Thursday, July 7, 2011

Baggott & Asher Writerly Boot Camp. Day 6.

[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.]

A small note: If you want to share your bits, head on over to the link that I post on Facebook every morning around 9 or 10am. You don't have to share ANYthing at all. Not one word. But you can also feel free to let loose. I'm there at this link.

Thought I'd mix it up with a sweet baby-face pic of Matthew Broderick in Biloxi Blues -- to set the mood.

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 the character in your town who has the most outlandish mythic back story.

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.

Today, this is the final variation on this research tear we're on. This time choose to narrate an important moment in history in the life of an historic figure. But don't let the historic figure narrate. Instead choose the lesser known or unknown/invented person standing off to the side -- let them tell it from their perspective.

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 weighs too much to lift, something that makes a shrill noise, something soft.

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

“Chance furnishes me with what I need. I’m like a man who stumbles along; my foot strikes something. I bend over and it is exactly what I need.” James Joyce

I've written about this quote before. Break it down and it goes like this
first you have to need something as a writer and to need something you have to be thinking like a writer then
you have to go out looking for it or -- maybe even better -- go out NOT looking for it but having that need in the back of your mind and this latter is probably true because Joyce, here, isn't watching where he's walking. He isn't even walking -- he's stumbling along ... distracted by need.
Then and only then do we get:
he trips but
doesn't just walk on, brushing at the knees of his pants, lightly muddy. No, he
E. stops, turns, bends over and looks at this thing he tripped on -- and
F. there is his answer. Found.

You've all had this experience in one form or another. You've found the thing you need when you were stumbling along. But have you recognized and practiced it?

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.

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