This is a write from the Monday night Write Whole workshop. The prompt asked each of us to create two lists, one of the stories we tell often, another of the stories we don’t tell. Here’s my response:
There are stories I’m desperate to tell / the backhand side to my coming out-incest story / stories that are all interwoven in someone else’s pain / the truths other people aren’t willing to spill yet / I mean, people in my family, I mean / people I love.
There are parts that involve my sister, my / dad, and I don’t just want to write them in my notebook, I want to write them to share / but because I can’t share their stories / I don’t write them at all.
(This is a part of a longer, ongoing work in progress about this transition from feminine straight girl to butch dyke to femme…)
I’ve been defending you a lot recently in ways I never would have back when I was you. You never used the term Real Butch, hated that essentializing, that narrowing of focus, that erasure of all the other queer possibilities of the masculine gendering the female flesh. Nowadays, now and again, I tell the ones who ask me, OK, yeah, I was a Real Butch.
They can’t hear the “but…” but you do, I know it, I can feel you peeling behind my teeth, wanting to push out the whole story, wanting me to keep on telling it like it was—and is—how there’s no such goddamn thing as a real butch and butch is as ze says it is, whoever’s wearing the skin on that body, but we both know that’s always in question, right?
This is what I love about writing: the physicality of it and the mess, the rush of words and the trying to keep up with the flood how I got a new pen with fresh ink and so I’m trying to reclaim my wrist this fat fast smooth ache —
what I love about writing is harnessing what’s intangible, impenetrible, the desperation to get inside fully the thing that has no words, not really, the truth is writing is a chase, trying to catch the breath of the words, the thought, the fist thing that flashed across behind the tongue of my imaginings before it’s snipped away by loss or ego or don’t say that or reconstructive tendencies.
What I love is this reaching, teaching myself to breathe, to drink, to eat while I write keep the wrist aching, move through that burn into the true good stuff, how the words aren’t more important than the race, and they are.
It’s Tuesday, and I dunno about you, but I am already well into my week, and the “self” that I am on the weekends feels further and further away by the minute.
Here’s a prompt for this morning:
Take a few moments and write down all the “selves” you are in your life right now (or maybe create this list for a character you’re working with!). (For instance, my list might include: commuter, database flunky, writer, dreamer, coffee addict, etc.)
Let yourself notice which two of your “selves” take most of your time right now, or are otherwise calling your writerly attention, and let them talk with one another for at least 15 mins…
I wrote this in Monday’s workshop, and it’s the beginning of something longer, I think, about how different words are “charged” differently for each of us… xo, Jen
Yesterday at the bookstore I asked the man behind the counter if they had any books by James Pennebaker.
“I don’t know who that is,” he said.
Yesterday it felt like all the mercury retrograde hit me at one time — bracelets broke, folders spilled all over the back of the car when I was trying to get to work early, items got misplaced and were unfindable, and at my primary work gig, I found myself feeling deeply out of place and on the wrong path entirely.
Mostly I manged to stay in a decent mood, going with the rather ragged (at least to this conscious brain) flow — there have been plenty of bad days, bad mood days, sad days recently, and I didn’t want to have another one. Still, by day’s end, I felt in need of a deep spiritual chiropractic adjustment. I was all achy inside, weird and out of sorts. I had a mostly non-dinner, started watching old monty python sketches on youtube, walked to the laundromat for quarters so I could do laundry, then turned on the tv to distract myself even further.
I watched tv for maybe 7 minutes then went into the bathroom to do manicure-ish things, turned on the radio which was tuned to KQED, and a voice was saying, “I have to read the old ones first because people seem to want me to …” and a little more and then the voice was reading “Wild Geese.” It was Mary Oliver, reading her own work, and I turned and rested against the sink and just listened. I let myself cry, get into the rhythm and the possibility of poetry, and was thankful.
About a month ago, I committed to posting longer, more well-thought-out answers to the questions that Britt Bravo posed to me during our Arts and Healing Network podcast conversation. Here’s my answer for day seven!
7. How has [facilitating] the workshops changed your own writing?
I think the most important impact that the workshops have had on my own work is an encouragement to be more, and more consistently, brave.
Some time ago, I set up a GoogleAlert to let me know when the words “writing and healing” appear in a news artlcle or online posting. I’ve received some surprising and lovely results, mostly from small, local or regional papers/journals/blogs. This is the sort of news we (I, at least) don’t read every day, the deeply important, so-called “small” stories that aren’t receiving wide, mainstream attention.
Recently, I learned about the following:
The Wordcraft Circle oF Native Writers and Storytellers are back to host the ‘Returning the Gift Native Writer’s Festival’ in March, at MSU in East Lansing, MI.
On recommendation of someone at UCSF, I’ve been reading Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.’s book, Kitchen Table Wisdom. Dr. Remen, an accomplished physician, survivor of chronic illness, and therapist, began many years ago to think about how best one might work with patients who were facing chronic illness and death.
Stories are powerful instruments — and they’re as common and consistent for us as breathing. Just as the Tales Grimm or the old Parables or the Ananzi or Coyote tales are recognizable as telling us something about how our communities think we ought to live, we have individual/familial stories that we tell ourselves and one another very consistently every minute of every day. We, as literate and verbal culture, are ever immersed in story.
What’s the definition of story? My online dictionary says it can be used as a noun or a verb. I loved multi-layered words like that. Anyway, one definition is “an account or recital of an event or a series of events, either true or fictitious.” Another is “to decorate with scenes representing historical or legendary events; to tell as a story.” (Circularity is always fun — and the dictionary is fraught with it, but that’s another story!)
Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do with the raw material that we create in workshops – and often, it’s not necessary to do anything; there’s powerful work done just in the act of writing, in the act of creation. Yet, there are times when I want to return to a piece, and I’m not sure how to pick up where I left off… the first thing I have to do, of course, is transcribe the work from my notebook into the computer. And one of the things I’ve decided I’d like to do is put more of this work up onto my blogs.
From a mid-July meeting of the Monday survivors writing workshop, one of my own exercise responses:
It’s difficult, the things that are known and the things that are unknown, and when I say difficult, I mean shitty and infuriating, and when I say ‘are known’ and ‘are unknown’ in that most passive voice, what I mean is the things I can say for certain and the things that I could possibly have never said for certain because when they were occurring I was without a root in language, my mouth floated out, into an obliterating twisting and carnivorous extermination whenever I tried to find the words, and now, I am without a root in time or place or truth.