I picked up a copy of Ursula K. Le Guin’s guide to writing and style, Steering the Craft: A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story. I’m always looking for inspiration, motivation, story prompts, how-to guides, &c. I feel I’m pretty strong at what I’m doing and I stand to work myself into a rut. What’s needed are tools and exercises to expand and challenge myself, to refine certain techniques and explore others. It’s pretty pathetic, in that what it really takes is just putting your butt in the chair, your fingers on the keys, and actually writing instead of all this meta-research I’m doing.

But that’s how I do.

So this first exercise of hers, “Being Gorgeous,” comes in two parts. Part one is to write a narrative that’s intended to be orated (avoiding rhyme and meter); part two is to shape words and lines that reverberate with an intense emotion. That’s what I’m going to attempt today.

Part One

Well, well, well. Look at this little village, this hive of industry and labor, this threading network of cars and emails and products and services. Look at you all: scurrying and scampering, gaping and gawking. Yes, drink in your eyefulls, admire and be astonished, pray to your gods for all the good that will do. Pray harder! I’ll lend you ten whole minutes! But what should it avail you? Were you to kill your engines and power down your laptops, were you for once to act concertedly rather than as the teeming collective of individuals you pride yourselves to be, even I might only hear the suggestion of a wisp of your murmuration. Your prayers ascend no keener than my knees, you loveless lice, you motes remote, no higher than my thighs. Exhaust yourselves, you aggregate of dust and flour, expel your last into your own polluted lower atmosphere. Watch me as I watch you, wait with me a while, let us abide together in the remaining nine minutes before I wipe you from the world.

Part Two

I know how dangerous this is, to kneel on her pillow while she sleeps, right before her mouth. The room is nearly humid with slumber, uncomfortably warm as a sleeper requires. The pillow muffle-crunches beneath my hands and knees, the way I remember the fluffy and newly fallen snow would beneath the boots of my youth. Crunch-compact-packed. She sighs, long and slender fingers draped heavily upon her bare shoulder as she hugs herself beneath the sheets. Already, her saliva has begun to dry and sour, and the air that flows lazily from her throat bears the decay of vegetals and alkaline. I buck for a moment, then inhale it deeply and take it in its context, letting it flow around me, under me, over me, into and through me. Her rejected cells into my lungs and tissues and cellular matrices; so I consume her. Her nostrils to my left, narrow and dark, the slight asymmetry revealed to my narrow perspective, all the more endearing for their rarity. The gentle scoop of septum, the ridge of that supremely sensitive upper lip, and the pillowy rims of rose-quartz lips, worn smooth and soft by time and granules so much finer than her tremendous being. Croodling, I lean my head forward into the gap between her lips, studying the line of gums around her incisors, rapt with the fine streaks of light edging her off-white teeth in the amber glower of her room. These, I can touch: I place my palm upon the blunted edge of her lower teeth, impressed with their solidity and the power that drives them to sever and rend. Her breath roars around me, casually powerful, and should she moan, gulp, or close her jaw in a somnolent reflex, that’s it for me. Gone in an instant. But even this threat, this promise of unquestionable erasure lures me, heightens the enticement that brings me here. And as her winds gust down my spine and the slight moan at her dream stuns my ears, still I stretch one arm into the darkness of her cavern, her teeth around my waist, and dip my fingertip amid her taste buds…

3 thoughts on “Writing Exercise: Being Gorgeous

  1. Are you mad, part-two little guy? Get outta there! heartpound

    I had to go and get this book. I’m always on the lookout for interesting prompts that go beyond, “complete this story: ‘there were two sheep and a deep water well’”.

    Don’t diss your journey. There’s nothing pathetic about what you’re doing. Whatever process you follow is right for you. Yeah, you could simply “just sit there and write,” but we both know it isn’t always that simple. When I have trouble finding those first two words, there are no cheap tricks, no worthless tools or exercises, if they kick me back into gear.

    And those two scenes were beautifully written. I only connect with the second one, but you know how that goes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There. That’s a real exercise for every struggling writer: “Don’t diss your journey.” Imagine how differently we writers would sound if we were never permitted to vocalize our self-doubt and frustration. Yet this is deleterious messaging we impose upon our heads, doing more damage than we realize.

      If you haven’t already, see if your library has Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones for another guide to creative, exploratory writing challenges. But I’m sure this is old news to you, everyone knows this book and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I had not, so thank you for the recommendations. I have a pile of prompt books, but they are rather basic, and some downright silly, so I’m always on the lookout for something better. These will do the trick.

    Liked by 1 person

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