Prewriting Excercise

I highly recommend both of these books on creativity by Lynda Barry. Both include this exercise and sample pages from students.

You’ll need six or seven pieces of paper for Barry’s exercise. She is an artist and cartoonist who believes in the connections between the body and the unconscious and art. She therefore recommends writing by hand without pausing, and doodling if you need to pause. (Try it, even though this may not be your usual process.)

First, look at the prompts and quickly make a list of ten objects you might write about. Or assemble ten photographs you might write about. Or make a list of ten items of clothing (belonging to you or someone else) you might write about. Choose the one that jumps out to you as having the most possibility. Write it at the top of another page where you draw an X with diagonal lines from corner to corner.

Here’s Lynda Barry’s nine-minutes-of-writing exercise from her book What It Is (16:32). Her questions are designed to evoke a scene associated with the “image” you have chosen. (For the photograph you might speculate about the scene in the third person, or put yourself into the consciousness of the person in the photograph and write in the first person):

When Barry starts here, her students have already chosen their “image” and drawn an X on a piece of paper. She goes through a relaxation exercise and very quickly reads a poem by Rumi (“The Diver’s Clothes”—don’t worry about following it). She’ll ask you a series of questions for your X page. Write anywhere on the X page that you want to. If you must, you can stop the video. But answering without taking time to think may in fact be more useful.

Lynda Barry, “Nine minutes worth of writing”

I hope you had fun with Lynda Barry and today’s readings. Looking forward to your work and to seeing you tomorrow!