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.

Object Writing 5

Today's Word - 'Resort'

I stride through the hotel dining room, trying to ignore the invisible pungent force of decaying rat. A woman in sunglasses and large floppy hat nods a toothless smile in my direction. She wears a striped Bedouin tent and from one cavernous sleeve a withered arm extends to wave an egg smeared fork at me. At first I mistake her for the evening entertainment arrived early – drag-queen face caked in full war-paint, but no, she is just one more in a line of ghoulish residents in this resort for the elderly.

As I step onto the poolside terrace the full force of blaring horns from the too near road stretches my nerves on a blue-rinsed rack. The sound would undoubtedly menace the morning sunbathers if it weren’t for the fact that most of them have long since slid into a world of muffled silence, populated with the underwater noise of garbled whale song.

The wealthy remains of a once beautiful person are arranged on the lounger next to mine, bacon crisped skin spilling out between open slats in her red bikini to hang in low slung swags which threaten to drag her down into the afterlife. On one creased thigh sits an inked in butterfly, lying like a crumpled tissue left behind after her free spirit spread its wings and flew away. Suntan cream pools in congealed clumps in the pitted dimples of her stomach and trickles in slug trails to stain the blue cushion on which she slowly fries, slowly dies. Her bony fingers, overpowered by numerous rings, drape lifelessly over her book – Fifty Shades of Grey – an unlikely choice, unless she thought it was about hair styles.