Thursday, June 30, 2011

How Boot Camp -- Starting Tomorrow -- Might Actually Work.

This is how it's going to work.

1. I'm going to give you some memory exercises every day. Basically, it's my firm belief that the dark finery of your subconscious is packed to the gills with great curiosities -- things that have already been edited by memory, things that have withstood the test of time and remained -- seared in -- because they hold some great resonance. "Memory is a net," claims Oliver Wendell Holmes. It lets go of the unimportant, the trivial, and holds onto the things that make for great writing.

So, we're going to muck around in there and collect.

2. I'm going to give you eavesdropping assignments. Richard Ford has written, "I collect lines and snippets of things somebody might say -- … then characters begin to emerge.” I want three things overheard everyday. If you're not out in the world enough to collect three things per day, you might want to get out into the world a little more frequently.

3. I'm going to give you random reading assignments, in hopes of underscoring the skills of reading like a writer. Saul Bellow once said something like, "A writer is a reader who has moved to emulation." I don't like the narrowness of the statement, but there's something to take from it -- and we will.

4. I'll be assigning a daily collection of images because the writing life is much easier if you experience the world as a writer -- with eye and ear and empathy. It makes for a clunky, distracted existence of stumbling and getting turned around and having to ask people to repeat themselves, but I think it helps your writing, overall, if not your personal relationships. (This isn't personal relationship boot camp.) As Benoit Mandelbrot once said, "The most important instrument of thought is the eye."

5. Quotes. I'll provide writerly quotes, as you see above, and you can think about them, if you want.


The world is a very textured place. I believe that the best art reflects that textured experience. You will take all of these seemingly disparate images and stitch them together to make written art of some kind which is 6. The final assignment of trying to take the scraps and make something larger.

7. There might be rants.

So, it starts tomorrow. If you're in and you want to make this more official, you can sign-in in the comment box every day. You can mouth off, if you dare...

If you want to just hang-out and lurk -- or even poach some assignments for later -- or for your students, if you're a teacher -- feel free.

ALSO, if this works for you in some way -- this daily jump start -- and the writing that comes of it startles you in a good way -- then you might want to sign up for THE WRITING REGIMENS at THE SOUTHEAST REVIEW. It's super cheap and very smart and jammed with great resources and pep talks and exercises. Brilliant stuff and a great way to support a literary magazine at the same time.
(They also have contests and post winning works by regimen participants
so a good way to get published.)
If you want to know when the next one is, email