All the latest news, ideas, and opinions from Denver's Independent Literary Center: lighthousewriters.org
In my first Lighthouse workshop last year, I was lucky to be sitting around the table with Megan Nix, who submitted a mosaic-style essay that was nearly impossible to critique. We tried for a few minutes before surrendering (the piece was accepted for publication soon after). Since becoming Youth Program Director she asked me if I’d talk with Lighthouse Youth about the similarities between writing and creating mosaics, which is something I do. (If you missed it, here is what writing and music have in common).
To prepare for my meeting with them tomorrow at Niza Knoll Gallery, host of an all-mosaic exhibit, I thought I’d create a cheat sheet, distilled into Do’s and Don’ts (some serious, some not). But I hope the group asks questions and shares impressions that will help illuminate the creative process for us all, and that the art they see inspires their writing. Here goes:
1) DO master the rules. Grammar, spelling and punctuation are your allies, supporting your efforts to communicate. In mosaic, there are conventions for andamento, the visual flow produced by the shape and placement of tesserae (the pieces), and each style tells a different story. Once you know the rules, you’ll know when and how to break them, purposefully.
2) DO commit to the process, not a specific product. Be prepared to start writing (mosaicking) without knowing where you might end up, what it might mean, what form it will have or how long it will take. When we’re committed, the words (tesserae) will lead the way. Eventually the work, or a body of work, will take shape.
3) DO experiment with different forms (materials) and lengths (scale) without judgment. Although we live in a super-sized culture, bigger is not necessarily better. A short essay can pack a punch. A small art work might be more meaningful than a mural.
4) DO try to choose the best words (materials/shapes) possible to express an idea or feeling. Eliminate extraneous words (poorly shaped or misplaced tesserae) so that what remains can shine.
5) DON’T use fancy words (mosaic gold) solely to impress. An esoteric vocabulary (exotic inventory) is fun to have but use it wisely.
6) DO be willing to rip up (out) sections of your work and begin again (see #2). Yes, it can feel painful to hit the delete key or stuff the shredder (or, take a hammer and chisel to “revise” a section of a mosaic) but…maybe it gets easier?
7) DO be aware of occupational hazards….DON’T let anything, even blood or bodily harm, interrupt the creative process. A cautionary tale: At Lighthouser Cara Lopez Lee’s book launch party, she shared that her agent dropped a tome on his face while reading in bed, tearing his cornea. Perhaps writers (who are, of course, readers) could borrow a page from the mosaic manual and wear safety goggles at all times. And carry Band-Aids for those pesky paper cuts.