Reflections on my first MWP institute
As I look back on my recent completion of the Minnesota Writing Project's 17th annual summer institute I am drawn to the words of photographer and artist Andy Goldsworthy. Below he describes his process of collaborating with nature.
I stop at a place or pick up a material because I feel that there is something to be discovered. Here is where I can learn. I might have walked past or worked there many times. Some places I return to over and over again, going deeper--a relationship made in layers over a long time. Staying in one place makes me more aware of change. I might give up after a while. My perception of a place is often so frustratingly limited. The best of my work, sometimes the result of much struggle when made, appears so obvious that it is incredible I didn't see it before. It was there all the time.
From the Introduction to A Collaboration with Nature
It is Goldsworthy's description of his learning, his process, as a "relationship made in layers over a long time" that keeps returning to me. Although he is describing his interaction with the materials and place he is working with in preparation for the photo, I feel these words also are fit for describing the writing process and and the process of learning that occurs in human relationships overtime. It is this focus on continual process, returning "over and over again, going deeper" that I feel is so powerful about the model of the writing institute.
It truly is not like other classroom learning experiences, which perhaps focus more on polished product. Instead, day after day we were working together in groups whether for writing, reading, or teaching and working through our thoughts. I have not had many opportunities to slow down and enjoy the process for itself. The institute forced me to do this. Daily I wrote. I wrote frivolous vignettes and playful scenes along side more serious inquiries. Then when I thought my product was ready for delivery, my writing group would reign me in to return once again to my writing, my voice, my words.
When I think about my final products for the summer institute (a wiki book review and a photo blog), I'm not all that impressed. Yet when I think about my process of revisiting my work through engaging with others, I see my relationship with the product as very "layered."
This hieghtened focus on process is just beginning for me, especially as I begin to look at digital writing as an outlet for process, making transparent the thinking that goes into product. These thoughts are all still in their infancy. I hope to develop them more here.