28 February 2011

Writing restraint 2 and 3

My friend gave me a writing task.
It was:
1. Using the prompt word 'simplicity', write a very short piece (about 100 words) using only words containing four or less letters.
2. As above but prompt is 'balance', words are five letters or less.
3. As above but prompt is 'complexity', words are six or less.

I posted 'simplicity' ages ago, and have now done the other two. I'll post all three so it seems complete:

4: Simplicity
Gram by gram heat rose, soft like fur or hair over cold skin to warm it only when it asks. To warm up here we have to burn book upon book. It is safe and easy and and we stay dumb and good. We cook eggs in pans over the fire and eat them with salt. We pour the salt in a form to keep us from harm and dig our toes into the dirt for fun. Each page bows down into the fire and each word like love goes away with a char on your brow as you lean in to read.

5: Balance
His body has been made. From thigh and knee to thick, white wrist. Even the water which coats his eyes is there, older than its Latin name. Under heavy stone he waits. Men come. They think their role is great. They try and fail, they fight and lose. They did not see his body in the block. With tools too sharp or hands too heavy they break and split the cube into only crumb and ash. They think they must make his veins, guts, hairs and nails. He waits in the quiet to be seen. Even he who will chip with care and grace at the block will in the end carve only his name into it in bold. The body's name will be faint and small on the edge of the stone. But it will stay. 

6: Complexity
My hands fall open in doubt. Palms arch up hoping the wind will shape the frayed lines into clear paths. They are pushed and peaked into new forms and like sand dunes or cliff faces, eroded and formed over time. Then they buckle into guilty fists. The head line caves in with fear. The heart line bleeds over its border. They form no myth. No secret is there. I am lured by too many roads. One: sweet and plain as home, pulling with bribes and tears. Two: rich and deep as oceans, braced for new logics. Three: light and fine as skin pulled tight over pale, hollow-boned wings, void of the weight of effort, clean and high. Soon the white pillow and sweet tea I met each day with will be a happy blank. Then I will step out only with desire.

9 February 2011

‘Wars come and go, bugs are forever.’

Mary Gaitskill on writing, Nabokov, MFAs, rejection, mystery, her early career, pointlessness...
Mary Gaitskill, 1989

Her writing essentials:
1. willingness to be lonely
2. maniacal persistence
3. courage
4. and then something else that makes it impossible to quit, even when, rationally, you really ought to
5. let go of the idea of success

The full text (I think it's from a talk/speech) is worth reading, honest and brave - over here.
Mary Gaitskill, recent