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?