I have always enjoyed writing exercises – both to hone my writing skills and for the often needed guidance of the creative process they usually offer. But during my last sickness and subsequent slow recovery, I found myself turning to them for therapeutic purposes. There is something magically healing about trying to put into words unspeakable pains, to describe images of invisible scars.
Currently, taking the Coursera Crafting an Effective Writer Course for strictly professional and academic purposes, I was working through one of the assignments when I felt the urge to confine the thoughts and reflections it spurred in me into a post (I’m happy to be returning to my blog). In the assignment, we are to “choose two of the sentences listed below to expand by adding logical additional parts of speech […]”. One of the sentences I chose to tackle is:
The woman walks
The first expanded version of the sentence I came up with reads:
In the noisy bustling of celebrating crowds, the woman assertively rushes through the loud chaos and defiantly fights her way through the hands of the frenzied mob to rescue another assaulted woman.
But then I thought that, despite being a highly accurate description of a very real circumstance grounded in a very solid personal experience, the sentence describes a highly uncommon, unusual and atypical situation that may not find resonance or credence with readers. So, also as a writing challenge, I set out to expand the given sentence differently. Here is the second expanded version:
In the dead of night, the woman scrambles through the dark alley to the safety of her doorstep, quickening her pace to avoid the glances and catcalls of the occasional passers-by.
This version left me utterly unsatisfied and angrily shocked at myself for having come up with it. Reeking of the same gender normative and sexist stereotyping I am fervidly adamant in calling out, isn’t it as accurate and real a description of an equally solidly grounded personal experience as the first version? Why then do I feel defeated and betrayed by it?
So, I set out to come up with yet a third version of an expanded sentence:
After a boisterous night of happy partying, the woman’s confident stride and bright mood is interrupted by the sound of suspicious footsteps behind her. Overcoming her hesitance, she turns on her heels to confront them.
Now this version isn’t quite satisfactory either, ringing hollow with hints of comic-book like demonstrations of nonchalance and bravery. But it definitely leaves me less deceived than I feel by the first, less betrayed than the second.
Yet going through all these different versions of expanded sentences I came up with, I find that they are all equally accurate, equally real, equally borne out personal experiences. And I realize that between the glorified words that eternize our moments of courage and heroism and raise us up to their victorious ideals, and the typified words that perpetuate our moments of fear and defeat and pound us deeper down into their sad reality, and through the clichés of our existence they create, we just are – sometimes we defiantly fight back, other times we wearily cower into safety, we push forward, we fall down. But through it all, we walk.