Archive for March, 2010

Reprinted from Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg’s blog.

For a podcast of this month’s column, please click here.

One of the main things we writers do is to make the invisible — at least the unnoticed — visible. Through images that speak to our senses of touch, taste, smell, sight and sound, we create traveling moments that can land in a reader and listener, and unfurl to invoke meaning and insight, inspiration and wonder. As winter just starts snowshoeing around the corner into this time of thaw and surprise (the first snowdrop! spring geese returning!), we’re also witnessing a time when the previously invisible is being made visible.

This month’s writing prompt is about how we can widen our peripheral vision and see more of the world as it’s really happening, even if we go about it in some inside-out ways. One such inside-out way is a writing exercise I found in Deena Metzger’s excellent book, Writing For Your Life. She suggests writing what you didn’t see today, and see where that leads. Here is my on-the-spot attempt today, something that surprised me when I wrote it because the first word that popped into my mind, “cousins,” wasn’t one I was expecting, and yet it opened the door to writing about the past:

Today I didn’t see my cousins, long gone from my life

decades past when the family exploded apart. I didn’t see

my father’s picture although I thought of him, seven years dead

but still telling me, his hands turned up and outward,

“What can you do?” when life gives me bad news.

I didn’t see the house where I grew up, hidden now

by aging trees and ribbons of distance. I didn’t see a cloud

in the sky or a deer licking the spilled bird seed under the feeder.

I didn’t see the wind, but I caught the shaking skeleton

of last summer’s sunflowers. I didn’t see the particulars of who

I was up until this point although I’m surrounded by the evidence.

Another writing prompt you can try is a sentence stem, that is, part of a sentence and then you fill in the blanks, such as any of these:

When I wasn’t looking………

I used to see…….but now it’s just……

The world shows me…….and I answer………

When I was sleeping………

If I turn a new direction………

Filling in the words is a great way to bring to the surface whatever is around us even if we’re not cognizant of it at the moment. So much of good writing comes out of tilting our usual thinking and seeing, perceiving and understanding, so that the words come out differently. Wishing you a new unfolding into the words that show you the visible and the unnoticed in ways that illuminate what you already know.


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