Stepping outside my comfort zone
LOLCats in Lieu of Writing

Drifting off track

The "Writing as Prayer" workshop that I went to last weekend (and mentioned in yesterday's post) was very interesting, but I failed at it.  Now, failure is good.  It means that you've tried something new that's not easy for you.  It means that you're challenging yourself.  Well, that's what I told myself the next day, anyway.

I knew that failure was a distinct possibility when I decided to go.  The information about the workshop mentioned descriptive writing, which is the part that is far outside my comfort zone.*  During the workshop, we were supposed to describe something from a Bible story we had all read.  I got all caught up in it and very interested.  Then, when everyone else read theirs out loud, I realized that I had totally botched. 

You see, what struck me the most was the emotional landscape of the story.  I got absorbed in it, described it, and compared it to another story.  But I had gone totally the wrong way, as I found when I listened to the others read the good physical descriptions that they wrote.**  I, having botched and gone the wrong way, obviously, didn't read mine aloud.  I was the only one who didn't. 

Now, part of why I'm going to this workshop is that it will stretch me - physical descriptions not being my thing in the least!  Back when I read a lot of fan fiction, I came up with, what I thought, was a pretty good Harry Potter fan fiction story - a different way to view the characters, and a different kind of talent for one of them.  I never wrote it, though.  I could get the action and the dialogue, but I didn't even want to try descriptions.  I later realized that I could have written it as a play - then I could do dialogue and action without a lot of description. 

Anyway, in the writing workshop, you don't have to read aloud what you've written.  It says so in the description.  That's the only reason I could go to it!

This week, we're supposed to write a description of something.  I've been trying to figure out what.  Maybe describe the first house we rented, which was very old and had minimal insulation, and we went broke every winter paying for heating oil to keep it at 55 degrees.  We got our first kitten there - she loved to sit in my lap, or crawl into the sleeve of my robe.  Tabitha was a sweetie...

NO!  I'm describing emotional things again.

Okay, I'll describe a flower in the garden.  Just one single flower, its height, its color, the curve of its petals, where I bought it from or growing it from seed, how taking care of seedlings helps me get through the short days of late January and...


Okay, the fledgling bluebird we watched yesterday, how his mother hovered around, going from signpost to tree while the fledgling fluttered his wings while sitting on top of the stop sign, then fluttered to the ground and caught an insect all by himself, while his mother continued to flutter around like a parent teaching their teenager how to drive...


Dear husband tried to help:  "Describe the toaster oven."  Okay,  the toaster oven which we use every morning when the weather is nice enough to have breakfast on the porch, and how nice it is to have a warm breakfast when it's slightly chilly outside, and how familial and close it feels to sit there and have long conversations even after the food is all...


The toaster oven's got a curved top/door for the roll heating part which we never use so it seems ridiculous to have something that just gets dirty and I have to wash it, but it was the only toaster oven big enough to make breakfast for all of us at the same time, which we like to do because then we can all talk and no one has to wait while their food gets cold, and we can have these nice long conversations...

Maybe I need some Ritalin to focus.

* I actually had decided not to go the day before.  The probability of unfamiliar people, writing outside what I was used to, and being inside on a beautiful Sunday evening all contributed.  But... that morning in choir, it turned out that an energetic and friendly soprano whom I've known since I joined the church was also going.  There are few people at church who could make me feel as much at home (and the majority are sopranos, interestingly enough).  So, I went (it turned out that she wasn't able to make it)(however the other people at the workshop were friendly so it was fine). 

**  Actually, I didn't totally botch.  When I described what I'd written to my family later, daughter said that it reminded her of Father Phillip's (Father C's) sermons, which is high praise since his sermons held her attention better than anyone else's.


Summer K

I like your descriptions. Physical doesn't have to mean visual, does it? What about the feel of things and their smells and how they are used? The only time visual descriptions really mean anything to me is when the author uses slight of hand to personify the object, like highlighting the orange glow of an oven's coils inside the curved metal top you mentioned. Then the visual becomes a metaphor for the warm emotional context of family dining within a less familiar world.
From reading your blog for over a year now, I think whatever you wind up writing will probably be quite moving. It's really encouraging to me to read about someone who is already so expressive taking chances to grow. Thanks for sharing this experience.

M Light

Thank you for the encouragement! I don't think of myself as expressive (you know how quiet I can be in person).


Quiet, expressive, whatever... It's your ability to know what you are feeling, and to actually feel it then, that I envy. I think...

So much of what I do for a living requires control and the ability to get past feelings, so I wonder how much of a handicap it might be to have them always so immediate. Sigh. Maybe someday I can get my public and private selves together for more than a vacation or a long weekend...

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