*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?