Saturday, July 23, 2011

Baggott & Asher Writerly Boot Camp. Day 20.

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

TO YOUR LEFT, Kathy Bates, starring (undeniably)
It'll make sense as you read on.

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

Have you kept up with the things that you need to collect as a writer? I've mentioned three -- ways in which people met, jobs, and coping mechanism. There are many more, of course -- meals, house plans, stories we tell to prove we trust another human being, things people collect/hoard.

Keep collecting these. Pile 'em up.

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

Repeat yesterday's assignment. Three more genres. Three more book jackets. This might really hurt.

3. 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.

Three things that are white and/or gauzy.

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

“Everything one invents is true.” Flaubert

But, of course, it's your job to give it gills, to make it feel true, to make it true to the reader, real. How do you do that?

Be undeniable in the realism of your details, for one.

I remember an Inside the Actors Studio with Kathy Bates. Lipton asked -- in his way -- how she managed to get so many roles while not being your typical Hollywood-looking leading lady. She put it bluntly. "I had to be undeniable." That's how she went into all of her auditions. For whatever reasons, I've always thought that -- as a writer -- I had no margin for error. Let me put it this way: in elementary school when the teacher said, 'All kids in the gifted program need to collect their things and go," I didn't have to collect my things. I wasn't going anywhere and neither were my things. I wasn't Most Likely to be a Writer. I was more like most likely to lose her keys in a parking lot or something... So, when it came to the page, I've always felt I've had to be undeniable.

And maybe it's because I'm such an unforgiving reader -- I need to be compelled and swept up as a reader -- that I feel that I have to be undeniable on the page.

Or maybe because I'm short or the baby of the family who had to talk loudly to be heard at all or ....

In any case, undeniable in your details -- that's what you have to be to make the invented truth true.

5. 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.

Remember: 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