It has been quite a while since I posted, thanks to life, work, and most significantly, a general sense of creative drought within my life. Today, I’m choosing to break the silence by writing about … well, creative drought. Given that my last post discussed literal drought, a distinct theme seems to be emerging here…
Anyway. Fresh month, fresh start. August always marks a subtle but distinct change in my attitude. I officially enter the ‘oh shit, autumn is here, and that means winter will be here soon, and I’m going to be so cold’ phase in my seasonal cycle of emotions. Never let it be said that I don’t know how to overdramatise things! I know that plenty of warm days still lie ahead, but whenever August begins, my thoughts turn towards autumn nevertheless: towards cooling temperatures, leaves falling from the trees, wood smoke emerging from the chimneys (I always smell autumn before I feel it). These things don’t become obvious until September, but I feel the need to mentally psyche myself up for them in August nonetheless.
My writing process has been going through a lot of stops and starts lately, but one thing that has been helping me to break the rut is a daily five-minute freewrite challenge that I’ve been undertaking on Steemit. I have a huge perfectionist streak when it comes to my work. All too often, if I can’t do something perfectly, if my writing doesn’t strike a tone that feels ‘appropriate’ for me, or if I can’t immediately find ‘the right words’, I’m inclined to give up on what I’m doing altogether.
The five-minute freewrite challenge has been instrumental in helping me to break out of that way of thinking. The objective is to simply use the prompt word offered to you that day and spend five minutes writing down whatever comes into your head related to that word: no censorship, no judgement, no going back over what you just said to see whether it ‘feel right.’ Good, bad, ugly, ridiculous: it doesn’t matter.
Last night, I was captivated by an idea that came to me in response to the latest prompt word (‘pitiful’). I envisaged the unsavoury dimension of Ireland’s recent past: a world of condemnation and repressive attitudes, where the worst possible fate that could befall any young woman was to become pregnant outside of marriage. In my mind’s eye, I could see the main character so clearly: proud, unrepentant, with a fierce love for her son and an ability to stand tall in the midst of judgement. I have promised myself to develop this idea further. By posting the story on my main blog like this, I’m trying to hold myself accountable to that promise.
Pitiful … Or Am I?
(I’m considering this to be a working title, for now)
My mother told me never to darken their door again. My father could have defended me – I know he could have – but he did not. He was always under her thumb. The night they realised what was going on, and she locked me into my room, all I could hear from the other side of the door were urgent whispers and low voices.
‘I can’t believe she would do this, I can’t believe we have to deal with this … this … I don’t even know what to call it. I have no words.’
‘Can we just –’
‘Who was he? That’s what I want to know.’
‘Maybe we should wait until Bob gets here,’ he said quickly, blurting out his suggestion while he still had the courage to do it, before she could say anything else, ’and then we can talk to her again. He would know what to do. He would –’
‘No.’ My mother’s voice had an acrid quality.
‘He’s her brother, Joanne.’
‘And much good he’s done her,’ she snapped by way of response. ‘Would she have ended up in this state if he had kept a closer eye on her? I should never have let her go to those dances. You were the one who told me to do it, Mick! Let her have a night out, you said. Let her enjoy some time with her friends. Bob will mind her, he’ll keep an eye on her, there’s nothing to worry about! Well, Mick! Are you happy now? Look what you’ve caused…’
She stormed into the room where I was seated then, her face a mask of cold, hard fury.
‘Well? Who was he?!’
The slaps I received that night, the things she said … I try not to think about that now. Nor do I dwell on my father: his helpless face, his quiet whispers once it was all over.
‘It was that lad in the baker’s, wasn’t it? I’ve seen you were pally with him… I’m sorry, Sue. I really am.’
That was all he could say: that he was sorry. The pity in his eyes is one thing I will always remember…
Despite all that is said, there is one thing I know about myself. One thing that carries me through every day: I am not pitiful.
I know what they say about me when I go to the marketplace, holding my son’s hand, and I see their stares.
Pregnant out of wedlock.
Does she even know who the father is?
My son is nearly three years old now. He is so innocent: full of joy; revelling in the slightest object of interest that catches his eye; always making me laugh. Yesterday, he came to me holding a little flower he had found, gazing upon it with wide eyes, as though it were the most precious thing he had ever seen in his life. I do not pity myself. Not while he is by my side: lighting up even my dullest moments with his smile.