Right around this time, I started attending a monthly writing workshop conducted by Zoe. An older woman who halfway through her life took a pause and enrolled in a writing program at Columbia College. No, not that one — the Columbia University in New York. This one. In Chicago. Zoe teachers her workshops in the style promoted by Columbia College.
I may not do it justice, but we spend four hours together, one Saturday each month. There are readings from other writers to provide for discussion of a particular method of telling a story. Last month was model telling. This month was dreams, memories, and fantasies.
At some point, we began to … well, I think of it as pulling words out and throwing them out for consideration. Clear your mind and say what the first word is in your mind. Create a place where that word fits. Move it to the side, clear your mind, and then say the next work that pops into your head. Create a place where that word fits. Move it to the side, clear your mind and do it again. You get the idea?
In all these months, and it has been somewhat off and on, I’ve struggled with a little bit of dissatisfaction about the workshops. You know me. I’m a point A to point B to point C type of person. I need to feel like I’m progressing, that what I’m doing contributes to that movement forward. I wasn’t feeling that way about these workshops until today.
Zoe said something that was so simple and basic. It’s one of those moments where I felt like smacking my forehead and saying “doh!”
Those word and visualization exercises were never meant to just be done within the comforting confines of the workshop. Instead, they are something we, as writers, should be doing regularly as a part of our writing process. Spend five minutes seeing what words pop into your head. Write them down. See if they have a place in what you’re working on or prompt you to begin something completely new.
And then another thing happened this afternoon. The last third or so of each workshop is spent writing. To create an opportunity to write, each of us visualize a place — it could be a scene in an existing story, a scene in a planned story, or something totally new. Then, we begin to fill that scene in. Who is there and what are they doing. Identify an expected object in the scene. Then identify an unexpected object. Identify an expected smell and an unexpected smell. Identify a near sound and a far sound. And, finally, identify something that is about to change in the scene. And, if you choose, take all of that and write it.
My last post was about how my writing energy has gone to blogging for far too long. Today’s workshop brought me back into fiction. My scene creation was about the scene that beings the final chapter of The Irrepairable Past. It got those fiction juices flowing again. I now know how I’m going to begin that chapter and with that in mind, I’m pretty sure I can write the entire chapter. There’s the little conundrum of the three or four chapters that proceed it that I haven’t quite cracked, but …
I’m excited about this story again. Since the workshop ended about five hours ago, I’ve been back at Sullivan Bay in Henry’s world. It’s the kick in the pants I needed. The spark. Time to go write.
Thank you, Zoe. I learned a couple of things today.