Monday, September 29, 2008

Part Three of the Writing Exercise

This is the heftier part of the exercise, which comes from a book on writing that features exercises by well-known writers (title and link below)and will help you to generate a lot of good ideas. I had a woman in my recent workshop ask about whether or not it was ok to write negatively about her name. She didn't want the name she had, so all of her comparisons were negative ones. She ended up writing a very honest and free piece, which was seemed to be pretty cathartic for her. Who knows what you'll get when you freewrite? From the freewrite, you can glean the parts you like and toss the ones you don't - in other words, rework and revise. For now, just allow yourself to write and enjoy the process.

from Norma E. Cantu in “Naming the World: And Other Exercises for the Creative Writer” edited by Bret Anthony Johnston:

As you read the following questions, you may jot down notes of just relax and let your mind wander as you answer them in your mind. Take your time; read each question and give yourself a minute or so to reflect. Let your imagination fly and you will be surprised to see what comes to you.

1. If your name were a flower, what kind of flower would it be? A rose? A hibiscus? A dandelion? A blossom of the prickly pear cactus or of the gigantic magnolia? What flower would signify your childhood? What about now?

2. If your name were a color, what color would it be? The yellow of the sunflower? The pastel blues of the evening sky? The deep purple of the eggplant? Close your eyes and focus on your name. See it in your mind’s eye. What color is it written in and on what color background?

3. If your name were a musical instrument, what instrument would it be? A blaring trumpet? A soft violin? A piccolo? A recorder? A tuba>? A drum? Close your eyes and say your name aloud. What instrument does your name remind you of? Does it sound like the soft ding of the triangle? The deep notes of the saxophone?

4. If your name were an ice cream flavor, what flavor would it be? Pistachio? Plain vanilla? Mango? Close your eyes and imagine your name in your mouth. What was your favorite ice cream flavor in childhood? What is it now?

5. If your name were a fabric, what would it be? Denim? Silk? Nylon? Rayon? Duct tape? Moire? Taffeta? Take a mental inventory of the clothes you own. Are they mostly cotton? Or synthetics? Do you prefer the feel of wool or of silk? Cloth is very sensual and your name is what clothes your identity/ What fabric is your name?

6. If your name were a city anywhere in the world, what city would it be? Paris? San Antonio? London? Chicago? Hong Kong? Laredo, Texas? Would it be the city or town of your birth? The place where you had your first kiss? What city are you attracted to? You may never have visited Madrid or Helsinki or Boca Raton, Florida, yet it may have a strange attraction for you. Are there any cities that hold that fascination for you?

7. If your name were a street or a highway n your town or city, what street would it be? Pick a highway or a street that you enjoy driving or walking on. Is the one your chose a quiet, secluded road or a busy, much-travelled street? Is it rural or urban? The path that we take often reflect the roads we prefer to travel on. I rarely take the interstate if I can get where I’m going on back roads or city streets.

8. If your name were a food, what food would it be? Italian? Chinese? Mexican? Midwestern? Be specific. Is it pasta? Or is it pork fried rice? Is it enchildas? Or is it roast beef? What dessert is your favorite? What dessert would say your name? After all, we are what we eat!

Freewrite for about fifteen or twenty minutes just letting go and using the answers you jotted down as a springboard for the writing. (Freewriting sounds like what it means: write anything that comes to your mind. The goal is to get down as much language as possible, so try not to lift your pen from the page or your fingers from the keys.) Don’t stop to edit, and don’t worry about commas in the right place or finding the exact word at this point. Just get your thoughts down. This first draft will yield the kernels that will become the finished piece.

Part Four tomorrow...

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