Daily themes

By Lawrence Ypil
Dog-ears in the Wrong Notebook

 

TEACH long enough and you begin to give advice worthy of a sage: write in the morning, write in white heat, write not so much about feeling, but with it.

Teach really long enough, however, and then you find yourself needing to take your own advice.

Today it’s simple. Write about what you love.

What could be easier than that?

I’ve been teaching a course called Daily Themes where students are expected to respond to writing prompts five days a week, for a whole semester. That’s five days a week for thirteen weeks which means if you’ve been the A student your parents have dreamt you to be, that’s exactly sixty-five 350-500 word essays in total. That is assuming of course that one has not had one migraine splitting morning in the past five months, or one late night out, or one horrible emotionless bottomless pit of a late afternoon, where facing the impending tick-tock of a 5pm deadline, one had nothing left to give that day, no nothing.

We’ve had one theme per week, one prompt per week, and this week the last of all these weeks is the week of Endings and Beginnings. We read excerpts from Jenny Boully’s Book of Endings and Beginnings, which is really an essay about time and about writing. We talk about what it means to write in the short form— a kind of tragic form really, with the beginning always in sight, with the end always coming to its final bow even while the start still echoes in the ear, the first always heralding through gesture and shape its end, the end never too far from where it began. So different from the middle of novels, whose pleasures lie in that state of immersion— in words, in lives other than our own, or even movies, that invite through the hazy gauze of spectatorship, the darkness of theatres and rooms, a kind of escapism from the real into the Real of the mind’s eye, the soul.

No such escapes in the short form, where the edges shine brightly when chiseled right, where the end is always in sight, not as some morbid preoccupation with endings, but as a kind of soulful coming to terms with the inevitable facts of things. Where then to begin? Where to start knowing you have only one day, one night to do what one must?

Write about what you love. Start with what you love. And I don’t mean that lovey-dovey kind of love that imagines forever, But the kind of love that shakes us, that keeps us awake, because it demands that we undo what has been done, and what needs to be done — that we change, that we move, that shift our stance, that we walk, run, even if we know that this is all going to at one point stop. That we write.

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