The Hermit Crab Essay ("the borrowed form")

Holly Willis

Step #1. Make a list of three or four of the thinkers, artists, designers or other people who have influenced you deeply. So often we feel that we need to elide our relationships to those who inspire and influence us in order to sustain some degree of so-called originality.

Step #2. Now I want to take a moment to step into a kind of sense memory. Think about the various places in your life where you’ve slept, and choose one that stands out for the way it affects you through your senses, through a sense of sight, or sound, or smell, or taste or touch. Take a few minutes and jot down a paragraph about that specific sensual experience of an embodied place of sleep.

Step #3: As we did Sunday night, consider something that you know how to do, and without necessarily naming the thing, write down the steps to do it. We’re sketching here so you do not need to be too specific or too detailed. Just get the general idea down as a series of steps.

Step #4: Take what you have assembled so far and imagine that you, too, are writing an exercise to guide another would-be writer, but using only what you have on your page so far. Don’t worry too much about its coherence yet. Just play: see what might materialize in the collage of the larger themes that have influenced you, the feeling of embodied experience, and a set of steps.

Think about the body and writing.

Think about the things that drive you and how they might be like writing.

And think about steps. Then think about “rewriting” – what is “about” writing? Again, do not worry if it doesn’t make sense: we are poets charting a wayward, errant path into writing. The more wayward, the more errant, the more off-putting, the more strange, the better.

Outcome by: Lucy Hitchcock