Once a month Northern Colorado Writers hosts an 8:30 to 9:30 AM coffee at its writers' studio for members only. The mix of attending members varies from month to month, but we always have a lively discussion on various writing issues. This month our fearless leader introduced a new exercise she had adapted from a workshop given by Denver poet laureate Chris Ransick.
Attendees were asked to write down a specific question related to whatever project they were currently working on. Once the questions were down on paper, papers were passed to the left and each person wrote a fast, off-the-cuff answer. The exercise was timed, so with each prompt, a paper was passed to the left and the next question accepted from the right. At the end of the exercise, each of us had a page or two or possible answers/solutions.
I was amazed by two things:
1. How fast we can think when faced with someone else's problem (as opposed to how slowly we often deal with our own obstacles), and
2. The amazing and diverse answers I received to my own question. There were excellent ways to solve my plot dilemma. Why hadn't I thought of them myself?
Brain-storming using verbal exchanges is a great technique and is often useful in small groups. I found, however, that this individual, quiet approach helpful in a different way. It seems there is a unique dynamic involved with each form of expression. Do we use different parts of the brain when we write an idea as opposed to speaking an idea? For whatever reason, and thanks to the morning coffee group, I now have a way to take my character from Point A to Point B in a blizzard. I highly recommend this idea-sharing exercise.