I’ve been reconnecting with old friends from various chapters in my life. Today, I spent some time with an old painting tutor of mine in Budapest, the wonderful Zsofi Varga. She showed me her new website, and I was touched to see that it hosts these old pieces I painted some ten years ago (or more!). I really must do more visual art this year.
Art begets art. Whatever form of art you explore, it will inspire other art projects and this can cross forms. A poet can conjure new ideas from a dance; a musician can be moved to compose by a script. I a primarily a writer of drama and prose fiction but as an Art College alumna – I often meet my muse in the visual arts. Here are some of my old works:
Tok Jo! (Hungarian for ‘Pumpkin Good’ or ‘Perfect’) a painting by me, 2003
Freewriting is what you write when there’s no one looking. Freewriting is the madman in your brain taking the controls and sending words all the way down to the tips of your fingers. Freewriting is where you’ll find the most brilliant story ideas, if you look hard enough.
To freewrite, just write. Write the first word that comes to mind and then follow it with another. Set an alarm if you can. Don’t worry about grammar, structure, character development – just write. And when you’re done, stand back and take a look. Is there anything in there you can use. I’ll say there is!
Here’s an example:
‘Right now I’m sitting at my computer and the coffee cup is on the edge of my desk. It looks a little like an iceberg, as it is white and chipped and cold because the coffee has been in it since the morning as I didn’t do the washing up last night and the sink is full of plates and saucers. All those plates look surreal sitting unwashed in the sink like that. All at different angles like a Picasso painting with ketchup instead of paint dribbled over the plates. I wonder if Picasso got his ideas from waking up one morning and seeing his jumble of washing up in the sink I wonder if all the museums in the world actually have pictures of Picasso’s washing up and not his mistresses and Guernica and does that mean the joke is on us?’
The above freewrite might seem silly but it’s also an example of how freewriting could, potentially, inspire a proper piece of writing. This daft thought about Picasso’s washing up could easily be worked into a comedy radio play where a hung-over Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse wake up after a night out on the town and dare each other to paint a picture of the mess of washing up in the sink. Thus, the modern art movement is accidentally launched. Another possibility you could take from this freewrite is the concept that something generally considered ugly and in need of repair or attention (washing up) can lead to tremendous artistic inspiration – and this idea could form the kernel of a short story or a poem.
Here, chose one of the prompts below and let it lead you into a three minute freewrite.
I wish I had said….
It was no use pretending….
A long time ago…
For the first time ever….
It was the day the pumpkin appeared on the chair…
Writing is the only thing in the world that makes me want to do housework.
So, what’s your favourite displacement activity?
Weird, huh? I hate housework, I love writing, so how come every time I’m part way through some writing I suddenly get the urge to do the washing up, tidy, iron, arrange my bookshelves? It’s because my brain is searching for a ‘displacement activity’ apparently.
‘Displacement activity’ is a posh phrase writers have for all the stuff you do that is not the stuff you are SUPPOSED to be doing. Avoidance is probably a more readily understood term, but doesn’t sound half as writerly. What happens is a little ‘displacement monkey’ in your mind distracts you from the task at hand, by urging you to ‘make another cup of tea/check the TV guide/your bank account/ebay/post on this blog : ) rather than crack on with that piece of dialogue you’re trying to get down. Displacement activities can sabotage your writing, they say – though I’m not wholly convinced. I think they sometimes happen for a reason. Perhaps what you’re working on needs time to settle, or percolate in your mind and after you’ve bought those gloves on ebay, it will all come together. However, I admit, I think I’d get a lot more writing done if I didn’t have an Internet connection in my office…
I know a few writers who keep their displacement activity on hand – as another creative hobby and they believe one such activity complements and feeds the other. So, they may start painting and then half way through THAT activity they’ll turn back to their writing as a displacement activity for their painting and so on…
Apart from this blog and the Internet, my favourite displacement activity is taking long walks, which can’t be so bad. What’s yours?