Blocking Writer’s Block – First Assignment – Sample “I remember”

In yesterday’s post, I suggested “I remember” as a writing exercise.  It’s a place where almost anyone can start writing any time.

I did my exercise in a beauty salon waiting for a hair cut.  I have to confess I cheated a little.  Because I knew I’d assigned it, I started the exercise in my head en route to the salon;  I also had to write down the last few sentences after they finished the haircut.  (They wouldn’t let me hold my notebook once the shampooing began.)

I did try not to erase or cross out when I wrote, or since this is an exercise, to edit, when I typed (though I did change names.)

Finally,  I didn’t intend to make the exercise itself about writing exercises and writing buddies, but because I was thinking about the blog, that’s what came to mind.  Which was fine.   The point of the exercise, if you try it, is to write about what you remember at the moment you sit down.  So here’s what I came up with 1:30 p.m., August 8, 2009.

“I remember”–

I remember when I first started these writing exercises.  It was years ago now;  I was invited into a group, a women’s group; I guess it was inherent back then that it was partly about writing, partly about “empowerment.”

There was Barbara with frizzy black hair and a dark green minivan; Helena who was Finnish, made documentary movies about anti-abortionists, and lived in a heavily subsidized mouth-watering West Village apartment right next to the Hudson.  (I never could figure out how she finagled that one.)  There was Evelyn who had long Auburn hair and a fey Pre-Raphaelite pout to her lips and who already, she told us later, borrowing sunblock, had had a melanoma removed.  There was Carrie, who I think was my original contact and who later came up to my house in the country one summer weekend with new husband in tow.  It was an unusually hot weekend and she insisted on dragging a mattress from the atticky bedroom I’d assigned them, down the stairwell and onto the screened porch that was just outside my window.  It’s an old house; it was an equally old mattress.  Mouse droppings littered the stairwell marking the path the mattress had lumped down.  The next day, still hot, she walked around most of the morning in a loose sweater with no underwear (pants either) making coffee for the new husband.  I’d recently gone through a wrenching separation from my own husband.  Suffice it to say, I never invited Carrie back again.

Then there was Agnes.  Agnes who was slender and small and upright in every sense of the word.  A dancer, an editor, a reader, a disciplined person, her back was straight at all times; her clothes trim and unwrinkled even if somehow vintage, her wavy hair pulled back, sometimes with tortoise shell combs which seemed in my mind to have the authority of reading glasses.

Helena, the one doing the documentaries about anti-abortionists, seemed to me to write about blood;  Evelyn, sex, Carrie, irritations, Barbara, the family life, Agnes, the physical and mental world, accreting images with great precision.  And me, probably pain at that point in my life (wrenching separation, remember?)

It was fun.  We usually met at Carrie’s or Helena’s since they’d managed the best apartments.  We ate chips, but since this was New York and either the West Village or the Upper West Side, they were special chips, like Blue chips (blue organic corn) or vegetable chips (sweet potato or taro), served with, you know, hummus.

Slowly, somehow, I don’t know how long it took–maybe Carrie’s bottomless weekend in the country precipitated it, it ended up being Barbara and Agnes and me.

We met at coffee shops, restaurants, choosing places for their lack of, or low, music;  their lack of, or slow, service; their lack of, or little interest in the fact that every few minutes we would each read aloud.

Barbara died a few years ago.

I remember her writing about braiding her daughters’ hair, the luck that her own was so curly (the girls were half African-American, she wasn’t), what that gave them in common.

I remember her writing about the slap of her feet in her Karate dojo.  There was a host of square shouldered men at her funeral—black belts, I thought.  The sweat that gathered in the crease inside her elbow. The joy of a kyaii.

I remember her writing about sex; her husband coming home too late, proffering her his cock.

You get to know your writing buddies very very well.

You know about the times they fought with their parents, their boyfriends in back seats, the times they lied to themselves and others, the times they told the truth.

I remember a last writing session.  I don’t know what we wrote about.  Barbara made mango-scented green tea.  She was drinking a lot of green tea those days though the cancer was irretrievably advanced.  She dragged equipment behind her around the apartment, black plastic sacking on wheels.  She’d always been someone with dimples.

Agnes and I still write together when we have time.

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One Comment on “Blocking Writer’s Block – First Assignment – Sample “I remember””


  1. […] if you are interested, here’s a link to a writing exercise I did on I remember in my own very early blogging days that describes my old dear writing […]


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