*Eliminate material systematically

… from a piece of your own writing until it is “ultimately” reduced, or, read or write it backwards, line by line or word by word.

This might be fun, I thought. I considered the lyrics of my favorite songs- maybe I could reverse the order of the words to make it a different song! I once created a villanelle using Al Green lyrics for a poetry assignment. It seemed interesting, but I felt as if I wasn’t being entirely honest with myself, since I wasn’t using my own writing for the experiment.

Combing through the files on my current USB, I found a piece that I started a month ago and haven’t returned to. It’s a narrative about my last creative class in college: fiction writing.

===========================

I might see some, but I shared Lester Bang’s philosophy from the film Almost Famous: “You’ll meet them all again on the long journey to the middle.” Many of my favorite poets had tried their hands at being architects, lawyers, teachers, but could not resist the call to write and publish. My favorite writers in history had meager educations or studied something different entirely; they certainly didn’t have a Masters or Doctorate in Creative Writing. But I also knew, at an early age, that there were bills to be paid and my parents weren’t footing them.  Many were going on to grad school, which I didn’t understand at the time. Back to the lecture at hand: sitting in desks encircling our professor, we each shared our aspirations.

Writing was my altar where I worshipped. Writers who could write about and define even just one image or sensation without being too wordy were immortal in my eyes. I could easily understand why so much depends on a red wheel barrow, giving William Carlos Williams a seat at my imagined “Last Supper” gathering of poets and writers. I was infatuated with poetry written by the likes of Ezra Pound and Hilda Doolittle. My earlier classes in my college career were my favorite: British literature, modern and contemporary poetry, Creative non-fiction, and even the English composition that most freshmen loathed. (It should be known that the professor also opened the discussion with a lengthy synopsis about that week’s episode of “24.”) The professor praised his writing each class, lecturing longingly about the descriptions he used to depict crashing helicopters and races against time. There was a guy who fancied himself to be the next James Patterson or Dan Brown, writing in the realm of thrilling action plots with complicated men as main characters. The course was the concluding link in my Creative Writing major requirements as it was for most of the students who were set to graduate that spring. For the discussion in our last meeting, my professor (whose name I can’t even recall and probably won’t be able to) asked each person in the group to say what he or she had planned for after the semester.

I, along with twenty other of my colleagues, trudged through the snow all winter for that class and honestly, we all looked haggard. I don’t know, maybe I was just fed up with school, tired from partying before graduation, perhaps a culmination of the two. I had been in a Fiction Writing course for my final semester at Miami University of Ohio and my overall take on the experience was indifferent.

I remember the last day of my last writing class in college.

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Experiment with writing in a group: Part II

Two days of collaborative writing has garnered a pretty decent story! When I initiated this experiment, I really had no idea how the story would form. I was probably most surprised by who came out of the woodwork to write. Those who were the most hesitate or self-conscious really added some great images. I didn’t impart very many rules at all; even when I asked for one sentence some digressed, but I allowed it for the sake of time. A lot of people also asked me if I wanted serious submissions; I reiterated “No rules.” Serious writing would have been great, but curiosity definitely got the best of me and I knew that controlling the creative process in this outlet wouldn’t allow the writing to be as organic as I wanted.

Here is the final story in paragraph form and without the identities of  the writers. Thank you all so very much and enjoy your published work, to be permanently printed in the interwebs for future generations to gaze upon!

Dangerous Imagination

She occasionally thought of how hilarious people were. People like Benny Hill, Charlie Chaplin, and Jeff Foxworthy were the first people to come to mind. Especially when they think no one is looking, as they sing at the top of their lungs, while driving down the highway! This made for an interesting predicament, since she was driving down the pacific coast highway, mind wandering all the while. With the convertible top down and wind in her hair, she gazed towards the horizon into the seemingly endless ocean. How long had it been since she’d had a moment like this? She hasn’t had a moment like this since she was a small child. She had to grow up fast when she was just a little girl. Exactly 1061 days; she knew this due to her obsessive compulsive disorder.

Her childhood reverie/nightmare shattered as her attention was drawn to the ghastly sight forming in front of her on the highway. They might have been human once, before the merciless sun and salty sea air carved new features no one should ever have to look at. The mob of zombie sea pirates blocking the road moaned loudly as they took notice of her bright red convertible. She floored the accelerator and the tires squealed as she hurdled towards the horde of advancing zombie sea pirates, who made no attempt to avoid the roaring convertible. But alas, it was only a flashback from her days as a hippie when she regularly consumed excessive amounts of LSD. Instead, she found herself hurtling the tiny topless red car towards the picket line of underpaid highway workers who had staged a blockade along all five lanes of the highway to protest their unfair wages, she snapped back to reality just feet from the sign-holding workers…

Later, picking kneecaps out of her bumper at the carwash, she realized that she would need help hiding from the cops and Fernando was the only man she could trust. Fernando was a circus mime and she knew he was the only man quiet enough to keep the whole incident from the fuzz. She broke Fernando from his imaginary box and they ran into the night. For a few quiet moments, it seemed that she could escape; not only from her past as an LSD-riddled, hippie goat-herder, but also from the mass vehicular devastation she had caused earlier that day. But then she noticed one of the picket signs slightly lacerated her femoral artery during the crash. Fernando used his neck tie to slow the bleeding. With her wounds attended to, she decided it was time for a trip to Las Vegas.

It was in this moment that Fernando began to enthusiastically mime his way up an imaginary staircase. For in the imaginary box whence he sprung, he had been confined for so long that his penis was wrinkled, if not crushed entirely. He thinks to himself “I will not need to swoon the ladies with my enormous package but my stunning good looks are all I need. Plus I can build a campfire and wield a sword.”

With the sun setting, the night grew cold. Fernando put his skills to use by constructing an imaginary campfire. She had become intrigued by Fernando and couldn’t help but wonder, just how badly his penis had been mangled… She wouldn’t have to imagine for long how a night with Fernando would end. While he had been retrieving imaginary firewood, she was attacked and bitten by a wandering zombie sea pirate. She gazed upon his face for the last time, planning on satiating her appetite with Fernando’s brains.

*Experiment with writing in a group…

…collaborative work: a group writing individually off of each other’s work over a long period of time in the same room; a group contributing to the same work, sentence by sentence or line by line; one writer being fed information and ideas while the other writes…

All right, people. I’m tired of y’all being spectators, voyeurs of my passage into the enigmatic unknown that is writing. To the three or four people who regularly peruse my blog, thank you infinitely for your loyalty from the bottom of my heart. For this exercise to succeed, I must go beyond WordPress. I thought about this prompt for quite a while and reflected on how social media has changed even since I was taking university courses. I may have even completed this kind of exercise in a class, passing around a single sheet of paper with my colleagues until a narrative assembled, with characters and a plot. Can you imagine, collaborative writing in real time, face to face?

I thought about the venues where I could employ this exercise. Reddit would be a fantastic option, especially in the Writing subreddit. But I decided instantly that the most interesting choice was facebook. I believe that this would be the best place to collaborate because of the traffic of status-updaters and lurkers who populate the site. My friend’s list is substantial and eclectic, possibly welcoming a diverse reaction if initiated correctly. Instead of posting artistic photos of restaurant food, add a sentence to my status! Put aside the memes for a second and write! I believe that in just two days, a pretty decent piece of collaborative writing could be created.

What should the first sentence be? I’m going to take a note from Ernest Hemingway, who once stated that one way to get past writer’s block was to write a “true sentence.”

 

Contribute: look for Meg E. Falk on facebook

Story for my Sister

I haven’t chosen a prompt for today, but I am going to share something that I wrote for my sister. My lovely Emily, who is due to give birth to her first child (and my first niece!) on March 11, asked me to host her baby shower that took place a couple of weeks ago. Where parties are concerned, I tend to avoid the predictable games and monotonous conversations. This baby shower is the second event that I’ve hosted for her and I have to say, it is no easy task to create original activities for all of the guests to enjoy at a moderately quick pace, so as to wrap up in less than two hours.

While my idea wasn’t wildly original, I did write all of what follows this prologue. I had a lot of fun writing it and even more fun reading. Four prizes were given out to guests and when they heard the words “left” or “right,” they had to pass the prize in that direction to the person next to them. While you read it yourself, try to imagine walking around a crowded, finished basement, trying to articulate the words of the piece while guests both young and old interrupt and ask questions. The best part? Emily could barely keep up with the game because she was concentrating so hard to hear everything that I had written.

Emily and Hannah’s Story

Position the group in a circle and randomly hand out prizes to attendees. While the story is being read, attendees will have to concentrate and really listen to the words. When they hear “Left” or “Right,” the prize must be passed to the next person in that direction. Whoever is left holding the prize at the end of the story gets to keep it!

Emily and David married in Key West, Florida in June 2011. It was a joyous occasion with family and friends. Most people left Ohio by plane and some drove for hours to be right by the couples’ side. Although it seems just yesterday, Emily and David have been married for right around a year and half and their family is soon to grow larger. Last summer, they announced that a baby will share the Neiheisel name.

As girls, we might have enjoyed playing pretend, swaddling Cabbage Patch dolls in blankets and onesies, but those habits did not get left in the past. Emily has always wanted a family. It seems obvious to me that she’s been honing her maternal instincts and skills from childhood. When the news spread about her pregnancy, everyone knew that it was just the right time.

As magical as the gift of childbirth is, Emily’s mind was never left in the clouds. Any mother will tell you that pregnancy can be grueling from the very beginning right up until the day the child is born. If Emily felt sluggish or sick, she never showed it, as she was always leaving a conversation with a glowing smile on her face. She must have known that every measure she was taking and every decision she was making was right for her and her baby. Perhaps the most important was choosing the right name for her baby girl. Although Emily probably considered others first, there was only one name left that couldn’t be more perfect: Hannah Morgan.

I believe we can all agree that Emily chose the right man to be a husband and father. David has been Emily and Hannah’s right-hand man, providing comfort and support since the very beginning of this journey. Like every father, he may have been holding out for a baby boy, but the news of a girl is still great news for a father. David’s protective nature and sense of humor are the right virtues to have when you’re raising a daughter. One can only imagine how he will greet Hannah’s future dates at the door; if he doesn’t approve, the poor guy might be left out on the porch.

Knowing my sister, this occasion will always be remembered as a special one in her child’s history. Even after she has left the party, she will remember all of your hopeful wishes and heartfelt messages for her and Hannah.

Thank you!

*Write the same poem over and over again, in different forms, until you are weary.

Gender Roles

1.

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander…

What the fuck does that mean anyway?

At a certain point, one should know

What he or she can endure.

Man up, grow up, calm yourself

Don’t be a girl

Stop being a pussy

Keep your panties on.

2.

Listen

Shut the fuck up.

That’s great

Hell yeah.

Don’t be mean

Stop being a dick.

I’m not afraid

I’m not a pussy.

Great job

You’re the man.

Stop

Fuck off.

I love you

I love that ass!

…already weary.

I couldn’t decide at first if I liked this experiment. When I drew it out of the jar of endless possibilities, I even considered placing it back in, aware that there was no one around to judge my hesitancy. Do I write something completely original? Or do I find a poem that I really like and make it my own? I decided to compose my own poetry. I welcomed the challenge head-on.

I’ve always liked the idea of opposites, or more specifically, how opposites are perceived. In this case, I thought about how differently men and women communicate. We all switch it up when we have to: speaking with colleagues, greeting a stranger on the street, answering a doctor’s questions, and other social scenarios. But I’m intrigued by how men quickly drop politeness to convey a sense of machismo whilst women tend to speak more plainly. It’s funny (not funny “haha”) to consider that men can be macho but women become “bitches” when they are direct. Stigma much?

My early experiences with poetry were of the rhyming variety. When I was in high school, a poem was only a poem if it rhymed and had a rhythm. To this day, I can come up with rhyming words easier than remembering the names of renowned poets whom I studied in school.

I loved writing the sort of poetry that needed to be spoken, but I was deathly afraid of being the speaker.

Much like how mathematicians utilize formulas to discover an answer to a query, I found the challenge of poetry thrilling. Syllables are the pulse of a good poem, each line hanging meticulously on the importance of one letter or a significantly placed pause.

*Diagram a sentence in the old-fashioned way…

If you don’t know how, I’ll show you; if you do know how, try a really long sentence, for instance from Melville.

-Bernadette Mayer

 

Wow, what are the chances that this would be my first random pick? I should mention that I printed off Mayer’s list from the previously linked website and cut the exercises into smaller pieces of paper, to place in a jar on my desk at work. Whenever I take a break in my day (or if I’m suffering from ennui), I will choose an experiment at random and complete it by the end of the day. I’m trying to avoid creating assignments for myself because I found that I don’t keep up with them. Last year, I attempted to write something every day in a notebook and it lasted all of two months. I think that I became turned off to the idea once my writing sounded too “diary-esque.” So, it is with great intention and immense admiration that I adopt Mayer’s experiments in order to facilitate my writerly way of thinking and hopefully, develop my efforts to write original material.

Diagramming a sentence? When I read the whole experiment, I was instantly rushed back to my Intro to Composition course in college. Those who are close to me know that I’m a stickler for spelling and grammar, but I used to be purely obnoxious. An ex-boyfriend once stated in a list of grievances against me that my constant correcting of his speech left him feeling inadequate; of course, he didn’t articulate that statement so eloquently (there may have been one or two “bitches” in there). But I realized that people aren’t going to speak the same way that they should be writing.

So here I am, revisiting concepts that I haven’t considered in years. I vividly remember teaching the breakdown of sentences in Seoul to a classroom full of elementary students.

“Every sentence must have a subject and a verb. The sentence is ‘Bart Simpson is funny.’ What is the subject?”

             “Bart.”

“Yes! What is the verb?”

            “Is?”

“Yes! What part of speech is ‘funny?”

            “Bart Simpson?”

“Not quite. ‘Funny’ is a predicate adjective. They always follow a linking verb, like ‘is.’

A linking verb can also precede a Predicate Nominative. So, instead of ‘Bart Simpson is funny,’ using a predicate nominative would be like saying ‘Bart Simpson is the class clown.’”

 

Image

I could teach those kinds of lessons all day; there was a thrill is customizing the lessons to make them fun for students. The best/most fun part came when coming up with supporting details for topic sentences… but that’s for another lesson.

 

Aside

Lethargy. Disorganization. Self-sabotage.

Excuses.

What do all of these words have in common? At one time or another, I’ve uttered these words when friends and family ask if I’m still writing. The disappointment is palpable when I give one of these inane reasons and then attempt to quickly change the subject. I keep telling myself that a job, no a career in writing is what I ultimately desire, but how am I to find an opportunity if I’m not practicing what I preach? I’ve found myself lately exerting more effort than necessary when signing a greeting card or writing an e-mail to a colleague at my work. This seemingly painful attention to detail is because I don’t give myself an outlet for what is on my mind. In my favorite discourse from Gloria Anzaldúa about writing, she preached, “put your shit on the paper.” It’s frighteningly simple. Anzaldúa further clarified

Why am I compelled to write?… Because the world I create in the writing compensates for what the real world does not give me. By writing I put order in the world, give it a handle so I can grasp it. I write because life does not appease my appetites and anger… To become more intimate with myself and you. To discover myself, to preserve myself, to make myself, to achieve self-autonomy. To dispel the myths that I am a mad prophet or a poor suffering soul. To convince myself that I am worthy and that what I have to say is not a pile of shit… Finally I write because I’m scared of writing, but I’m more scared of not writing.

When I revisited this quotation in its entirety, that final line really hit home. So, upon admitting that I have a problem and that problem is not writing, I’m admitting myself for rehabilitation. My intention is not to make light of a serious issue such as disease and disorder, but in a very grave matter of speaking, not writing has left me emptier than I realized. I thought that I was channeling my creativity into other venues, but it has become very clear that I’m not doing myself any favors by neglecting what I love to do. So I’m going to begin giving myself assignments.

Rereading Anzaldúa made me nostalgic for a lesson that was imparted during a college course. A creative writing professor asked the class to research writing experiments from Bernadette Mayer, a poet and prose writer. Mayer outlined suggestions and ideas for journals as well as writing poetry and fiction. We were asked to choose a few experiments and submit them for critique. Knowing that this is not exactly an original idea here, I will use these prompts as a jumping-off point.

Stay tuned.