Love makes the world go round, and it’s obvious to say that in one way or another it’s the foundation of much or even most literature: first love, adultery, lust, forbidden pleasures, star-crossed lovers. Consider how love features as a defining component of so many stories and poems.
For this week’s writing experiment, which falls on Valentine’s Day, simply write something that’s unabashedly about love. Maybe a Valentine serenade for your loved one, or a scene in which two lovers meet for the first time, or a stretch of dialogue that reacquaints long-lost lovers, or maybe a sequence of erotica in which two (or maybe more?!) characters fuck each other’s brains out.
That was it, originally, but that’s quite an open-ended brief. So if you want to make this more interesting, introduce a constraint: make/imagine one or both (or all!) of your lovers blind.
So what should an artist do, he asked? I’ll repeat an anecdote I quoted from Boyce:
A few years ago I was interviewing a young woman who had been a victim of ethnic cleansing. Abducted as a child, she’d been raised inside a cold, regulated, racially defined institution. But she’d grown up to be an articulate, engaging advocate for refugees. At the end of our meeting, I asked her how she had known – growing up in such an unloving environment – that life could be more. “I read a book,” she said. What book? A searing indictment of Thatcher’s Britain? “Heidi.”
There is nothing more subversive than a definition of happiness, a vision of how things could be better.
What’s your Heidi? This week, write something that brings to life your own vision of how things could be better. Inhabit a concrete setting with people performing specific actions that embody some idea of how the world can be a better place.
Want a spur or inspiration? In a week when violence and destruction have been in the news, and when lawmakers have had little success in passing measures to try to contain some of that violence, I’m thinking of Simon Armitage’s super millennium poem Killing Time, and the sequence devoted to his take on what happened at Columbine High School in April 1999.
I’m (finally) tidying/unpacking/autmun-cleaning my study (a year after moving in), and of course turn to the Web to find something to listen to while I dust and shelve and shuffle one pile from here to there, and da da, via another link (thanks, Patsy! a great clip from Kurt Vonnegut on how to write a short story), I came across this fabulous and inspirational short film by Lawrence Bridges in which Ray Bradbury, the man who’s perhaps the greatest teacher of all, and almost certainly the loveliest and most enthusiastic, talks about his inspirations: fantasy and dinosaurs and Steinbeck and Dickens, and how libraries fulfil you, and most of all how you must place Love at the centre of your universe:
The things that you do should be things that you love, and things that you love should be things that you do.
Love again as a spur.
PS he was a famous non-driver, too. I collect these: Ray Bradbury, Allen Ginsberg, Ricky Gervais, David Attenborough, Nigel Slater, Albert Einstein. I’m in good company. Oh well, can’t be helped.