For Tuesday, April 19, 2016:
“We carry the wilderness inside us … Writing is the process of finding the map of the wilderness.”
Burghild Nina Holzer
One of my favorite writing books and the process it illustrates – literally – is Pain and Possibility by Gabrielle Rico. She explains how and why she developed her method of ‘clustering,’ bubbles of words that radiate out from and connect to a central word or idea.
An artist as well as a writer, Rico stumbled onto clustering as she struggled to recover from a physical illness and serious depression. She had been unable to write or to create for a long time until one day, finally, she was able to put one word on a piece of paper. From there she drew a circle around the word. Then she put another word a little way out from the first one and circled that, too.
Gradually more words grew out of the paper, and more circles. As the paper filled up, she saw that the words all related to each other in one way or another, so she drew lines from the center to the next word, to the next, to the next. Thus clustering was born and Rico’s dark wilderness became a little lighter, a little easier to navigate with every word bubble.
I was reminded of this remarkable book this morning when I came across someone’s blog about pre-writing, a term new to me. (I had hoped to re-blog it today but it hasn’t come across my Reader feed yet. When or if it does, I’ll be sure to add it here.) I didn’t have time to read all the way through, but the writer addressed clustering as a pre-writing exercise for one of her children.
I like the concept of pre-writing, especially when it comes to Rico’s method. Clustering has helped me numerous times, especially on the rare occasions that thoughts and ideas come too fast to record them in their entirety. Word bubbles help me get the gist of them on paper, and then I can organize them later, expanding where necessary with more words, circles, and lines.
This process has also helped me with a few poems. The first word slowly gives way to the next and the next … and I believe the physical act of encircling them draws them all together into a whole. When that happens, I go a step farther and draw a circle around all the words and bubbles on the page. It’s especially helpful when I use my non-dominant hand for the whole exercise to release the more creative right side of the brain.
I believe, too, this engenders a spirit of courage that enables me to go deeper. As I make more and more connections on the page, I can reach them inside as well. The wilderness opens up a little with every word, every bubble, every line of each new map.