What impression, or skein of images scotch taped to the clouds, do I recall – Nick Flynn’s workshop, imbued in a not so distant past? Flynn led our group of writers, held together by the mutual grout of ‘dreamer.’ The participants were led to water, a place to ponder our reflections, and our personal compositions were brought together under cascades of imagery, or more precisely, recurrent imagery, i.e. cathexis. Merriam Webster defines cathexis as: investment of mental or emotional energy in a person, object, or idea.
In order to practice cathexis, Flynn gave us exercises that mainly followed the plume of nonfiction or fiction, though the length of the homework could just as easily be labeled or molded into prose poetry (molting). The purpose of the workshop concentrated on the pursuit of an image or object that contained a special relevance to an individual’s existence. Three major exercises helped shape this amorphous gelatin (what we experience everyday), which surrounds the nuclei of a central image (psyche, purpose). Flynn then turned us all into mythical beasts, no, not really, but he definitely added to the book of ‘How To.’
To approach central images, Flynn had us describe various objects, some set in various locations, and some held placeholders in our past. After getting into the groove of description, we wrote five seven minute stories. These seven minute stories really opened a group consciousness and allowed for creative dispersion into genres previously inadequately explored. (I think many of us benefited by a shared experience of being able to branch out into different genres, cross-genre, or collaboration.)
To write one of these stories, find a setting or situation randomly on the internet (with the aid of www.reanimationlibrary.org), and then write a story from that image or you conceptual position in that image, without stopping, for seven minutes. By letting the subconscious become an amoeba, it is able to explore the given space, the page, and morph into the recurrent objects that thread throughout experience. After getting a grasp on ‘image or images,’ we wrote an additional five stories that centered on the image in various ways. I chose to write about parking lots and birds, other peeps chose topics like nuclear plants, jelly packets (Flynn), the farming industry, and Los Angeles (there was even a python crawling around).
To explore cathexis a final project took shape. Using the creative juices or ourselves and our peers, a project of cross-genre and collaboration felt out the edges of each individual’s image nest. On the last day, fledglings flew, pasting themselves as various images on a white screen, while each of the writers in the workshop read an amalgamation of lines gleaned from their writings of the week. The series of images moved in slideshow as the writers read their pieces, and the energy exchange that occurred, well, the explanation is best left to neuroscientists. Do you have to dissect a pigeon to understand its beauty?
Nick Flynn gave us an opportunity not only to learn about cathexis, but to test the waters of other genres, and create bridges (sketches of) for the gardens of collaboration. He is a real and authentic guy, and it was a pleasure to work with him for one meta-week.