Challenging Your Preconceptions

iStock_000002423329XSmallEunice Scarfe, a Canadian author and professor, led (and presumably still leads) a popular workshop at a women’s writing conference I used to attend regularly. We were given prompts: a few words, a sentence. We were to write whatever spilled from our brains and when time was called, draw a line beneath what we had written. Under that line, she asked us to write what images, emotions, and conclusions that exercise had stirred up.

One prompt she gave was “my mother’s hands.” Start with your own hands, she suggested, and drift back through the generations, to your mother’s, and her mother’s. I looked at my little paws and thought about my mother’s hands, the relief river map of the crisscrossing tendons and blood vessels, the elegant fingers, the carefully-coiffed nails. And then I looked back at my own. I had a hell of a time getting inspired. So I wrote about my mother’s hands, and the strength within them no one would suspect, and what the years and the Florida sun and had wrought upon her skin. But the words came in lumps and had no connection to my ten digits.

Eunice called time. I looked at my paltry prose, my weak words, and felt…uninspired. So that’s what I wrote below the line. Uninspired. Nothing. Feh. And I looked at my hands again. Still nothing. My hands are small, unlined, with squarish palms and utilitarian nails kept short through years of training on piano keys, typewriters, computer keyboards. Then Eunice invited women to line up against the wall if they wanted to read their wanderings to the class.

I chose not to. I listened, still thinking of my below-the-line comments, when I took another look at my squatty little hands. I realized why I had not connected with this exercise. My hands more closely resembled my father’s. And that was my biggest revelation of the week. Even though our faces, our noses, our eyes, our hair, so much the same that nearly everyone gasps and says, “Oh, you are your mother’s daughter,” I am more like my father than I’d ever considered.

What am I writing below the line for these few freewritten paragraphs? That it’s good, every so often, to have your conclusions about yourself challenged. Good as a writer, good as a daughter, good as a human.

Advertisements

Author: laurieboris

Writer, editor, proofreader, stand-up comedian in another life.

7 thoughts on “Challenging Your Preconceptions”

  1. It’s so true. Challenging out own, or possibly, rather learned preconceptions pressed upon us by significant others is a life’s journey. It sits right beside the phrase “an unexamined life’. So often, though, we need someone outside ourselves to nudge that examination in the right direction.

      1. No, indeed. To ignore that thread would be a loss. And we may be surprised to see what we learn from it. And for some, we see immortality in that continuity – in both directions.

  2. I was always Daddy’s girl. Mum and I clashed. For most of my life I couldn’t see my mother in myself, yet now that they’re both gone, I’m starting see that her genes are in me too. And that’s not a bad thing. 🙂

      1. lmao! I’ve never had that happen to me but I only ever got to meet one of my grandmothers so for all I know I may take after the other one. My niece, however, can sometimes look like the spitting image of /her/ late grandmother. Just every so often, a fleeting expression, or her posture. Strange but also rather nice.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s