Marco Polo Your Way to More Diverse Writing: A Healthy Exercise of the Mind

                ‘Write what you know’ falls easily and often from an encouraging writer’s tongue. But venture out beyond your familiar territory and like Marco Polo you’ll introduce new sensations to your senses and open new possibilities for your writing.

                The writer’s workshop I attend and facilitate has been a wonderful sounding board for all of our works. With a keen ear for constructive criticism and a hearty desire to make our art deliver its message more clearly, we all participate in a cooperative creative process. Usually we’ll read from our most current work, often not for the first time. Written and rewritten works present themselves for examination, evaluation, criticism, commentary, and praise.

But recently we revisited a spontaneous writing exercise at our meetings. This tried and true method helps writers experienced and novice explore their talent. We each brought in an object, set it on the table, and took fifteen minutes to hammer out whatever came to mind.

My favorite from our efforts took a unique twist. One writer looked at a pair of sea shells and used their physical attributes as descriptive metaphors for the personalities of a couple out on a date.

We had some laughs and I learned get outside my own mind sometimes and try to look at things differently. Though I’d been reluctant to divert focus from my current work I’m beginning to see a benefit likely to extend into and beyond anything I’m writing now and reminded of how my interest in writing began.

In a day before ATM’s, and internet, when the Soviet Union loomed large and television cable was new; I attended high school. My senior English teacher, every Friday, would put a record on, write a word on the board, and then quietly grade our weekly papers. Meanwhile we twenty students wrote whatever the word and music evoked. By classes end she invited us to share. The positive responses and occasional requests in subsequent weeks to read excited me.

But I foolishly cast my discovery aside to chase trouble and court danger as so many teenagers do. After a long while wresting with what the world convinced me was important it took a perfect storm of calamities (an abruptly halted naval career, joblessness, and a brain tumor) and Providence to reunite me with a love I’d lost in decades of daily grind and the minutiae of life.

                So now I write what notes of encouragement I can, in the hopes of saving some younger version of myself from hiding their heart’s joyful work for so long.


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