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December 01, 2006

Writing and Healing Idea #16: A Walk on a Strange Street

In a visionary and rather brilliant book, Becoming a Writer, this first published in 1934, Dorothea Brande, offers this advice for writing:

It will be worth your while to walk on strange streets, to visit exhibitions, to hunt up a movie in a strange part of town in order to give yourself the experience of fresh seeing once or twice a week.

I think this fresh seeing can be of particular benefit when thinking about forms—whenever we begin (again?) to think, about what kind of form(s) we might like our writing to take. A journal? A list? A conversation? A series of poems? A tale of quest? And I would suggest, in light of Ms. Brande’s advice, that one way to foster this process of discovering form is to take a walk on a strange street—or to visit a place where you do not ordinarily go. A place if possible that has visual interest. A museum? A garden? A wood? A downtown landscape? And while you are taking this walk—or drive—you can draw your attention toward forms.

You can, if you like, bring a camera with you. This can, sometimes, be a way to frame particular forms—a way, perhaps, to pay heightened attention.

After your walk—you can write about what you saw. You can write this as a list or in paragraph form. You can write, in particular, about forms and patterns that you like. What forms and patterns do you find pleasing? What forms in nature? What forms in architecture? Or gardens? Do you like soft rounded forms or sharp clean edges? Do you like formal gardens? Wild gardens? The appeal of particular forms can change over time, so as you write, you may want to focus, in particular, on that which appeals right now.

With what forms right now do you feel a particular resonance?

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