Saturday, July 2, 2011

Baggott & Asher Writerly Boot Camp. Day 2.

[If you find yourself here, baffled, lost, disoriented,
the link to the post that might clarify
what you've just stumbled upon
complete with pic of Louis Gossett Jr.
and Richard Gere.]

Exercises 1-4 will be used in exercise 6.

1. Memory Exercise. This is designed to guide you (goad you) into mucking around where the important, psychologically resonant stuff is stored.

Today, jot a memory of something stolen, your worst job, and memory associated with fire.

2. Eavesdropping Exercise. This exercise is ALWAYS the same, every day. Give me 3 things you've overheard. Start a good writerly habit.

This is designed to help get you in the mode of listening and NOTING what you hear. Because some of you do these exercises in the morning (I'm all for freshest brain cells and PAYING YOURSELF FIRST), you might have to do this part of the exercise the day before. Pay attention to things you overhear or bits of conversation or snippets from radio or TV with no other context (an easy way to play catch-up) or the stories people tell or facts they spout off ... Remember cell phones are walking confessionals -- writerly GOLD. Listen to everything. Suffer (some) fools gladly. Trust me on this.

3. Reading as a writer. I'll be mixing this up from day to day, with some repeats.

Go to this link. Click to the Table of Contents. You've just wandered into the Table of Contents of Sharon Oldes The Wellspring. If you know this book of poems, go to another book of poems that you don't know but has this Look Inside feature. Pick a title to a poem that you don't know. Use the title to spark a memory of your own. This doesn't have to be a poem if you write prose. These are sparks. Your poem about visiting your mother's college won't be like Oldes' at all.

TIP 1: Keep this in mind every time you open a Table of Contents. It's can work as a Table of Prompts. Write your own and then read theirs.

TIP 2: Also keep this in mind when you're watching movies and reading books and you find yourself guessing at the plot and its various twists. Sometimes you're right. But when you're wrong, you might just shrug and think, "Huh, this book isn't at all what I thought it would be." What you should think about is the plot and the various twists that you've created in anticipation that aren't this book at all but might be part of something that you write. You've often invented something original, that might deserve more thought.

Keep in mind ... "In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty." -- Emerson

Don't shrug off your ideas. Don't dismiss them. Recognize them and keep manipulating them.

4. Image Exercise. This one is also the same every day -- more or less -- and hopefully habit-forming. Jot 3 images. Look at something closely. Notice something. Pay attention.

Today, pick something that shines, something that fits neatly in the palm of your hand, and a noise you've heard recently in the night.

5. The Quote. Everyday I will provide a quote and either a little rant on it or an exercise paired with it.

Today, it's this one:
“The desire at the start is not to say anything, not to make meanings, but to create for the unwary reader a sudden experience of reality.” Valerie Martin
That's what we're doing in many of these exercises, creating moments of undeniable details, the sudden experience of reality. I have a gesture for this in class. I create a frame with my hands and then a push my face through that frame. Basically, it might be a very small detail in the work of one of my students -- a girl comes down for breakfast, sits down, and tucks both of her knees up into her baggy t-shirt. Little but it feels true. It creates that experience of reality that's so necessary in grounding a scene -- no matter where it occurs in a work.

6. Quilting Exercise. This will always be the same but the parts will change daily.

Pick and choose from the things you've jotted so far -- those disparate elements -- and use them to create something. But don't force it too hard. Have some faith in the resonance of these things in and of themselves. These elements have all been dredged to the surface. They're bobbing in your brain. Start writing something even if you don't know what it is. Let these things bounce in and out. Work. Row.