Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Dentist's in the DETAILS - Anderson's 4th THING

Today's TeachersWrite! prompt worked with my reading in Anderson's 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know.  Hmmm...there may be universality present in both learning opportunities.  Makes sense when I think about it.  I'll just keep combining the experiences and see how far it takes me.
 Today's exercise took me to the dentist.  Yes, the dentist - don't worry, I'll get there from here.

So, Anderson's 4th THING is DETAILS.  This is another chapter dense with information, but he starts from a place so many of us know, but have found difficult to apply in our own writing as much as we should.  You've heard the adage, "Show, don't tell", yes? Anderson takes us through this process step-by-step so that we can do the same with our students.  He even shows us, using a model, how re-creating this process as a writer requires students to use inferencing skills (Common Core, anyone?)  That's just the first section of the chapter, so you can imagine how much more there is yet to add.

Speaking of adding, (or deleting, as the case may be), within that section and in other sections of the chapter, Anderson has special cautions and examples for those of us who also tend to run off at the pen.  He makes great suggestions and shows terrific models for getting rid of too much detail.  This is a major problem for me as a writer.  I tend to get caught up in trying to describe every inch of a character or setting and lose the story.  I have trouble finding the balance between "show, don't tell" and "get to the point, already".

Due to the nature of today's TeachersWrite! prompt, I was invited to practice my freewriting skills to talk about a place that is special to me.  Due to the descriptive nature and the limited amount of comment space, I decided to keep it short.

I have two images embedded in my brain that can immediately bring my blood pressure down.  The first is the beach on St. Maarten that I've actually been to once.  That's nice, but sometimes too shiny an image if I'm looking for calm.  The second is a photographic poster from my dentist's office 15 years ago.  I've since moved and have a different dentist who has a television in the room, which is distracting, but not nearly as calming.  So, I still close my eyes and remember the poster that I used to fall into whenever the work going on in my mouth became too much to stay present for.

Here is a short poem, untitled, that describes that image to me.  This is approximately the same poster, with a few differences from original - like a photo of the same place by a different camera on a different day, but you'll get the idea.

Sometimes nature can dull the pain
A deep breath and I sink into the picture 
like the arms of a sympathetic mother
Beds and canopies of vibrant green
Embrace me, mute the harsh light, taste,
And sound of the dentist's work
Thick trunks, erect like ghostly soldiers,
Shrouded in the mist
Warring factions divided
By the sweetly crystal slip of water
Over a crumpled blanket of smoothed stones
Air tasting cool and ancient slows my heart
A deep breath and I sink further
Sometimes nature can steal you away from the pain


  1. You brought me in to your image with your words. Sometimes nature can soothe anxiety even if the shot takes away the pain. There are so many good lines, but my favorite is "air tasting cool and ancient slows my heart." My breath is getting steady now.

    1. Thanks very much for taking the time to read and give feedback!