Friday, September 11, 2015

Day One. Writing.

I want my students to see the scenes in their heads. I want them to know -- day one of class -- that their minds are infinitely generative.
This year, I started with three exercises -- the second is where they offer memories based on prompts and we plot a story together. The lesson here is that their memories are gold -- "Memory is a net," as Oliver Wendell Holmes put it. And Mednick's famous definition creativity being associative memory that works exceptionally well. In this exercise, they see a lot of the basic elements of story being assumed, but subservient to memory.
The last exercise is purely word-based, the simplest and often the one that yields the best results. The lesson being that words alone can save the writer. They have their own generative force, beyond you.
But the new exercise, the first, is where I lead them through five short visualizations. They have to close their eyes for each and can jot notes between them. One, for example, asks them to imagine a woman in a flooded basement, what floats around her ... she wades to a footlocker and opens it and looks inside. That's it.
After the five are finished, I ask them to put them through two lenses -- the first is which is the most vivid. The second is which is the most mysterious -- meaning you yourself, the creator, wants to know what happened before and after.
The homework for introductory level students is to write one as a scene. The intermediate students have to do the same but also have to plot a story in which they use at least three of the visualizations as scenes in the proposed story that they never have to write. They also write prompts for each other to play with. Much of the discussion is about not just what but how they saw what appeared in their minds. And some of the visualizations also ask for listening as well as seeing.
At the end of the first class, they have three ways at story-making.
For young creatives in particular, this speech is a good one.
"I didn't have a choice." -- Steven Spielberg

[Harriet Wolf's Seventh Book of Wonders is now loose in the world... ]