Yes, I run training programs in business writing. And in How to Deal With Difficult People. Grammar and punctuation. Technical writing. Monsoon Papers. Wait, what? What does Monsoon Paper mean? And how does it relate to business writing? Truthfully, I do not teach Monsoon Papers in businesses. Yet.
All of us need to express ourselves. Some of us dance or sing. Others draw or write. Some of us don’t want to explore that creative need, so we push it down. Sometimes we just push and feel abandoned. Others drink or overeat. When we are scared of our own creativity, we often run from it.
Creativity and creative expression are not the realm of woo-woo art or poetry majors. Creative expression is how we make meaning of the world. And the world needs making meaning of, for sure.
For my whole life, I’ve used writing and collage to make meaning. I don’t draw well, and the texture of collage, especially when words or word-forms are involved, intrigue me. Almost every artist knows not to create on a blank white page. For many reasons: figures need to be grounded, not floating on air; a background adds context.
In my first year in Phoenix, people told me about monsoon–a season of hard, sudden rain and whipping winds. “Sure,” I thought. “Right.” People say crazy things. Then one day, walking home, I saw clouds climbing up over the horizon. They were olive green and mustard yellow. Lightning shot out of them. I ran the rest of the way home, pushed by the wind. I grabbed some heavy paper and hung it in the trees. When the rain began, I threw ink onto the paper, inks the color of the clouds–dark green and yellows and purples.
Rain beat the paper, wind whipped it into folding onto itself. But when the storm was over, I had some great papers, wrinkled and color-washed.
The method doesn’t lend itself to control, which intrigues me, because much of life can’t be controlled, either. No matter how much we try.
Making meaning when we aren’t in control is much harder. When we can’t control the anger in others, it helps if I remember how I control this paper once it is dry. When I can’t see the bravery in someone who is out of control, I can remember how the paper looked when it was wet and a mess, and how all it needed to look great was to dry out.
Found poetry is another creative technique. You choose a book or magazine, rip out two pages, and cut out words or phrases that sound interesting to you. Yes, this is a random exercise.
Once you have a small pile of unrelated phrases, you begin to think about their meaning, possibilities, and ideas. You then push together phrases that want to travel together, adding words like “and,” “so,” “the,” as you need them. It’s a good reminder that small words matter in big ways.
In business writing, as in poetry, every word counts. Every word carries meaning that another person will interpret with their personality, their background, which is different from yours. To become aware of this, word by word, is a creative exercise that has a big payoff in the business world.
We become more careful about what we say. We choose our words more carefully. We think before we hit “Send.” Good results, all.
Using a small brush and glue, affix the words onto a background of Monsoon Papers, and you have Found Poetry. They invite reading, just for the color and cut-out words.
And yes, people will tell you it isn’t “real” poetry, or even “real” art. But no one can tell you that you haven’t made meaning of life. And that is the definition of art.
Smile at the people who don’t understand. Now that you do, there is no going back.
––Quinn McDonald is a corporate trainer who is aware that we use word for love and hate, control and letting go of control in our every day life. We are all creative. We can all use creativity.
Here’s what the poetry above, says:
Close to Home
Even though I had been expecting it,
it still hit me with a thud.
How did this happen?
We gave it our best shot,
we worked in scraps of free time;
you could almost believe it was still summer.
This summer explodes,
running into legend, into nightmares
I knew something was wrong.
Our relationship with truth is cracked.