I’m going to return to that subject of narrators and narrating again through another focus. Something precious, something lifeblood. GOSSIP.
I’m afraid I’m a gossip. Hang on, that sort of apology suggests shame. I’m proud I’m a gossip. I remember us getting a lecture from a rather lovely but rather righteous poet at Naropa that we should not gossip for the rest of the summer writing programme. My cheeks went red. She was talking to me, right?!
I guess gossip when it gets really cruel and malicious and destructive is bad. Let’s take on board again that Buddhist idea of Right Speech:
Right speech, explained in negative terms, means avoiding four types of harmful speech: lies (words spoken with the intent of misrepresenting the truth); divisive speech (spoken with the intent of creating rifts between people); harsh speech (spoken with the intent of hurting another person’s feelings); and idle chatter (spoken with no purposeful intent at all).
We can but try. But all the same, sometimes gossip can charge up what you have to say. I was reminded of this when I read in the LRB today a review of a couple of gossipy tomes set within particular literary communities (real juice there – read that review). Literary communities are great for gossip. My good friend Bobbie Louise Hawkins has some great stories about poets and writers, such as this one, which starts off observing people’s vanities but then ends up someplace deeper and dark. Bobbie is a great believer in the power of gossip for the way in which it comes naturally and easily as a way of telling stories. It’s not just about juicy content, either. Gossip uses our natural speaking voices, and it often excites passions and gives real force to what we have to say.
For this week’s writing experiment: dredge up some gossip. Remember some story that give you a real thrill in the telling, or the listening, and get it down on paper. Make it really juicy. Write it in your own voice, in first-person.See where you go. Admire what you write. Don’t feel inhibited; tell yourself you’re never going to share this, and write it anyway.