One of my all-time favourite songs probably says an awful lot about my approach to writing. I can’t find any information about the way Guy Marks wrote this, but Loving You Has Made Me Bananas feels like it might have started out as a piece of free-writing.
Yes, it is a parody, but the absurd combination of images and malapropisms are what can happen when writing against the clock to a given trigger word or image. The opening lines feel crafted,
From the Hotel Sheets in Downtown Plunketville
The Publican Broadcasting Company presents:
The Music of Pete DeAngelis and his Loyal Plunketvillevanians!
Here in the beautiful gold, yella, copper, steel, iron ballroom
of the Hotel Sheets in Downtown Plunketville,
Overlooking the uptown section of Downtown Pottstown!
Stay with us, won’t you, and enjoy the sweetest music
This side of the Monongahela River!
but, such combinations can emerge while practicing what some people call automatic-writing. In the rush to get my words on the page I could easily mis-write Hotel Streets as sheets. And, when following the free-writing rules rigorously, even if I noticed, I would not be allowed to stop and correct it.
Learning to value this kind of experiment helps to ‘free’ us from the restriction of writing-rules. Rules are good, rules are important. Grammar, punctuation, all the theories about how writing and plot work, we need to know about, because then, when we break them, we can add dimension to our writing.
I don’t think the great experimental writers were accidentally creating marvellous writing. When we read their essays or interviews, they usually talk about literary influences. They knew/know the rules.
I’m not claiming all great writers practice free-writing. But some did, and do.
Here’s me, rambling along as if you all know what I mean by free or automatic-writing. For goodness sake, don’t google the second term, click on this free-writing-link, which will take you back to one of my earlier posts. I just checked on-line descriptions for automatic writing which, according to them, is a psychic phenomena.
I’ll stick with free-writing. In my version, this is an exercise in freeing us from self-critical thought.
It’s also prone to throw up all sorts of intriguing word and idea combinations. With practice, it can allow us to write from that area of consciousness that I think of as the area between waking and sleeping: the realm of drifting into or out of dream*. There, stories happen. They may be muddled and confusing, but free-writing sets them on the page. Then you can pick out words, phrases or ideas, and set yourself on a fresh route to creating stories.
The great thing about this exercise is that so long as you write without stopping to think, correct or workout what you want to say, you can’t go wrong. Whatever you write is right. Sometimes it will make sense, often it will not, unless you step sideways and take a slant view of it.
After that the choice is yours, whether to lift out fragments and work it into something rational and logical, or enjoy the bizarre aspects of it. Who knows what you might come up with, a walrus and a carpenter, walking by the sea… or the chorus from Guy Marks’ medly:
Oh, your red scarf matches your eyes
You closed your cover before striking
Father had the shipfitter blues
Loving you has made me bananas.
Oh, you burned your fingers that evening
While my back was turned.
I asked the waiter for iodine
But I dined all alone
Sometimes, sense comes from non-sense. Maybe loving this has made me bananas, because somehow, when combined with the music, these lyrics do seem to transport me back to wet Saturday afternoons spent watching re-runs of the Bob Hope and Bing Crosbie road movies. Happy days….
Here’s a Tip:
If you want to push yourself with this writing exercise, aim to get as many words down in the given time as is physically possible. The faster you write, the less time there will be to form sentences. This, after-all, is stream-of-consciousness writing.
* I know a few people who claim never to dream. Scientists say that we all do, some of us just can’t remember them.