Among writers, there is a popular anecdote frequently attributed to Hemingway:
The other night I was thinking about this, and I wondered: What if that blood isn’t about suffering or death? What if it’s not about losing one’s life force, but rather extending it?
Maybe the key is to turn the blank page into a vein. Reroute your blood and share your heartbeat with the words on the page. Make your story a part of you, a new appendage.
I’m going to try it. I’m going to write my body into a million sentences, to fill the space between covers. I’m going to let people slip underneath my skin and read my pulse. I’m going to bleed my life onto the page.
My friend T.S. Bazelli shared a tantalizing little excerpt from her current project, and then challenged other writers to do the same. I guess this 777 thing is going around — and hey, it’s better than ebola! So here’s a slice of my WIP:
B is for Barcelona. One of Mom’s closest friends lives there with her daughter, who is only a year or two older than me. They invited me to stay with them for all of June and July. Within a week, Mom had packed my suitcase, Dad bought a couple guidebooks, and both of my older brothers chipped in to help pay for my ticket.
As I make my way through the security line, shoes in hand, I try not to think about how I’ve never left the country before. Or been on a plane. Or even been away from my family for more than a night.
If you’d like to play along, just go to page seven of your latest work, jump seven lines down, and post seven sentences. Whether you post to your own blog and leave a link, or put the whole thing in a comment here, I’d love to read it!
“Why Writers are the Worst Procrastinators” by Megan McArdle
Think about how a typical English class works: You read a “great work” by a famous author, discussing what the messages are, and how the author uses language, structure, and imagery to convey them. You memorize particularly pithy quotes to be regurgitated on the exam, and perhaps later on second dates. Students are rarely encouraged to peek at early drafts of those works. All they see is the final product, lovingly polished by both writer and editor to a very high shine. When the teacher asks “What is the author saying here?” no one ever suggests that the answer might be “He didn’t quite know” or “That sentence was part of a key scene in an earlier draft, and he forgot to take it out in revision.”
“Kesha Opens Up About Rehab, Eating Disorders And Sexism”
“I was wild, crazy and free. I talked about sex, about drinking. When men do that, it’s rock and roll, but when I did it, people assumed I was a train wreck.”
“I’m not fully fixed – I am a person in progress, but I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.”
“Write Till You Drop” by Annie Dillard
You were made and set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment.
The writer knows her field – what has been done, what could be done, the limits – the way a tennis player knows the court. And like that expert, she, too, plays the edges. That is where the exhilaration is.
One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.