Monday, August 15, 2011


            Writing, most days, comes easily to me. I sit with pen and spiral notebook and jot ideas, or I face the almighty blank screen of my laptop and wait for my muse to guide my words. One thought may snag my attention, and I’ll obsess over the concept until I create something. Not every piece I produce meets my inner critic’s standards of “quality,” but I ignore that negatively nagging voice and push through until I have something on the page.    
            If I pen about a memory, then I become a medium who channels the past into the present. Recounting a recollection proves the easiest type of writing for me. I spent most of my years as I writing teacher modeling for my students the layers of personal narratives. I’d have my students stretch out on the floor and do a visualization activity where they’d revisit an experience. Classroom darkened to reduce visual input, relaxation music playing in the background, and my own voice barely above a whisper, I’d coach my students into their selected memories. I’d take them through all of the senses one-by-one, asking them to take note of specific images within their memory. When I’d let them open their eyes, they would scribble their remembrances as quickly as possible.   
“Get the skeleton of the event down on paper,” I’d preach. “We’ll go back later and add the other layers. I’ll give you the tools you need.”
And I’d teach them about simile, metaphor, personification and imagery. I’d model my own paper on the board or overhead (and later through my laptop and projector,) fleshing out my skeletal first draft until eventually I finished my narrative. Sometimes, I’d show my students how to take the prose narrative and convert it into a poem by lifting out those special words and phrases that brought life to the piece and utilizing them in a different way.
            Some days, writing becomes a laborious endeavor, like today. I flit from idea to idea so quickly that nothing makes it to the page. My brainstormed list bores me, and fatigue prevents me from tapping into my childhood. The current news either depresses me or angers me, and either way I can’t muster the momentum to tackle politics. (Perry will have to wait for another day.) Poetry takes even more energy and focus, so I know it’s a long shot that I’ll suddenly whip out a snazzy rhyme or thought provoking verse.
            After a million false starts, I decided to let my mind meander to find its own revelations, but stumbled upon no wonderful Inspiration. Instead, I typed in several possible titles, rejected a few beginnings, and finally decided I’d record the silence of my muse, for she hasn’t whispered a single word to me as I sit and write.
            Do you hear the silence?

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

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