Dearly beloved writers,
It’s my favorite time of year. Today I hosted writing at my house. Only four of our eight Monday Writers BLOC writers were able to attend, but we had fun. I was leading because I love having people over during this holiday. I made deviled eggs and also served coffee and cookies. Others brought chips, grapes, and a veggie platter. We were well fed.
I used A Playful Way to Serious Writing by Roberta Allen for two warm-up exercises.We associated words with abstract art and then picked the word with the most energy to write on. Roberta Allen explains (page 18) that a word has energy if
–You feel the tiniest pinprick of feeling
–Your eye is drawn to it instantly
–You find yourself thinking about it
–It conjures a strong association
–You feel moved or excited
–You feel irritated or disturbed
The six words that came to mind when I looked at the piece of abstract art were Tangle, Clots, Synapses, Tadpoles, Yarn and Ebola. (This illustration came from page 25 of Roberta Allen’s book)
I wrote for 10 minutes on Ebola because that was the most disturbing word from my list, and therefore had the most energy. The write led me to remember being in a museum in South Dakota where I saw a piece of Native American art (shown below).
I wrote: “The thing which grabbed me was a large canvas made of buffalo skin. On it was a history of the tribe – one symbol per year drawn in a spiral. Many years were represented in this way. The artist had to pick one thing from the entire year to symbolize the overriding essence of the year. Early in the spiral was a symbol for a plague -a disease that had practically wiped out the tribe. It was drawn with lots of spots like measles – although I don’t remember what disease it was (possibly small pox). The abstract art shown in Roberta Allen’s book reminded me of the tangled Ebola virus depicted under an electron microscope and flashed many times across our TV screens.” I wrote that Roberta Allen’s abstract art piece could easily be a symbol for the fear we in the US and other parts of the world are expressing this year about this Ebola pestilence.
I enjoyed this writing warm up because it combined two mediums — art and writing — and Allen nailed the concept of “energy” for me when it’s about writing on a word or phrase. Normally I would have avoided writing about Ebola. I would have written about something safe like tadpoles or tangles. But instead, by diving into my fear and abhorrence, I connected with a piece I saw in a South Dakota museum last September. I made a gut-level connection with the Native American artist — and it wasn’t planned at all. This was spontaneous, stream-of-consciousness writing warm-up.