In this article by Paul Warren, we’ll explore the basics of object writing and how to get started with this unique form of writing.
As an author or songwriter, we should not just expect to sit down and be connected with our ‘now moment inspiration flow’ unless we have been exercising it! Object writing is the writers’ set of bar bells to get us in the zone, and keep us primed for when one of those muse moments comes along.After recently doing some songwriting classes with Berklee music professor Pat Pattison I have become a great fan of object writing. What is that you might ask?
Essentially object writing involves picking a subject, usually a noun, and writing about it for a fixed period of time. This can be five minutes or ten minutes. ten minutes usually gets you into some solid trains of thought , so I suggest you stick with that at first. The key to successful object writing is to stay as sense bound as possible. For example I could state that “I drove over the bridge”. But if I really wanted to expand on that I need to draw the reader, or listener in the case of a song, into the scene. So you might write something like this;
“As I drove up the incline of the bridge I began to feel ball bearings running about in my stomach. I always get a little nervous being so high, it’s like being on top of a skyscraper. You feel yourself swaying in the breeze and get that sense that you could almost fall over the edge. There’s also that fear that the whole bridge could just drop away, like a plane dropping in turbulence”. There! That was that a bit more engaging than “I drove over the bridge” wasn’t it!
The idea is that we dive into our sense memory bank to bring the picture alive. So what are our senses? There’s 5 we are familiar with of course, but there are two that aren’t spoken of so much. The first five are; Taste , touch, sight, sound, smell. But what are these other two senses you might ask? Well, there’s the sensations that originate in the bodily organs. Notice in the example that “ball bearings are running about my stomach”. I think any of us can associate with what that’s like, it also gets us over the line instead of the tired old ‘butterflies’. So, think of your organs as a sense; heart [it was ticking like a grandfather clock], lungs [my lungs were a jackhammer in my chest] liver, stomach etc.
The other missing sense we use in object writing is our kinesthetic awareness. That is a sense of movement or motion. Once again from the example ‘like a plane dropping in turbulence’. Think of that sensation when you go over a hump in the road or imagine what it is like to be a feather floating around on a hot wind.
Sometimes it’s hard getting the creative motor going but it is amazing what you can come up with if you regularly practice. Initially just try to stick with the word that you have picked and write anything, starting is the most important thing! I suggest random picks from the dictionary.
Make your objects things you are familiar with, and as you grow in confidence, begin to broaden the scope. You might might start out with knife for example, and write about eating, the weight of the knife in your hand which could lead you to what it’s like to carve the food, then what it’s like to put the food in your mouth. Use as many sensations as you can gather. Ten minutes can dissolve away fairly quickly. You might wind up after a few weeks of object writing moving into more abstract objects. The term , midnight, for example, which is a bit more challenging, but is still a noun. See where your imagination takes you on that one. You might come up with a line like “the sound of midnight is me waiting to hear her key in the lock”. This brings me a final point. When you are confident with getting your stuff out in ten minutes, give yourself another challenge and try to stay with just one sense. For example with midnight you might just focus on sound;
Ths sound of midnight is the roar of a thousand air conditioners in the city as I lie waiting to hear her key in the door, the sigh of relief when you hear that ka-chunk-a. She’s home.
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