Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wednesday Write-Off: The 'Bad' Births the 'Good'

Remember the prompt?  
The murders of young women in Ciudad Juarez // coffee grounds // 15 minutes' worth writing?

Here is Part 1 (first 10 minutes) of my own thoughtflow:
i have no claim on the murders of young women in ciudad juarez -- not by personal connection, language, culture.  i didn't even hear about them until 2 years after they began -- as i wrote to an acquaintance:  what can i say?  insulated, middle-class, suburban-raised white bread woman that i am! 

last night i dreamed about them again, though, those young women.  and coffee grounds. 

the guys i work with make the first pot of coffee before i arrive in the morning.

every morning for five years, i've come in to a mess of coffee grounds spilled all over the counter and just left there.  and every morning for five years, i've cleaned them up, those spilled coffee grounds, muttering in evil undertones about the deliberate indifference of these guys, their walk-away-shrug.  they just know, in some molecular part of themselves, that someone else, someone with a vagina no doubt, is going to clean up after them.

not that cleaning up coffee grounds is remotely close to losing my life, but isn't there a link here?  in the casual attitude of some men toward the place of women?  to possess a vagina is to be automatically indebted to an ongoing masculine indifference.  those with vaginas SERVE -- they clean up after the walk-away-shrugs.  a dead body spilled on a sandy desert floor; coffee grounds dribbled on the daily counter; same thing, right?  by way of attitude?  it's a dismissal, high & low voltage/effect, of the viability of women. use women, take them for granted, diminish & disrespect & just generally don't see them except as a utilitarian function -- a piece of ass (willing or not), a maid (willing or not).  it's a power-over syndrome; they're bigger, better, are some men.  their time is worth more than a maid's; their cocks are worth more than any vagina, or even a life.  it's all spilled coffee grounds, these young women's bodies -- those lost lives, pride, dreams, individuality.  it's a filtering of women from recognition to generic grounds -- boil down the name, the face, the personal interactions, the individual, and all accountability disappears with it.  no bitter flavor then. 

literal dead women and women deadened by the male attitude of entitlement.  every day for five years i've gathered up those coffee grounds like the remains of my own dignity, somehow, but then merely direct them into the trash.  who gathers up the remains of those dead women?  who honors their vaginas, their womanly individuality?  who restores their names, faces, hopes, dreams, the personal?  who restores mine? 

i have no claim to the murders of young women in ciudad juarez, EXCEPT AS A WOMAN.  a woman experiencing small but cumulative murders of my identity, every day.  every day i'm reminded, again and again, of the inequity in the status quo, how some have the choice to use and shrug and walk away, how some come behind and clean up if they want to keep their jobs, their partners, their kids, or harbor any illusion of perhaps keeping their lives.  dead young women & coffee grounds & daily death.  who knew?
Now hear this:
I do NOT consider that good writing in the least way.  Subjective, whiny, angry, unclear, occasionally lazy, mainly just a journal-entry style rant, even though I didn't expect that when I began.  I just let the pen move, then keep moving, even when (about 4 sentences in) I knew I didn't like what was happening.  wah wah wah ... whatever!   [also note:  when I write, I write fast, no worries about capitalization, punctuation -- what comes out is what comes out, so I don't block its arrival in any way]


Ideas I would NOT have had if I'd stopped writing, if I'd let my own judgement of the writing halt me as soon as I felt that critic's voice:  "This sucks.  You're whining.   Are you really this pissed* about coffee grounds, for crying out loud?!"  [*Answer:  yes]

Writing is process. 
Writing is trusting the process. 
Bad writing is the only way to ideas, to more writing, improved writing, more ideas, more writing, ever improving, refining.

Here is Part 2 (last 5 minutes) of my own thoughtflow:
brown or pale, and strong
young and strong
walking strong
brown or pale, and young, and walking
flavored with life,
with aromatic breath of
innocence, dreams,
working working long long long
tired - still strong
poor - still strong
breathing aromatic pulse

brown or pale, young and walking,

strong! strong! strong!

 -- innocence
 -- dreams
 -- responsibility
 -- family
 -- breath
 -- pulse
working tired & poor

to brown or pale, &
young & tired &
poor flavored aromatic
breath of death.

taken to the ground, forever.
huh?  HUH?  EH?  yea ... much much better.  See?  All that whiny blithering I did at first cleared my head, got ME out of my own way, opened the currents, distilled my personal bullshite into a much cleaner idea in response to the prompt.  Lovely, that process, so lovely. 

And hey, when you see your own progress, PAT YOURSELF ON THE BACK!!!  Eesh and blimey, no I don't think that poem is perfection, but I DO think it's damn good.  On its own, and not just considering what I started with. 

And double hey, save the 'bad' shite, too!!  Put it in a binder, refer back to it, cull the nuggets of good ideas, or let it stimulate your brain toward a new one.  NO WRITING IS WASTED.  NONE.   All writing is process. 
Create a character sketch.  Dash off some descriptive words, phrases, bits of dialogue, anything at all that bring someone you know to life.   Use that person's name if you want, or a code name, or a nickname.   I've been doing this for years in my journal, just trying to quickly capture the essence of someone I meet or observe -- it wasn't until I recently took a creative writing workshop from the Phoenix-born author Stella Pope Duarte that I realized I was doing something rather official:  a 'character sketch'.  I had been calling them 'People Imprints' -- just because I found someone memorable in some way!  We'll be playing more with character sketches, because Ms. Duarte had MUCH to say about that and Ms. Brown [that would be me] ate it up!   We had a 15 minute time limit on this exercise at the workshop, so that's what I'll use for this write-off, too.    HAVE FUN!!!  I can't wait to 'meet' your characters!


  1. Happy New Year!
    I found you again Toni, how the name of the new blog.

    Wishing you the best in 2010,

  2. great story as usual, love your writing


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