Over the years I’ve received a lot of emails from folks asking me about writing. “How can I dance on the page?” they ask, “How can I bring my life and soul into my work?” In the online writing classes I teach at Ariel Gore’s Literary Kitchen, these same themes ribbon through every class.
A lot of it boils down to how you deal with trauma.
Trauma teaches people about the world. Shapes perception. Helps make sense of senseless things. And I’m not just talking about huge, natural disaster/species failure/rape traumas here. I’m talking about just the average disappointments, hurts and assaults on one’s sense of humanity that happen pretty much every day.
The time I was surrounded by five angry texters on the dance floor served as a wee trauma that took me to a deeply contemplative place.
Getting into a spat with girls because I (the old one) wanted to dance my ass off and they (the youngsters) wanted to stand there and text is fucken surreal. This is just completely out of the natural order. Kids are supposed to be dancing circles around me. I expect that. Somehow everything is right in the world when youngsters dance if not better, at least more enthusiastically than old-timers. And that there thought gave me pause, and inspired me to look closely at this multitudinous generation of people in their 20s and find out what’s going on with them. Which, in turn, led me to reddit, gaming culture, 4chan, Shrillex, tumblr, Lana Del Rey, meme generators, and other fascinating people and places. Except Lana Del Rey. (Not getting her appeal, but I think I might when I manage to piece together a yearning for the Mad Men-ish idyllicforwhites time of the late 1950s and early 1960s, with the absolute uncertainty and chaos of today.)
It’s all about following a thread from the micro to the macro. That’s how I write. Things go down in my life and I trace them all over the place, teasing out patterns and theories, like a detective trying to solve the mystery of the human condition vis á vis the natural order of the rest of the world, meanwhile knowing all the while that there is no solution. Nevertheless, the day-by-day practice of seeking one out keeps me from going batshit crazy.
And by batshit crazy, I am mean the-blowing-up-dams, Wal-Mart-headquarters-and-animal-research-centers crazy, not the nice, normal kind where you slow-motion mercy-kill yourself with heroin and delusion.
So for many writers, there is this serious disconnect. Culturally, trauma is something to avoid, deny, shun, downplay. Yet, in order to create, to really write from your heart, you must have access to all parts of your heart. This, you cannot do if you are conditioned to avoid, deny, shun and downplay so many realities you and your heart negotiate on a daily basis.
When I started teaching writing in the Literary Kitchen, I found out that I have a hidden talent for helping people with this disconnect. I don’t know if this will work or not, but it would be great fun to bring this talent into a blog. In my classes, I create writing prompts and critique people’s work. That is far too intensive for a blog format to accommodate, but I figure this would be a good space to help people struggling with creative disconnects.
Send me a precise description of what you’re trying to do and why you can’t do it and I’ll do my best to hook you up with a means to get there. Either comment below, or send a private message via the site’s contact page; please enter subject line “Question for Inga.”