Writing Exercise

I don’t have to tell you how much perspective changes perception and how much perception informs the reality you adhere to. Get creative. Force objectivity into the telling if it’s a memory you find especially difficult to get distance from. What did the tea kettle on the stove see that day? How about the drunk that lives in the alley behind your house? The mailman that was delivering a letter just as the thing was unfolding. How would they tell it? What would they observe about you? Are you indicting yourself in this version or being exalted? Or are you no more significant than the fly that kept landing on your shoulder as the event was unfolding? Memory is memory but it is also reckoning and revision and perception and assumption and distortion and reclamation and…and…and…

I would like to invite you to write one event three ways. Three different/differing(?) points of view. The witnesses can be inanimate objects. Or they can be participants. I would like for you to consider that your ability to try on other perspectives will be something that distinguishes you in the writing. We are all so loyal to our own understanding. Try on others. I keep coming back to this because there is so much mirth and value in it.

Other suggestions…

Found Poem (or prose) Sit there and let your mind give you the raw material of memory. When a word comes to you write it down. Do this 20 times. Use the words in your piece. It can be nonsensical. As long as it contains a memory. I also like to use non sequitur lines I’ve heard from my children and others close to me as doorways. Anything can be a doorway.

Census Taker Poem (or prose) Data driven and factual. Journalistic almost in approach. Chasing the story down. Clinical. Unemotional. A non-participant in the action. Mere observer. Glacial almost in the telling because there are no emotional ties. I pick things I have the most blood in for these exercises because it challenges me. The things I feel the most about are the hardest to find objectivity around but in seeking other points of view I find myself in the writing all the same. The effort brings reward. Here are some tricks to try:

Make it epistolary. Letter writing as a means to tell a story is so delicious. Write a memory as an epistle. Who is the letter from? Who is the letter addressed to?

Make it a postcard. Describe the image on the front. Be concise. Remember, postcards are all about brevity. Communicating a lot, with a little.

Write alternate endings for a memory you keep. Each chapter is another version. Think multiverse theory. How many iterations of you can you write for one incident? How many outcomes? Pay attention to your revisions. They will reveal you. Be gentle with yourself in at least one version. Throw yourself a lifeline. Give yourself a way out if, in the original version, you did not have one. You deserve to win. I keep saying this because it’s true.