I had a homework assignment this week for my Craft and Practice in Creative Writing class. It was an “observation and reflection” free-writing exercise for which we were to take 20-30 minutes in some familiar setting. For the first 10-15 minutes, we had to simply observe on our surroundings, considering the external aspects of our environment. For the last 10-15 minutes, we were supposed to turn that introspectively and make observations about what we were thinking, feeling, etc. Once the observation time was over, we were supposed to free-write about what we learned from this exercise… what we found interesting or challenging or surprising.
The process was rather eye-opening for me. When I was done, I read what I had written and I realized some things. Some of those things were about my writing, while others were rather personally enlightening.
First, that there was a clear imbalance in quantity of what I wrote about the external as opposed to the internal. Yet, even though it was the longer portion, there was a great deal of writable content that I completely ignored. I wonder if that is because the particular environment (my Lady Lair) is so familiar to me that much of it just fades into the background. There are all kinds of things that I could have written about that I, for whatever reason, didn’t. I realized that there is a significant relationship between that idea and my writing. I think that sometimes I get so involved with and so comfortable with my characters, their stories, and their worlds that I sometimes forget to actually write some aspects of character development and world-building. Those things are clear in my head, making what I write thoroughly understandable. But then I go back a few days later and read and I realize that there are gaps in knowledge and information, gaps that would be glaringly obvious to someone reading my work with no access to my thinking.
The second realization was on a more personal level, dealing with the internal observations portion of my reflective writing. For the most part, it was rather impersonal. There was very little depth to it and that is a rather true reflection of who I am, especially after all of the hurt, drama, and trauma of the last couple of years. It isn’t that I am shallow or vapid. Instead, I think it is a sign of a defense mechanism. There has been so much pain with very little healing time before something else has happened. I spend much more time taking care of those around me than I ever do me and it occured to me that maybe a bit of that is nothing more than a deep-seated need/desire to escape my reality. More than that, it is a matter of avoidance. Avoiding thinking about the bad stuff means avoiding thinking about the pain and the stress. But that doesn’t really work, does it?
I think the lesson to be learned is that I need to stop avoiding it and change things. I have to own it, acknowledge it, work it out to the best of my ability, and then let it go. All of which is much easier said than done.
I think the challenge is to dig deep and I think this type of “observation and reflection” exercise can help with that. I feel like, in order to emotionally engage readers, I need to do that for myself first. That can only improve the depth of my writing, in my opinion.