Chapter One – Image Detail
You do not need any particular skills to do this exercise. You need only be able to write words. You can be a through-and-through beginner otherwise, and do it very well. And, if you are a beginner, you have the advantage of approaching Let the Crazy Child Write! with an open mind.
You may be more practiced than you realize. Many people who think of themselves as beginners are, in fact, quite experienced. Any kind of writing is invaluable experience, including brochures and business letters. You have to push words out your body and onto paper, and you cannot do this without learning how words work together.
If you are an absolute beginner, you have a fresh mind. You may have a few ideas about what constitutes powerful writing, but those ideas are preconceptions that can restrict the Crazy Child, and your creative flow. The fewer preconceptions you have, the more you may learn from Let the Crazy Child Write!
In the next section I will describe an exercise and present several ways to approach it. Read the entire section before you begin. An idea or a phrase in it somewhere could be what you start with, because it excites your Crazy Child. You stand to write powerfully anytime your creative unconscious is engaged. And you’ll have fun in the process.
An effective way to practice seeing and writing image details is to interview of someone. A relative or a stranger will do, as well as a friend, or someone in your workshop — while it is meeting. You can also pretend to interview yourself. Write for fifteen minutes or so.
For fifteen minutes or so, ask questions and take notes, copious notes, even if they don’t seem to go anywhere. Watch for details that snag your attention. People will always manifest something interesting. They will say something appealing, or there will be something arresting on their person like their earrings, the design of a T-shirt, a hairstyle, some highly articulated muscles, an object in a pocket, or a mannerism — something.
You and your Crazy Child are on a treasure hunt. This hunt is special, because you do not know what the treasure is. You may not recognize it even when you stumble upon it. You will likely not know until you read the exercise over later and realize that some detail has brought your subject clearly back to mind.
The trail to the treasure could start anywhere. It may start with something the person says or a piece of jewelry or the gum that your interviewee is chewing — follow whatever trail you find yourself on. Write a lot of details, especially those that are odd, novel, or intriguing.
Truth or Fiction
In this exercise it does not matter if you write falsehoods or truth, and it does not matter where you find the details. They may be entirely in your imagination, or they may be in front of you waving flags. Your task is to notice vivid details and to write them.
You could write exactly what your interviewee says. All of it might be very interesting. Or you could change a detail here and there as you go along, or later, when you write up your notes. You could add a plethora of new details, either way. You can be as extreme as you like.
If your interviewee is chewing gum, and that reminds you of your boss, follow that thought. Why not make your subject the boss or the boss’s secretary? Or if your interviewee’s green bracelet reminds you of the jade-colored carnation in the boy’s mouth, follow that trail. What did the boy do next? Or what did you want him to do?
Writing Your Notes
When you’re done, look over your notes. You will discover, hidden or obvious, the trail you were following. Take another fifteen minutes to flesh it out. Be free, wild, and extravagant as you write. Do a portrait or, if the spirit moves you, write a story, poem, play, or essay.
Relax and write whatever you like. It’s best if you don’t try to write a perfect piece — or anything near perfect. This is an exercise, meaning you are developing a skill, not necessarily creating a product. You also don’t have to be accurate to your interviewee.
Write whatever truth or fiction you find most interesting. “Interesting” does not have to mean upbeat or exciting. It may be most interesting that the interviewee reminds you of your wacky aunt. Perhaps they both have car parts in the living room, and one day a weird thing happened on the way to the kitchen sink.
This exercise provides practice in seeing details. You are letting your Crazy Child do much of that seeing, and every Crazy Child has its own unique way. But there is no telling in advance what your way is. Put those image details on paper, lots of them. You are venturing into new territory.