If you missed our Drop-In Workshop at The Cabin this week and in June, here is a glimpse at the two-part workshop series we undertook those nights. The full essay we worked from can be viewed here (on page 103 of the document), or here you can see it in its original blog form. Go ahead and try it at home. I'd love to hear how it goes for you.
June: Image, Memory and the Art of Seeing (Part One)
Objective: Exploring Cindy Shearer’s Essay/Memoir “Landscape of Memory", we will look at her process of sharing a moment through remembered detail, (and in part two) banking recorded images into a poem and using drawn image to further see what we see.
1. Read Beginning: Seeing
Discuss: What stands out, what images, the moments, the person as a figure.
Remember: Close your eyes or find a grounded way to go into your memory bank. Take yourself back to a pivotal time in your life. Perhaps a time when everything went wrong, or everything went right, or some of both, but in any event this period in your life changed you.
What can you see there? Hear/smell/taste/feel?
Who was there? One instrumental person in that event – perhaps they made this time easier, or harder, or more alive. What were they doing? What did they look like, smell like, sound like…? How did their presence impact you?
Note: Go through all this in your mind’s eye. Record it for yourself. Focus on the moment first. The pivotal time in your life. Let yourself see it all clearly. If it helps, you can jot some of these details on your paper as notes.
Now focus on the pivotal person in that moment, or another pivotal person to you. Someone important. Let all the details arise, the physical, the personality, the memories.
Write: Using everything you remember and any notes you jotted down, show us either this pivotal time in your life OR the person who impacted you, getting down all the details you can muster. Be sure to include all the senses and the important images that come up for you. Try not to do both yet. Pick one. Don’t worry too much about structure, just focus on getting everything down.
Write: Now, if you’ve written about the pivotal time in your life, write about the person who impacted you (at that time or another time), and vice versa. Be sure to include all the senses and the important images that come up for you. Don’t worry too much about structure, just focus on getting everything down.
Combine: Now, try putting this all together. This might be a pure rewrite where you start over and combine all the details, or you may want to just keep adding to what you started. Whatever the case, try combining all these details into a full standalone piece.
If your person and the moment don’t match up in memory, that’s okay. Try to find a connection anyway, either through truth or fiction (which can be the same thing).
This can be a story (memoir, fiction, nonfiction), a poem, a scene, a character study, whatever feels right for you and this piece. Go deeply in, and see how much you can pull up. Allow yourself to go into uncomfortable emotional places, which often happens when working with memory. By bringing them up, you can release them on paper.
August: Image, Memory and the Art of Seeing (Part Two)
2. Read Middle: Seeing Into, Remembrances of Princeton
Discuss: What stands out? image and poetry, the process of embedding a poem in mind, how can we see into images?
Collect Images: Go around the room, and even outside this room, and even outside. Collect images. Let yourself collect these images in a slow way. Focus on what you see, hear, feel, smell, taste, but also what memories come up. Try not writing them down yet. Embed them in your mind. With each image, notice what memories come up. Maybe one memory comes up related to an image, and you replay it in your mind, maybe it’s several. You can stay with one image and the memories it brings, or move from image to image.
Gather these images and memories into words in your mind. Make sentences you enjoy. Let the language get really specific. As an exercise, try not writing them down right away, but remembering them. If you really need to write them down, go ahead, but be willing to challenge yourself and your memory.
Write: Write down the images and sentences, phrases you remember.
Rewrite: Now that you see it on paper, see into this even deeper. What’s missing? Add a few things. What’s extra? Whittle it down. Read it out loud to yourself. Let yourself get really happy with what you see and hear.
3. Read End: Seeing What Matters, Seeing Image Matters
Discuss: What stands out, In what ways can we place ourselves in an image (written/lived/seen) and look around?
Cartoonist Lynda Barry says an image is a place. What might she mean by that?
Look at the text you’ve been constructing. See it again. Put yourself in the images your wrote, or just one, and look around.
Draw: Draw that image. You don’t have to be a visual artist. You can use a new piece of paper. Focus on the lines, what you see. Get down a piece of it. It can be cartoony, it can be a sketch, whatever you like.
Rewrite/draw: Look at both the drawn image and the written image. What can you do to either? Add a few words to the drawn image? Does the drawing help you see things you left out of the writing? Does the writing make you want to add more to the drawing? Let yourself add more or take away from either.
(Share, Reflect. How did that go?)
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Process notes on a work in progress (me). This mostly contains raw rough content pulled out of practice notebooks. Occasional posts also invite you into the way I work, with intermittent notes on the hows and whys on the whats I make. Less often you may also find prompts and processes I've brought to workshops, as well as surveys that help me gather material for projects. Similar earlier posts from years ago can be found on: