Thursday, May 17, 2012
It’s been difficult to being writing a reflection piece without a deadline. April's daily deadlines motivated me and kept me focused. I’ve learned throughout this blogging adventure that I write best with deadlines, particularly at the end of the semester. I also write best with others. Coauthoring this blog has been emotionally and intellectually stimulating. It took more of me than I expected, and reflecting continues to be a demanding process.
I was inspired by Doug Hesse, Nancy Sommers, and Kathleen Blake Yancey’s discussion of their object writing at CCCCs in March. Their stories were personal, deep, and reflective. I knew my adventure would be emotional, too, but I didn’t anticipate being so intimately involved with Kerri and Patrick’s writing journeys.
I liken this writing adventure to having two pen pals I’d never met, sans harassing the mailman. Each day I checked the blog, anxious and ready. Each day I discovered, learned, reflected, wrote, and read. Each day I was surprised.
When I picked a new piece of paper from my husband’s favorite baseball cap, I was first date nervous. I knew the objects in advance, and I had judged some as uninspiring and others as writeable. Shame on me! I judged my chosen objects more than the others. Kerri and Patrick’s objects were blind dates; if we didn’t click, it was ok. My objects were carefully selected and then I immediately hated and loved them. I felt the same way about my writing. Some days I just hit submit after 30 minutes of composing, ready for the object to be behind me. Some days I read what I wrote over and over, editing and revising and picking up each word like a fragile egg.
I was emotionally tied to these objects in a way I didn’t anticipate. I was having a great day when I wrote on left sandal and became depressed. I was having a crummy day when I picked wedding band and the object lifted me. I always looked forward to writing.
I enjoyed every piece Patrick and Kerri wrote. They always surprised me. The objects surprised me, too.
I’ve known Kerri since college. I room with her at conferences once or twice a year. I knew the favorite sweatshirt she was going to write about was her Harvard one. She let me borrow it in St. Louis and it is the most comfortable sweatshirt. All month I was sure. April 30th came around and Kerri’s favorite sweatshirt post described Peter (Ruby’s friend) on The Cosby Show.
I so enjoyed Patrick’s poem on day 11. I read it multiple times, trying to figure out how the ladle lead him from consommé to Buddha—an image I never expected. The simple complexity of this poem was admirable to say the least. Then, I drew ladle on day 12 and the unexpected happened. While I adored Patrick’s ladle, my ladle did not. It was angry and confrontational. My ladle poem is the unforeseen result of this hostility.
I thought most of my writing was terrible after reading Kerri and Patrick’s, particularly their narratives. I struggle to connect ideas on the page. When they write, it seems effortless. They are having a brilliant conversation and the words accidentally end up on the blog. Of course, I know writing isn’t like this. Still, the best writing appears effortless and that’s what I saw day after day in Kerri and Patrick’s posts. Before we started this, I knew they could write well. But every day, their writing has continued to amaze me.
I wouldn’t want to have this experience with anyone else. I am thankful that my company during an outdoor lunch on a cold, rainy day outshined the dreariness and our conversation lead to getting to know my friends and my writing better.
The freedom of writing on objects helps writers explore. We write what the object tells us to write. We write where the object leads us. We look at each object differently. My blackboard isn’t Kerri’s blackboard. My penguin isn’t Patrick’s. If we added one more or ten more writing partners, I believe no one’s vinyl record or bookmark would be the same as another. The individuality in this experiment strengthens each participant’s contributions.
Perhaps educational value can be found here both in the freedom of an object and the unique experiences an author brings to the object. This objects give permission to reflect and imagine, yet also take the blame if, once on the page, the words don’t seem to work. No pressure, anything goes writing.
Reflecting on what each object means to me—some close, personal friends; others distant like we’d never met—tells me about myself. I know each object we wrote about, but I chose to remember some more closely and keep others at a comfortable distance. Some objects were amiable. Some objects were prejudged. The white page I wrote on was never blank at all.
I didn’t always like the final product, but I needed the wouldn’t-this-be-cool adventure to propel my summer writing. I’ve already begun revising and reworking. Although the 30-day writing exercise is officially over, I feel like I’m just getting started.