Writing Can Be a Real Bear (or Eagle, or Deer) by Wyatt Bessing
Welcome back to our monthly columnist, Wyatt Bessing. A writing coach and teacher, author, as he shares with us “Writing Can Be a Real Bear (or Eagle, or Deer).” Enjoy!
Nature is my best teacher.
As a relief from my freeway commute in the mornings, I’ll sometimes get off and head west toward the Pacific coastal range, past ranches and pastures, over rolling hills and through redwood groves. Every so often, a doe and her fawns grazing near the roadway will peer up at me as I rush by, sulky brown eyes warily watching. Or, sitting out in my backyard, I’ll look up and notice a hawk circling overhead, gliding on broad wings as he takes in the wide view of the landscape.
These moments take me out of my own mind. They remind me to see life differently. After all, my own narrow view is so limited. To that deer, the quiet, frosty meadow I barely see as I barrel past is a wide world full of hiding places and noisy dangers. And far below the hawk’s sharp gaze, I am so small and insignificant, barely noticeable as it returns to hunting its tiny rodent prey in the sprawling patches of neighborhood yards.
When I feel stuck in my writing, when the words aren’t flowing and my perceptions feel dull, I’ll put myself into an animal’s perspective, feeling the rush of the hunt or the wary watchfulness of the prey. Write like an animal! Whenever you feel stuck in a scene, roll a die and consult this chart. Feel free to substitute animals of your own choosing.
How to Play: Set a timer for five minutes and let yourself go, allowing that animal to emerge from your fingertips and roar or saunter gently across the page. Don’t stop writing until you reach that time limit, just as that beast can’t stop being what it is as it hides in the grass or soars across the sky. Be within the beast, and keep typing. Then, when your timer goes off, roll again and change your persona, becoming a new animal with a new way of moving and seeing the world.
After you’re through, you’ll have explored your scene from new eyes and you can choose the perspective that best fits the tone of your piece or the mood you’re trying to create. In my work in progress, my protagonist has entered a giant hollow tree, and he begins his descent toward the roots. From my writing style, can you guess which animals I rolled?
Still and quiet within the thick trunk, the air here smells moist and pungent. Deep veins and red marks emerge in the walls of the tree out of the darkness as I begin to follow the spiralling, carved-out stairs. I hold my breath as a circle of crystalline white light appears beneath me, an outline of a crescent glowing. Any moment I feel something is going to fly up the dark shaft toward me. (roll again) Penetrating deeper, I feel myself sliding into the earth, all the heaviness of the world falling away around me in the dense shadows. Yet I like it. I feel at home here as the frenetic activity and the noise of the surface world gives way to thick darkness.
Did you guess that I rolled a bat and a worm? These animal minds gave me a new way to understand and write the scene. How would it be different to enter into aggressive bear consciousness or sly, silky puma personality If this were an urban tale, of people at a party or at work, for example?
Let yourself go wild with different ways of seeing as you make your writing come alive. Above all, have fun exploring the wilderness of your mind!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Wyatt Bessing is a writer, writing coach, and learning specialist. His stories and essays have appeared in Bedtime-Story.com, Outsider Ink, national educational assessment materials, and in the anthology Dance, Human Rights, and Social Justice. Through his workshops, website, and blog at wyattgbessing.com, he guides new and experienced writers in crafting more effective, expressive, and striking work. During the day, he works at Star Academy in San Rafael, teaching reading and comprehension skills to students with learning differences in elementary through high school. He lives in Santa Rosa, CA with his wonderful fiancee and co-creator, Sarah Laugtug.