2020 Writing Exercise Series #76: Erasing "The Purity of the Turf" 2

The Notebooking Daily 2020 Writing Series is a daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to keep your creative mind stretched and ready to go—fresh for your other writing endeavors. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

These exercises are not meant to be a standard writing session. They are meant to be productive and to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive. It's like taking a 5 minute breather in the middle of a spin class—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink them, you will be able to complete all of the exercises in under 30 minutes.

Erasing "The Purity of the Turf" 2

For today's exercise we have split paths for fiction and poetry, though I highly recommend that even fiction writers try the poetry exercise, because erasures can be a blast!

For poetry do an erasure or black-out poem from the following selection of P.G. Wodehouse's short story "The Purity of the Turf". You remember AskJeeves.com? These Wodehouse stories are where that Jeeves originally found his fame, as well as the idea of a valet/butler being called Jeeves.

An Erasure/Blackout is really simple: you take the given text and remove many words to make it your own new piece. One way to go about the erasure that I like to do is to copy the text and paste it twice into your document before you start erasing or blacking out (in MS Word set the text background color to black), that way if you get further into the erasure and decide you want a somewhat different tone or direction, it's easy to go to the unaltered version and make the erasure/black-out piece smoother. Another tip is to look for recurring words, in this example 'bingo' occurs multiple times and could be a good touchstone for your piece.

If you insist on fiction, write a piece with one of the three titles taken from this section:

  1.  "Boys’ and Girls’ Mixed Animal Potato Race" 
  2. "The Tobacconist’s Wife" 
  3. "A Beautiful Egg"

Today's excerpt is a little short so keep that in mind when composing your erasure.

Erasure Selection:

from "The Purity of the Turf"

“What about it, Jeeves?” I said. “Do we go in?”

Jeeves pondered to some extent.

“I am inclined to favour the idea, sir.”

That was good enough for me. “Right,” I said. “Then we will form a syndicate and bust the Ring. I supply the money, you supply the brains, and Bingo—what do you supply, Bingo?”

“If you will carry me, and let me settle up later,” said young Bingo, “ I think I can put you in the way of winning a parcel on the Mothers’ Sack Race.”

“All right. We will put you down as Inside Information. Now, what are the events?”

Bingo reached for his paper and consulted it.

“Girls’ Under Fourteen Fifty-Yard Dash seems to open the proceedings.”

“Anything to say about that. Jeeves?”

“No, sir. I have no information.”

“What’s the next?”

“Boys’ and Girls’ Mixed Animal Potato Race, All Ages.”

This was a new one to me. I had never heard of it at any of the big meetings.

“What’s that?”

“Rather sporting,” said young Bingo. “The competitors enter in couples, each couple being assigned an animal cry and a potato. For instance, let’s suppose that you and Jeeves entered. Jeeves would stand at a fixed point holding a potato. You would have your head in a sack, and you would grope about trying to find Jeeves and making a noise like a cat; Jeeves also making a noise like a cat. Other competitors would be making noises like cows and pigs and dogs, and so on, and groping about for their potato-holders, who would also be making noises like cows and pigs and dogs and so on——”

I stopped the poor fish.

“Jolly if you’re fond of animals,” I said, “but on the whole——”

“Precisely, sir,” said Jeeves. “I wouldn’t touch it.”

“Too open, what?”

“Exactly, sir. Very hard to estimate form.”

“Carry on, Bingo. Where do we go from there?”

“Mothers’ Sack Race.”

“Ah! that’s better. This is where you know something.”

“A gift for Mrs. Penworthy, the tobacconist’s wife,” said Bingo, confidently. “I was in at her shop yesterday, buying cigarettes, and she told me she had won three times at fairs in Worcestershire. She only moved to these parts a short time ago, so nobody knows about her. She promised me she would keep herself dark, and I think we could get a good price.”

“Risk a tenner each way, Jeeves, what?”

“I think so, sir.”

“Girls’ Open Egg and Spoon Race,” read Bingo.

“How about that?”

“I doubt if it would be worth while to invest, sir,” said Jeeves. “I am told it is a certainty for last year’s winner, Sarah Mills, who will doubtless start an odds-on favourite.”

“Good, is she?”

“They tell me in the village that she carries a beautiful egg, sir.”

“Then there’s the Obstacle Race,” said Bingo. “Risky, in my opinion. Like betting on the Grand National. Fathers’ Hat-Trimming Contest—another speculative event. That’s all, except the Choir Boys’ Hundred Yards Handicap, for a pewter mug presented by the vicar—open to all whose voices have not broken before the second Sunday in Epiphany. Willie Chambers won last year, in a canter, receiving fifteen yards. This time he will probably be handicapped out of the race. I don’t know what to advise.”

If you'd like some background music to write to, try former Suicidal Tendencies and Funk-Metal guru Thundercat's album Drunk.