Monday, January 27, 2014

Writing Quickly, Writing Slowly

Overcome, 2011
This piece was written by a student, Nick Weismueller. The prompt encouraged students to  describing their intentions for the New Year. His piece refers more directly to emotions and interactions with others, not necessarily his writing, but after sharing the piece, as a group we all saw how it related to him (and all of us) slowing down pace in writing, as well.

Though this piece it was also not in direct response to an inquiry about memoir, it speaks to the excruciating pace of writing memoir.

Memoir must be done slowly. While there are moments when "ripping off the bandage" is what is needed, revision and constant re-exploration require time and patience. Nick's struggle with finding that pace is one that I hear a lot from my students, especially memoir students.

Many people are afraid of writing memoir, afraid that once they start it will, as he describes,   "pick(s) up houses, trees, horses, toss(es) them about." What if you begin and can't find your way out again? What about all the triggers laying in wait?

One answer is to move slowly. Gently. With respect. Keep moving forward - don't stop or it will get stuck again - but don't rush, either. That looks different for everyone, but the pacing issue is a universal one. Often "traditional" writing classes talk about the pacing of a plot - I am more interested in the pacing of the process: the actual pen to paper, and how quickly we work through material. Most of all - if we become familiar with our minds, we can know better how to write in a way that is less damaging and more vivid, at the same time


Word or words to describe an intention a settling, allowing the pen to move more slowly, more space. 
If I just slow it down allow more space
Not tear open the hatch,
let air rush in as the vacuum is filled.
And some other piece escapes.
the wise effort, the light touch. 
the subtle movement of air exchange,
not violently shaking inside. 
The calm steps, a shuffle
on ice not rushed, but deliberate, 
tracked, aware but not so vigilant that tension fills the
back, thighs, ankles, feet .
The type of effort we apply with great skill to a gas pedal. 
It sounds maybe too easy. But it's easy to get caught. 

Stuck in that ever so tempting tension whirlwind. 
It offers a lot of energy, despite its tightening. 
It has an attractive edge, an addictive quality. 
An illusion of power, control.
Once given momentum, the storm promises to leave a vast emptimness, 
a lack of something 
if released, so I hold on. 
Once started it's easy to stoke that fire
And letting go is terrifying. 
The piece of that for me that is so dangerous is other people's energy.
I add that energy to the storm, 
And hold it in the body. 
Eventually that storm runs out of energy, burns itself out. 
But not before it's picked up houses, trees, horses, tossed them about. 
Stolen my sleep. 
Remove me from my body, 
such that I can't see well enough to find my way home.

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