Things: Writing the Objects in Your Life
Objects as a Source of Writing:: In memoir, essays, poetry, and fiction, writers can find easy access to evocative material by mining the richness of important objects from their past and present. Our treasured things contain a whole world of associations: the time, the place, the people, the activities, and the emotions all contain connections to vibrant meaning.
Think of your personal bonds to a musical instrument, a favorite piece of clothing, a treasured book – or an antique that was handed down from a grandparent. How rich are the details that might propel a piece of writing? Any ‘first’ – first toy, first ring, first car – brings a map of associations, and these are potent territories to reveal your unique experience.
To get started, pick a favorite object from your home or memory. First, describe the shape, feel, color, and texture of the object itself. Then investigate how you feel/felt when holding it (or giving it away, or wrecking it, or changing it in some significant way). Invest the ‘thing’ with all the buried stories it allows; let yourself reveal both the actions and words that created meaning and the emotional impact. Remember, we define moments in our lives not only by our human communication, but also through our ‘icons of experience’–the things we keep, remember and share.
In find one of your unique stories, try out the following.
—the physical details: extreme perception (the Powers of Ten)
—associations with people and places (silly, intense, ordinary, dramatic)
—the life cycle of the object’s beginning, use, and maybe its demise
—words used to describe the object by someone else, or a conversation around it..
—symbolic content of the object (a wedding ring, a first car, a broken cup, an old picture)
—specific memories/events and associations (embarrassing, sweet, momentous, tragic)
—how you see this object in a unique way (why you are different from others)
—how this functions as an escape/focus/distraction from other parts of life (I need my piano..)
Another entry point is to find how these details affect others ( whether fictional or personal), since these objects often are the sources of relationship change or cultural meaning.
…the power of objects over a community/group (the One Ring or the special TV )
…the accompanying element that connects the story (the raft in Huck Finn or a favorite)
…the narrative of the person you associate most with the object (Mary Poppin’s Umbrella)
…the obsessions or needs that shape the owner’s existence (at least at the moment)
Exercise 1:: Freewriting: Write for 20 minutes starting with: “There’s this feeling when I’m wearing my ______.” This can be serious, ironic, funny, painful – whatever direction it takes you; just allow yourself the description, the associations, the specific memories.
Exercise 2:: A gift: recall an object that you received that was of great importance (or NO importance) at the time, and how that sense changed over time.
Long Term Assignment: Go back to your exploration of an object (s); define a beginning, middle, and end story for one of them, but use the object as the background for the ‘real stuff’ – whatever that is for you.