Using a Prop to Facilitate Your Writing Process

This exercise requires a “prop”.  I chose my favorite morning coffee cup as my prop or physical writing prompt.  Note:  All of this script is directly from my writing journal without editing. These are very rough first drafts and that is the intention–to show you how to be with a prop as a way to experience your writing process.

~~Choose your prop and describe it in detail. Be specific.  Allow stray connotations to drift in as you return to describing your prop.
The clay coffee cup, ceramic.  A blue glaze over original clay, which intentionally seeps through the glaze.  Red earth clay.  Blue-glazed cup with red clay trim and red clay bottom.  Shaped like a plump face–narrower at the top and full-cheeked.  A question-mark shaped handle, large enough to comfortably fit two, even three fingers.  Wide enough at the mouth to sip without hitting my nose bridge.  A single band design marching around the cup, 3/4 of an inch below the rim.  Like rick-rack or zig-zags, up and down, up and down and all around until it catches up with itself. Etched blue revealing red earth clay creates this design.  My hands hold the “cheeks” and feel caressed by the warmth from the tea.  The tea bag bobbing like a survivor. Earthy fragrance of yerba mate promising savor.

~~This description takes me to another level of writing:
(The marking of this new day/tea’s greeting.  The cup returns to bed with me.  I get up in stages.)
“Honey, it’s time to get up.”
“Yes, Mom,” a curl, a stretch, a turn over to tug covers overhead.
Tea’s greeting–a simmering kettle; hot water centering, bobbing tea bag offering; sun salutation.  Tea bag marinates as I wait patiently for the proper saturation level and then, sip.  I let the bag soak beyond what’s proper!  I write, read, sip.  An invisible mother pulls at the covers of my consciousness; the day’s task and obligations lined up like a list. Once the list has snagged me, I’m at its mercy.  I delay the rising as long as possible. Savor the moment, the tea, the words I put on paper, the words that others have put to page. The reassuring cup promises to follow me throughout the day.  It has other offerings to encourage me along. Midmorning delights, afternoon comforts and evening respites–in beverage form.  I return to it again and again like a child checking in with her reassuring mother–that everything is going to be alright.

~~This process culminated in a poem:cup1
Ode to a Cup
©by Christine O’Brien

Who molded you?
woke from musty sleep
having dreamt your shape
and took to the potter’s wheel

Who molded you?
brought you forth
from dream seed
and fertilized you

carried you in the womb
of consciousness
and gave you form

Who was
the willing bearer
who knew how
to alter clay

Who molded you?
breathed life’s breath
and with daring hands
gave you presence

saw your promise
what you could hold
and deliver at once

Who molded you
so I might
reap your fullness
in a single sip

crafted you
offered you
who is this God?

Where did I go through this process–from a prop to where?  For me, finally, this poem became a metaphor for my own human evolution. Who is molding me, my life?

Do this four-part exercise when you have some time to devote (concluding with your own reflections about where you went through this process) .  Your creative process is your own and can look totally different from mine.  Trust where you are lead. Process writing requires presence and the opportunity to go deeper with a single object (or subject).  You need to allow yourself plenty of uninterrupted time to “go there”.  It is best to do this in one sitting to get the most out of the experience.

Give yourself a few hours with this writing process on a lazy Sunday afternoon.


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