I’m repeating myself here, but this advice is worthy of repetition because it works! I introduce an exercise called Word Coffee in one chapter of my book. This is also the first exercise in my writing workshop, so I’ve seen it work many times for reluctant writers.
I call it “Word Coffee” because words can revive you, jolt you from an unproductive stupor and give you energy to write. Here’s the idea: Words, examined singularly or as unfinished phrases, will push your brain to develop new thoughts.
As Susan Sontag phrased it,
“Think with words, not with ideas.”
Thinking with ideas is the way most of us approach writing about our art. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, until you reach the point where thinking with ideas has you circling a maze of your own half-articulated concepts. If you’re confusing and frustrating yourself, think of how confused your reader will be.
the work employs
Now try it – Use any of these words to construct a sentence that describes your own artwork. We are not plagiarizing Mr. Schjeldahl! We are picking out words to use like ingredients in our own recipe. Choose words you have not used in the past to describe your work.
New words lead to both
- new ideas
- new ways of expressing old ideas
I advise my students to start collecting words and phrases. The words do not necessarily need to be art-related. You can find them everywhere: in songs, articles, conversations, and books.
I gleaned these words when I picked up a film review:
one of the many ironies
If you actually complete the “Word Coffee” exercise, there’s a good chance you’ll craft sentences worthy of inclusion in your Artist Statement or other writings.