Tuesday, 11 September 2012

So what is 'Object Writing'?

For the last month I’ve been playing about with object writing. It’s a simple idea. Randomly choose an object, focus your senses on it then write about it for exactly ten minutes.
I’ve been trying to do it every morning over the summer holidays as a warm-up before whatever writing I’m doing that day. Now it’s term-time I’m still doing it, as I wait for the phone to ring with offers of teaching supply work (not that I really want the work, but I do have to earn enough money to be able to eat while I write).
I set a timer - Google will give you plenty of online choices – and write in one of the green hard-back journals I’ve grown to prefer over the last few years.
The aim of the writing is to remain as sense bound as possible, diving into your sense memory to show, not tell, as you let yourself write freely, following any associations that the object brings up.
I don’t expect to cover all the senses in every ten minute stint, but I’m finding some easier than others. For me, touch and sight are the obvious choices and I have to force myself to get in taste and sound. Smell is more problematic though, since I have an incredibly limited sense of smell, which seems to be plonked in the more disgusting end of the register – smoke and dog farts being things I tend to pick up on (why couldn’t it be flowers?).
I have, however, been using two additional senses:
·           organic sense – which is an awareness of inner bodily functions, like heartbeat, pulse, breathing, pain and muscle tension.
·           kinaesthetic sense – the sense of movement or motion in relation to the world around.
In theory anything goes. You just write about the object you’ve picked, keeping it sense-bound, and not worrying about complete sentences. It can take you to some interesting places as your mind drags up unexpected associations.
There’s no real need to stick with objects that you are familiar with though. As you develop confidence, you might want to broaden out to more abstract things. I’ve been using the website Object Writing , which posts a daily word, a random noun, and invites people to post whatever they come up with in their ten minutes. I edit my writing before I post it, but I know some people post exactly what they’ve written in their ten minutes.
If you fancy a go, try this exercise. Choose an object from this group:

Write freely. No rhythm, no rhyme. No need for complete sentences. Use all seven senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, organic, and kinesthetic. You don’t have to stick with the object – it’s just a starting point. If your senses take you somewhere else – so be it.
There are a few things to bear in mind though:
·         Object writing is meant to be a warm-up. That’s why it’s important to stick to the ten minutes. It should prepare you for whatever other writing you have planned. Try not to get carried away and let your ten minutes stretch to thirty and your warm-up become a substitute for finishing your novel, or in my case a draft letter to try and find an agent.
·         Object writing is about showing, not telling. It is an exercise, like a morning workout, that you use to sharpen your senses and improve your writing. It does happen to be fun, challenging and worth the effort.
Apparently, after six weeks of this daily workout you should notice a difference, or is that pilates? I’m on week three, so I’ll let you know how I get on. In the meantime I’m collecting all my ‘writes’ on a separate page on this blog.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post Lesley- I'd never heard of the 2 other senses. I'm impressed by your commitment and look forward to hearing if the writing workout helps over the long-term. During my MLitt course, we were given a postcard/photo every week and had to write 50-100 words and told to really explore the senses. It wasn't easy but I think it did improve my writing and taught me to focus more in the moment of a specific scene. Best of luck over the next few weeks!