Writing Coach - Dr. Cindy Shearer
What is Writing as art?

Many writers–perhaps you, too–desire something more from their work. There’s a longing–to do, say, create something more. Maybe your writing feels predictable when you want it to be original. Perhaps you sense there’s another level or a deeper place you haven’t been able to tap into. Or there’s a more aesthetic way of expressing yourself you haven’t been able to reach. Fundamentally, you want to re-find, re-kindle the exquisite feeling of beauty the artful use of words has evoked in you before.

Or perhaps you want to move from writing texts to creating work that integrates words with images through drawing, mixed media or photography—as a way to bring writing and art together.

Writing as art celebrates writing as an aesthetic, art-making process–and playfully shows you how to skillfully use tools from the visual arts. It will change how you envision and engage your work. It will draw you in viscerally to discover deep and powerful images and show you how to construct writing projects from them. It will spark a dynamic relationship with word and image that can ignite you artistically and restore you emotionally. Writing as art will help you create an artist’s studio inside you — filled with all the skills, tools and materials you’ll need. You’ll make work that will inspire, energize and satisfy you — and will compel, give pleasure to and resonate with others.

Who can benefit from Writing as art?

  • Do you want your writing to be more heartfelt, beautiful, powerful?
  • Do you wish your writing felt more alive?
  • Does what you want to write seem just beyond words?
  • Do you struggle to get words on the page?
  • Are you more comfortable visually than with words?
  • Do you want to develop your artistic self?

Then Writing as Art could help you:

  • Bring your whole self to your writing
  • Write with more range, dexterity and confidence
  • Nurture and rejuvenate yourself through writing
  • Use image-making to write powerfully about things that seem beyond words
  • Create works of text and image as a catalyst for breaking through difficult experiences or writer’s block or to make new art forms
  • Develop a writing studio inside you that helps you be comfortable, effective and artful in your work

How have I worked with Writing as art?
Years ago, when I was a young writer, the work of a visual artist I knew captivated me. His dark, solid shapes printed on white paper were very simple, but their effect was resonant and forceful. I was fascinated by how evocative the images were, and I began to experiment with image-making to broaden the boundaries of my writing. I committed to finding out what gives artistic use of image such beauty and power. For years, I watched, interviewed and collaborated with visual and performing artists so I could translate the ways that they worked into valuable methods for writers.

I have helped writers use a dynamic relationship between word and image to jump start a stalled writing process or engage deep, reparative creative work. I have made many Writing as art objects (such as postcards, books, boxes). I’ve experienced and seen how bringing text and image together can re-kindle a love for writing, be healing, and allow us to make compelling and innovative work. I have also created Ten Not-So-Tangible Tools for Writers (2001), a meditation in text and image on the writing process. This work offers writers a positive, playful approach to generating deep and heartfelt writing.

Interested in learning more about Writing as art?

The ways we’d work together would be as individual as your own writing project. As examples, here are some ways I’ve worked with others:

A successful illustrator wanted to find out how to use recurring images from her drawings as the genesis for writing compelling stories.

Materials: Sketchbook, drawing pencils or oil pastels, several pieces of cardstock (light color, 6″ by 8″)

Process: I offered this writer a visual process that would help her “unpack” the significant images in her story. I felt that to be able to write stories powerfully she’d benefit from knowing more about the origins and meanings of images in her work. Therefore, I asked her to

  • Visualize the events of an important story in her life
  • Make sketches of images that surfaced in her visualization
  • Reflect on each image’s relationship to her experience
  • Pick one image and draw it in a new version
  • Notice what happened with the image as she enlarged it, gave it color, or shaped it into new form
  • Use the image in the drawing as a starting point for retelling her story
  • Create a work of text and image–bringing the story and the drawing together.

Result: Sketching images gave her snapshots into the core moments and sensual details that drove her memory of her experience. They let her see what she remembered and, in a non-threatening way, what mattered. She felt she had choice in creating the image–and this helped her to see that she could have choice in how she told her story and what she could say. She saw she was not stuck with one version of the story and one way to tell it– that image-making gave her dexterity in structure and more dimension and depth in her content. This writer also said that she learned to be more patient with the writing process through this work, and it helped her to be able to stay with and follow through on her writing.

A psychologist who writes commercially about parents and children wants to write more artfully about his work with families.
Materials: Objects, card stock (light color, 5″ by 7″), drawing pencils or oil pastels 
Process: Process: This writer wanted to break away from using words in traditional, product-driven ways. I suggested he engage a process that did not use words at all and that we explore ways that visual work could help him access new and deeper content for his writing. I asked him to

  • Find five small objects (such as jewelry, photograph, child’s drawing, rock, seashell, flower) that represented poignant aspects of family to him
  • Hold and carefully look at the objects
  • Draw each object or create one or more images that surfaced when he held or looked at it (use the 5″ by 7″ cards for the drawings)
  • Shuffle and playfully order the cards into visual poems.

Result: This writer was surprised by the number and depth of the visual poems he created and how he could use the same images in different combinations to make new poems. Holding and looking deeply into his objects connected him to strong experiences of families and helped him to associate to the many layers and textures of his work with parents and children. Shaping and ordering the images showed him the important relationship that images can have to each other and how poetic use of image can also playfully and joyfully evoke the experience of a poem, even without words. The combining of image and artful form helped to generate a deep experience that he can connect to and draw from again and again in his work. He keeps the cards as a touchstone for his work.

Ways I could work with you:

  • Explore core images and skillfully bring them to your writing process
  • Use the inner processes and powerful strategies of visual artists
  • Make text and image projects.

Please contact me at 415-492-8410 or info@cindyshearer.com and I can talk with you personally about the many ways that Writing as art can help you get to the heart of what you want to say and develop the writing project that lives deep within you.