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:
Let Yourself Go.
Don't Negate Your Work.
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.
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.