Wednesday, July 22, 2009

think outside QWERTY

I recently watched a video of an artist painting a portrait while listening to the subject's music, moving the brush according to the tempo of the music (view the video). It was fascinating; that exercise represents what it means to be an artist. Of course, I'm not going to sit down and write an article about Hendrix while listening to his guitar solos. But, the article did get me thinking about how alternative methods can help writers create successful and unique work. So in that spirit, let's start with what most writers are familiar with: typing.

What's wrong with typing words?

My advice: don't do it...not all the time anyway. Writing by hand is liberating; the scribbles, scratched-out words, arrows, lines, consider it a nude thought process, not in an exhibitionist way but in an unconstrained way. Writing by hand makes the process more personal, it's a creative investigation that is more dynamic than hitting the backspace key or quickly applying a bold weight to certain words.

Is that not enough? Not convinced? Let me take the handmade notion one step farther.

Draw your letters. That may sound ridiculous in the digital age but imagine expressing your thoughts beyond a simple choice between two synonyms. A 't' can really support the word 'tree' if the serifs flourish into leaves...or maybe, the main stroke has a tree bark texture to it. Ok, I admit this approach is more for poets and creative writers than copywriters and technical writers but the exercise is still a liberating study that allows the mind to look at a subject from a different angle (something that all writers, regardless of career path, can benefit from).

I see there are some of you still shaking your heads, first left, then right, then left again....ok, I get the point, you need more.

Create a narrative with photography. Don't write with words...get out of the studio (or whatever you call your work space) and take pictures that represent what you're trying to say. And notes are off limits! The whole point of this exercise is to think about your subject in an unrestricted capacity. Once you have a collection of images that you feel provide a decent narrative, go back to the studio, print the pictures, and lay them out on your desk. Start writing but use the pictures as your inspiration; get creative, be bold.

While I consider these suggestions great ideas, I encourage anyone interested in writing to generate their own unique methods; the more personal the approach, the better the writing will be. The whole point is to move you away from the keyboard, to remove you from routine and place you within a rich thought process. Writing is structured thinking; if you broaden your thinking, you will certainly broaden your chances of creating successful work."


T. W. Anderson said...

I used to do something similar in the sense that I always carried a journal around and jotted down notes, including detailing whatever it was that I saw which happened to inspire me.

I still jot down notes, but I don't actively carry a journal with me unless we are on a trip, when my day pack has a small notebook for ideas and such. But I absolutely abhor writing by hand. And not just for styles, but for all of it. For me, being able to kick back in my chair as I work on a chapter in the novel, or writing a short story, is all about the experience of being inside the heads of the characters, actually being there with them, experiencing what they experience. And I just don't get that vibe when I'm working out of a notebook. I'm much more comfortable "getting into the zone" and just letting the experience dictate.

That, and I hate transcribing afterwords because for me that's doing the work twice. And when I have limited time, and multiple projects, I can't stand doing things twice. Understandably I'm not everyone, but I've never been a visually-artsy sort of person. For me it is not the physical representation of the words and letters which contain the meaning, but the stories which those words and letters come together to form. The world which only exists when those words and letters have gone beyond to represent a hidden world behind the page.

abstractLatte said...

I can dig that perspective.

Writing words is part of the connection to the narrative, for me. I am trained in the visual arts and have always been a hands-on type of with little Photoshop work, illustration by hand, etc. When time is a factor I'll start in the computer but when I can, especially when traveling, I'll work from the journal.