Memories in Clothing
This is the sixteenth installment of The Curious Creative, weekly 10-minute writing exercises for busy individuals interested in exploring their creativity. For the complete rationale, click here.
You don’t have to go very far to seek inspiration. For example, your closet of clothing is packed with possibilities. In this week’s exercise, you will use the emotions and memories attached to a piece of clothing as your starting point. Clothes evoke attachment, and are the bearers of sweet and painful memories. Like music, they are a powerful jumping off point for writing. This exercise is adapted from Michael Smith and Suzanne Greenberg’s writing exercise, “Quilting” (p. 63-66).
- Go through your closet and locate pieces of clothing that were significant to you at a certain points in your life. To get the pen moving, make a simple list that includes the clothing and the event/day when you wore it. Also jot down a few words about the feelings of that day.
- Choose one of the items from your list. Scan your memory to make a second list or freewrite containing the details you remember about that day. Describe the event, the weather. Who was there and who was not there? How did you physically feel in the clothing, and how were you emotionally feeling? How did you acquire that piece of clothing and why did you choose to wear it that day? What was significant about that day? What led up to it and what happened after?
- Now circle the “moments of heat” (lines in your freewrite/list that are emotionally packed). Use one of these moments as your starting off point for a poem, story or essay. If you’re ever feeling stuck when you think about how to begin an actual piece of writing, don’t stare at the white page. Simply add another layer of brainstorming to your process. For example, try simply writing the story of that day by beginning with the moment of heat.
How did you do? Did the multiple brainstorming steps lead you to discover an interesting or poignant truth about that day? Were you able to incorporate details about the clothing which added depth to your piece, grounding the emotions in concrete details?
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Smith, Michael C. and Greenberg, Suzanne. “Quilting.” Everyday Creative Writing:
Panning for Gold in the Kitchen Sink, 2nd ed., p. 63-66.