*blush* Get your minds out of the gutter. What kind of monkey do you think I am?!
“The best lightning rod for your protection is your own spine.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I have long neglected my little writing prompts that originally kicked off this blog, mainly because they’re aim was to get me over writer’s block, and it worked! I’ve been cranking until I’m crossed eyes these recent days on revising my manuscript, and for the time being am keen to step away for a bit to clear my head. So…
Today page 43 of Room to Write asks us to list the protections we use in our everyday lives or, indeed, our writing. We are to then have our main character embody this protection in a scene or simply write a new piece without using writing-protections (e.g., a different place than the usual, without a word/page limit, etc.).
My everyday protections include:
– expression through writing versus speaking
– diving behind a book or in front of a computer/tv
– my giant headphones and iPod
– my forked tongue, when need be
– stubbornness, which includes a common refusal to say, “sorry”
– quiet pensiveness, reclusiveness
– verbatim recall of prior conversations (one of my more superb defenses)
– cold silence or, conversely, inane babble
– hats, cardigans, and sunglasses
– take-away caffeine (somehow just holding the steaming paper cup is a fortification, regardless what’s inside)
– my quilt
– a hybrid superiority/inferiority complex that’s a bit difficult to describe…
I’ll stop there and address the second part of this exercise by first peeling off one key writing-protection of mine: the ability to revise. So I’m just going to write this off the cuff and not obsess over how it comes out, leaving it raw in its first draft form.
So, that said, I have certainly infused a lot of the above protections into my protagonist, who I’ll continue to address by the pseudonym “Margaret” (whoops, there I go, still protecting…and for whatever reason protecting the fictional :)). I could probably find one-to-one matches for almost everything on the list, but here’s just a few examples:
“Margaret beamed one of her fake smiles in maneuvering in ninety-degree angles toward her.”
“Writing was so much easier than calling; writing gave control, the ability to pause, reread, and revise. Margaret didn’t trust herself with speaking any longer; the restraint in talking to her parents was difficult enough, and they alone embodied the innocence necessary to not pick up on vocal cues. Her not-so innocent friends and brother, on the other hand, were risks she couldn’t take.”
“Shaking off the mundane tasks of Everyday-Land and shoving in a thumbnail to spear a dog-eared page, Margaret tiptoed into her alternate universe at the delicious creaking sound of a hardcover binding blooming into action.”
“She’d banked an increasing number of slumbering hours ever since that first day […] and she wiled away the afternoons on indulgences like prolonged soaks in the tub and otherwise luxurious daytime lounging. The solitary nature of her days quieted her mind to her earlier paranoia, distortions in perception that she’d ascribed to stress-induced fatigue. [It] all dissipated before her like the steam that rose off the bubbles in her lap.”
“The sun shied away behind the clouds, making Margaret’s sunglasses redundant, so she reluctantly removed them.”
“She’d lately taken to […] a route of anonymity that concealed her among side streets rather than parade her before rows of shops and sidewalk cafés. She didn’t want to be observed, though sometimes played a mental game that she was hiding from the paparazzi lusting to lavish her with attention—somehow desiring to be a Nobody while still feeling like a Somebody.”
And that kitten definitely has claws when she needs ’em to shield her inner vulnerability.
As much as this character isn’t supposed to be me, it’s interesting to look back on her through this lens and realize how cognizant I am of my defense-mechanisms, as reflected in this mirror. I reveled before in the fact that writing can be a protective filter of our thoughts by virtue of its revision stage, yet it is also something that leaves us exposed, unveiling raw emotion, intellect, and imagination. I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt (and continues to feel) timid about posting a blog, putting those ideas out there for anyone to read and judge. Getting something “in writing,” after all, carries that sense of no-turning-back, as though signed in our blood or chiseled in stone. There’s both a structured permanence and organic fluidity to it that just fascinates me, but I’ll leave that to another blog topic on another day. For now, I suppose these blogs do allow us to go back and edit, but I’ll keep my promise and not exercise that protection ;). In fact, I’m not even going to let myself read this over before I press “Publish.” Ha, take that!
What are your protective layers?
October 2nd, 2010 at 13:22
You are one brave monkey. I don’t know if it’s my failing eyesight or my inconsistent typing skills, but my stuff is full of so many typo’s — I could never post a first draft for the world to see! Even with my comments, I have to read them over a couple times before I click SUBMIT.
As far as “protection” goes, I use humor and sarcasm in my daily life, and in my writing, dealing with rejection and whatnot, I probably use a variety of that inferiority/superiority complex you mentioned.
Nicely written excerpt, by the way!
October 5th, 2010 at 15:37
It was almost a relief for my borderline-OCD-self to have the excuse not to reread with the fine-toothed comb. Unfortunately, I still do it AS I’m typing, so maybe that was cheating and/or me still not giving myself a freaking break :).
Glad to hear I’ve got a kindred inferior/superior spirit! And that humor/sarcasm goes a looong way in making life grander or at least a little more tolerable at times.
Thank you for the compliment on the excerpts as well…just little snippets that automatically came to me as I thought about my dear, neurotic protagonist.
October 2nd, 2010 at 15:35
Nice play on words :-). I do buhlieve ah was blushin’ :-). Loved the excerpts. Well done–and bravely done! We share a lot of the same insecurities and survival modes, though I confess I have never resorted to a hat…hmmm… is it just how writers are?
October 5th, 2010 at 15:42
Sorry if I oh-ffend, ma’am :). The hat is particularly protective when it involves a brim (most frequently, my baseball cap), which serves as a nice shield…
Yes, I do think writers are naturally prone to such protections…one reason possibly being how engrossed we are in the life of the mind; even if we’re still social, outgoing people, there’s an introverted side to us that maintains one foot within the protection of our imaginations, or we’re thwarting distraction or other threats to our preoccupation with our stories. Hm…
October 2nd, 2010 at 17:16
Aw honey, this is a brilliant post, and Milo is so right – very brave!
About my protection mechanisms:
layer 1: kill them with being nice
layer 2: expect nothing/the worst and you are sure to be at least always right – or pleasantly surprised
layer 3: sarcasm/self-irony (best example – my post on rejection)
And yes – it is shocking how your inner self is able to transcend even the (supposedly) thickest cover-up. When reading my ms I after finishing I was taken aback how much my male-withdrawn-aching-to-belong-multiple-assassin-protagonist had in common with me when reading between the lines.
October 5th, 2010 at 15:44
Ah, check, check, and check—brilliant protections, all of them! And I agree with each—layer 1 is surprisingly effective and usually makes me feel better in the long run.
Yes, I imagine that other than the multiple-assassin thing you have in common, it would be shocking to see other similarities with your protagonist ;).
October 2nd, 2010 at 20:02
Hmmh…I use the stare of death. It kills puppies and kittens on the spot. (No, not really but it sounded good) With one stare, I can send people away if they’re annoying me by standing too close to me in the queue. Most of the time though, I’m oblivious because I have my MP3 player on LOUD. If someone really annoys me, I let them have it…er, verbally. Though I am much more chilled out now. Back in my 20s I was the female equivalent of the angry young man. Which brings me back to my boy. Yes, he is a lot like me except he’s better at punching. I was never that good at that ha ha. (I first punched a boy at the tender age of 8 – he had it coming, he was annoying me and teasing me. Never did it again after that…heh heh)
P.S Henry the VII was a fat bloater and ginger so never mind about needing protection of THAT kind. If he hadn’t been king, he would have never gotten any birds. Ha Ha Ha (er…me bad, if he were here, he’d cut my head off lol)
October 5th, 2010 at 15:49
I am in simultaneous fear and awe of the stare…I am picturing people in queue spontaneously combusting one by one at the receiving end of your laser beams 🙂 I am bowing to you for belting that little brat when you were a kid; bet that emasculated him but good ;). Henry was a “fat bloater”…*hee*…maybe if looked more like the actor playing him in “The Tudors” series I could understand, but otherwise the man had NO game…
October 6th, 2010 at 17:52
Yeah, shame he didn’t look like Jonathan Rhys Meyers…if he had, none of his wives would have wanted to divorce him.
The stare is good, it helps to have lighter eyes, looks more “icy” that way heh heh…
October 6th, 2010 at 18:34
Damn, mine are medium-dark. I’ll have to use actual laser beams.
October 5th, 2010 at 21:00
And yes, I am very, VERY mortified to see my use of “they’re” versus “their” already in the first paragraph! Aarrgghh!!! But I’m not going to edit…nope…no sir…just gonna leave it…it doesn’t bother me, really…I hardly even notice it anymore…*yawn*…yep, too bored with errors to give them another thought…no, I’m not twitching right now…don’t be silly, it’s just an eye tick…what do you mean?…no…I don’t care that I left a blank quotation box at the bottom of my post, too…I mean, big whoop…it doesn’t *twitch* bother me *twitch-twitch*…
October 6th, 2010 at 17:54
Guess what, I read that and didn’t catch it. My mind read what I thought I should be reading. If you hadn’t pointed it out, I’d not noticed. I’d be twitching…I’m the most pedantic person of all…I’ve been known to edit a post just to fix a comma…oh dear…
October 6th, 2010 at 18:35
Double-damn! I shouldn’t have said anything :).
October 6th, 2010 at 13:46
blogging, writing, joking and flirting – all are used to hide behind. I hide behind all of these things to cover for my shyness and insecurities.