Wednesday, 6 January 2016

The Write-Brain Workbook. Day 1. Exorcist, Insensitive, Massage

I received a little money at Christmas.  I've spent it on books.  Some are about autism.  Some are about art.  And a couple are about writing.  These are three of the areas on which I want to focus right now.

One of the books I've treated myself to is "The Write-Brain Workbook" by Bonnie Neubauer.  An exercise for every day of a year that should "liberate your writing."  Okay this is me and day two doesn't necessarily immediately follow day one, or day three follow day two.  But the exercises are there.  It wasn't a costly treat - fifty-two pence plus p&p.  But that's more expensive than "The Artist's Date Book" by Julia Cameron which is on order and I am looking forward to receiving.

The Write-Brain Workbook is about free writing.  It's about all kinds of ways to get over the fact that sitting down in front of a blank page can be a scary experience.  Each day gives an exercise to do and a little bonus exercise too.  Each exercise - and the exercises are pretty varied - gives a prompt and you write from it, with a few basic rules:

Keep Writing.
Don't Edit.
Let Yourself Go.
Be Specific.
Don't Negate Your Work.
Have Fun.

For most of us these simple rules can be quite difficult to follow - and the option is given to rebel against them if that is more free for us at the time.  The rules have more information, for instance:

Let Yourself Go:  Don't worry about the end result.  Give yourself permission to write junk.  Don't hold back.  Don't filter.  Go on an adventure.  Play.

I'm trying to learn this.  I've been beginning to explore art recently - tentative steps - and not worry.  I've always tended to stop myself doing anything artistic because I'm not Rembrandt or Shakespeare or "as good as" those around me.  Thanks to the enthusiastic prompting of friends I have finally begun to learn that it doesn't matter one little bit and that art and creativity is primarily about fun and self expression not about producing something popular or dignified or worthy to be hung in a gallery or recited at the Hay-on-Wye Festival.

Today was day one.  The book says any day can be any day.  But I've started with one.  Here's the exercise.

Circle Game one

Circle the one word that most appeals to you:
Alabama    Banister    Carousel    Diesel    Exorcist

Circle the one word the most appeals to you:
Flatulence    Garage    Harried    Insensitive    Jambalaya

Circle the one word that most appeals to you:
Keepsake    Lamb    Massage    Nonsense    Oriole

Use these three words in a story.  Start with:
Sometimes I feel just like a gerbil, running around and around in his wheel!

If you like.  Stop reading now.  Go away, complete the exercise.  And then, if you like, post your writing as a comment here.  I'd love to see what other people make of this game.  And it is a game.  It's not a chore.  It's not something with a deadline, paid by the word.  This whole book is meant to be fun - fun with a purpose, but fun.

One exercise done.  I think the other 365 are going to give me a lot of pleasure -  far more than worth the £3.31 including postage that I invested in the book.

A photo, to give you a pleasing place to sit if you don't want to be thinking about running on the wheel.

This was taken at Tynemouth last month on a really windy day when sitting and soaking in the view wasn't a desirable choice.

Here is what I wrote.  I followed the rule:  "Give yourself permission to write junk!"  And so I just wrote.

Sometimes I feel just like a gerbil, running around and around on his wheel! I am compelled to keep going, determined to make progress but I achieve nothing. Stepping off is not an alternative because what would I be stepping into? He has his home, the safety of a nest and all the food and water he wants is given to him without him even asking. But I'd be stepping back into that mess and nothing would have changed. All I can do is keep running, keep hoping that the next turn of the wheel will change something and there will be hope of life, hope that I can forgive the past and that the future will be one free of the wounding, the bloody injuries to my mind.

I've tried everything. I've tried to clear the mess, attempted to sit in quiet acceptance of it all. I've worked through countless self-help books and visited all manner of gurus and light-workers and charlatans and snake-oil peddlers. I've convinced myself of my own insanity. I've turned to the extremes of religion and they could not see any reason for my predicament unless I was demon possessed. And so they sent an exorcist. Another year, another religion, another attempt at exorcising my soul from the literal demons or the demon-like ways of my mind. But they failed, and failed and failed over and over and every time I thought I saw the light and the glimmer of freedom it was snatched away from me in the error of the system, the brokenness of the theory, the crazy wide-eyed enthusiasm of the zealot doomed to discouragement and disillusionment when the joy of the way turns to the despair of just another stupid dead end.

So I keep running and the past chases me. I keep running and the terrified screams of my mind run with me. It has been so long that I hardly hear them. I am so used to all this that as long as I keep running and running and never letting go of hope I am insensitive to the sound, to the painful unending torment. I can't stop running because then I hear and I fall and I am lost again to brutality and the slow death. I can't stop because then I am tempted to look back and see everything that I have failed to escape. I can't rest. Never rest. Rest is impossible.

The limbs of my mind ache. The breathing of my thoughts is forever laboured and the heart of my soul is constantly pushed to the limits of endurance. I would love to stop. Love to find another hope even if it's another false hope. Because at least those gave me a break. They were like a relaxation therapy, an inner massage and a chance to recover energy. True, each time they led to me being kicked so hard that I thought I would never recover from the pain. But while they lasted they were relief from the agony.

And so I run. Onwards. Onwards. I can imagine the end in sight but it never comes closer.

Will I run forever? Or will the wheel break, and I be broken upon it?

Grant me hope. Grant me life.


  1. Well here goes with my little story. The words I circled were Carousel, Garage and Lamb

    My life is a bit like a carousel (one of my favourite rides), it goes around and around, but it has its ups and downs.

    It has been an up ride for most of Christmas and the days folowing, but today was a bit of day when you felt like you were falling off. My pal went back home to Devon this morning. Two minutes after I waived her off, I got in my car. Botheration (or much worse words) flat battery! so it was a case of roll the car back, unlock the Garage and find the battery charger and the extension lead. (fortunately I am not a helpless old woman and can do these things - although it did tax the brain for a few seconds to find remember where the catch was to open the bonnet of the car.

    I put the car on charge and made a cuppa with the last of the milk (the reason I was going out in the first place!) Played a couple of games of scrabble on the computer.

    Finally I was able to start the car (the carousel horse was on the up ride again)and ventured out to run some errands at local shops and venture in to town to the supermarket. The horse was on the downward motion again -mega hold up at the bridge - many workmen doing goodness knows what with traffic control lights. Bother back up of traffic- not helped by a pedestrian crossing with lights to create a bit of havoc into the equation! Finally,I got to the supermarket and got the few items I needed, although Lamb wasn't on the list as such, but I did buy a Lamb Hotpot mix so that I could create a nice hotpot in the slow cooker with the leftover Lamb joint from the weekend.

    Deciding that I couldn't face the havoc at the bridge on the way home, I took the long (very long as 7 miles) route home via the bypass instead of the quick 2 mile route. So the carousel horse was on the up again and the car got a nice fast run home and a good charge.

    Now relaxing, and looking forward to preparing a nice Lamb Hotpot tomorrow.


  2. Clare, Your writing is beautiful!

  3. Thank you very much. Your book is great. I'm trying to write more. I ask a friend to give me half sentences to write from, just a bit of free writing. I think it's really helpful for my mental health to play with the half sentences or the pages from your book. Thank you for writing it!

    A few of the little bits of writing are at and range from the very sad to the ridiculous. Well, no matter what anyone might think of them, I enjoyed them!


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