Wednesday, January 22, 2014


I sat on a bench outside the retreat center.
It was the summer of 2005.
I was early--excited-anticipating-and-ready early.
Today I was beginning what would become my continuing relationship with the Columbus Area Writing Project and the National Writing Project.

I was waiting for the Columbus Area Writing Project 2005 Summer Institute to begin.

While I waited, I was reading ( Isn't this what we all do as we wait--if we are not writing?).

As I looked up from my book for a moment to enjoy my surroundings, the event in the following poem occurred.  A man appeared out of nowhere and offered me water.  I wrote the poem on the inside flap of my book.

The Water Man

Sitting on a bench
under a tree
in front of the retreat center
in the cool breeze
reading a book
beginning to notice my thirst

A man walking
appeared and asked
Are you ready for a drink
of water?
He had two.
He gave me one.

Later I saw him
laying stones
for a new path.

Sometimes a moment strikes us as noteworthy and write-worthy.  

Sometimes we just have to capture that moment-- to later turn it over in our minds, to insert it into the unfinished story we are writing or to use it to transform the piece of poem that has floated near our ear for days.

We grab a napkin, a scrap of paper, or the inside flap of the book we are reading and jot down notes or a whole poem.

On further reflection of this moment, upon deeper consideration and rereading, the moment can be expanded and details can be added:

What additional details do you now remember?
What sensory details can be added? Where can further description be expanded?
What comparisons occur to you?
Can you add analogies? Are there appropriate metaphors that can be included?
What did it mean?  How did you feel? 

In the summer institute one of the many prompts we were given was to "slow down time by exploding the moment."  My response to this prompt was to revisit and revise The Waterman.  It was interesting to realize that there was much more to remember, to visualize, to consider in this moment.

The result is this second poem.

The Water Man 2
( Exploding the Moment)

Sitting on a bench
under a tree
in front of
the Maria Stein retreat center
in the cool breeze
with the flag flapping
reading a book
observing the quiet
and the stillness--
the bridge
and the pond
 and the island--
watching for the others to come

to wait--
beginning to notice my thirst

A man walking
 and asked
Are you ready for nice cold drink
of water?
He had two.
Frosted, they dripped
with condensation
and satisfaction.

He smiled and
gave me one.

Later I saw him
along with a young man
a teenager
(his son?)
laying stones
for a new path

Even as I reread this now I remember more about that moment-- off to my right close to the road sat the church that held the relics and off to my far left I could see the stone labyrinth.  No one was walking it in prayer during my moment.

I keep thinking.
I keep remembering more.
What moment sticks with you?
What moment could you explore and explode?

In Chapter 5 of After "The End": Teaching and Learning Creative Revision, Barry Lane suggests many way  to slowing down time in our writing, many strategies that can be used as we write drafts and during the revision process. He also provides excellent examples  of pieces in which moments have been explored and exploded.

For step-by-step directions for one way revise expand, explore and explode your moments click here.

For additional sample pieces illustrating this strategy click here.

And finally in the following video,  Barry Lane explodes a moment with us:

What moment sticks in you mind?
Which moment can you explore, expand, and explode?

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

Reflect on a recent moment in your life or in a fictional piece you are writing-- a noteworthy, write-worthy moment.
Picture that moment in slow motion.
Begin to record more and more details  of that "slowed-down" time.

What do you see? hear? smell? touch? taste?
Have you been in a moment like this before?
What are you thinking?
How do you feel?
What does it mean?

You may want to write your slowed down impressions as a poem or narrative.

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