Whereas previously we were asked to write about something we can see through our eyes, imagination, instinct, and intuition, today page 28 of Room to Write asks us to write about what we can’t see—this can be something literally out of our sight, or figuratively hidden from our understanding or missing from our lives. This should be freely written, beginning with the words, “I don’t see…”
I don’t see what it is that wakes me on time when I’ve forgotten to set my alarm, what prompted me to unlock my door and go back into my flat that one day to check the stove that, sure enough, still had a gas burner on from my morning tea. I don’t see what it is that holds one person up when another might slam to the pavement under the weight of the world, or what it is that binds people together when the centrifugal force of their spinning lives would otherwise fling them apart. I don’t see what it is that I sometimes think might brush against my face as it rests on the pillow, or tickle at my toes when they peep out from the kicked-askew bed sheet. I don’t see what some people don’t need to see because they rest their speculation in faith alone or just don’t see the point, and I don’t see what other people try to detect scientifically as evidence of what they won’t believe in unless they can see it through thermal imaging or sound waves. I don’t see the energy that humans exude, radiating onto and into others through smiles or kind words or enthusiasm or sucking it away through frowns or insults or indifference. I don’t see what happens to that energy when a human passes on…that energy that, in all things, can neither be created nor destroyed, so must go somewhere when its host ceases to exist as a body in motion. I don’t see the momentum of that imprint they made in life or if it continues to survive beyond death, filling the voids that person would have filled or instead dissipating into the atmosphere, joining the energy of yet-living organisms, lifting the wings of a bird, or watering a flower. I don’t see what is perhaps best left unseen or may be nothing to see at all, yet is somehow something I want to believe in more than what I do see.
I guess the idea of this activity is to understand how what is absent (only because unseen) can serve as a great presence in our writing. Perhaps it means our characters are missing something in their lives, and their search is what drives our entire plot; perhaps it is what we writers are missing and searching for through our stories—it’s a chance to find understanding. I’ve indeed had characters explore some of this unknown, speculating through them how something so unseen could in certain ways become overtly present and necessary for them to confront and comprehend to move forward.
Do you find that your writing has/is helping you see what you’ve in some way been blind to? What about your characters—are they having to confront something they can’t keep avoiding? Is out of sight out of mind?
April 29th, 2010 at 19:58
I love this post! The writing prompt really intrigued me. There are sooo many things we don’t see, yet our life is guided so eloquently to dance in perfect rythym. I love the energy all around that you can literally feel but not see.
Interesting insights for sure. I think writing has helped me be more aware – maybe I see the details more clear because I am living in the moment. It really has enriched my life.
April 30th, 2010 at 17:59
You put it so well: “our life is guided so eloquently…” I likewise feel that writing has brought me more in tune with the unseen and the balance it strives to maintain–as you say, it may be a sharpening of our perceptions when we try to describe our stories fully and insightfully…we inevitably pick up on more occurring around us, which I think is part of that shared energy, that verve of life. “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.” – Anais Nin
April 30th, 2010 at 07:32
“I don’t see what it is that holds one person up when another might slam to the pavement under the weight of the world, or what it is that binds people together when the centrifugal force of their spinning lives would otherwise fling them apart.”
I loved this!
The novel I’m working on right now is actually about being blindfolded, not being able to see and all the different ways of seeing the world without entirely depending on our eyes so this was very intriguing for me and I absolutely loved it. I love how poetically you explained all the things we think we see but we never truly understand what we’re looking at…
“yet is somehow something I want to believe in more than what I do see.” Fantastic! 🙂
April 30th, 2010 at 18:03
Tremendously flattered by your compliments, thank you 🙂 And I’m really intrigued with how you may be carrying out that theme in your novel; do you find that your characters are deliberately blindfolding themselves or have for different reasons lacked this awareness? Either way, it’s compelling!
May 1st, 2010 at 03:35
Beautiful writing. You got into a wonderful rhythm there and struck so many high notes. Do you know the Dylan Thomas poem that begins: “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower…” It’s all about that unseen energy that rules our lives.
May 1st, 2010 at 07:18
Thank you so much…must have been that unseen energy when I let go a little and let it guide me through the flow…I have not read that poem, but am surely looking it up now, so I appreciate the reference!
May 1st, 2010 at 04:18
I enjoyed your eloquent and insightful piece and will never “look” at the unseen world the same way again. There is so much beneath the surface, supporting us and underpinning all our efforts, that we would need another pair of eyes or a new way of seeing to comprehend it all. A novel approach.
May 1st, 2010 at 07:21
Yes, this prompt certainly poses a challenge when you’re trying to see through that third eye. I’ve never been one to meditate, but I can understand better now how that must be more effective in peeling away one’s senses of the physical world and trying to tune into that underlying hum of the universe. Huh, maybe I should try it…
May 3rd, 2010 at 11:22
For not being able to see it, you really made me “see” it. Great writing!
May 4th, 2010 at 13:12
Thank you so much! As with most of these writing prompts, I get a bit timid about publicly posting the random innerworkings of my mind, so I’m happy the ideas are coming across clear enough (keep me in check if ever they’re not). I just checked out your blog, by the way, and just love the concept of it. You have a new follower!