Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Now that I've done this...

I suppose it's necessary to offer something...

I'm a little fascinated with the process of writing. I think it's funny that I write differently--faster, shorter, less colorfully-- with a keyboard under my fingers than with a pencil in my hand. Pencil writing tends to be slower, more deliberate, more prone to drift (which is not a bad thing, overall).

In my more academic days I used to volunteer at the local county jail among female inmates who were beyond the GED and vocational courses offered. We went in and taught journaling, as best as one can teach something that personal (sort of like teaching someone to eat, I think).

One of the things we did was to introduce a writing prompt, a half-sentence as a jumping off point, and let the women write for about ten minutes and then share their writing, if they cared to.

I made a mistake one day. (Okay, I made lots of mistakes on lots of days.) It was toward the end of the spring semester, and I was a little stacked up with papers and such, and it was near Mother's Day, so I decided the opening prompt for the session was "When I think of the word 'mother,'..." Most of the women there were mothers, and I figured it would give them a chance to brag about their kids.

Uh. I was, uh, incorrect.

In ten minutes, I called time and asked for volunteers to read their journal entries. Without exception, each of the women had some version of "When I think of the word 'mother,' I think about how much I've disappointed my mother, by making such awful choices in life, in men, in hobbies, in addictions, in (take your pick)."

Within another ten minutes I had a circle of bawling inmates, with tales of woe... boyfriends who beat them and forced them to carry drugs, casual drinking that became horrendous intoxication, stealing from family members and friends, all manner of human tragedy.

And all I wanted to do was to help some women express themselves better. I wasn't prepared for what they wanted to express. That wasn't my job...

But I say all that just to say that I have opened this window to express myself. I don't know what I'm going to express. (Isn't that what they call it when you squeeze some kind of horrid carbuncle?)

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