Writing is a solitary pursuit--the imagination guiding the hand moving the pen. I'm pretty old-school, valuing the work of good editors and the revisions process before letting my words go public. But life is short, right? And sometimes, just sometimes, we need to spout off.

About me...

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A writer, mother, teacher, friend, I love books, blizzards and beaches, music from Hildegard von Bingen to the Beatles to Bonnie Raitt to The Brood; I love medieval churches, red wine, creme caramel, and roasted beets, and walking the woods and coastlines of home. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Write Here In Plain Sight aka WHIPS...

A couple of days from now some writerly colleagues and I will be doing WHIPS, a wild 'n' crazy public writing marathon at Dalhousie University. Writing in front of an audience, an audience whom it's the writer's responsibility to engage in both a running monologue on the writing process and an ongoing Q&A session while s/he actively types or scribbles away.
Last year I requested special equipment that allowed my low-tech pencil-scratchings on paper to be viewed on the large screen of a lecture room as I frantically dashed off a really sketchy hole-ridden draft of a short story (that later ended up being shelved).
The whole thing was like walking a tightrope at a frenetic pace to keep from looking down. If I'd stopped talking at any point to reflect on what I was drafting I'd have utterly lost my nerve and frozen--a physical spin on writer's block.
Like having an army of explorers invade your moon landscape. The unknown/forbidden territory of the writer's imagination.
The other subjects/specimens/guinea pigs/lab rats who kindly offered themselves up to this unholy exercise were nonfiction writers, academic writers and commentators. With one exception, I was (and probably will be this year) the only fiction/creative writer fool enough to do this.
Why? asked a curious journalist. Writing is so private; the last thing you want is an audience seeing inside your head.
A public debunking of some of the myths around creative composition, perhaps.
The writer as a kind of guide through the process.
The writer as teacher.
The writer/teacher as a "holy" fool. An invisible cipher.
(A slight bit of the show-off there too?)
Writerly exhibitionism?
WHIPS certainly does expose a person. It's a little like walking through a mall in your underwear. Clean underwear, I would say, because even in this very public display of a decidedly un-public event (the writer dealing with the blank page or screen; for an audience like watching paint dry) there is still the kernel of oneself that's held back.
So, as I await this year's WHIPS, I'm already contemplating what I'll write. It will come from the visual landscape of a story, yes, but only from the neck up. It won't be the heart that gets exposed.
There are only so many risks you are willing to take when someone is watching.

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