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The Writhing Society meets to practice and discuss the techniques of constrained writing. We practice the methods invented by ourselves and by other writers, artists, musicians, and mathematicians. Tonight's session: Interior Design

We're bringing back an exercise last practiced by the Writhing Society in 2010. Here is what Tom La Farge had to say about it at the time:

In 1965, before he joined Oulipo, Georges Perec wrote a short novel called Things (Les Choses), which begins by a description of the apartment a young couple would have liked to have — a long, unpeopled, subjunctive catalogue of desired objects before lapsing into the reality of the lives of two hip but not very energetic market researchers. If you can imagine reading a Pottery Barn catalog with a view towards recreating an experience, extracting life from lifestyle, you'll have a sense of the flavor of this opening chapter.

Perec was a great writer of catalogues and lists of this kind (especially in another book, Species of Spaces), and usually he was exposing less the fantasies of the would-be bourgeois than what he called "the infra-ordinary": the things we all have and have built into our lives, the things in our pockets or bags that shape our experience but which we have forgotten. He calls on us to pay attention to the habitual.

For this session, we will warm up by cataloging the objects that are on our work-tables, as Perec did in "Notes Concerning the Objects that are on my Work-table." Then we will do a pass-around exercise to create rooms filled with objects. Each Writher will end up with a filled room to make something of. Be prepared to use the Zoom chat to pass objects to one another, and to exercise some technological patience.

This workshop will take place online via Zoom. Please RSVP to receive the Zoom link prior to the event. This is a community writing workshop and attendees are encouraged to share the work they create during the session. Please arrive on time and be prepared to introduce yourself by audio or in the chat. The virtual room opens 5 minutes before 6, and the virtual doors close at 6:10.

The Writhing Society, founded by writers Tom La Farge and Wendy Walker, was born and grew in the Proteus Gowanus Interdisciplinary Gallery in Brooklyn. We're now happy to have found a home at Brooklyn Public Library.

The Writhing Society combines a class with a salon. In a two-hour session, you can expect about a half-hour that includes introductions, explanations, questions, and warm-up; an hour or so of silent writing; and about a half-hour to share work aloud.

This is nothing like a typical writing workshop. This is a process-oriented workshop for people who are interested in potentiality, possibility, and the unexpected. We experiment by imposing specific and arbitrary rules, known as constraints, upon already-existing texts. Each workshop involves the intermingling of at least two texts — yours and another’s or others.’

We practice the experiments in a relaxed, supportive, playful — yet not undisciplined — atmosphere, and we welcome new members. No prior knowledge of constrained writing is required. 

Given that entrenched discourses of dominance — from corporate-speak to psychobabble — give rise to countless forms of normalized expression described as or accepted as “free”, composing with constraints can provide a salutary escape, both from such forms and from the everyday patterns to which your brain subscribes. At the very least, the practice yields fresh ideas and serves as an aid to creativity.

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