Writing In The Bathroom

January 18, 2012 § 4 Comments

By Jacqueline Austin

What follows is not a delicate subject.  So if you’re squeamish about waste products, please go read something else.  

Ancient Roman Public Latrine, Ostia Antica (By Fubar Obfusco, via Wikimedia Commons)

To generate fresh work, I often write in the dark.

I keep a notebook next to my bed, and during the night when I’m in a hypnagogic state, will often scribble down thoughts or images that come to me in my dreams.

I keep my left hand moving along the bound side margin, pointing out where lines might be, to my right hand, with the right wrist on the free side margin, or else I would wake up in the morning to find an undecipherable mess.

One morning, a couple of months ago, I woke up to the story of my life.  Practically before I’d cracked my eyes open, I’d looked and I had found.  It wasn’t a great piece of writing.  It wasn’t writing at all.  What it was, was two unwritten pages in between two pages of crap.  Wow.  Satori.  There are unintended blanks in my life which usually never do get filled in–blanks surrounded by the fear of producing crap.

So that day, I decided to confront my fear.  And to be literal about it.  Ever transgressive, I decided to write my morning pages, for a month or two, in the bathroom, while taking a crap.  Maybe the process of actual excretion would free up a blank space somewhere within.  Even an intestinal blank space might evoke some living external blank space, through which transcendent words might somehow move directly onto the page.

What was I afraid of producing?  Something which it’s natural to produce?  Something which it’s unhealthy, even impossible, *not* to produce, as a result of a healthy, daily process of nourishment?

The ancient Romans built some quite aristocratic crappers outdoors, in the sun. They would hitch up their togas and chat while performing their functions.  Oh God, I feel uncomfortable even typing this, much less advocating it.  Gaius Maximus (guys, let me introduce a random Senator from across the ages, Gaius, guys, guys, Gaius) do I really see you pontificating on state matters while wiping your bum with an olive branch?  How do you recommend I proceed with my daily oration, honored Sir?

But truly, it’s ridiculous to be sitting on a john with one’s pants down, in a state of fear, trying to find one’s heart, one’s mind, one’s meaning.  But why is a heart, a beating red muscle, any more evocative than the lower portion of the gut?  Is it because hearts accept light, sparkly, hyper-mobile, ether and oxygen, and transform them into verbalized spirit, while guts just accept, sort and redirect one’s gross, earthy, stinking, and heavy food?

Consider the issue of time and the spirit.  In the john, if one is not relaxing, one is sitting with not much else to do, waiting, sometimes in the semi-dark.  So why not try to produce something that isn’t crap?  Are we afraid of an instant comparison of our written product with our fear that we’ve produced something which looks and smells more like what’s coming out the other end?  Wherever we write, let’s discover a new ability to release our fears and flush them, while relaxing into our higher functions–allowing the body to take care of its own, while the spirit finds the day.

About the fear of producing crap: wouldn’t it be more productive for me to worry about releasing crap?  And isn’t that why God created editors?

Copyright 2012 by Jacqueline Austin.  All rights reserved.

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§ 4 Responses to Writing In The Bathroom

  • Chris Danes says:

    First- I love! the illustrations you have found for your entries! Inspired! Second- was this written on the john? (An obvious and unnecessary question; but, that’s me).
    I have some lovely pieces of gilded “Crapola” produced by a wonderful artist, Scott Grieger, who teaches at Otis, http://www.scottgrieger.com/, and here is a youtube interview, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2qt5n0hdhU, (at apprx. 4:55 you will see “Crapola”).
    What IS crap? What is it’s nature? It’s texture? Don’t just denigrate it: embrace the crap. Know your crap. “BE the crap”. Then knowing, either share your crap, or find the anti-crap.
    Lastly: peristalsis; smooth, strong, reliable, undulating.
    PPSly, I have a “Crap” pad of crap to do, listing type of crap, crap to buy and other crap. Really, it’s all about crap. Oh, and of course, “Krapp’s Last Tape”.

  • Jaqueline, only such lovely writing could include “crap” and “satori” in the same post and still have something personal and meaningful to say. God in trees and ….yes …..everywhere….

    • jacajacjac says:

      I’m a fan of your writing too. The post about errors in tattoos was great. My reply unfortunately got lost when I clicked post.

      But Maria (not to be too earnest about this), “your next” can’t really be written correctly using four knuckles on each hand. Either one chooses “you’re next,” which leaves you using both thumbs and splitting “you’re” weirdly, with “you’r” on one hand and “enext” on the other, or you opt for bad spelling, or you have to reject the threat entirely, and write two actual four letter words.

      What a problem. =/

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