Cut-and-Paste: A Writing Coach Confesses

WE WRITERS ARE WORDY PEOPLE. We like to think in language, explain ourselves in words, describe our world in nouns, adjectives, verbs. But we can be so immersed in the power of words we forget that, to arrive at them, we have to translate what we see, feel, and think into their hard currency.

Imagine each word is a nugget of coal that must be pick-axed out of the coalmine of your brain every time you want to express yourself. It can be exhausting, right? I confess. After dragging up wagon-loads of words all week, my brain can feel like two stones rubbing together: dry, but unlikely to produce fire!

That’s why I make collage. My style (as you can see), is very loose. Lots of smearing, tearing, and scribbling. This nonverbal form allows me to be playful and creative without using language—the coin of my daily realm.

Then, when I return to the world of words, those verbs and nouns tumble onto the page like a shower of daisies. I don’t have to excavate them like a ton of coal!

This would be reason enough to take a break from language-centric creativity. But I get more from my collage-making adventures! After messing around with scissors, paper, and glue for a bit, I find I make wider, more unexpected connections when I return to the task of putting words on the page. I notice my language is fresher and my transitions between ideas are more dynamic.

Which, of course, is exactly how collage happens—by tapping unexpected juxtapositions and committing to them.

Make your own metaphor to improve your writing*

If, like me, you value such leaps of association, you might want to experiment with collage and see if it offers your writing similar benefits. But maybe that kind of wild abandon is not what you’re after in your literary pursuits. Maybe what you really want is to develop more orderly writing. In that case, you might try the precise patterning that knitting requires. Or, if you’d like to include more sensory detail to your writing, try cooking! Exploring the tastes and textures of a wide variety of ingredients in the kitchen might well result in more delicious  writing on the page!

While any nonverbal activity gives your word-making mind a break, you can amplify the positive effects of time spent off the page by choosing a creative practice you can see as an RX to heal what ails your writing!

Non-writing inspiration

If you already work in a visual medium as well as a literary one, you’re in good company! PRINT MAG’s article The Visual Art and Design of Famous Writers showcases the visual work of writers from Sylvia Plath to Rudyard Kipling. (And if you don’t have a non-literary creative practice, you might find this article inspiring!)

*I discovered the idea of creating a concrete metaphor for a desired end in Marsha Sinetar’s book DEVELOPING A 21st CENTURY MIND.

Writing coach

Need help with your book? I’m available for book coaching and manuscript review! And check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

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