Thursday, May 08, 2008

Releasing The Writer Within Class 8

Releasing The Writer Within
Class 8

This week we began with a mediation warm up as usual, but this time I focused on having students peer inside their quieted minds and souls and look for their “truth”. Truth, to me, is somewhat subjective and personal– unlike fact, which is straightforward and objective. What is true for one person is not necessarily true for another. If you have a sibling, you know that you have a different interpretation of the childhood you shared, and each of you believe that your view is “true”. Isn’t it possible that both of your views are true? I wanted my students to ponder their own truths in this warm up. The idea was to have them open up a part of themselves that maybe they don't always have access to. This might bring in some interesting things to write about.

Releasing The Writer Within writing techniques are about a mind/body/soul connection. The names of the techniques are metaphorical, intended to force the writer to think about not only ideas and interesting words to put on paper but also about the invisible part of writing, the subtext, the hidden meaning of words. So, a technique like "write from the head" is about writing from the logical part of your body, the less emotional part. While "writing from the heart" is the opposite. Writing "from the gut" or "from the groin" are also more metaphorical in meaning, writing from more vulnerable, sensitive areas of the body. If the writer works from these places, it forces him or her to use different language, words, senses. It forces the writer to focus not only on the literal but the symbolic or hidden.

This week, in class, we also shared some pieces that follow a technique called “writing from the groin”. This sounds quite titillating, doesn’t it? Well, actually, it’s not what it seems to be. This is a voice that is sensual but not necessarily sexual (although it can be). This is a voice of the senses–amplified. Other homework this week was “write from the heart” which is the voice of figurative language, metaphor, simile, hyperbole, and/or personification.

One of my long-time, very dedicated students Joanne, also shared a piece that was “write from the throat” but instead of writing from the first-person of herself in the piece, she wrote from the first person perspective of a beloved literary character, Holden Caulfield. This is a truly unique piece that really demonstrates how the techniques and voices that we explore in class can also help in the art of story-crafting and character development.

Again, as I tell my students, these techniques and assignments are about stretching your range and tone and voice as a writer. These are your musical scales to practice, with the idea that as you practice them over and over, you will improve your writing.

Linda Fiorenzano

No worries. No chores. No other place to be. No other tasks to be done.
With no planning for the future – not even looking into the next hour. Never mind tomorrow. Not thinking about the week or the month or the season.
Be in the moment. Observe. Like a camera that has the job of taking and recording pictures.
Observe. Do not judge. Do not compare. Just Observe. Just experience. Just listen. Just smell. Just touch. Observe the shape. Listen to the sound. Feel the texture. Experience. Touch. Observe.
Just be. Just be you. Just be me.
That is my truth. To be me. To not wish to be like someone else. To not have someone else’s things, feeling or tastes.
Be me.
Be true.

Warm Up
Shakay, Passionate Writer

Jackhammer. I imagine myself standing on a corner wearing yellow slicker pants, red suspenders and a yellow hard hat and I am holding a jackhammer. It takes all my strength to hold on to the jackhammer as it pounds away at the cement. It dances back and forth as I try to contain it in one place. It is breaking up the old cement. Big chunks are breaking up and flying in all directions. Underneath the cement is gravel, some old dirt and tuffs of green grass. Even underneath the heavy old outdated cement there is life, growth, stirrings of newness. There is movement.

I needed a jackhammer to get to my truth. My being was in cement for so long, but even though at times I felt I could not breath, I was alive, growing and reaching for air., faith, hope, peace, hate, power. Interesting to use the word hate with truth. I do not mind being is my favorite choice, but I think I hate the truth sometimes because it hurts and at times I have hated the work I have needed to do to get to my truth.

Truth equals freedom. Truth is my jackhammer. I am so happy that I have broken new ground. The difficulty is in discarding the old chunks of cement or deciding which ones are worth holding onto and refining. I do need a truck to haul it all away. Let the new growth flourish!

Write From The Groin
Linda Fiorenzano

I crave something sweet to eat, but know I must eat healthy. Something sweet, thick, cold, creamy. Creamy and moist. It smells fresh and clean. Its container is chilled. I know it will be just the right temperature. I dip my fingers in it and scoop a sample on the tips of my fingers. I lick my fingers and savor the taste. The taste of strawberries – thick, creamy, and cold. I lick my lips to get all the leftovers onto my tongue. I grab the nearest spoon and quickly devour the entire container of sweetness. I sit back, place my palms on my belly, roll my eyes and feel satisfied that my craving has been released.

Write From The Groin
Shakay, Passionate Writer

I open the door to my closet. My nostrils are filled with the sweet aroma of cedar. My eyes caress the several balls of yarn. Each ball is unique in it's size, texture and hue. My hands quiver as I reach out and touch and squeeze each ball of yarn one at a time. I pick up the balls of yarn and breath in the aroma. I rub the balls up against my cheek. I pick up all the yarn in my arms and hug the balls to my chest.

Write From The Heart
Joanne Carnevale

I have no life. Think no reflection when I pass a mirror – like a vampire or the undead. The other day it looked like my shadow had faded when I walked outside. Pretty soon oncoming pedestrians will be able to walk right through me like in the ghost movies. I’m on my way to becoming a hologram. And after that, just some molecules and atoms floating in the air where I once stood. I need to get a life.

Writing from Holden’s throat
Joanne Carnevale

I am Holden Caulfield.
I am sixteen years old.
I am the younger brother of D. B.
I am the older brother of Phoebe.
I am the son of two living parents.
I am the son of a lawyer and a homemaker.
I am the older brother of the late Allie.
I am grieving for my lost brother Allie.
I am easily bored.
I am of the opinion that almost everyone is a phony.
I am a member of a well-to-do family.
I am a resident of Manhattan.
I am a student of several private boarding schools.
I am getting kicked out of Pencey Prep, in Pennsylvania, my most recent school.
I am flunking four out of five subjects.
I am passing English.
I am a reader.
I am a good composition writer.
I am yellow.
I am a heavy smoker.
I am a heavy drinker when I can get served.
I am tall, over six feet, so I often get served.
I am a virgin.
I am interested in changing my virginity status but then I just get bored with the girl or tired of her phoniness.
I am often in the vicinity when an adult guy, like a teacher, decides to act like a pervert.
I am probably in love with Jane Gallagher although I am never in the mood to call her or go downstairs and say hello when I know she’s there.
I am moody.
I am depressed.
“I’m the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. It’s awful.”


Joanne Carnevale said...

Thanks, Hannah, for posting class assignments. I enjoyed these pieces the first time they were shared in class so it's nothing less than splendid to be able to savor them again at my leisure. I've noticed there've been no comments or discussions since you've started these student work postings and wonder why that might be. Perhaps other blog readers will share their thoughts on that question and/or their reactions to the student work.

Anonymous said...

I love the fact that we're not taught "how" to write. Like a set of rules to abide by. And, I loved this piece for that. Unconventional writing that is interesting and in its way says everything.