Writing and Workshops

By Susan Wagner

If you could dream something into being for a particular person in your life, what would it be and who would it be for?

You can pick anyone and any dream, but you must pick up your pen and write without stopping for five to seven minutes. Try to use concrete images and sensory descriptions. Go.

I did this exercise recently in a workshop, choosing our oldest grandson as my person and an artistic lifestyle as my dream for him. My poem began like this:

I dream for you, my sweet, quiet boy
Dream of art, of cobalt blue, ocher, tangerine
And lime shades

And it ended like this:

I will hold this space for you
In wherever you are, for however
Long you need it.

The piece I wrote that day was a full page long, full of grammatical mistakes and awkward phrases. There would be no critiques we were told. But we did read our work to the group. Instead of critiquing, we said only the images or individual words we liked. That’s all. If more than one person liked an image or word, we were told to underline it, to remind ourselves those words had “juice.”

Sue Wagner NewWe didn’t concern ourselves about a finished product, only with the draft and the words that affected people. The time for rewriting would come later after we had time to digest what we had written. Words can always be added or subtracted, or moved from here to there.

Some people weren’t sure what they were trying to say. That was all right too. The exercise is a way to begin. It can work even if you’ve never written anything creative before. By thinking of a dream for a loved one, we put ourselves in an open and emotional state. By identifying what touched us, we helped each other see possibilities.

It’s an exercise with no right or wrong. It doesn’t require you to force anything or even finish something. The idea is to learn that the words you use have power and that others will respond to that power.

It was exciting to listen and to watch the faces of all kinds of writers, beginners to professionals, as they heard the words they’d written spoken by other people. The accumulation of all that “juice” filled us right up and we left there happy with ourselves and our work.

My thanks to Dorothy Randall Gray, for this exercise. Dorothy led my marvelous workshop at the International Women’s Writing Guild Summer Conference in Allentown, PA. You can find information on them at: http://www.iwwg.org.

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