I’m thoroughly enjoying my creative writing course, and it is certainly pulling me from my comfort zone of the usual journal-esque type ramblings I spew forth on this blog and twitter (which is really the bulk of the creative writing that I churn out). However, it is also quite a challenge to venture beyond my comfort zone of writing the things that are already in my head, the emotions and worries that simmer at the edge of my consciousness. Closing my eyes, and trying to come up with a story, a character, an image beyond that which I’ve experienced is difficult. But it is delicious practice to stretch my writing muscles beyond the norm.
We recently had a writing exercise termed “galumphing” where we chose a random 3 digit number, and the numbers then corresponded to an object, a person, and a location, and we had to write a paragraph or so joining all together. It took some time for the scene and characters to form in my mind, but as I began writing, it came out clearly.
And once I finished, I realized -- It’s always the same scene. It’s always heartbreak. Rejection. Sadness. Anger. I am seeing that even when I’m not writing about myself, I really still am. The larger ideas that eat away at me seem to manage to eat away at my writing too.
Here is my galumphing story (writing pure fiction is extremely rare for me – this felt so odd!). My numbers corresponded to car keys, a traffic cop, and middle of a lake.
I took hold of his hand, it was clammy, cold, and trembling. He looked so powerful in his police uniform, and it felt odd to know that in this moment, he wasn't as strong as the badge and gun at his side implied. I glanced to the side and saw that inside the car was his reflective vest -- he must have had traffic duty that day, and then I feel even worse, because I knew how much he despised directing traffic; it always put him in a foul mood. I could feel the wind off the lake at the nape of my neck. It gave me shivers -- or was that more from the situation at hand? -- and I remembered my impulse decision a few days earlier to chop off my long, layered hair to a short bob. It still feels like the hair should be there, hanging past my shoulders, waving in the wind -- instead, this foreign chilled air reaches places my hair used to be. I shake off the thought, and shift my eyes to the right - the lake has a gloomy fog hovering above the water. It matches my thoughts. When I finally muster the courage to speak, I tell him, with a crack in my voice "I can't do this anymore, I'm so sorry." I register the feelings that fleet across his usually stoic face, confusion, sadness, despair, anger, all flashing, fleeting, but all so clearly there. I shouldn't expect otherwise though. He hangs his head, lets my hand drop, and turns away from me, looking out at the lake. I close my eyes, feeling the tears rising. I sense movement, though, and look out again, and there he is, arm pulled back, a medley of a furious sadness spread across his face, and with all his might, he flings his cruiser keys into the air. The sound of the heavy metal keys splashing in the middle of the lake seems to echo off the silence surrounding us.
My instructor’s response?
Oh, Ann… you haven’t met the likes of me. Apparently I can turn just about anything into a melancholy tale of heartbreak and despair.