Sometimes, doing certain creative writing exercises can uncover past hurts, past truths, hidden ‘other-lives’. I found this to be true recently whilst developing writing exercises for a women’s workshop which I’ll be hosting in January. I believe that working over and over again through exercises allows me to do the work that I expect others to do.
That means showing up authentically and vulnerably on the page.
(Which can be scary)
Yes writing down these exercises in private in a journal can be emotional enough but putting them out there for others to read? That is laying yourself bare. Which is how I chose to do things now.
So, for this writing exercise I created a timeline of major events in my life and then chose one to free-write on. Using creative writing techniques I then worked on crafting the free-write into a small piece of writing. I found it surprising what I wrote about. A past distant memory, brought back to the surface. You may think that leaving these memories well alone is the more sensible thing to do; then we don’t risk the emotion that arises with it.
But in doing this, that memory still resides within us, bubbling away with the others under the surface. Writing about it releases it. Yes I cried. Yes I felt pissed off. Then I felt calm. I’m not saying this will always be the response but sometimes our memories, our hurts just want to be heard.
Here is my perfectly imperfect free-write in the process of being crafted into a piece of prose.
‘The Waiting room’
He spread the food out over the duvet trying to make up for it. I remember the smell of acrid vinegar from the jar of crinkle sliced beetroot that he had twisted clunk open. The tin lid had popped, sounding like the noise my Grandpa’s cheek made when he flicked it with his finger. Pop goes the weasel.
I remember that I’d felt euphoric, happy even; it must have been the drugs. The nurse told me that I’d sat bolt upright when I’d woken up and I’d called out his name. I try not to think of all the things that must have happened.
But how can I forget the long curtains which were drawn and the sunlight shining through them, lighting up the swirling orange and brown pattern? They reminded me of the cover on the piano stool we had growing up. I remember it felt rough and had spiky bits like black needles coming out of it. Mum had said it was horse hair. An Asian woman caught my eye and looked at me like she knew; she knew. A large TV was on in the corner, with a semi-circle of women sitting in high backed chairs watching it. I could hear Bargain Hunt on. It was like an old folk’s home.
I felt he’d forced me. Told me his mum knew; she just knows these things, he’d said. I thought it would’ve made him stay. I had wanted it for all the wrong reasons. I realise that now but the sting of rejection had hurt. I thought his family would accept me and we’d visit them on Sunday afternoons for crisp roast potatoes and buttery chicken. I could almost taste it. Almost.
The doctor had told me that I had caught something. Did that mean what I thought it meant? I couldn’t face it. I remember stepping into a red call box; the door was heavy and inside the smell made my nostrils shrivel. I had to call a friend. A distant friend. Had to tell someone.
That jar of pickled beetroot and sweaty smoked cheese could not compensate. They would never fill the gap in my stomach.
This short piece may not make much sense yet, but it could be developed into something more, or it could even be included into a future story. That’s the beauty in just even starting to write.
We just have to let out what is inside of us through various writing triggers and prompts and then see where it takes us.
For now it has felt like a little piece of sadness has flown off.
I’ve learned that as we attempt to teach others we learn more about ourselves along the way. That is the beauty in writing and sharing.