Write for 5: The Rorschach of Writing Exercises

Card 10 By Hermann Rorschach (died 1922) – http://www.pasarelrorschach.com/en/inkblots.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3594383

Hi Kids,

All three or four of you!

Well that was fun while it lasted. I’m speaking about Write for 5. Apparently it was mostly fun for me. It seemed like a good idea. It did increase my social media followers. Whoopee! I had high hopes about participation but I guess I’d have to have a following of thousands for participation on the scale that would make it a really interesting exercise with interactions.

Perhaps many people either didn’t see the point or didn’t want to waste their imagination or time on what they consider a trivial exercise as I reflect on how wrong they are about that assessment.

Oh well. I learned stuff about how the imagination works, or at least how mine does. Basically, I’d look at these images for just a short time and it wouldn’t take very long before an idea, a connection or a storyline came to me and if I just carried on from the time I chose the image (yes, I did have that advantage) to the time I wrote about it, the writing required almost no effort. It was like the Rorschach test of writing.

From picking the photo to reading the small pieces to choosing a book from my bookshelf and even popping those in the mail, and then thinking about the person opening the package in their mailbox, it was a nice little five week diversion.

In terms of effort expended, as you can imagine, the reward versus effort quotient was a little lopsided.

So, I guess I’ll just go back to as I was. Thanks very much to those who took the time to play along. You know who you are. Much appreciated.

Enjoy your own creative projects, whatever they might be, as we on the West Coast still await spring, the kind of spring we used to know and love.

Oh, and by the way, what do YOU see in the card? I see a Thai king in a headdress and a luscious red robe with two green parrots on his shoulder. (Is she kidding?) Analyze that!

Write for 5: Week Five

Both these images are from CC0 – Creative Commons Zero. Public Domain.

Hi Kids,

Thanks for dropping by. Again. How was your week? Decent enough, I hope.

I’ve been meaning to ask you what type of photos you might find it easier to write to, so if you have any suggestions about that, you know where the “Leave a rely” box is. Look down. Way down.

Your suggestions could be along the lines of: “I like faces more than scenes,” or “I can’t write about white people,” or “Sexier, dammit”  or “Is that a man purse? That better not be a man purse!” or “I hate kids. No kids!” Things like that.

If you have a friend who writes (or just has a good imagination) and you’d like to share this with them, that would be great. You don’t have to think of yourself as a “writer” to do this.

Guidelines

If you’ve participated before, you know the routine.  If not, here are the guidelines.

  • ·         I post a photo (or two) here at 8am on Saturday morning.
  • ·         You look at the photo(s) above this blog post.
  • ·         You take as much time as you need up to Sunday at 11pm the deadline.
  • ·         When you’re ready to write, set the timer for five minutes.
  •           When you’re done, post your results in the “Leave a Reply” box below.

Come back to the blog on Monday to see which piece of writing  I chose to give this week’s book and print to.

If you want to read something about where the imagination occurs in the brain. Try this article in Science in 2013.

I look forward to reading whatever our grey matter in all its wonder and weirdness conjures up this week.  Go!

PS: If you felt like leaving a comment on someone else’s piece, I’m sure they’d like that.

Write for 5 to win a book on writing

Hi Kids,

So four weeks of Write for 5 have now flown by.

It would be so awesome if I could motivate a few more writers anywhere in the world to participate.

So far I’ve mailed off four packages. Those have gone to Toronto, Uruguay, Vancouver and Atlanta, Georgia. Last week I shipped off a photographic print that I bought a few years ago that I loved but I never had anywhere to hang it. I communicated with the recipient and it seemed like last week’s writing book wasn’t the kind of book that he would probably get around to reading, so I looked around and based on his blog, I picked a photographic print for him.

Of course, I should have taken a photo of that before I sent it off to Atlanta, Georgia, but I forgot. Maybe he’ll send me a photo when it arrives and then I’ll be reminded of who the print was created by. I know it was a young photographer based in Delta, B.C.

I’ve decided that I can only send one book per person once at this point given the limited number of participants so that means your chances of getting this fantastic little book are pretty high if you’ve yet to be chosen.

This week’s book prize is called, The Situation and the Story by Vivian Gornick. And you’ll also receive the above print.

For those of you who have been playing along. You know the routine. I post 2 images at 8:00 am on Saturday morning and you have until Sunday at 11:00 pm to Write for 5. I want to experience the uniqueness of your imagination in five minutes.

On Monday, March 27, I’ll choose the small piece that spoke to me in some way.
This might be the easiest contest you’ll ever enter.

Are you in?  See you back here bright and early on Saturday, or whenever you get around to it over the weekend. Have a good one.

The Way of the Potter: Don Hutchinson

Don Hutchinson at Surrey Art Gallery. iPhone photo by gayle mavor

On Sunday, I went to a special talk given by Don Hutchinson, an incredible artist, sculptor, potter in Surrey, B.C. who had a retrospective on at the Surrey Art Gallery that just ended. As an aside, if you’ve never been to the Surrey Art Gallery, you must go. It just feels GOOD in there. Good Feng shui and good programming.

Don started off meandering through some of his childhood experiences which built resilience and the idea that there was no room for waste. When you ran into a problem, you never went out and bought something, because you couldn’t. No money. You had to solve the problem some other way. He became very resilient, and like an inventor, very versatile in his approach to problem-solving on the cheap.

He said he failed art in high school. And French. And Latin. And Chemistry. 

When he graduated (somehow) from high school, he spent two weeks wondering what he should do. At first he thought he might be a priest. Then he thought, no, I’ll be a clown. And then he went into the Royal Air Force. Leaps of faith. Each one of those.

Eventually, he was accepted into Art School, the Vancouver School of Art.  At some point, he had to choose what he wanted to specialize in. He loved painting and sculpting. He didn’t really want to choose. And then he realized: potter. He could be a potter. This was the 1970s. Pottery and working in clay combines both colour and form. Two of his loves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He spoke about a teacher he had who gave the students an exercise. Create this type of vessel. When he came back at the end of the week and saw Don’s piece, he just laughed, didn’t say anything else. He then walked out. Don was humiliated and angry and frustrated. He wrecked the piece and the very next day, started over.

A week passed and he had a new vessel. The teacher came in. Looked at it and once again just laughed and walked out. That was it. Once again, Don was horrified, humiliated, frustrated and angry.

He started all over. By the end of that week, the teacher came by and Don was so frustrated and defensive that before the teacher could say anything, Don said, Look. This is it. I’m happy with it. This is the best I can do. I don’t care if you like it. I’m keeping it.

The teacher, with a bit of a satisfied grin said, Good. That’s what this was about. You’ve learned the lesson the hard way. I need you to do the best you can do. I need you to believe you’ve done the best you can and I need you to take responsibility for your work.

It was after that lesson that Don began to sign all of his pieces. By signing my piece, I was saying to myself and to anyone who bought it or looked at it that it was the best I could do at that time. Of course, years later I’d look back and think, Oh. That’s not so good. I can do better. But at that time it was the best I could do then.

I think this lesson is true for anyone working in a creative endeavour, including writers. We need to really do our best, believe it’s our best, take responsibility for the end result, even when we aren’t sure that anyone else will like it. The integrity in the process will lead (hopefully) to end results that matter and we are the most important person it must matter to.

That’s a great story. Thank you Don Hutchinson with perhaps a few details that weren’t exact in the retelling.  Don Hutchinson has been a potter for 50 years and taught at Langara College for 30 years.  Officially, he retired from being a potter two years ago and is now focused on painting in White Rock, B.C. 

Cross border diplomacy: Week 4 giveaway

photo by gayle mavor. Image on photo card by a Tagger named Tagger 8 (I think) taken near an alley near SFU Woodwards campus.

So Week 4 of Write for 5 happened over the weekend. I’ve had the same teeny, weeny group of loyal followers to whom I’m immensely grateful.

I don’t want to give out a book to someone more than once so that leaves me with two potential recipients for this week. They both reside in the U.S.A. Why not build relations with our neighbours to the south?  As we all know, their illustrious leader isn’t doing them any favours in the winning popularity contests department.

One of these people, Marjorie,  I went to high school with. The other is a guy with a blog that is interesting in the true definition of that word (and with a slight raising of my eyebrows).

According to his blog, he lives somewhere outside of Atlanta, Georgia, off Peachtree Road, 3 miles east of Buckhead which, in my world, might as well be Mars.

He posts amazing photographs from the Library of Congress. And he has a lot to say. You can see check out his blog if you’re so inclined at Chamblee54.  

I think I’d like to send him the book and card. I’m not sure he’ll want it or would read it. I tried to send him an e-mail. I got an error message in return.

I did hear back from him later. He said he couldn’t guarantee he’d read the book. So, I’ll send him the card and see if I might also be able to find some strange photograph postcard for him in my collection of cards.  I’m happy with that. I think he will be as well.

Week 4: Write for 5 right now

Photo 1 -from a magazine from long ago and unfortunately I have no photographer to credit at this point.

Photos 2 – from Creative Commons CC0

Hi kids,

Hope you didn’t have any green beer last night. If you did, I don’t want to hear about it. And let’s face it, you wouldn’t be up at 8am now, would cha?

These weeks are rolling by as if 7 days are wrapped into two. Don’t you feel that way? Here we are at Week 4 of Write for 5 our lives flashing before our eyes.

I guess I’d have to have a following of thousands and thousands to have the kind of participation that would be thrilling. Still, it is exciting for me to read whatever anyone submits and I’m super grateful for anyone who takes the time to play along.  It is true that interaction is what blogs are supposed to be about, right?

I’m wondering if you’ve noticed anything about your process or about how things come to you once you actually start writing. That would be interesting to hear about.

Guidelines

If you’ve participated before, you know the routine.  If not, here are the guidelines:

·         I post a photo (or two) above at 8am on Saturday morning. Like now!

·         You take as much time as you need to look at those photos, (above)  then choose one.

·         When you’re ready to write, set the timer for five minutes.

·         When you’re done, you post your results in the “Leave a Reply” box below.

If you need to see last week’s submissions, please go to this post and scroll down to the comments:

·         Five minutes goes by super fast. In a blink really. As long as it takes the kettle to boil. But, as I’ve said before, this is really about revving up the imagination more than it is about writing. Think of it as the appetizer for the main course: your “real” writing. Don’t think about it at all actually. Just get at it and see what comes.

·         Form is open: poetry, CNF, Flash fiction. Or whatever.

·         On Monday, I’ll let you know whose writing touched me in some way. Then, I choose a book for that writer (no matter where they are in the world). I pick one of my own books and mail it to you with a card and a note.  It’s an awesome way to cull my books, and to give someone a nice surprise.

Good luck. Give it a try!  You’ve got until Sunday (let’s say 11pm) to post your results but you don’t have to wait. Just stick your piece in the comments when you’re ready.

Let the free associating begin. Let the creative wizardry unfold. Let the subconscious rise to the occasion.

Understanding trauma through storytelling

photo by gayle mavor. Art by Suzanne Fulbrook.

I went to a panel at the Growing Room Festival on Saturday called “No Way out but Through: Writing about Trauma.” The panelists were: Evelyn Lau, Christine Lowther and Sonnet L’Abbe with Elee Kraljii Gardener as the moderator. 

I was invited to be one of the active listeners. I’m not sure who suggested me. Someone, I suppose, who knows that I’ve taken quite a few counselling and related courses (eight to be exact) as pre-requisites to a Masters in the past few years. Poet Jonina Kirtan was the other active listener.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, nobody needed to talk to us.

Let me rephrase that. Some women may have benefited from sharing their feelings. There were no outward signs (except coughing) to indicate that. The thing about coughing is maybe you have a cold or maybe your emotion is being manifested through coughing.  Who’s to say.

How strangely serendipitous it should be that I would find myself being invited to that event because what some of the panelists had to say set off a bit of a light bulb moment for me in understanding that some of what I’m writing about is, of course, trauma-related. And if I re-examine some of the things I’ve been writing about from that perspective, it’s much clearer to me how to focus the stories and perhaps my entire manuscript with that in the background as the “golden thread” of explanation.

Evelyn Lau spoke to how she needed to be completely in her own space, in silence, in order to have the psychological space to work through her stuff.  She spoke about forming her commitment to writing long before a commitment to people.  “When talking hasn’t worked, writing is all that’s left.” And she also reminded us that trauma can also translate, eventually, into strength.” That, I believe, for me, has absolutely been true.

As a writer, a storyteller, you have to decide who you serve. Do you serve the writing or do you serve the people around you? Christine Lowther recalled hearing that (from Evelyn Lau) and as a result, (and she’s not alone in this experience based on what I’ve heard from other writers), she’s had relatives not speak to her for periods of time because of some of the things she’s written.

I think it was Elee Kraljii who said “the closer you are to a trauma, the more catharsis feels like the impetus for the writing. Years later, however, if you are still writing about it, it can feel psychologically damaging.”  Interesting insight to mull over.

Christine Lowther has been writing/re-writing about one specific image left over from a childhood experience, approaching that trauma and having new memories surface to add new layers and different ways into the story.  

She recalled having some student say to her 20 years ago, “Well, I hope you’re not going to be writing about this 20 years from now!” And she still is.  And maybe that’s what every writer is doing. Writing about the things that were the impetus for writing in the first place, in only slightly revised ways, but with layer upon layer of new insights impacting the words on the page.

Sonnet has this incredible project where she’s using Shakespeare’s sonnets to write around and interject her own writing over top of them, layering her experience as a woman of a Guyanese, South Asian and African mixed descent over some of the most seminal works in British colonialism.  I hope I understood that correctly.

I don’t know when trauma became a commonly referred to word but it didn’t exist when I was growing up. Or if it did, the depth of understanding related to it is greater now. At least that’s how it seems to me.  After a lot of therapy, some education and my own insights, I can’t help but see how that term – trauma – gets loaded with so much misinformation and misunderstanding.

Our stories, after all, are just our stories. They don’t come with labels alerting us to the clinical box they might fit inside. We can so easily forget to recognize how the scenes we’ve been a part of in life can be defined clinically in ways that we can so easily overlook. Sometimes that acknowledgement, not just in life, but on the page, can not only lead us to be kinder to ourselves, but to a more cohesive narrative.