Monday, January 29, 2007

weekly writing coach: who inspires you?

An artist friend of ours recently completed a creativity and process exercise based on the Corcoran College of Art and Design's "80 works in three weeks" assignment. Her version consisted of two parts: first, compiling a book of samples of fine art that inspires her, from painting and printmaking to collage and clay sculpture. She had to articulate the qualities of elements in each work that appealed to her, in order to identify them as elements that she might incorporate in her own work. She keeps the book handy in her studio to inspire her: looking for color palettes, lines and forms or composition elements that inspire a new work.

The kicker: after that, she spent the next three weeks making 80 new, original pieces of art. Her art coach reviewed her book of inspirations and gave her about 15 elements that she needed to include in the 80 works, but after that our friend was on her own. That works out to close to four pieces of art per day, and she also was required to to reflect on the process she used and how it affected her creativity every night in a written journal.

Since we take art classes to inspire our own writing, the weekly writing coach wants to try adapting this exercise for those of you looking to stretch your writing abilities and learn more about your own creative process. Let's start with who inspires you? This week, make a list of all the different writers who inspire you, then go further: dig out a short sample of each writer's work that illustrates the qualities you most admire. Find pieces of writing that speak to you, make you laugh, grab your eye, move you to action.

Don't limit yourself at this point; include as many samples as you can find this week. Assemble all the samples in a three ring binder or other notebook, then write down what it is about each piece that inspires you. At the end of this phase of the exercise, you should be able to identify patterns in the types and styles of writing that get your creative juices flowing. (And yes, next week, for those of you who are hearty enough to take the challenge, we'll fire the starting gun on your own 80 works in three weeks exercise.)

Our own list starts with Virginia Woolf and George Orwell for essays; Edward R. Murrow, Scott Simon and Peter Jennings for an anchor's on-air commentary; Dooce for bitingly funny, heartbreaking blog posts; Jane Brody's personal health columns in the New York Times; the poetry of Pablo Neruda; Blanche Wiesen Cook's biographies of Eleanor Roosevelt; Taylor Branch's three-volume history of the civil rights movement; Miss Manners' advice column; E.B. White for almost anything. What's on your list? Take the time this week to compile it and find the samples. We'd love it if you'd post a comment and share your lists with us on this blog to help inspire other writers.


jm said...

I can't even believe I'm considering doing this exercise with all the other work I've got going on. But here goes.

PG Wodehouse for his quick wit and total silliness, Graham Greene for his gut wrenching insight into human nature, EB White for his simple and concise prose, Theodore Dalrymple for his ability to convincingly argue controversial viewpoints. That's all I can think of for now. Odd that there are no women and no art historians. I'll have to work on that part.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying a variation of the 80 works method formally for graphic designers. We'll see what happens, we're going to blog it out...