I bought a wonderful book a month ago called “The Writer’s Portable Mentor” by Priscilla Long. I’m only about 1/5 of the way through it, and it’s already worth it’s weight in gold. I highly recommend purchasing a copy, if you can find it.
I thought I would share the result of one of the exercises from the book, written this morning in the Milwaukee airport.
Here’s the gist of the exercise: “Go to a place. Write for fifteen minutes at a steady pace without stopping. Describe what’s in front of you. Don’t write about anything except what you see, hear, touch, taste, or smell.”
I didn’t follow the rules exactly, but I was pleased with what came of it.
The squints of bleary-eyed travelers preparing for an early flight to Kansas City. An occasional flight steward emits a shock of laughter that jars the waiting passengers, whose coffee has only just begun its slow way through their bloodstream on its way to wakefulness. A prerecorded voice tries to overwhelm the scattered conversation with its message of warning: “Homeland Security advises a level orange threat level”; but if any of the half-awake attendants know, or even care, about what this polite sounding doomsayer portends, they hide it well behind their glazed expressions.
Images flash in no apparent order from the glow of a mostly unobserved television screen. To an objective observant it would seem that some silent consensus had been reached by all parties present who spend the early hour staring at one another, and at solitary passersby, while fervently avoiding eye contact. It’s almost as if their gaze were magnets charged by some post-awakening ritual with the current set to social repulsion that would not be cast-off until it had followed its full cycle.
For some, that cycle involved a quick, bitingly cold shower that shocked the senses into submission. For others, this post-awakening ritual involved first one then two, and up to four or five cups of strong black coffee, a shot of cream thrown in as an afterthought to taste, as though sleep could be driven off like some mangy old dog.
A woman with cropped black hair rustles a newspaper noisily, each fold followed by a lever-like movement of hand-to- coffee, coffee-to-mouth, followed again by a rustling of the paper, then a quick furtive bite into her blueberry muffin. She appears not to be reading the paper so much as sorting it for a future self who might find House & Home interesting while Sports is tossed quickly to the bottom. Occasionally she scratches the same spot on the right side of her head, almost quizzically, as her fingers search out a cure for itch.
To pass the time several men, and a couple of the women, pull out smart phones, fingers pulling, pushing, sliding, communicating hope, return, and a silent yearning to loved ones on the other end of those metal cans without strings.
Out the Port Window
We flew nearly parallel with another steel bird whose passing had left a plume of smoke that came and went in ghostlike wisps until finally disappearing altogether, leaving only a bed of billowy clouds beneath us, a blank slate of blue above us, and an opaque white wall of cloud far off in the distance.
I shared this with you as an encouragement to write, and also as a recommendation to check out the book. For honing your craft, I think it’s the best book I’ve found.