a battle of words

Recent postings in a parallel journal have challenged me. The dare was not to create something brilliant, but simply better than the combatant’s own entry. In this way we could imagine an continual improvement in writing, a one-upping upon one another’s words. After a few math courses I know that this function could approach quality that is infinitely good, or it could asymptotically approach mediocrity. At least each entry could be better than the one before.

Or, perhaps it won’t be.

Undaunted, I craft out an entry. After all, I’m directed to write 10 minutes a day, to get into the habit. Budgets and paperwork be damned.

Yet the directive to “just write” is often useless to me. It only works when I have something to write about, either some kind of prompt or, more likely, something I already had in mind and the prompt just gets dragged along. Last year when I co-hosted a trip into the desert to write with some teachers, one prompt was to write a “walking poem.” All the pieces revolved around walking, something that was inspired by reading some work by David Lee. My own poem went like this:

with
one step
from
two feet
in
three days
I’m home

I came across this in a notebook that I repurposed this summer. I liked the rhythm of sorting lines with prepositions and the progression of numbers. Other writing prompts were started, sketched, developed, and part of me wants to dive back into these. Another day.

This all makes me think of all of the things that I never write about. I never wrote that entry I keep threatening called “Bozo the Transgendered Clown: My epileptic autistic transgendered brother, er, sister” because it doesn’t make sense. I’ve never written about my mom asking me about what my field of specialization is — “You do quantum physics, right?” — last summer. I don’t write about calling the urologist to make an appointment and stumbling on words when the woman on the other line is asking me what I’m seeing Dr. C. about, because testicular pain is too hard to say, let alone write about, especially not here, unexpectedly left in the middle of the paragraph. I never wrote about the time I didn’t catch that pass in 7th grade, the ball bouncing off my helmet as my arms could barely reach up as the shoulder pads hung down on them; and my dad/coach just told me that I’d need to make that catch but really we both knew that I’d just be put back at center and wouldn’t get to play receiver again. I don’t write about my darkest fears — that’s why they’re so dark. I don’t write about what I have for breakfast, except for days when the coffee might be especially notable. I don’t write about the time my mom pooped in the car, you won’t see an entry titled “belly button lint” and you’ll never, ever, thankfully, see any reference to sex nor even any euphemistic reference. And nothing about cucumbers.

So today, that’s my ten minute contribution, the things not to be written about because they won’t go anywhere. It’s good to rule these out, and perhaps tomorrow’s writing will be that much better now that I don’t have to worry about these even worse possibilities to creep in.

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