The cult section of the literary world

The Tea House: Riffing on Dilation Exercises

Today is brought to you by ginger pear white tea.

teaI hope you all had a chance to think about your personal magic you find in making your art. If you didn’t get a chance, or if you’re wondering why in the nine hells Spike is talking to you about tea, allow me to point you to last Monday’s Tea House entry.

Now, let’s talk about this week.

If you’ve spent any time on Bizarro Central or within the bizarro community, you’re guaranteed to have run into Alan M. Clark. Alan is an amazing artist. Though he’s primarily known within the wider speculative fiction community as an incredible visual artist, he’s also a mighty fine writer. I highly encourage you to check out both his books, Of Thimble and Threat: The Life of a Ripper Victim and Parliament of Crows.

So, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of what we’re going to chat about today: ideas.

Ideas for art come from everywhere, as you’re probably aware. But sometimes we feel a little stuck. Maybe we want to make some art, but we’re not sure what art we want to make right now, or perhaps we’ve got a brush or pen in our hand, and we have no clue what to do with it.

There’s probably an infinite number of ways to develop ideas, and today we’re going to dig into a super-easy place to find those ideas.

Other people’s art.

And this is where Alan M. Clark comes in.

Alan M. Clark has an amazing series on Bizarro Central, which he refers to as “Dilation Exercises.” You can find a link to the ENTIRE series right HERE.

For this week’s exercise, we’re going to focus on fiction writing, but if you’re a visual artist or a musician or a poet, or another kind of artist, hang tight. I have ideas for you, too.

Now, I encourage you to dig through Alan’s Dilation Exercises. Find one or two or three that speak to you. Set a timer for fifteen minutes and write about these pieces. What do they remind you of? What do they make you feel? What in the world do you think is going on in this piece? Don’t think — just write, for fifteen minutes.

When you’re done, reflect on what you wrote. Now, start again. Write for another fifteen minutes, synthesizing the pieces of art you picked and what you wrote for the first fifteen minutes. If you can’t come up with anything to begin with, write, “I’m stuck,” or “I don’t know,” or “Spike has a sexy mug of tea” until you get unstuck and the words start to come. And come they will. Don’t be hard on yourself — there’s no judgment here. Just play, and have fun. No one has to see this but you.

Now that you’ve got your words, what should you do? First, be excited that you rocked this exercise. Making good art is about practicing and practicing and practicing. You’ve just invested in improving your craft. You can choose to stick what you wrote in a drawer, or you can post it in the comments below (which would be AWESOME), or show your friends or writing group. Or you can further develop your exercise into a full story. The sky’s the limit — it’s your decision.

So, what do the poets and musicians and filmmakers and visual artists get out of this? I suggest doing something similar to what I suggested for the fiction writers. Check out one or two or three pieces of Alan’s art. Write or sketch or fiddle around on the piano, trying to capture the images, emotions, sounds, etc. that Alan’s art evokes in you. Play with this for fifteen minutes.

Now, take what you came up with in those fifteen minutes and synthesize it with Alan’s art. Pull out your oil pastels and make a composite piece that is both your work and Alan’s. Or spend half an hour working on a melody or chord progression that evokes the emotion Alan’s art and your reaction. Play with some lyrics, play with writing poetry. Write a monologue or some dialog or short scene that could appear on Adult Swim.

Let Alan inspire you, and inspire yourself.

Until next week,


One response

  1. alanmclark

    I totally missed this post. Thank you for the plug, but it is also good advice for artists to find a springboard in the art all around them.

    August 19, 2013 at 8:45 am

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