Mar 17, 2010

Clustering for Clarity

Some impressive clustering

Anyone who popped in yesterday, would have seen my blog in various stages of chaos. Slowly but surely I rebuilt the blog and now I like this design more anyway - so from accidents great things can form. This is one of the messages put across in Gabriele Rico's workshop: To Write Is To Know, on unlocking the creative part of your mind.

While editing Dog Show Detective, I let the creative writing go, my mind had a mission of restructuring this narrative. Now I'm starting to work on the novel The Warracknabeal Kids (or possibly The Warracknabeal Mystery... or... or...), I've found getting in the flow of writing difficult. Stuck on where to start, I needed to kick-start my imagination.

To Write Is To Know was a little slow getting to the exercises, Rico spoke about chaos and patterns, which would have been interesting to anyone less impatient than me (which is just about everyone). I was also a tad sceptical when the first exercise involved clustering but with no instruction. Rico believes if she gives you even a hint on 'how' to do it, that will crush your own creative flow. Clustering is a pre-writing technique to stimulate ideas and involves starting with one word and seeing what connections your mind comes up with. 

More sites on clusters:

In the first exercise (clustering words from 'turn') I came up with a huge cluster but no real ideas. I think that might have been my brain warm-up. Because in the second exercise we began by drawing a toy with our non-dominent hand (I'm right-handed so I used my left) and then we clustered from the word Toy. This had much better results for me with ideas for the role toys play in my MC's life forming.

Then came the cluster for 'I remember'. To make it a little more interesting I used, it's a free site for clustering where you can save and share your results. If you'd like to see an example this is what I got, you can click and drag to scroll around the cluster (or go to my bubbl page):

From random memories of childhood I stumbled upon a forgotten one of my Great-grandfather:
Thin, grey and blind. He'd pull out his little metal tin and feel each note stored inside to see how much it was worth, this was a twenty, and these were the fives. He'd always claim he was short, "Who's taken my money?", he'd ask. We'd giggle and run away. Probably someone was taking his money, for lollies or cigarettes.  It's easy to hide in a crowd of suspects. 

Rico goes on with several more exercises, some involving poetry. I did feel I got value out of the course.

I should also tackle Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (Edwards) as the book has been sitting on my shelf, and maybe find time to write as well?


  1. Wow, thanks for sharing your great advice. And the pics look great. I'm currently checking out the courses you recommended.


  2. You always have the best course recommendations. How do you find all of these, and where do you find the time to do them? Do tell!

    I love the exercises and tips in this post. :-)

  3. Thanks Ann & Shannon. I am a bit of a compulsive consumer a book and course addict (on any subject). I have a bit of time now because I've recently finished my studies but will be back teaching in the classroom after easter, so time will be more precious then! Of course I should be using this time to actually write something rather than blog about ;-)