The Writhing Society meets to practice and discuss the techniques of constrained writing. We practice the methods invented by ourselves and by other writers, artists, musicians, and mathematicians. This week's exercise: Double standard doublespeak exposé...
Double Speak. There are four types of doublespeak: euphemism, jargon, gobbledygook, and inflated language. A fifth—political language—applies any of these four if not all at once, to hide the duplicity of double standards.
“Political language . . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” —George Orwell, Politics and the English Language, 1946
“Breaking the rules to change the rules is un-American.” —Mitch McConnell
If double standard is the rule—and it often is—let’s apply some language constraints to break the doublespeak and expose what isn’t said. We’ll combine doublespeak, book titles and book text, and news headlines connecting them with a combination of Oulipian translations, and our own creative and critical thinking powers.
The Writhing Society combines a class with a salon. In a two-hour session, you can expect a few minutes of introductions and explanations, an hour plus of silent writing, and a half-hour or so in which we will read our work aloud. Then, if there's a little time left for questions and discussion, we'll do that. If you know nothing about writing with constraints, if you do not think of yourself as knowing much about writing, come anyway. No prior knowledge required. This is nothing like your ordinary writing workshop. We work in a relaxed, supportive, playful atmosphere, and we welcome new members.
What are constraints? Constraints are rules, specific and arbitrary, that drive you to say what you hadn’t expected to say in ways you never would have chosen to say it. Constrained writing always involves a collaboration of languages: yours and someone else’s. It allows you to take directions from something outside yourself. In a world where forms of expression thought to be “free” in fact come ready-made from the discourses of powerful groups, composing with constraints becomes a disciplined practice for escape, from these or from oneself, and a source of fresh ideas.