I don’t know much about John Dufresne. I haven’t read anything he has written. But, as I was at the local library on Monday, I went to the writing reference section and checked out some books on writing including his book The Lie That Tells a Truth. I found such wonderful exercises at the beginning I could not help but share. If you like these, you may want to check out his book which is turning out to be a very inspiring and helpful read.
He begins the first chapter which is titled Getting in Shape by asking you to stop reading. Doesn’t that sound a bit odd? Probably not the greatest way to sell books, leaving out the elementary writer’s rule of hooking the reader and all. Then he lists three writer’s exercises which I recommend doing now. They will help you both tone and discover those specific writing muscles we let turn into flab from time to time.
Remember before you begin, remove all distractions. Phone, family, work, email, internet. Remove yourself from everything and dive into the writer’s bootcamp.
1. Here and Now! This is the first exercise. Write about where you are physically. Your writing room, bed, kitchen, outside, where ever. Write in first person, present tense. Write about what your senses pick up – see, hear, touch, taste, smell. Use each one to create a sensory “image” of where you are right now.
At the end he leaves a handy little quote worth remembering by W.H. Auden – “The first act of writing is noticing”.
2. Something Missing. Evaluate your life. What is it that you wish you had but do not. It could be a relationship, something you lost perhaps an heirloom, or deeper. For instance, something that keeps you awake at night and causes you to wake up in cold sweats. Write about whatever this is and allow it to take form.
3. Where you were born. Think about where you were born, where you grew up. What was it like? How does it defer from where you live now? If you are still there, write about what has changed since you were young. Where did everyone work? What was the “talk of the town”. How did people talk, walk, or dress? What were the stories of the town, the old building round the corner, the decrepit ice cream shoppe (and why the sign read shoppe and not shoppe)? Write about your school, the places people did not mention, where the uppity people lived, and the haunting secrets buried in that dilapidated mansion over which grey clouds always seem to linger?
Now you’ve written unbridled for thirty minutes. Well done you’ve effectively lifted writer’s weights!
Check out his book. Buy it, or rent it from your library, give your writer’s self a present today. After all, you’ve earned it.