Tuesday, June 26, 2007

TO WRITE: Darkness and Light
In English, we use the words "dark" and "light" to describe a myriad of things, including paint on the walls, lamps, our thoughts, and our moods. But have you ever considered the concept more broadly?

For visual artists, the degree of light in a work is often a key aspect of the piece as a whole. Should the landscape painting feature a sunrise or be under ominous cloud bank? What do the shades of color in an abstract work indicate? What mood is implied by the shadows of a portrait?

In one of my favorite writing books, Wild Mind, author Natalie Goldberg discusses with a friend how everything can have these attributes, including watermelon (light, they conclude), friendship (very dark and scary), Minnesota (real dark), and death (light and dark). "As we talked more, dark transformed," she writes. "Dark became good and bad. It became energetic, fertile, less scary, more desirable."

Play with this...
Write continuously for 20 minutes, starting simply with the topic of "darkness and light," and see where it takes you. Really let your mind go, beyond the traditional categories we tend to use. What do the concepts mean to you, how do you apply them, and how could you think about them differently? And is friendship or watermelon dark or light for you?

Then read what you've written. What ideas or words are the most exciting to you? Start with one of those and write 20 more minutes, going deeper into your mind. Afterward, consider carefully how this kind of writing feels to you. Were you surprised where you writing went? Did it begin to flow automatically, without effort? And -- how did this feel to you emotionally? Whatever you find, keep what you've learned in mind when you write in the future.

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