Concrete: An Abstraction on the Stairs
You can take a sledge hammer to concrete. You can break it into pocket size bits and stuff your pockets full of it. When I write about writing and call it “concrete,” I mean to say that we are surrounded by things we can hold, things we can break. Concrete things give us sensory experience: tastes like salt, smells like chert, color of sky, weighs heavy in the pockets.
There’s hardly a scene that doesn’t have a top and a bottom, the bead board on the porch ceiling or the marble on the floor. We’re surrounded by props, and these props help tell the story. See me walking up to the house. The stairs I ascend are long, broad, and white. Do you see me? I’m wearing a long dress and pearls. My heels treat the steps like sensitive piano keys. I wear no fancy coat, and the wind blows my gown in billows, right through me.
Now change the stairs. They’re concrete block under poured cement. They’re painted in slick crayola brown, five in all before the screen door. Do you see me? I’m in braids and a dress my mama made me. I smell like persimmon juice to my elbows and pine needles. My dog is with me, cicadas so loud that I float.
Now tell me which set of stairs made me happiest. I don’t have to say that I’m happy. I can’t take happy and sledge at it with a hammer, but I can take these concrete words, and I can show you happy. I can make you a jar of lightening bugs and find a way for you in the dark.
On Mondays I’m going to write on writing, which means that mostly I’ll write out spirit by practicing a little with the concrete things in my life and maybe in a fictional life. We’ll see. If you want to mess around with these little prompts, send your readers this way, and link up below. Practice writing, the craft; share it with us. Next week is on THE BOOK, except we’ll link up on Tuesday, October 2nd, instead. Make sure to use #concretewords on twitter. Thank you always for coming here.