You may think writing down these ten things is bizarre. Well, the idea is not mine. It’s an exercise my writing group agreed to do for this week’s meeting, adopting it from “The Time is Now” column in the March/April issue of Poets&Writers.
And just having had a scare in which I thought I may be in my last seconds of life, it may seem like cheating to write this list, because I know what went through my mind, but I never shortchange an assignment, so here goes.
The directions say to do a free write for ten minutes, listing the ten things I will not think about in my last seconds of life, then turning the list into an essay. They suggest lingering on each thing, letting “it grow into its full potential” (p. 44), and further suggest each thing could become an essay of its own someday.
So step one: write the ten things without thinking. That’s what a free write is. Put your pen to paper, put on a timer, and write. So, I first distracted myself by watching the news—becoming distraught when I heard my favorite Caribou Coffee hangout may be on its way out—and then picked up my pen and wrote.
Here is what my subconscious said I won’t think about in my last seconds of life:
weight, laundry, to do list, aerobics, holey socks, weather, writing assignments, friends I’ve forgotten to call, my blog, my book
Step two: write a brief essay hooking these items together.
” Once upon a time, there was a weight fanatic who cut her aerobics class because her only clean socks were holey and she’d not done the laundry for days. Cutting the class was not a way out for her, though, because then she brooded at her desk about her endless to-do list, writing assignments yet to be completed, friends she’d abandoned, the blog post she’d forgotten to write, and her book that would languish if she didn’t continue her efforts to let people know it existed.
“As she brooded, her mood began to match the somber gray weather out the window.She’d have been better off going to aerobics wearing her holey socks. Who would have seen her socks? Now she’d have to deal with her procrastination.”
Okay, so it’s not a polished essay. But I did get all my things in! I think my list came from on top of my subconscious because these are actual things I think about each day. And I can easily see how each of them could morph into an essay of its own.
So, what did I think about when that boulder crashed into my chest? As the pressure climbed its way up to my neck, I thought of Shirley, a high school friend, who was admitted through ER on a Sunday and died on Thursday. As the pressure climbed up into my jaw, settling in my teeth, I heard my voice talking in my head, “If it’s my time, it’s okay.” And with that, I was surrounded by a warm blanket of peace.
Seconds later, I heard sirens. They were coming for me.
Now, ten days later (my heart checked out fine), I’m here at my Caribou, editing this assignment for posting here.
Try this writing exercise. See what happens in a less than a half hour’s time. If you do, you will discover the joy a writer gets from writing, from uncovering that which is inside of you, bursting to get out. Do it, even if you don’t have to for a writing group assignment.
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