Last night I went to a local writers group that I’ve been attending for about three years now. Usually we just read some of what we’ve written and just enjoy each other’s writing, but this time we had a guest–Marjory Wentworth, the Poet Laureate of South Carolina. She works with a local hospital, doing writing therapy with cancer patients, which I found fascinating–and she actually seemed more intimidated by us than we were of her, which I found weird considering that she’s part of a poet’s group that meets in downtown Charleston, where she rubs shoulders with such luminaries as Robert Jordan and his wife.
After explaining her work, she did a writing exercise with us–made US do the work instead of sharing her own, hmpf! And normally I hate being put on the spot, but this turned out to be so interesting, I thought I’d share the results.
To start with, she had us pick an emotion and write for five minutes. I chose anger, and started spilling. At the end of the five minutes, we had to trade with someone, read through their piece and underline the one sentence or phrase that really grabbed us or seemed most vivid, then hand it back. (Ironically, the man I traded with wrote about “a happy song,” so we were chuckling about the difference in our themes.) THEN–we had to copy that phrase or sentence to fresh piece of paper and write for five minutes on that.
Afterward, we took turns reading what we’d come up with the second time. I was in tears many times at the beauty and vulnerability in various people’s work–but I was also a little apprehensive, since nearly everyone had such uplifting and encouraging themes, and mine–mine was anything but. (Although the young man who wrote about fear said he was glad he wasn’t the only one writing “dark.”)
So here it is–the opening line that my partner chose, then what I wrote in the five minutes after:
A black rage, self-protective, seeking to lash out at whoever has dared to stir the beast inside–
It crouches, snarling, huddled in the corner of the darkened cage. Hunger gnaws within its gut, feeding its pain and distrust, and it views the figure on the other side of the bars as through a scarlet haze.
Pathetic being, there–how does it dare to stand and watch me–I am the creature of power, yet I lie in chains. He would fear me were I loosed–and even now I see the glimmer of fear in his eyes, and I am fed by it.
A hand reaches out, tentatively, though the bars–an attempt at conciliation–but the beast will not be appeased. It flings itself forward, howling against its bonds, lamenting the restraint placed upon it.
Fear me, mortal–I would tear you apart if I could.