How Some Other Things Work: Landing on paper

Four writers began with “It chooses you.”

This exercise is not unique. Most writing classes use a version. It is the one place where being mindless is a good idea. You choose a phrase or a word and begin writing. You only follow the motion of your pencil. You don’t get to re-read, re-write, or stop writing.  In a workshop, there is no comment on the content. It is just what it is, with or without punctuation, grammar, spelling or thought. It’s the safest place you can be. Here are some examples that began with the phrase “it chooses you.”  I did not change anything about them. They happened in about six or seven minutes.

Go try it. Open a book and write down a word or a phrase. Then, go. When you are finished, read it aloud to yourself and then tear it up.  Let it go.  There is always, always more to come.


it chooses you what does life love does this mean i should wait stay indoors under the covers snuggly and uncommited and just let something happen i dont think so but i do believe it chooses you its just that in order to be chosen you have to participate how would i ever play soccer on the hard old tennis courts as a child if i hadnt gone over and got involved and then been chosen for one team or another it can be hard though playing in order to be chosen because we are not always chosen when ready or by the people we want to choose us which kind of once again removes the self from the equation i guess its about finding something at the moment youd forgotten you were looking for it does this mean i need to give up looking or allow myself to be distracted to be lost without a map or compass and just wander should such wanderings be directionless though or have a distinct goal for years goal orientation has driven me on but i am only now beginning to be aware of the journey for this is where you are chosen the trick is to be open to being chosen if you are or rather im too focussed on the goal its easy to miss the clues and signs  of something else choosing you and it just seems so much more exciting not knowing but terrifying too drifting a little perhaps but if you have a heading and keep pushing towards it and allow the wind and teh sea to take you off course as and when they choose too perhpas thats when ill find what my subconscious was/is leading me towards and has been desperately sending signs that this is where i should go ive missed.


It chooses you.  This moment, second, hour of sadness so thick you could spoon it up like pudding.  You can try to fight, push back, justify, tell it to go away, but you know that in the end, you’re not holding the wheel.  And sometimes, as you’re riding the wave of grief, you think, “I just can’t see a single way to get back”.  And so you just ride the current, grateful that you’re not sitting on a piece of what used to be your roof, ten miles out to sea, watching what used to be your life getting farther and farther away, and knowing that even if you do make it back, your wife is gone and your life will never be what it was.  So somewhere in the tide of grief and hopelessness, gratitude comes up and bites you in the ass.  And sometimes you even resent the gratitude.  Fight it. Wrestle it to the ground.  But if you can carve out just a teeny pinprick to let it in, the water calms, the eye of the storm gives you a minute to breathe, get your bearings, speak a word without choking.  And if you get there, then maybe you can help with homework, clean the bathroom sink, drink a glass of water.  And then it passes.


It chooses you. And it has and is now.  What is this ennui? This thickheadedness that has engulfed me since the Japanese earthquake?  It has spilled over to every part of my life-first self-censure that this earthquake – this one has riveted me to the TV- has washed over me like the horrible, horrible images of the tsunami I saw all through the night on Thursday when I first heard of it driving home from my class.  The shock – the Oh My God of it – I’m going to Tokyo and Kyoto in three weeks – this can’t be happening.  Selfishly bringing it as always back to me – to finally achieving one of the dream trips: to Japan.  As I watch and see the horrible shaking but then a helicopter shot of the tsunami picking up houses, cars and Oh My God, people as it relentlessly moves toward a bridge with a few unsuspecting cars driving over it.  I shout, NO!!! to myself alone – as my husband, on the other side of the country safely sleeps not knowing that our trip is gone – that an entire part of a country is gone- that thousands are gone! Gone!!!

It looks like the end of the world and it is in a way.  I shudder at the dire predictions for another one here.  I remember ’94 – how terrified and unsafe every step felt.


It chooses you.  The little idea comes dancing in.  It sizes you up from a distance, trying to see if you will pat attention to it.  If you are too busy with anything electronic it will fly away.  It hates noise and likes the sound of water.  So it will often choose you in the shower or when you are washing dishes or if you are swimming.  Repetitive motion attracts it.  Digging, sweeping, knitting, scrubbing.  But noisy kids in a chaotic car will send it running.

When it chooses you, you must be ready to catch it because it won’t stay long and it won’t come back.  You have to write down what it tells you word for word so you won’t forget.  Because you will forget.  It speaks in a disappearing language and the words and ideas it gives will melt away after awhile leaving you with nothing but a vague memory of what was said.  And no matter how hard you try to conger or woo it back it won’t come.