Writing Exercises

Writing Exercise: The hurt we keep is a house with many rooms. Write the dialogue between your body and one of those rooms. Name ten lessons the hurt taught you. Then write a glowing review of yourself for learning those lessons. Or put yourself in a house with four rooms. Each room is occupied by a person in your life that has done you harm. Open each door and tell us about the harm that was done by describing the person and the room they occupy. Be literal. Be imaginative. Use these folks to tell the tale. Use the room to tell the tale. Is the room opulent for one and a hovel for another? What are they wearing and how can you connect it to the harm they caused? Give it a go.

Writing Exercise: This exercise is influenced by a tweet I read this week. It follows:

“My hot take is that most of us have not adequately processed the trauma of the pandemic. And our sprawling, unprocessed trauma chews away at our brains in myriad ways that make us anxious about why we can’t seem to live our lives as instinctively or as joyously as we did in 2019.” 

I would like for you to write about covid and quarantine. I would like for you to observe the language you use in trying to articulate it. I would like you to remember and then I would like you to (re)member. In one take be analytical and journalistic. In another use your emotional literacy to curate language for how it felt to watch the world stop. If that is, in fact, what you observed. Covid was isolating and changed everything. Can you find some microscopic thing and amplify it to tell us about your experience with the pandemic? A q tip. A handkerchief. A bottle of pills. A mask. A thermometer. Can you describe how you navigated it and find the universality in the story in that it affected everyone but draw close to the things about it that made it feel singular to you? I met my life partner the day a state of emergency was declared. We had to find each other via letter writing. It became this sacred thing between us. As the world was trying to staunch its wounds, I was writing down the most basic fundamental parts of my personhood for a man I wouldn’t meet face to face for a good while. I don’t remember how I did certain things before the mask mandates and hand sanitizers and angst. My memory has only sought to preserve the love I found. Not the breaking of the world. Write your pandemic story. And because everyone has one, approach is everything.

The film Memento is a good one to watch when thinking about the complications of memory. And how sometimes we are the architects of the confusion we have because we are married to the story in a particular way. And that marriage can be…blinding. Other film recommendations include Shutter Island, Manchurian Candidate, The Notebook, Trance, Before I Go To Sleep, Big Fish, Still Alice, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind are all good reference points in film for memory and writing from it and the acknowledgement of how slippery it can be.