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Write What We Know, or Write to Discover?

It’s an old writing adage that we should write what we know. Some contest it, some live by it. I think it’s rather unavoidable. Even if you’re writing about a futuristic world war where robots made from old bean tins have started a mutiny, you’re writing about human emotions. Even when it’s robots.

We can’t help but write what we know…it’s just that sometimes we don’t know that we know it. My point here? Writing is revelatory. It’s all very well saying that if we’ve been a butcher for fifteen years, we should use our experience to influence our settings, lend authenticity to our creations, but often we find parts of ourselves embedding in our fiction anyway. 

I’ve often written things, and only found where their familiarity comes from when someone else points it out. Ah, that broken toaster that was a metaphor for how we love unconditionally, we actually had one of those in our first house, didn’t we? Huh.

These aren’t always major revelations, but with the right questions and tasks, they can be very powerful. As writers, people often think we spend a lot of time on self-reflection, but the truth is, if we’re dealing in fiction, we’re more interested in other people. Usually the ones who are having conversations in our heads! But we can use what we enjoy and find useful, to explore parts of our own lives!

Think about how you come up with a character’s name, or when you’re a reader, how do you identify with the character. What does their name signify? What possible meanings can come from it. Now think about your names. Not just your given name, but any nicknames, any affectionate words, or unwanted familiarities. How do they make you feel? How do they define you? We name characters and allow their names to shape them- are we given the same opportunity? What about titles? Wife, mother, husband, brother, teacher, agony aunt? Boss? How is who we are shaped by the names we are given.

These are just some small wonderings, but it’s an example of how we use writing to look inward, even when we’re creating outwardly, and it’s part of a task I’ll be doing at my Writing for Wellbeing Workshop in Barnet in April!

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For details and tickets, click HERE

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Writing for Wellbeing: Using Metaphor

 

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Images are powerful things. The best writing is imagistic, powerful, visual. Since starting this course in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes, it seems like I can’t express how I feel without turning to metaphor. There are some emotions that would take pages to untangle and analyse, but when associated with an image, can suddenly make our feelings clear. 

Like standing on an unsteady ladder. We feel worried, we feel nervous, we know we’re in danger, we’re continuing anyway. But that feeling? That specific feeling when you’re on the edge and you can feel yourself falling? Well, we may not have all been on a rickety ladder, but we can all understand what that means.

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Images are the best way to succinctly and clearly explain how you feel. There is a place for writing reams and reams in a journal or diary, exploring feelings and specific instances, but the use of metaphor explains just how powerful poetry can be when we’re trying to emotionally connect something.

 

Metaphors can’t really be forced. To push them is to somehow make them less encompassing. But next time you’re trying to explain a difficult emotion, see if you automatically use a metaphor. We use them so often now, without even thinking. And next time you do use one, write it down, explore it, continue it. 

 

Just as in English class our job was to identify those images and tear them apart, I am asking you to build them up. Embellish them. If you feel like a caged bird, what is the cage made of? What colour is your plume? What song do you sing? Where does the bird wish to go? Explore your image, because metaphors are a path to deeper understanding. We use them because it’s an easy connection- something in us identifies with that image, but by exploring it, we can reveal so much more!

 

 

A Reminder that my Writing for Wellbeing Workshop in Barnet is now up and running. You can find details HERE and HERE. It’s a full day of writing tasks and discussion, guaranteed to leave you feeling thoughtful and uplifted, and hopefully with a collection of writing work you can feel proud of! Please do get in touch if you’re interested by emailing andrealmichael@aol.com

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