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Writing with Images

Ansel Adams garden quote


Last week I participated in a workshop titled “Writing Vertically.” The facilitators are both dream analysts, one a non-fiction writer and the other a poet. Each workshop participant was asked to bring a scene from a current work and/or a dream.

I am four years out from completing the rough draft of my teen memoir about how drawing and other creative pursuits served as a life preserver, and only recently have I begun the revision process. Getting down the bones of the story (thank you, Natalie Goldberg) required reliving those years, awakening every cell of my being. Channeling my younger self, this first draft was written in present tense. The time has come to revise, to deepen the story with the reflections and perspective of an older, wiser voice.

I wish someone could have photographed my face as I watched my scene of a 1960s music festival come to life as others in the group took on roles of the cannonballing swimmers, festival revelers, my companion, Sheldon, and me. Twined with a re-enactment of a childhood nightmare, the effect was stunning. 3-D. Big. Awe-some.

So what does this have to do with the garden photo here and Ansel Adams quote? The fastest way for me to find my way in to the emotions of a scene, a memory, is with a visual. For this project, it might be one of my father’s carefully crafted black-and-white portraits or a Kodak Instamatic print from my mother’s photo albums. Although I have no photos from the Strawberry Fields music festival, I now have that marvelous episode of the workshop’s live theater on which to focus. The journey back to those emotions is like rappelling down into a dark unknown. Here I go!