Sunday, February 27, 2005

Say Yes to Writi...erm... Play Groups!

Goofmongers alert! Female academic of uncertain age seeks other adult kids who will whimsy at a moment’s notice. Slumguzzlers, gollygatherers, and weazelsniffers preferred. If interested, timber me shivers — I’ll find you!

I have always felt odd about declaring in writing centered company that I hate writing. But I do. And I especially hate my process. I’m so bound up in perfection that I just can’t commit to words on a page. Daniel Lochman, in the F/W 1986 issue of WCJ, sheds light on my problem. In his article exhorting writing centers to restore play to writers, Lochman distinguishes between games and play — games are rule governed; play has no rules. As children, we play — no rules, unhampered learning. But in a bluster of sophistication, adults abandon play and invent games. Obese with intricate “shoulds,” my writing mind becomes too fettered to start. So it is with many students in our writing centers.

Coincidentally (not!), in the weeks since my WCJ review of _Writing Groups_, some staff in our writing center joined forces in a group that reflects Lochman’s recommendation. Okay, we’re probably technically still a writing group, but we’ve abandoned their rules — we don’t necessarily write; we don’t necessarily share what we do write. Rather, we share process. We play.

In one session, I, The Boggle Queen (yes, I’m throwing down the gauntlet!), brought my game. After a three minute round of word-making, we used the collective word list as a springboard for composing gibberish. In another session, we each free-wrote for fifteen minutes about a burning question. Afterward, we each drew each other’s drafts to convey our Elbow-esque “movies of the mind.” Last week, we composed to music, switching often the musical genre — from Chopin to Dylan, country to show tunes. Always we reflect on how play frees our creative selves to explore, to laugh, to learn.

What do you play?

Roberta Kjesrud

9 Comments:

At 5:12 AM, Blogger Tamara Miles said...

I play with Tarot cards, but I don't play them the "right" way; I just draw one each day and see what the visual rhetoric is before taking a look at what (according to Robin Wood) the card "means." See my blog, ApocaLIPSnow, if you're interested --- I've been posting a card a day. Today's card is the 4 of Pentacles, featuring a grumpy looking old man with a pentacle crown and clutching a pentacle wheel (?) as one would a bowling ball. His feet are also planted on two pentacle disks. He seems to be perched on a throne that isn't there, inside a castle that isn't much taller than he is, and in the background there are medieval houses and flags. What interests me more than anything --- what might compel me to write, in fact, are his thin red slippers and the heiroglyphics on his sleeves. I'd like to see what a student would respond to; maybe I'll ask one to take a look today, as a "play" writing experiment.

The official reading:

Miserliness
Greed
Selfishness
Avarice
Suspicion
Mistrust
Inability to let go of anything
an emotional blackhole
imbalance
desperation

(Nice, cheerful reading --- happily, we have an alternate reading --- but it isn't much better):

Suspense of gain
opposition
reversal of fortunes

I'm thinking this could lead to a pretty good discussion of descriptive techniques, comparison/contrast, cause/effect, argument/counter-argument, etc. Let's play!

 
At 8:22 AM, Blogger Sherri said...

Hi, Roberta and all.

Yes, we play! I work just across town from Roberta, at Whatcom Community College, and we in the Writing Center have been playing for a couple of years now, since I started taking improv classes and then attended Sonoma State's writing center "playshop" session at the writing center pre-conference workshop at the 2003 CCCC convention. We use some of Sonoma State's games and some games we've converted to writing from my own and my friends' improv work. So, it works like this. Someone says, “Hey, it’s time for a playshop!” And we’ll “call one” (there’s one this Wednesday, in fact). The hour or so that we spend together during a playshop is spent in writing one-word-at-a-time letters, creating any-genre documents using favorite-words others have given us, creating characters for others to use in a short piece, writing captions for pictures, etc., etc. We’ve also done these playshops with other tutors—at the Northwest Writing Centers Association conference last spring—and with local writing center directors. They are *always* fun.

And they are always an excellent reminder of what we love about our work and our lives as people interested in words, writing, reading. Our reasons for and love of this kind of play goes much deeper than this. I’m doing part of a session on it at the C’s—during the J sessions, if I remember correctly: “Play in the Center: Tutor as Renegade Rhetor.”

Sherri

 
At 9:14 AM, Blogger Roberta Kjesrud said...

http://136.165.72.248/wcj/wcj7.1/wcj7.1_lochman.pdf

Folks, I meant to post a link to the Lochman article. Here it is!

 
At 1:29 PM, Blogger mary wislocki said...

Hi all --

I love all the topics that have been brought up -- time, ghosts, writing and play, Tarot cards. There seems to be a common thread here, although I'm not sure how to articulate it yet: writer as improv performer. Writer as seer. Writer as wild woman. If WCenter is about WC people on-the-job, then this is the place to be more, more and more.

Your posts, Roberta, Tamara, and Sherri, remind me of Carolyn Heilbrun's book, Writing A Woman's Life. I've underlined almost every line -- but parts that I especially like came to mind reading your blogs: "Women come to writing, I believe, simultaneously with self-creation." (While she was talking about writing her mystery novels and George Sand, I think it's true for female academics too.) Here's another: "In the end, the changed life for women will be marked, I feel certain, by laughter. It is the unfailing key to a new kind of life. In films, novels, plays, stories, it is the laughter of women together that is the revealing sign, the spontaneous recognition of insight and love and freedom." Writer who says "Here I am and I'm not alone."
It sounds like you're having a ball.

Mary

 
At 1:29 PM, Blogger mary wislocki said...

Hi all --

I love all the topics that have been brought up -- time, ghosts, writing and play, Tarot cards. There seems to be a common thread here, although I'm not sure how to articulate it yet: writer as improv performer. Writer as seer. Writer as wild woman. If WCenter is about WC people on-the-job, then this is the place to be more, more and more.

Your posts, Roberta, Tamara, and Sherri, remind me of Carolyn Heilbrun's book, Writing A Woman's Life. I've underlined almost every line -- but parts that I especially like came to mind reading your blogs: "Women come to writing, I believe, simultaneously with self-creation." (While she was talking about writing her mystery novels and George Sand, I think it's true for female academics too.) Here's another: "In the end, the changed life for women will be marked, I feel certain, by laughter. It is the unfailing key to a new kind of life. In films, novels, plays, stories, it is the laughter of women together that is the revealing sign, the spontaneous recognition of insight and love and freedom." Writer who says "Here I am and I'm not alone."
It sounds like you're having a ball.

Mary

 
At 1:25 AM, Blogger amber said...

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