Project: Making Memories
There's a huge tradition of experimental writing that's often ignored as a resource for workshops, especially workshops for people who have dementia. In fact bringing looseness and playful logic into such sessions can free up people to be more expressive of their lives. The fact that the whole process is an experiment takes away the pressure to be Right or the fear of being Wrong - we simply try out something to discover what'll happen.
Today we used a very simple but beautifully effective technique, the fold-in. This particular variation was shown to me by a student and is derived from William Burroughs' methods, from back in the day. The basic idea is that you merge two different, contrasting pieces of writing to make something that takes the best from both.
1. Fold a blank piece of paper in half.
2. Pass round pieces of chocolate and fruit for participants to taste.
3. Write down people's description of the taste sensations onto one half of the paper, listening out for the sumptuous, the unusual, the indulgent.
4. Write down people's memories of contrasting deprivation (in this instance we asked people to describe war rationing) into the other half of the paper.
5. Fold out the paper and read across both halves, so that the lines blend into one another, ready mixed.
This method can generate wonderfully rich micro-detail, mixed with the pleasures of more general reminiscence. The taste sensations bring in surprising and evocative turns of language, while the reminiscence tends to have more narrative power. Because this is writing by chance, some of the lines won't work, others will be a welcome surprise. Edit according to your own judgement, trying to keep the surprises and the quirkiness.