Tag Archives: Geraldine Brooks

February 2023: the impossible

My hypervigilant brain has been wrassling with revision of my speculative-fiction manuscript. In an effort to get it to relax its anxious judge-y grip, today I dipped my writer’s craft toes into Geraldine Woods’ marvelous book, 25 Great Sentences and How They Got That Way. I jumped to the “Impossible” sentences section, where the “writer’s exercise” invited me to brainstorm impossible events, eg what could happen on February 30th. One example was, “have a good conversation with [relative].”

My hypervigilant brain sprung into action: but [relative] has their own experience of the conversation! Who’s to say what’s good or bad? Why categorize any living being as “impossible” to have a good interaction with?

Then my hypervigilant brain sprung onto a white steed of smug self-righteousness: I have done enough self-reflection, and practiced enough nonviolent communication, and meditated enough years to know that good/bad is an unhelpful dichotomy, a limited and constricting way to approach Life. I’m beyond such simplistic thinking! (I’ll give you a moment to get a tissue and wipe the tears of laughter off your face.)

Next, my hypervigilant brain slid sideways off its saddle of self-righteousness: there are [some people] that I’d cross the street to avoid. That I absolutely do not believe I can have a “good” conversation with.

And thus my hypervigilant brain finally came up with what seems impossible to me: inviting [some people] to my house for a meal. Preparing it with as much kindness as I do for my dearest friends. Laying in a bottle of good wine, and after-dinner port, and excellent chocolate. Feeling joy when they arrived, and bittersweet regret when the evening ended.

Just imagining this impossible scenario raised my heart rate a bit, tightened my stomach. But then questions bubbled up: how the heck are [some people] doing since the death of their parents? How is that wild child of theirs as a teenager? Do they still drink wine?

Imagining the impossible and sitting through the subsequent discomfort shifted [some people] to “my former friends.” Oh. Oh!

As my now-relaxed hypervigilant brain took a breath and dozed off for a wee nap, she mumbled, that’s a good way to make an effective piece of writing: imagine the impossible.

May it be so.