Welcome back to the real world (insert hard stare). The gloves come off!
But do keep all gloves and mittens on because it was 6 degrees today and no one wants any fingers to fall off. You need them to write! And what good writing weather it is. Because you can’t go outside.
During the last few days of freedom before the spring term began, I spent my time immersed in book called ROOM by Emma Donoghue, daughter of NYU’s esteemed Henry James Professor of English and American Letters, Professor Denis Donoghue.
The book has been nominated for many prizes and has been on many best-seller lists since September 2010, when it was published. It is an utterly absorbing story told from the point of view of 5-year-old Jack. Jack is kind of amazing. And so is his story: he is the child of a woman who was kidnapped seven years before the novel begins. The novel takes place in the 11-by-11-foot room he and his mother have been trapped and living in.
ROOM is by turns a thrilling escape story, a hilarious and frightening explorer’s tale, part literary horror film (horror…novel?), and the heartbreaking and heart-strengthening chronicles of a boy and his mother. The mother-son relationship is the life-blood of the book and if you were a child or have a parent (YES I MEAN EVERYONE YES THANK YOU) you should read ROOM. You won’t put it down until you’ve finished it. Guaranteed.
But besides giving a quasi-review of the book (OK a full-blown, passionate argument on its behalf)—I meant to post a writing exercise. In ROOM, Jack speaks of the objects surrounding him as if they were Close Friends. A rug is not just a thing on the floor. For Jack, it is Rug, a good friend and confidant who is there to be played with. So too with Table, and with Plant. He does this because his world is 11-by-11 feet wide. Your world is not this size, but try to scale everything down. This is an exercise in description.
So: Try writing about an object like Jack might. You don’t have to write what it is, but try to write from a perspective that incorporates more than an object’s physical appearance—write in a way that informs what that object DOES to your world, how you interact with it. What does Lamp (that weird little lamp in your bedroom that your mom got you from an antique store when you were really young and didn’t care about presents that weren’t stuffed animals, that one with the peeling lace around the shade) mean to you? What light might this throw on the way you look at your surroundings?