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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Collage Your Way Out of Resistance and Into Writing


04-17-2013 08;30;05PM

“Creative Polarities” – one of my recent collages

[Note: We’ll return to the Feedback series after this short break.]

Can’t get the words on the page? Try putting pictures there first.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Edwidge Danticat creates collages to find her way into a novel. She says “I like the tactile process. There’s something old-fashioned about it, but what we do [as writers] is kind of old-fashioned.” (Read the brain science explanation of why this works in the previous post.)

Find out how collage-making sidesteps resistance and deepens your writing with this exercise from my Entering the Flow class.

Step 1. Choose a character you’ve been working with or want to know more about.

Step 2. Flip through whatever magazines, catalogs, photos, etc. you have. Select any images that grab your attention and/or seem to reflect your character literally or metaphorically.

You’ll probably shift into a hypnagogic (dreamlike) state, aka writer’s trance, as you do this. Relax — one of the wonderful things about collage is that there’s really no way to do it wrong.

Gather most of your images “randomly,” but with the awareness that this process only seems random to your ego. Your unconscious mind is selecting images to bring associations and connections to your conscious attention.

Step 3. If there is a specific image or metaphor you want but can’t find in the magazines, use your search engine.

For example, when I found a drawing from the Wizard of Oz movie in a car ad (now in the lower center of my collage), I knew I wanted a picture from the musical Wicked. I found it in a Google search.

If your online search provides images you resonate with, print them. (Warning: you can spend an awful lot of time on this if you’re not careful or if you’re looking for the “perfect” image. Sometimes close enough really is close enough.)

Step 4. When you feel done collecting images, trim the images and arrange them on a collage surface. My “Wicked” collage is on 5 by 8 inch art board (heavier than card stock). You can use a simple sheet of paper of any size.

You’ll probably gather more images than you’ll use in one collage, but you may not know which ones you’ll use until you start trying different arrangements. Let yourself slip into that dreamy writer’s trance state as you arrange and re-arrange the images.

Step 5. When you know (or think you know) what the final arrangement will be, glue the images on the collage surface. Don’t be surprised if the final arrangement is not quite what you planned; remember there is no way to do this wrong.

We’ll look at how to apply your collage to your writing in our next post.

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