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The Opinionated Writer


A number of years ago, I brought a writer's retreat to the Rainforest in Costa Rica.  I had visited this locale a year earlier and felt that it inspired a wonderfully contemplative state of mind; ideal for a writer's retreat.  My plan was that the group  would meet for a 3 hour workshop in the morning then have the rest of the day open for exploration and writing. What actually happened was quite different.  My group of writers, as the week progressed, became more interested in exploring the lush tropics

surrounding us and less interested in staring at a laptop or writing pad to wrangle with ideas and sentence construct.  And who would blame them? So, our writing time diminished as our adventures escalated culminating in a harrowing 4 hour Sky-Lining experience (attached by ropes and pulleys to a wire that carried us far above the jungle floor) which I hope never to repeat.

I had this experience in mind as I planned the week-long Writer's Immersion workshop which took place in Key West this past March. The truth is, it's very challenging to focus on cerebral activity when the possibility of sipping a cool drink on a hot beach, staring off into the blue horizon is only a few miles away.  This is probably why I left St. Thomas many years ago.

So, the one thing I knew about the Key West workshop ahead of time was that it had to extend beyond the 3 hour classroom experience; even beyond the workshop environment, time needed to be structured around the idea of story.  So I came up with the idea of the Daily Engagement write; a very simple exercise designed to encourage the habits of observation and reflection both very necessary to the writer's pursuit. Here it is:

Daily Engagement Write

Notice one moment each day where you feel particularly alert and emotionally engaged.  Describe this moment in writing.

Though simple, this exercise created a strong connectivity from one workshop to the next.  Every day, writers reported to the group on the perambulations of their own mind.  Sometimes the Engagement moment brought them back to an idea they were trying to develop but, often, the Engagement pieces were moments of pure lucid observation; entirely self-justified writing.

The focus of the group grew over the five day workshop from six strangers (two friends, the rest unknown to each other) to a collaborative group able to express  the best of group intelligence.  Sharing these moments of emotional engagement in writing created a deeper dimension of understanding for all of us.

The Daily Engagement has now become a regular staple of my workshops.  I will be posting some outstanding writing from recent workshops in the "Daily Engagement" section on the website.  Please enjoy this first selection "Music & Writing" by author, Nike Audu.


  • AnneMorgan

    I saw this blog two days ago and have tried the daily engagement twice.It is a great idea and i find myself excited about the daily potential to notice a moment such as you describe.I feel that as yet my writing on that engagement somewhat dull and stilted however i can also see the value.
    Today it was the wind which blew loudly and drew me outside to experience it.A sunny day with a storm wind soughing through the trees like the sound of breaking waves on a sea shore.
    I feel that this excercise will stretch my imagination and powers of description of what is going on inside me as well as what i see and hear.
    Anne Morgan

  • djluri

    Yes, I like this exercise because of its simple almost meditative focus. It creates a habit of observation that writers need to create original work. Keep up the practice and, when you're ready, submit a selection to the site. We've had some great pieces from this exercise.

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