The theme of the Nimrod Writer’s Conferenceá was “Words at Play.” I found this to be a particularly refreshing theme, as I am mired thigh-deep in the middle of revisions for my agent. How do we play with language, when Editor Mode is engaged?
I did not exactly find the answer to that question, but decided to search it out for myself. I began to read Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. Bradbury advocates reading every day, even unusual choices like trade journals, because you will learn from everything you read. He urges writers to read poetry every single day, even if we don’t understand it, because the subconscious will absorb the language. He stresses that we must write about our desires and our hatreds: what better way to keep passion alive in writing?
I knew Bradbury’s book was something I needed to read when I saw the following phrase: “If you are writing without zest, without gusto, without live, without fun, you are only half a writer. It means you are so busy keeping one eye on the commercial market, or one ear peeled for the avant-garde coterie, that you are not being yourself. For the first thing a writer should be is–excited. He should be a thing of fevers and enthusiasms.”
This got me thinking about other suggestions for keeping the play in writing. I think they can include such mundane and potentially silly-seeming things as buying a special pen to write with, an attractive, fun, portable notebook, or trying to connect with other writers through email, Facebook, or other modern options that allow us to open up to one another. Write poetry or flash fiction just to keep those muscles moving. Find something that fills you with passion–and write, write, write. And, of course, when possible, go to writers’ conventions and writers’ conferences. Learn from them.
I learned a lot from the Nimrod Conference, where both new and established talents discussed what makes them playful with language, and heard samples of the mischievous flights of fancy of such writers as Emily Dickinson and Edward Lear. Many of the writers showed a definite sense of levity in writing: making the everyday into something extraordinary. Peter S. Beagle described an eerie sense that might almost be described as being “possessed” by one’s character as they whisper in our ears and tell us what they want to do. Marie Howe read her poetry aloud and transported neighborhood markets into healing places. Robert Olen Butler read the last words of a chicken’s severed head. Words wove into a tapestry of sound and meaning.
I found, from the authors who spoke, that those who fall in love with the arts and language are often oddities in their families. We are familiar with isolation. When we get together in one place, the energy is boundless, higher than the buzz of any coffee. As I listened to the readings, the words of impassioned souls, I realized that with our many desires, nations, and languages, we are unified in our lifesblood, our love. We all fly aloft on a transport of words.
Nimrod Writer’s Confrence: http://www.utulsa.edu/collegian/article.asp?article=4228