Monday, July 29, 2013

20 Versions: One Way to Train in Impermanence

Picture of Don Murray
Legendary writing professor Don Murray once proposed that we think of 1,000 rewrites for a piece of our writing.  Instead of 1,000, come up with 20 versions of a text you’re writing, thinking of changes in style, content, and even genre. * SD indicates a revision that keeps the piece the same type of document or genre.
Here's how it looked when I tried out this exercise:
Original document:

  1. Scholarly article on history of figurative language and creative writing

Its Transformations:
1.  article for trade journal (professional writers) on same topic
  1. an interview (of contemporary creative writers) on topic for a trade journal
  2. incorporate an interview section (of creative writers) in the scholarly article SD
  3. humorous piece on how academia limits creativity of faculty
  4. poem that has the simile as its topic (figurative language)
  5. a talk at a conference for creative writers
  6. a talk at a conference for historians of rhetoric
  7. add a personal or autobiographical section  SD
  8. blog posting (for educators or for poets)
  9. statement on professional web page
  10. incorporate into a teaching philosophy statement document
  11. incorporate actual 19th century student creative writings as examples SD
  12. incorporate lectures on figuration from 19th century Harvard professors SD
  13. turn into full-length scholarly book
  14. turn into a cartoon or illustration for something
  15. turn into a PowerPoint for faculty
  16. article about poetic license as it occurs today
  17. same article as #17 for Humanities faculty only
  18. personal essay that starts with a simile and metaphor about this topic in my writing and teaching life
  19. a freewrite on same topic
This method promotes impermanence by keeping the genre of one's writing open. You don't have rigid preconceptions about genre, for one thing. In turn, by allowing the genre to even stay in-flux, you are making good use of the absence of audience during the writing moment (because genre is connected to particular audience expectations). You're taking control of the audience-in-the-head. For me, this method resulted in a poem (included at end of my second book, Lid to the Shadow, as well as a scholarly article in College Composition and Communication.)


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