Work of Writing 9: Periods and Pandora

Melanie’s Cat is now called Pandora since Melanie’s Cat is a pretty terrible title for a story about a girl named Melanie who owns a cat. I’ve edited it again and emailed it around for workshop on Thursday. I played with changing the order of the piece but ended up abandoning that idea. The reason I attempted it was because the first half was much weaker than the second half: it didn’t have the right tone and the pace didn’t pick up until later. So I thought I’d start it where it got interesting and then go back to the beginning for a scene and then forth to carry on from the scene I opened with and then back to where I’d got up to in the chronological beginning. You can probably see why I abandoned it from that description. It’s confusing, even when just talking about it. Of course, I could make it work but it makes more sense to properly solve the initial problems rather than cheat and then fix the cheat.

Today I’ve been working on my menstruation “essay”, which is what I decided to do for the later assignment. In my meeting last Friday, my tutor said I could do an essay-kind-of-thing for it because it would still be creative, even if it was non-fiction. He also said not to worry about word limits. They’re flexible. And he thought an essay about menstruation could be interesting.

So, I started trying to write a first draft today but got lost pretty quickly. I didn’t know what my angle was or where I was going. I wanted to start with a flash memoir (yes, I did just make that term up) and then somehow get into how the way we see periods reflects the way we see society and go into how people saw periods in history but I started off going on about the effect of the way we’re told about periods on our perception and then veered off into medieval superstitions and the links between madness and periods from 1840 until 1930. It got a bit confused. So I pushed away the laptop and turned to paper and pencil. When in doubt, write it out…by hand. I came up with two ways to do the essay:

  1. The way a society sees menstruation reflects the way that society sees the world. Medievals: wild and scary; Victorians: to be restrained; 60s and 70s: to be liberated; now: to be protected against. (Actually that sounds pretty cool but to do it well I think I’d have to know the whole history of the world. I’d also have to write a book with a chapter for each time period, not a 5,000 word essay. Also, this is a creative assignment so, you know…)
  2. Several flash memoirs each followed by how I think this reflects the way society sees menstruation (and perhaps, by extension women.) So I’d start with the story of being told about menstruation and how this made me see it as a secret to be protected out of pride and shame and then move on to talk about my friend getting her first period and how envious I was because she beat me to it (I could talk about the race to adulthood) and then my own first period – finding out it’s not that great – (might dismiss some of the hippy bullshit about the magic of periods here), etc, etc and end up with where I am today, which is not having periods because I have the contraceptive implant but missing them and feeling less in tune with my body, blah blah blah.

I think I’m gonna go for option 2. Because I don’t want to research the history of the world and I like the idea of flash memoir/social commentary. Plus, it just sounds more fun.


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