Idea Factory Writing Prompt #8 6 comments

Today’s Idea Factory Writing prompt taps into something we all have in abundance.

In the opening of Violette, the biopic of writer Violette LeDuc written by Martin Provost, Marc Abdelnour and René de Ceccatty, LeDuc (who has not yet taken up writing) has an argument with Maurice Sachs, who gives her some unconventional and not necessarily altruistic or kind-hearted advice:

SACHS: Take this exercise book. Cool your ass off under an apple tree. Spit out on paper everything that makes you so unbearable. We’ll all be glad of it, especially you.

The film shows how Violette LeDuc did exactly that: sat under a tree, began to write, and launched herself on the convoluted journey that ultimately led her to become a ground-breaking, prize-winning, celebrated writer. (It’s a remarkable film that is incredibly honest in portraying the emotional vulnerability of writing and I highly recommend it, especially to women writers.)

I’d like to draw your attention back to Sach’s advice: “Spit out on paper everything that makes you so unbearable.”

Human flaws? Insecurities? Vulnerability? We’ve all got that in abundance.

The question for writers is whether we have the courage to channel that into our writing.

Have you ever tackled writing “everything that makes you so unbearable”? If not, and if you are in a position to do so, what if you gave it a try?

Note: Drawing from the darkest aspects of our selves isn’t the only way to write (obviously) and it isn’t a safe or appropriate course in many circumstances. When you write with dangerous or volatile material, please take care of yourself and do so with safeguards and support in place. And, if you set yourself this sort of writing project, please put it in a drawer for a good long while until you can view the text objectively and decide how you want to proceed with it.

Not all exercises are “nice” or “fun” or “light”. This prompt is a tough one. Now might not be the right day for you to try it. When you’re ready, commit to the prompt and see where you go. I promise it will be interesting.

Did you know the Idea Factory is looking for guest posts? If you’re interested, check out the details here: Wanted: Guest Writers for Idea Factory

Image Credit: Neil Bryant, based on a photo by VaughnSaball. Creative Commons  Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

6 thoughts on “Idea Factory Writing Prompt #8

  • nullfuture

    Way ahead of the curve on this one.

    Writing is a way to tame the maelstrom inside, putting thoughts down on paper (I don’t know why but paper feels right over digital) takes those swirling thoughts out and lets me look at them more objectively. There’s no judgement, more… acceptance through understanding, and kind of a healing. The thoughts lose their power then. Perhaps this was the intention of Sachs with LeDuc.

    It certainly influences characters in my writing, not necessarily the main character, but someone/thing is created in this way.

  • Lydia Mulvey

    ““Spit out on paper everything that makes you so unbearable.”

    Human flaws? Insecurities? Vulnerability? We’ve all got that in abundance.”

    This couldn’t be more timely as the script I’m currently working on has a female protagonist who is not always a likeable person. In fact, she’s done something that most people would balk at. And she’s often unreasonable and headstrong and stubborn.

    I’m not generally a writer who believes that every story must contain a piece of you to be valid or meaningful. But in this case, I can see shades of my more unlikeable side in this character. I can be very stubborn. Sometimes unreasonable. Often headstrong.

    I haven’t done what my character has done (I’d be in jail!) but you can at least understand why she did it. I think one of the darker aspects of my personality is that when I see people do the terrible things they do, I try to understand why they do them and sometimes I come around to their viewpoint, at least in a logical sense. Which makes me uncomfortable. Because morally, often what they’ve done is reprehensible. But this makes me realise that there is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Just various shades of grey in the middle. And humans are dotted all along that spectrum. Writers mine that spectrum for their characters. And sometimes that means mining their own psyche for inspiration.

    • Shaula Evans Post author

      > I think one of the darker aspects of my personality…

      Allow me to edit that statement for you, ma’am: “I think one of the darkermore compassionate aspects of my personality…”

      • angel mirou

        I agree with your editing, Shaula, that is a rare quality indeed. Lydia, what you wrote reminds me of that line in Sufjan Steven’s song about serial killer John Wayne Gacy jr.: “And in my best behavior I am just like him”… A iserial killer is on the extreme of that spectrum, but how brave it is for a writer to do the mental journey of reaching so far… not for titillation but for understanding of the evil in us.

        This is a cool writing prompt, but not for me, I think. There’s already too much personal darkness in what I usually write. I’m working on the opposite direction, trying to lighten the mood of my scripts. And to paraphrase Mr. Kean, “It is hard.”

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