As a Musical Theater major I participated in an acting exercise called The Chair. In it, a plush chair sat alone in a dark room, illuminated by a single, bright light. One by one, everyone in class sat silently in the chair. One by one, as they sat alone with whatever thoughts they’d been trying not to think, everyone in class cried. The exercise was supposed to teach us to deal with whatever we had going on in our lives, that our acting instrument had to be transparent. To portray a character as we wanted, we had to know ourselves first.
Writing Class Radio uses prompts and free writing to much the same effect. I left the first class with four good seeds for stories. I also left with a story too painful to tell in first person. I had to speak of myself in the third person to even get the cursor to move. The story didn’t flow from me, it coughed itself up in painful chunks.
Everyone in class is finding their pain. Abuse, death, illness, and plain old existential angst. It’s rough. I fleshed out something that came up in last week’s prompts for this week’s long reading. I got through three pages and choked up, getting through the worst of the tears I’d shed while writing it by using deep breaths. Then I broke down on the last page, at a point I didn’t expect to hit me as hard as it did.
When I asked on Facebook if writing about misery is always miserable, a friend who’d also done the Chair in college shared that Robert Frost quote.
This is an amazing class.
But if you take it, be prepared to illuminate thoughts you’ve been trying not to think.