Meaningful Objects

By Elizabeth Schmuhl

Despite the D.C. humidity and cloudless sky, I went running on Roosevelt Island after work with a coworker. We finally made it to the tree-shaded dirt paths when she asked me about my shorts. My willingness to answer led her to ask another question, "What's dangling from your gold necklaces?”

After telling her about the different pieces I’ve added to the metal strands around my neck (so they could be closer to my heart), she laughingly asked, "Does everything you own have a story behind it?"

I don't think I'm alone in wanting the objects I choose to keep in my life to have significance. I'm always trying to de-clutter, and I find excess distracting and off-putting. But my coworker's comment also re-illuminated something I know to be true for me as an artist: objects carry meaning.

I’ve been using the following exercise to help me write a text about my relationship to movement as a dancer throughout my life and it’s been an invaluable way for me to begin to excavate this topic and shape my writing into a book.

Get Writing

1. Select five to ten images of objects

They can be photographs you've taken, images you find online, or, if you like to draw or paint, create your own original pieces.

2. Write captions for each image

The captions shoul be 2-4 sentences in length. If possible, try to find an emotional connection between the objects that can be explored via the captions.

3. Experiment with an order in which to place these multidisciplinary pieces

This can be chronological, associational, etc. You might want want to have each on separate pieces of paper to be able to easily arrange them, or electronically edit the page order until you create a sequence you like.

Tip: As an idea for expanding the piece, rewrite all of the captions to be a social media post (you can find templates online for free and edit the content). Include comments from other followers, number of likes, etc. to help build a complete poem/hybrid piece.