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w(h)ine and chocolate ’09

August 9, 2009

Do you remember Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure? Well, this is Carolee and Beth‘s Excellent Adventure, a.k.a. “W(h)ine and chocolate 2009.”

The idea came about in the comments of Beth’s blog. She’d done a 3-minute free write to get something off her chest, and I said, “I need to do that, too,” and I challenged her to take her rant even deeper. And so we came up with the idea that we would free write together some night about whatever crap we’d been needing to write about but hadn’t dared or hadn’t made the time or hadn’t found the motivation. Here’s what we did:

1. planned to write on the same night at relatively the same time.
2. arranged for wine and chocolate.
3. wrote for 45 minutes the “stuff.” free-write style. non-stop.
4. wrote for 15 minutes about the writing process.

The writing itself isn’t going to be released. We agreed it would be private so we could proceed without fear and be less likely to censor ourselves. This post is the part where I write about the process. Beth’s process notes are here.

I watched the first half of the baseball game (because I love it, and because I’m writing poems about it here and here) and then sat down with a blank word document (the game continued in the background). And then I did the thing I haven’t done in a long, long time: I wrote without any literary “end game” in sight. And I wrote some of the things I never commit to paper.

I have realized that I stop myself from putting a lot of things on the page because it’s whining, because it won’t make a good poem, because it seems indulgent to carry on about some things and because I worry (apparently): “What would people think if they saw it?” Remember having a diary in junior high or high school? Remember how you told it everything? Remember how you filled it with ordinary happenings and intense feelings and angst and all the reasons you were special, either because you were more or less wounded than everyone else? And remember how mortified you felt if you thought someone had seen it? Now remember what “they” tell us all about confessional poetry: No whining allowed. Don’t make it all about you. There are many, many directives, directives that help sort out good poems from mediocre ones, but directives that can make it difficult to spill your guts even in an appropriate setting.

How much of this fear of being found out, this fear of being a bad poet have you internalized? I’ve internalized enough of it that even my private journal is more of a record of creative ideas than it is an exploration of the inner workings of my mind. And that’s OK. But it’s also good to recognize that I’ve been holding some things back and avoiding some things, that it’s time to let it all out.

So how did it go? I still felt self-conscious. This is a bad, bad habit I have. I can’t always turn off the voice that criticizes. But I did keep going. And I did put the words on the page no matter what the voice said. I decided this was my time; even if the voice said it was a waste of time, I had designated this time for it and I was going to use it. When I was done, I felt a little bit disappointed that nothing cathartic had occurred. There were no epiphanies. But then I checked in with myself and realized that wasn’t really the point. The point was, for me, to stop being afraid of it, whatever “it” is: sounding lame, earning disapproval, being pathetic.

I figured out that I have more of this kind of writing to do. One reason I’ll do that is because it’s not good to hold it all in. It’s exhausting to churn and churn and wonder about stuff. Writing it down has always helped me sort things out. Another reason I’ll do it again is that I told myself I’d do more free-writing. I adore Natalie Goldberg. Her books have inspired me and I attended a weekend workshop with her in January and got so much out of it I promised myself I’d keep at it. I have, instead, slacked off. A third reason to do it again is a writing process issue and, yes, an interest in literary endeavors. Some of the whining has to be purged before you can find the truth. It’s unlikely the words from tonight’s free write will ever make it into a poem, but I’m certain there are words — better words — they’ve made room for.

It was helpful to have a buddy: someone to witness my commitment to putting my butt in the chair, someone to join me. And I enjoyed the carrot on a stick we held out in front of ourselves: some red wine (I’m not sure what kind it is; my favorite wasn’t in stock and I took the owner’s recommendation) and dark chocolate. Of course, wine and chocolate bear very little resemblance to carrots, but you have to find the right motivation for the job.

  1. August 10, 2009 10:05 am

    45 minutes seems like a good amount of time to get something going, or keep something ticking–for me, anyway. And yes, having a buddy somehow synchronized (whether you agree to exchange once per month, or sit down at the same time to write) helps me as well. Wine and chocolate I have yet to try. 🙂

  2. August 10, 2009 10:32 am

    i thrive on writing with buddies (as is probably obvious by all the challenges i do).

    i wish i could also say my writing thrives on the wine and chocolate but if i indulged every time i wrote, i wouldn’t be able to fit my butt in the writing chair.

  3. August 10, 2009 5:32 pm

    cool. this sounds a lot like morning pages. get all the crap out so you can go about your day, go about your “real” writing.

    ahem. too bad you didn’t have a good, good, good friend (with, oh, i don’t know, good hair…) that might have mentioned writing it all down to get it out because…”because it’s not good to hold it all in. It’s exhausting to churn and churn and wonder about stuff.” really too bad you don’t have a friend like that!

  4. August 11, 2009 11:50 am

    you’re right about it being like morning pages. why do i always forget about morning pages?

    AND wouldn’t you know i DO have a good, good, good friend with gorgeous — no, perfect! — hair who did make such a recommendation. my little date with beth just gave me a reason to get off the fence. 🙂

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