boysenberry,

Caramel Apple, Cranberry Crunch,

And sometimes even Cherry.

I’ll try them all, I have no faves,

Each one is so delightful,

Each lick, each lump, each drip, each drop,

Each painful brain-freeze biteful.

C’mon share some, just a lick?

Oh, sisters can be spiteful!

To have a triple chocolate chunk,

And eat it all alone…

Ha Ha! Just look at your dirty shirt!

The bottom broke off of your cone!

The following is a  five minute exercise. The topic assigned was a childhood memory:

Chicken Hypnotist

How does a child learn something as strange as how to hypnotize a chicken? My sister Marsha and I would work in tandem to chase a chicken and corner it up against the white board fence that surrounded the chicken yard on our farm. Then she would climb up and over the fence and carry the flapping and squawking hen over to the well worn grooves in the sandy driveway and lay the chicken down on the ground, pinning it with one hand, beak to the sand. That accomplished, she would begin drawing a line in the sand with the index finger of the other hand, from the beak to 6 or 7 inches in front of it. Over and over she would repeat this motion, with incantations of “I am hypnotizing you. You are going to be hypnotized. I am hypnotizing you.” Within a few seconds she was able to remove her hand from its neck and it would remain totally motionless in the dirt, awaiting its imminent flattening by my dad’s red GM pickup truck as he came barrelling into the driveway.”

As I mentioned earlier, it’s not necessarily great literature but somehow the exercise seems to free up the brain to work more creatively than when we’re striving for perfection. Now, if I could just use this method for making tonight’s dinner… I have six minutes, and the assignment is a meal that’s based on? Look into the refrigerator drawers now; surprises are good for creativity, Yvonne.

Today’s assignment is based on Turnip!

About Yvonne's Musings

Being the second of eight kids born in 11 years to my busy parents ultimately was a real advantage to me. I learned very early that if you wanted to be heard amidst all the noise the best way to accomplish it was to write your thoughts down. My first post to my mother," i hate skool. i cried at skool tooday!" was stuck with ABC chewing gum to the lid of the diaper pail, where I was certain that she would find it. Her attention quickly elicited in me a love of writing that has been life long. Seeking a wider audience I have decided to now, decades later, blog. Happy reading Mom! This is for you!

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