I've decided that instead of a craft post this week, I'm going to issue more of a CRAFT CHALLENGE, an assignment to push you a bit, to twang your creative strings.
In light of current news events, I've been thinking about the issue of perspective, about how we tend to lock our opinions into iron-clad boxes, which take a great deal of outside force (persuasion) to pry open again. We become myopic, shut down, believing that we have THE answer. Our dimensions thin.
This makes things challenging and unproductive in the political and social arenas, but this is about writing. And this phenomenon is death to good writing.
So, here's this week's assignment, should you choose to accept it. This week, I want you to look at something you think you "know." It might be a news story. It might be the event that created a personal wound. It can be a common household object--like a teacup.
And here's what I want you to do.
If it's an event--a news story or an argument, for example--I want you to find a moment and freeze it. Get a picture of all of the participants and fix them in time in your mind.
And then I want you to spend an entire day coming back to that moment from different angles, looking at it from all sides--both practically and emotionally. Do this twelve times during the course of a day, and each time, write a few sentences from this new angle. If you have preconceived notions about who is right and who is wrong, reverse them. If you think you have an ANSWER, make it a question.
Drill even deeper. If the event took place in a restaurant, for example, write about the blue linen napkin that's about to slide off someone's lap. Write about the shimmering of water in crystal goblets or about the stain on the waiter's lapel.
Take this moment, which has become two-dimensional in your mind and give it dimensions in every single direction your brain can create. Push yourself. Push yourself harder.
If it's an object in your possession, I want you to keep it with you all day and to write a few lines about it once every hour. Think about what it's used for, and then think about what it's NOT used for. Think about how an insect might use it, or an alien creature, or someone who had no context for it whatsover.
Write about it as though it's meant to be used upside down (if it has an upside down). Write about it as though it's meant to be used inside out (if possible). Be as silly or as preposterous as you like; that's part of the point.
Writers can't afford to be lazy thinkers. It dulls our insight and our empathy. It dampens the power of our prose. We MUST be able to see what no one else sees. That's our job. In looking with new eyes, we create new worlds, even in the worlds we already know. We can only truly speak to the human condition when we stop taking for granted what "human" and "condition" mean.
We need to penetrate, to elevate, to wonder. At people. At teacups. At not knowing all of the things we THINK we know.
Go to it!