Playing Around with How We Write

I wrote this blog post earlier this evening during a workshop sponsored by the East Side institute — Playing Around with How We Write:

Tonight I am attending an Advanced Writing Playground workshop led by my friend and colleague Carrie Lobman.  Carrie is an educator with an expertise in play and human development.  I am in a room with about 15 adults who are here to learn to “play with writing”.  In Carrie’s introduction she was talking about the activity of writing often being something that we do alone.  Among the many things that school does not do well is teaching us how to get help.  The other thing school doesn’t teach us to do well is editing, so many people think that they have to write a “finished product”.  In this workshop we are going to work with a partner and see what it is like if they help us with our writing.  We are taking 10 minutes to work on whatever it is that we’ve chosen to write in this workshop – some people are writing something new in the moment, as I am doing, while others are editing something they brought along to work on.  At any time during this 10 minutes of writing we can go up to anyone in the workshop and ask them for help and we’ve all agreed that we will be open to giving that person help.

Before we sat down to write we played a few improvisational games together to create a playful environment and to get to know each other a bit.  One game called “Boom Baby” (a favorite of mine) was chosen by Carrie because in it we create poetry together.  The participants are in a circle and we start out by “passing a clap” – you face the person to your right and look at each other and clap together simultaneously and that clap passes around the circle from person to person.  Now that everyone has learned that basic of the game we add words.  We are created a song in which the first two words are “boom baby” and here’s how we did it: The first pairing say “boom” simultaneously with their clap, the next two say “baby” simultaneously, and then the next person turns to the partner to their right and says a word that this pair will say together simultaneously and that continues around the circle.  We created our song as we clapped and spoke our words simultaneously going around the circle. 

Now Carrie had us pass what we wrote to the person sitting on our right and each of us had 10 minutes to write a poem about what the person to our left had written.  Here’s the poem that Rebecca wrote about what I had written thus far:

School sucks at a lot of things

School sucks at teaching us to get help

School sucks at editing with people

School likes “Finished Products”

And Solitary Activity

Carrie Lobman is my friend (who’s awesome)

She is teaching us how to do things that sucky school can’t.

So we play and play and play

In this advanced writing workshop

Flirting as adults do with neuroses

Making a pass at collective activity.

Playing boom baby boom boom

We need help

We don’t ask for help

We ask

We reject

We build on

We continue

We pass the clap

Moving,

Sometimes hesitantly

Sometimes quickly.

We read some of the poems out loud, they are beautiful and funny and touching.  Now we have 10 minutes to take the poems that were written about what we wrote and continue in whatever way we want to.  So I’ve retyped Rebecca’s poem and got emotional in doing so.  An unexpected intimacy!  The room is quiet in a way that is so appealing.  I’m finding that writing in a room of writers is a delicious experience.  I’m wondering how to keep that going in those moments that writing is frustrating, when I feel like I have not a thought in my mind or a word to write down.

I’m also wondering if this is helpful to someone reading this blog post.  What would it be like to write a poetic version of a blog post?  Playing with the writing of this blog is awfully fun but will I really hit the “post” button and post this?  Will I edit all of this out?  What will happen next?

I’m trying not to make this too instrumental and connect the dots to business applications, as this blog is “musings on performance and business”.  Perhaps this evening I am musing on musing.  Musing on play.  Playing with musing.  Playing with writing.

Once Carrie told me that when I get stuck writing I should try writing a poem.

The next thing Carrie asked us to do is for the person to the right of us to continue writing what it was that we had written so far in the style in which we were writing.  So Rebecca continued writing this blog post from where I stopped … “Once Carrie told me that when I get stuck writing I should try writing a poem.”

So one day when I did get stuck, I tried Carrie’s idea and I wrote a poem.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to write.  I didn’t even know if I wanted to be writing at all. I kind of wanted to go for an ice cream.  But I didn’t do it.  I did the harder thing: I wrote a poem.  The poem was a little funny and a little sad.  After I finished it I wasn’t sure if I knew what I had wrote.  So I went for a walk and thought about the poem and the blog.  The day was so beautiful and warm.  The flowers were blooming in tiny white and pink clusters.  People were out and about eating their lunch on park benches, sauntering with their portable devices, and laughing like the cold winds of winter were not here, in this very spot, only a few weeks ago.

I thought about going back.  I thought again about the blog.  I felt refreshed; ready to write again.  Perhaps, I will tell the world about my walk and about how it has been a part of my writing process.  After all, people like to read about other people’s creative processes.  Just think of all those “making of” documentaries on DVD movies.

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Carrie Lobman, Ed.D., is associate professor at the Rutgers University Graduate School of Education and the East Side Institute’s director of pedagogy. She founded the Institute’s Developing Teachers Fellowship Program and currently supervises NYC public and charter schoolteachers. She is a sought-after workshop leader and frequently presents to meetings of the American Educational Research Association, The Association for the Study of Play and the International Society for Cultural and Activity Research. She is co-author of Unscripted Learning: Using Improvisation Across the K-8 Curriculum.