Writing blurb

21 Feb

I just got back from my monthly free-writing class. I feel crappy because I didn’t share anything with the rest of the group, even though I eventually wanted to. I always tell myself that I don’t have to share if I don’t want to, because that loosens me up, allows me to write more freely. If I know I have to share ahead of time, I end up writing nothing at all. Or I write funny or goofy things that are purely for entertainment value. I don’t write “where my energy is”, I don’t write where my heart is that day.

Today I did manage to eek out a few interesting little blurbs. The first I wrote at the very last second, after wasting 10 minutes of a 15-minute free write session getting no where. It was swift and cryptic, so I didn’t share it.

The second blurb was in response to a free-writing prompt where we had to write about a memory. The teacher gave us several common experiences in life, like “A hangover”, “kissing”, “unexpected news”, “a costume”, etc. We had to write down memories we had around those events and then, after we made a list of memories, let one of those memories “pick us” and write about it. I immediately was drawn to a memory I had of kissing. We were supposed to make our lists of memories, then take a coffee break, then come back and write. I just wrote right through the break. That’s what it means to write where your energy is.

I wanted to share this one with the others, but the two women on either side of me read their blurbs, also about kissing, and mine seemed redundant. So I didn’t. And now I feel bad. So I’m putting this blurb in here.


It’s not my first kiss, and yet it is. In my first apartment with the garage sale furniture. You are sitting on the orange and brown plaid rocking arm chair. The head rest has lost its padding and it sags behind your head.

I crawl up your knees from the matted tan carpet and hover awkwardly in front of you, my hands on the arms of the chair. Do I sit on your lap? You’re not that much bigger than I am, so I lean in.

Your mouth is big. All tongue and breath devouring me. Your full lips wet on my skin. I know this isn’t right. But how do I explain to you how to kiss me? My mouth is small. You have to kiss me small.

But I don’t say anything. Not tonight. I’m just glad to be here in this moment with the wall heater clicking, the neighbor’s TV rumbling faintly through the floor. Me in my stocking feet, and you in my arm chair and my heart beating.

12 Responses to “Writing blurb”

  1. cactuswatcher February 21, 2004 at 6:01 pm #

    Can I ask you a serious question or two?
    What are your goals in taking this course?
    Do you want someone to reaffirm that you have talent?
    Do you feel you have some specific writing problems you need to work on?
    Do you want to make sure you’re not just wasting your time writing fiction?
    Does the class leader read and comment on everyone’s work, or is it just a share-if-you-want-to kind of thing?
    Frankly, if I were the class leader and I knew there was a PhD in the class I’d be embarrassed to assign fifteen-minute blurbs. There are good reasons for such writing assignments, mostly when dealing with folks who aren’t good at organizing their thoughts like high school kids and college freshmen. But, with someone who’s gone through orals and defended a dissertation? I don’t think you need that kind of training any more.
    So, I have to assume that it’s something beyond the nitty-gritty of the assignment you really want.
    Participation is the issue you’ve stressed here. Was what you wrote so similar to the others that you felt it was a waste of time reading yours? Were you unsure of the quality of what you wrote? Was it just plain stage fright?
    Your blurb is fine. But, I’d like to see what it would look like if you took your time on it. It’s possible it wouldn’t look any different, and that’s okay. I’d like to see something like this in the context of a story where all the hints and subtle suggestions would work toward something more than a isolated pastel of a moment.
    Forgive me, if I’ve gone overboard here, but I think you might do better with a more serious ‘critique pal,’ someone with whom you can exchange serious this-is-good this-is-not-good information not just pats on the back. Dub and I have been exchanging stuff for several months now. She’s a lot better at listening to criticism than I am. But, when she tells me something I’ve been concerned about is weak, I know I have to do better.

  2. shadowkat67 February 21, 2004 at 9:13 pm #

    Lovely
    I liked this a lot, masq. I remember from a former conversation that you’ve been struggling with description and feel more comfortable with dialogue, and often don’t have the patience to describe what you see or feel.
    I think you do a lovely job of conveying how you felt through a few sentences. I felt you’re awkwardness and uncertainity about the kiss and I did feel as if I was in your shoes.
    My only criticism – is I’d like a little more description of whom you were kissing. Was it a man or a woman, for instance? I assumed woman, but I’m not sure why exactly, maybe the size factor? I liked the description of full lips and the idea that height wise this person was smaller, but mouth wise larger…but how did they feel?
    Soft? Do they have a beard? Of course that may be more than is possible to convey in just a few sentences.
    Interesting exercise though – thank you for sharing them. They may help me with my own writer’s block. I’d been trying my hand at a fanfic, an evil yet oddly within canon fanfic, but got stalled six pages in. I think other things going on in my life are distracting me.

  3. neshaffer February 22, 2004 at 6:43 am #

    Re: Can I ask you a serious question or two?
    It’s a free-writing “get-together”. To call it a class at all is a misnomer. The idea is to get together for a few hours with bagels and coffee and get out writing juices flowing. We’re given a few prompts and we write whatever comes to mind, no specific goals in mind except to get the pens moving.
    I go, mostly, because writing can be such a solitary activity. I do my serious writing at home, and I just want to hang out with other writers.
    Sharing, or not sharing, is totally optional. The “instructor” is a woman I’ve known for four years. I’ve been in some of her “real” classes, I worked with her one-on-one for two years to complete a draft of my novel.
    The only pressure there is what I put on myself. I tend to be pretty timid and shy in person, in groups, and it’s not about getting feedback on my writing, for me, I know I write well. It’s about sharing, interacting with people. I ask myself, “why go socialize with other writers if you’re not going to… socialize”?

  4. neshaffer February 22, 2004 at 6:50 am #

    This is a good example of my exact point
    I’m writing this blurb about this particular kiss, which happens to be the first time I ever kissed a woman. But because I know I will probably have to read it out loud, I find myself editing it. Not putting in details I’d ordinarily put in. Like details that reveal that it’s a woman.
    I wrote it in second person in order to hide the gender of the other person. Why do I do this? Censor myself? I don’t know. I just get sudden attacks of shyness. I know no one there is going to criticize my writing or my gayness. That’s not what this get-together is about.
    Despite all that, I found the use of the second person more intimate, in the end. It wasn’t chosen for intimacy, it was chosen for subterfuge, but the effect was interesting.
    My work on adding detail is improving, though, so in that respect… yeah me!

  5. cactuswatcher February 22, 2004 at 6:55 am #

    I have some of the same problem in groups.
    So, kick yourself in the butt and socialize! Just be careful about whose knees you’re “crawling” on. ;o)

  6. shadowkat67 February 22, 2004 at 9:11 am #

    Re: This is a good example of my exact point
    I’m writing this blurb about this particular kiss, which happens to be the first time I ever kissed a woman. But because I know I will probably have to read it out loud, I find myself editing it.
    Ah, you’re guilty of the same thing I am, editing myself. Holding back out of fear of criticism or confrontation. I start all my essays online with huge disclaimers. And in my fiction writing, I find myself veering away from certain things or I’ll edit them out. In a book club once, I swore, and the ladies looked at me and said – I didn’t know you swore, you never have. My response? Of course I do, I just edit myself.
    That said, I’ve found that my best writing at least in fiction is when I’m brutally open and honest. Don’t edit.
    Yet, at the same time – if I go too far, get too honest, too open – the writing loses something. I think you almost have to find or hit a delicate balance – reveal a little but not too much?
    Despite all that, I found the use of the second person more intimate, in the end. It wasn’t chosen for intimacy, it was chosen for subterfuge, but the effect was interesting.
    It did feel intimate. Perhaps what caused the intimacy was the subterfuge – as a reader I felt the shyness, the desire to hide within the words. It was an odd feeling – a feeling of embarrassment almost? I felt as if the character whose point of view I was in, was sharing something they were reluctant to share, wanted to keep private, close…yet at the same time wanted to reveal to others.
    It must be very hard to have a different sexual orientation than most of the people you know, work with,
    or go to classes with. To try and have them see you for who you are and not who you love or are attracted to. People aren’t very nice about things they don’t understand or are outside their scope of experience. But the wonder, I think, of the written word is it can in a way make it possible for people to understand something outside their scope of experience. Not sure that made sense. (see there I go again with my disclaimers.. 😉 ).

  7. neshaffer February 22, 2004 at 9:47 am #

    Re: This is a good example of my exact point
    That said, I’ve found that my best writing at least in fiction is when I’m brutally open and honest. Don’t edit.
    Yet, at the same time – if I go too far, get too honest, too open – the writing loses something. I think you almost have to find or hit a delicate balance – reveal a little but not too much?

    Both points are so true. Part of the reason I wonder if there’s any point in going to this writing get-together is that I never do my best writing there–I’m always editing myself for public consumption. One reason my writing life is so private is I need a place I can feel totally safe to “let it all hang out”. Hopefully, my novel will be the better for it, in the end.
    I’m less shy writing on the internet because I don’t have to see people face-to-face. And I can write something revealing, then get off the internet and run away, and never read the responses, or, read them when I’m brave enough. You can’t do that in regular life.
    On your second point, about revealing too much, it’s sort of like nudity in a film or something. Sometimes, half-dressed is sexier than seeing everything. There’s mystery. Intrigue.
    It did feel intimate. Perhaps what caused the intimacy was the subterfuge – as a reader I felt the shyness, the desire to hide within the words. It was an odd feeling – a feeling of embarrassment almost? I felt as if the character whose point of view I was in, was sharing something they were reluctant to share, wanted to keep private, close…yet at the same time wanted to reveal to others.
    I think the reason the subterfuge worked for me instead of against me was it helped capture the awkwardness of that first kiss. In a situation like that, there’s a part of you that doesn’t really want to see the other person as another woman, because it’s going to freak you out just a little, and you want to just throw yourself into what’s happening and not let your inhibitions stop you.
    Art and the artistic process. Who can figure it out? ; )
    It must be very hard to have a different sexual orientation than most of the people you know, work with, or go to classes with.
    Most of the time, it doesn’t bother me, because I’m so selective about who I’m friends with. Most of my everyday life friends are gay, and the ones that aren’t already accept me for who I am. I don’t feel overly shy about sharing on LJ, for example. So it’s actually kind of annoying when I find myself suddenly thrust into a situation where I don’t feel safe revealing myself. I freeze up.

  8. shadowkat67 February 22, 2004 at 10:19 am #

    Re: This is a good example of my exact point
    One reason my writing life is so private is I need a place I can feel totally safe to “let it all hang out”. Hopefully, my novel will be the better for it, in the end.
    Completely understand. I tend to freeze up myself when I don’t feel safe or exposed. Yet – you can’t tell what you’re doing right or wrong if you don’t expose your writing to others. Being a writer is such a Catch-22 experience – you want to communicate your feelings and thoughts to others, yet at the same time you want to stay safe and hidden.
    I’m less shy writing on the internet because I don’t have to see people face-to-face. And I can write something revealing, then get off the internet and run away, and never read the responses, or, read them when I’m brave enough. You can’t do that in regular life.
    Have had the same overall reaction to the internet. It’s more freeing somehow. And easier to talk to people through words, expressing my feelings. I find that the people on livejournal may actually know more about me right now than my friends offline do. Which is really weird, since I’ve known them for over 6 years.
    Although I should confess that I’ve started to protect myself a bit on internet, I post less and less on the more public forums such as voy, and more and more on private ones such as tea at the ford or in my own live journal which I can control. Part of this is due to the speed of my internet connection which appears to be getting slower and slower as time moves on – so the public forums are harder to view or post on or access now as opposed to the past. The private ones are oddly easier. Weird. The other reason is I’ve become, oddly enough, over-sensitive about my writing and views, it may have to do with my current situation (unemployment, etc), but I’ve found that I just can’t handle most of the posts or posting styles on more public forums, when I had no problems with them in the past. Now someone says something negative or goes after me in some way, I find myself an emotional wreck. It’s bizarre, not to mention highly embarrassing and I don’t deal well with embarassement. That may change once my situation changes. But at the moment, I feel exposed on the more public forums whenever I post, as if I’m standing there in public with no clothes on, waiting for people to throw things at me. It’s a weird feeling which only started happening recently. Can’t quite explain it.

  9. neshaffer February 22, 2004 at 11:18 am #

    Re: This is a good example of my exact point
    I actually prefer the more intimate posting places as opposed to the big public ones. And I say that as moderator of a public board! Places like LJ are more conducive to my personality, I think. It feels like being in a small group of friends hanging out, as opposed to say, public speaking.
    Although, to be honest, other than the old Bronze, the only public board I ever post to is my own, where people are usually pretty deferential to me. Not that they won’t point out errors in my thinking. Still, since I joined LJ I’ve noticed this tendency to post essays about AtS in my LJ and not on the board. So lately, I’ve made a conscious effort to cross-post to the board. All we need is the impression that Masq isn’t posting on her own board!
    As for the need to get scrutiny about your work from other people, that’s so true. That’s why I posted my blurb here in LJ when I chickened out in writing class. That’s why I go to that writing class, too.
    My problem is that lately, the only fiction writing I’ve been doing is my novel, and it’s hard to find bits and pieces to show to people for feedback, partly because they make less sense out of context, and partly because my novel is currently kind of torn apart at the seems as I edit it. There are obvious bits missing that I don’t need people to tell me are missing.
    I belong to at least three fiction writer’s communities on LJ, and I hope to submit bits to these groups, but so far, I’ve just asked general writing questions instead. I don’t have blocks of text yet I feel are ready for submission.
    Oy, I should just pull something together and throw it out there. Then, you know, run away and hide until I’m psychologically ready to deal with the feedback! ; )

  10. ljash March 21, 2004 at 1:39 am #

    The freewriting class sounds kinda interesting (I’ve no idea why i didn’t notice this post the first time around). Do you normally just pick something like a memory to start from?
    I’m usually interested in stuff like this because I don’t write as often as I would like. Learning more about the exercises would be nice.

  11. neshaffer March 22, 2004 at 11:15 am #

    was asking about the exercises too. I have a bunch of them. I’ll plan to create an LJ post with them soon.

  12. ljash March 22, 2004 at 2:02 pm #

    yay!

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