Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Writing Survey

Do you consider yourself a writer?
How did you learn to read? Did you reverse your L’s and P’s, and do you remember the first time you realized the existence of the hinge of meter , creaking in your brain until you bowed down to it, offering it syllables choked with angry consonants and the broad vowels of bad internal rhyme?
When was the first time someone snickered at the ridiculous breadth of your vocabulary, at the way your sentences were hung with pictures folded into words, at the choices your larynx made to surround your meanings with tribes of thorny adjectives?
Have you ever lost yourself in index cards, in preserving the voices of others in little plastic boxes crowded with squares of paper bound by rubber bands? And have you ever moved into the gap of unknowing supplied by a research question, impatient to know about the alchemical language of the I ching and its connection to the tao, or how Stieglitz met Georgia O’Keeffe?
How often do you write? Do you ever feel the chafe of unwritten clauses, hanging around in the sky of your mind's eye like clouds graying up with undropped rain?
Do you write poetry? Do you hear it before you sleep, hustling along in another language than the one you’re accustomed to, claiming its birthright, forming a body of need until you beg it to come alive in the language you know?
Answer each question as fully as possible, and use examples. Remember the time you sang to the carnival barker at the county fair, the one with the smoker’s cough and the purple bandanna, and how the words came out of you in an unexpected tributary of play and comfort. Call forth the journal you wrote in sixth grade and how you described the deer paths in the woods behind your house for no one but yourself to read. Tell me what you want from language, how you need it to sing, what questions you have of it. remind it to take care of you, and whip it into shape from time to time, until it neither flees nor marches, but moves instead with  the steady rolling pace of a dog you’ve trained to guard you, its pink tongue a flag of loyalty as the two of you pass through that throng of wordless Philistines, intact and strengthened.
© Laura Sorrells 2011
all rights reserved


  1. What a lovely meditation the things that bring us to writing. I found myself wanting to answer each question. Wonderful.

  2. I love this. What a good idea.

    (My code word to post this was "behowle." So now I want to behowle what made me a writer, in answer to your survey!)

  3. Thanks, y'all. Behowle: that's great! I have had the thought of making some kind of goofy list poem from those code words. Think I will.
    James, I'm glad. The things that bring us to writing....More often than not they aren't what I think they're going to be.

  4. Thought provoking questions! I will ponder them for a while.

  5. Thanks, sage. Glad you enjoyed the read.


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About Me

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Georgia, United States
I live at the edge of the forest in a little town in the north Georgia mountains. I teach sixth grade Language Arts and am writing a memoir of sorts about family, spirituality, and narrative. I am also exploring a possible writing project having to do with contemporary lay contemplative experience and how it might be informed by the Desert Fathers and Mothers of early Christianity. I am a relatively recent convert to Roman Catholicism and an admirer of Pope Francis, Leonardo Boff, Joan Chittister, and Richard Rohr. I'm a Lay Associate of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers, Georgia. I am interested in indigenous cultures, narratives, and spirituality, especially how these can inform my spirituality as a lay contemplative. I write, read, take pictures, play around with creating ephemera from paper and cloth and other organic things. I cook, hike, watch wildlife, and collect random bits of interesting oddness, both tangible and abstract. I am a seer of smallness and a caretaker of ridiculous minutiae. If you want, e-mail me at or