Just Write: Responding to my first prompt.
My dear, dear Supervisors,
I know I should be focusing on completing my PhD, but I’m afraid, last night, I succumbed and signed up to respond to 30 Days of Writing Prompts.
My excuse? I thought signing up could possibly help solve the problem of a very neglected blog, as well as keeping me on track with my PhD, for, as we know, writing simulates more writing.
Today’s response came about because of my current reading: The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination.
Yesterday, I completed its chapter about Mary Shelly and the creation of Frankenstein. This chapter really soaked into my psyche, so much so last night I had another of my nightmares. I wasn’t surprised.
Mary asked herself about where she received the inspiration for the “so very hideous idea as that of Frankenstein” (Gilbert, S. M & Gubar, S. 2000). Frankenstein, Shelly’s character, also echoes that question, when he calls his monster, over and over, “hideous”.
I don’t think Mary Shelly later wanted to own that her novel, which held up the mirror to her experience of life, provided the answer to her question. So much has changed since her times, yet the truth about human nature told in Frankenstein, as evidenced by my nightmare, still reverberates.
So, thinking about Mary Shelly inspired my response to today’s writing prompt:
A drunken man sits next to you in a bar, thinks you’re his buddy and starts confessing “the truth”. Write about what “the truth” is.
“Books,” the man said, sitting next to me. “Do you read books?”
My night out was getting crazier by the minute. I should be home, reading books, writing books, but now a drunken man disturbs my thoughts to talk about books?
“Of course I read books,” I mumble. I curse myself. At my age, I should know better than to talk to intoxicated men. I should have just left him at the bar, and gone home. That’s where I belonged, rather than be alone in the city after midnight.
The man jutted his face closer to mine. His breath smelled of beer and whiskey. “Want to know the truth? Books are dangerous things,” he said.
I shrugged and shifted uneasily on the stool. “I know that.” I glanced at my nameless companion, but spoke more to myself than to him. “Books make us think – and they have the power to change our thinking.”
I almost jumped out my skin when the man smacked his hand hard against the bar. “Who says I need to think?”
He left me then, weaving through the crowd of people, disappearing into the dark of the night. My thoughts returned to my unfinished novel. I was here, in this bar, because of writing that stupid book, and because my imagination had let me down.
I hadn’t been in a bar, not in the early hours of the morning, for years. But today my character decided she wanted to go to a bar. I struggled to visualise the scene, let alone write it. I’ve travelled the world to research my novels – so it didn’t seem a hard ask to get in my car that evening and drive into the city for a few hours.
Now I felt like crying.
I reminded myself of one of my writing creeds, the words of Akira Kurosawa, “Being an artist means not having to avert one’s eyes”. How I wanted my writing to have substance; how I wanted my writing to mirror how I see the world.
I wrote because it was my way to really think, my way of growing, my way of looking at the world and voicing my truth. While it was my truth, there was a chance it might speak to someone else, too.
But tonight brought me back my worry that too many could not bear to look at the mirrors held up to them. They feared the danger of books.
Sandra M. Gilbert, 2000. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination (Yale Nota Bene). 2 Sub Edition. Yale University Press.
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, 2013. Frankenstein. Edition. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.