The final project for our Creative Practice class is going to be a creative non-fiction piece about any subject we found fascinating in our researches all around London. Professor Lichtenstein brought us to some archives and to Sidney Row Synagogue, she led us to see places and to discover resources that we could have not be able to find by ourselves. But now it’s up to us.
I have started to think about my final project when I read some interesting documents and books at Bishop Institute Archives, but I am still very confused about writing a creative non-fiction piece. Of course this is not due to the course – which was very useful and stimulating – but I am scared because I have never tried to do something like that. I think the best way to understand it and to have a thought about creative non-fiction as a genre would be to re-read and write the notes I have taken during our first classes.
Rodinsky’s Room contains all the methodologies we have been studying in class. Pr. Lichtenstein studied at the archives, attended readings, looked at old maps and engravings. Getting to know a place very well is no easy task. But WALKING was the more important part of our first class.
Pic by Redd Angelo
“I forced myself to this mental way of thinking, looked around me as if I never was in this place, and the travel began to unravel.”
We should stop feeling familiar with the places we want to write about. We should look down and up. Have you ever watched the pavement of the street you walk everyday to go to home? Trying to ask those questions to yourself is only the beginning of the scratching of the surface. How did that place looked or smell? How did I feel?
The walking writer should feel like a detective, like an archaeologist. He or she can slip through the veil of time, and even where there is no physical evidence of history traces, they can be found. There are some tangible living memories. People to ask to. Archives. Libraries.
The myths and journeys to follow must be chosen carefully, but walking with no particular agenda can be useful as well. You can get different kinds of response by your own walk. Walking does something particular to the mind. It is a sort of meditation and can be a big part of the process of writing. It was a practice for many writers such as Hemingway and Dickens, Joyce and V. Woolf. Austen caught the dirty skirts of the city she described in Pride and Prejudice. A novel can be a mirror of the street. It just need to catch the flow. Where there are walking feet, mind is going, and narrative goes as well. Walking is understanding a place. It shows its interactions, the people, the things that can happen.
Pic by Francisco Moreno
At the end of the workshop about walking, Professor Lichtenstein wanted us to write about an actual walking that we had. This is my small exercise.
“It is not possible to talk all the time. I like talking. I like people who can listen as much as I like listening to people, but sometimes you just don’t need it. Especially when walking. And especially if you’re taking a walk in a completely new place, a place that you’ve never seen before – then you should probably be absorbed by everything that surrounds you.
When we walked together during that summer afternoon, I didn’t think about the stuff hat I am writing, but now I can get it. We were having the walk I had been having for many years. Up to the hill and then down to come back. It was close to my house. It lasted a hour. You started going up and it was tiring, of course, but then you were rewarded. In two minutes, you felt like being completely out of the city, in the countryside, where only animals could break that silence. I was hoping to enjoy it together. I mean, it was our first date. It couldn’t be just us, silent, of course, but I thought that the beauty of Tuscany’s countryside could take his breath away and just tell him, through its soft and inspiring breeze, to shut the fuck up for one second. Just enjoy everything that surrounds you.
That afternoon I thought about anything except from what he was saying. I thought that walking was one of the best ways to know yourself. Well, I got to know you. And it was awful.”
Pic by Jake Melara