Writing Specific Experiences as a Woman

So I’m doing this exercise from the incredible blog “Writing Women’s Lives”  (http://writingwomenslives.com) by Marilyn Bousquin (she’s over at SheWrites as well) and I wanted to share part of this incredible 9-step exercise that may help you find the guts of your story.  For the exercise (she’ll email it to you once you sign up to follow her) there are nine steps, and steps within steps, and it seems so basic yet it’s so creative and unique.  Who are you as a woman writer?  How does everything change in the perspective of a woman?? Here is step 2 and 3 that I’ll share.  Oh wait, here’s a line I’m quoting from her from her “about” page:  “I have learned that when a woman who wants to write dips her pen into the well of her own courage, her truth becomes a freedom that graces this world.”

step 1 was to free-write for 10 minutes about an experience you most want to write about in your memoir/story

step 2 Circle one experience and write for 10 minutes without lifting your pen, writing about this experience:

—-I get out of the shower–it didn’t help like I’d hoped.  Fear only rose in the hot water, the dreaded shower that reminded me of my stepfather’s eyes and sweaty hands.  I dress as fast as I can, dry my hair, every step a rush.  What the fuck is happening to me I ask myself as I step away from me for a moment, a moment I want to swim in but the delusional reality is pulling me back in.  Everything–everything–is terrifying.  I shut my eyes and remember the voices I heard last night in my head.  I see red eyes in a black face every time.  I whimper to my dead grandmother “help me, grams, help me” as I pace through the empty house, holding my head.  I’m crying.  Hard.  Even the way a shadow falls on the floor from a lampshade is threatening me.  And every second that passes kicks this fever up a

notch.  I’m sick I’m sick I’m sick.  I grab my purse before I hurt myself and run as if I’m being chased for the car and fly down the gravel driveway.  I call my mother.  My fear, my need for her makes the tears surge.  “I’m going to the hospital mom” I bawl into the phone.  She doesn’t understand, thinks I’m physically ill, a panic rising in her voice as I cry hysterically.  “No, mom–the mental hospital.  Something’s wrong, something’s really fucking wrong mom I’m scared, I’m so scared!” and she calmly tells me it’ll be okay all the way to the hospital.  I don’t believe her because I’m dying.  I knew some day this death would come.  My soul is dying and I can’t get to help fast enough.  I’m dead I’m dead I’m dead.  That girl.  She died.  And I’m so scared there’s nothing left after her.  I feel the weight of the nothingness of 14 years all at once and it’s swallowing me.  I feel everything and sparks are flaring, short-circuiting my brain.

10 minutes up

step 3: Read what you wrote in step 2; then write the following question: WHO WAS I AS A FEMALE IN THIS EXPERIENCE? 10 minutes, don’t lift pen off the paper, don’t go back and look, don’t correct.  Repeat the question/phrase ‘as a female’ to help you when you’re stuck. Go

—-As  a female in this experience I am a young 28-year-old woman who was sexually abused by my stepfather from the ages of four-on.  I am a mother who can’ teven look at her own daughter because all she is is a reminder of the abuse I endured when I was her age.  She is a little me.  She can’t be me.  I can’t be near her.  I can’t touch her.  Who am I?  A woman, a woman who is incapable of self-love, a woman who thinks she deserves nothing, that she is nothing, just a sexless, nameless being.  Who am I?  A woman who has finally broken under the weight of fourteen years of trying to keep it all together, or maybe longer?  Maybe since I was a little girl?  Who am I?  Am a girl, a young spiritless thing.  Who am I?  A woman who has ruined her engagemnet because I’m too sick to be intimate–intimacy terrifies me–makes me numb and sends me down into that perverted thinking and feeling that aren’t mine–I can’t even kiss him.  He’s leaving me soon I know.  I see it in his eyes.  Who am I?  A woman leaving her country home alone, always alone and independent and strong and tough–now cracked.  Weak.  Flying down the road to the mental hospital, where I will be just a patient, a number, a statistic, a name on a chart–which sounds wonderful.  Who am I?  A woman–no a girl in a woman’s body, crying and dying in a waking nightmare.



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