I’m at the Bernard L. Schwartz Communication Institute Annual Symposium today, which has been fascinating all the way around. Perhaps the most amazing part of the day, however, was a writing workshop with Peter Elbow.
Peter Elbow! Who started the workshop with a couple of freewriting assignments! As a fellow attendee put it,
#blsci getting free writing assignment from Peter Elbow is like…snorkeling with Cousteau.
— Cheryl Smith (@CSmithMo) June 1, 2012
The experience reminded me how enormously fruitful it can be to put pen to paper without knowing exactly what’s going to come out; in doing so, I actually figured out something new about one of the things I’m hoping to write — about which, I hope, more soon.
I also figured out that I don’t put pen to paper — literally, pen to paper — anywhere near as often as I used to both because of the host of aches and pains it now produces (my wrist can’t bear writing by hand for very long anymore), but also because I’ve gotten to be just as fussy about my pen-and-paper technology as I am about my computers. I really hated the pen I was writing with today, and wound up writing about that: the point was too think, the ink too clumpy, the flow completely off. It was hard to force myself to keep going; honestly, I’d have reached for the pen in my bag if Peter Elbow (Peter Elbow!) hadn’t told us to keep putting words on paper as if the room would explode if we stopped.
It made me remember that I had a meeting in the office a few days ago, in a conference room on the other side of the building — and when I arrived, I realized I’d forgotten to bring a pen. Rather than use the one a colleague offered me, I ran back to my office to grab my own.
I want writing to be comfortable. I want the right tools. But today, in a crowded conference room, using a bad pen on the wrong pad, not sure at all that I had anything to say, I managed to figure out something I hadn’t quite put my finger on before.
Perhaps disrupting my comfort levels — at least in short, controlled bursts — might help open up some new ideas.