Week 3 - Structure

This week, we talked about form and structure, planned our final projects, and looked ahead to the students’ second year (thesis work).


Warm-up exercise

I assign Pam Houston’s Corn Maze as reading for this class, because it’s not only a beautiful essay about writing, but it’s also a great example of well-developed structure. Building on that piece, we follow Pam’s method of writing glimmers to open up this week’s class:

“Write down all of the things that have arrested your attention lately… Set them next to each other. See what happens.”

Write three glimmers:

Go for 10 minutes.

What I love about this method—describing things that catch your attention—is the richness of visual descriptions that come from memory. I also find that her method encourages me to practice paying attention and trusting what I find interesting.

Pam talks about keeping her glimmers in a file. Once you have a few of these vignettes down, you can look back at them and see how they connect. You can also reference them later when you’re having trouble coming up with something to write about, or need more descriptive words to fit a particular situation.

Structure and thesis discussion

We watched Kurt Vonnegut talk about the shape of stories before my brief lecture on form and structure. After that, we talked about what a thesis is, how you might structure design artifacts in a process book (SVA’s term for a full-project history), and what the students are planning to write for their class final.

Somewhere in there, I tried to stress the importance of collaborating (even on solo projects!) by asking peers for feedback and offering thoughtful feedback in return.

Next week, we’ll continue workshopping our final projects. Karyn Campbell is also going to join us to talk about her work at the intersection of writing and design.