the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other authors

International Women’s Day 2021

on March 10, 2021

To celebrate IWD this year, I joined a Zoom workshop titled Writing Menopause: culture, sex and identity delivered by Apala Chowdry and Maggie Winters. Following an exchange on Twitter, I offered to write a blog post about the experience of joining this workshop.

There were about eight women of a certain age (including myself) as participants. The warm up activity involved using the chat facility to write about our experience of menopause. This involved identifying a word starting with letters from A-Z to share our experience. When this task was complete, we were unmuted and read out our words simultaneously. This created a wonderful chorus of voices and launched us into the next task.

The focus of the first few writing exercises involved considering water as a metaphor for change.

A 5th century Roman mosaic of Thalassa in the Hatay Archaeological Museum

We watched a video of wild swimming and drew upon our own experience of swimming in the sea to write for twenty minutes about the sea as a person. We did this by thinking about the physical characteristics of a personified body of water and also the communication skills of this character.

In this free writing task, I recorded the following:

You wear a robe of silken cloth. The material shimmers as the sun catches threads of silver. You are languorous today, not your normal state of being. I remember last time we met, you were full of yourself. Sucking your teeth and blowing bubbles to make everyone laugh. You were the centre attention, just where you like to be. Yet today, I think you may be trying to lull me. Do you sense my mood? Pensive. I was prepared for an argument. I have practised saying the truths you never want to hear. The words roll off my tongue like the sea jewels you collect. You turn away, showing me your deaf ear. I know you too well to let you get away with this. I shall have my say. And when I’m drained of talk, you lap at my feet for once, a faithful dog. 

The next exercise involved building on this introduction in a further twenty minute of free writing. The final part of this section of the workshop provided an opportunity to develop a character emerging from the water who meets with another person. We were asked to think about the tension in this encounter. What happens to a character’s sense of self as a result? I took a character from my work in progress to experiment in this section.

The final thirty minutes of the workshop involved thinking about our own life stories. I found this section incredibly worthwhile and would recommend anyone trying out these tasks. It is remarkable how a set of writing instructions were able to provide me with a tangible sense of when I am in life, and what’s left to achieve. If you’d like to give this a go, here’s what to do:

Spend fifteen minutes writing the story of your life in five sentences. Label the sentences, 1 – 5. The writing might include different stages of life, ie from childhood to being an adult, but not necessarily.

Next, spend ten minutes writing the story of your life in three sentences. This doesn’t involve selecting three sentences from the previous list but should be an exploration of priorities. What do you leave out? What remains?

Lastly, spend five minutes writing the story of your life in one sentence with less than thirty words. Here’s what I came up with:

The struggle to overcome a predetermined path has been a life’s work – I’ve embraced the highpoints and pitfalls – and I’m left hungry for more.  

For further reading on writing menopause (recommended by Maggie and Apala), you might want to look at the following:

The Waves by Virgina Woolf, I Found Her at the Beach by BA Markus, Deadland A VI Warshawski novel by Sara Paretsky, The Godmother by Hannelore Cayre 

There were many events to celebrate International Women’s Day 2021. Are there any experiences you’d like to share? Just pop them in the comments. Thanks for reading!

4 responses to “International Women’s Day 2021

  1. peggyaylett says:

    Sounds like a great workshop Gail

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