“The other reason young songwriters’s songs are too long is that their songs are about five things instead of one,” Andrew says in chapter 11. That’s a hard impulse to control! So today we’re going to practice together, using the writing exercise Andrew learned from Anne Lamott. Ready? This one is a writing prompt and a craft. 😉
- Get a little notecard or a piece of cardstock, or something like that, and measure a one-inch-by-one-inch square on it. Very carefully, use the tip of a scissor to poke through the middle of that square, and then cut along the edges so that the middle square comes out. Now you have a one-inch picture frame!
- Choose an old family photo. (You can print one out if you can’t find a scrapbook.)
- Put that one-inch picture frame over the photo. Move it around to see what shows up inside it. When you’re satisfied (or intrigued, or inspired, or antsy to start)—
- Write only about what shows up in that one-inch frame.
Back to Andrew: “Don’t write about Uncle Clarence if he’s not in there. Maybe write about his shoulder there in the corner, but focus on the blurry painting on the wall in the background, or Aunt Gertrude’s pearl earring. Lamott’s point is that you can fill pages and pages with what’s in that tiny space. One thought leads to another, leads to another, leads to another, and when that string runs out you can return to the one-inch frame and find another telling element to get you running.”
You can also do this without a photo! Curl your thumb and index finger into a little square (it will probably be about an inch or a bit smaller, but exactness doesn’t matter too much for this). Hold that little finger-frame up and move it around. You can “zoom in” on a tree branch, on a feature of someone’s face, on a part of a building or sign, on what’s on the shelf, on no more than half of the dog. Doing this, like using a frame in a photo above, helps you to cut out the clutter and focus on one small thing. And once you can identify one small thing, you can write about it.