“Everything is an exercise.”
reg e gaines
Poet, playwright, Grand Slam Champ, author, and teacher extraordinaire reg e gaines is a Renaissance man with a passion for rhythm, language, and image. Spending an evening with him at a Write Group poetry session is always a delicious adventure — and watching the creative sparks fly when he shares his own words and responds to everyone else’s is a rare thrill. This time around, we enjoyed a rare treat: reg gave us a glimpse of the marvelous lyrics and music from a new musical that he and his brother Calvin Gaines are co-creating. I felt like a Broadway insider!
And as always, he offered feedback in his uniquely generous and supportive way. Whether we’re writing poetry or prose, the tools of our trade are rhythm, language, and imagery. With this in mind, here are pointers and observations from reg we can all fruitfully apply:
Be playful: View “everything as an exercise” — don’t put pressure on yourself. Think of your writing the way that musicians think of playing around with music. See yourself as riffing, experimenting, discovering.
Be provocative: As a writer, if you’re not creating “remarkably new creative images,” you’re not going to grab people. With all the “brain-dead devices” people are using, they are constantly being bombarded visually. As writers, we need to “create new imagery” that
knocks people out of their seats.
Search for new language and rhythms: Building pictures in people’s minds — that’s the number one job our poems and stories have to do. As reg puts it, “People are “looking for the ghost behind the words.”
Use anaphora to your advantage: “Anaphora” is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses, for example, “I want to…, I want to…, I want to… This simple tool can be powerful and evocative. Picking one word — “stuck” for instance — and writing it down several times, then jotting down any thoughts that spring to mind can
be a helpful way to overcome writer’s block.
Energy is more important than emotion: Focus on creating urgency rather than evoking feelings. You have to drive your story forward efficiently and find new ways of using language to keep listeners listening and readers reading.
Write in “thought chunks:” Write the way your brain thinks. Capture your spontaneous, unfettered ideas and images — that’s how your voice emerges.
“Unchain” yourself: Once you know the rules, you can free yourself and start breaking them — and brilliance can come out.
Gems of advice worth polishing until they sparkle. Bravo, reg –write on!