We’re all so familiar with clusters as prewriting tools that we’ve forgotten how they were originally intended to be used. In Dr. Gabriele Lusser Rico’s classic book, Writing the Natural Way, she says…
Writers need some magic key for getting in touch with these secret reserves of imaginative power. What we lack is not ideas but a direct means of getting in touch with them.
Clustering is that magic key. In fact, it is the master key to natural writing. It is the crucial first step for bypassing our logical, orderly Sign-mind consciousness to touch the mental life of daydream, random thought, remembered incident, image, or sensation.
Wow. And I thought clusters were mainly for selecting a topic. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Rico describes clustering as a nonlinear process of graphing a “storm center of meanings,” exploring those meanings, and from them launching into natural writing. She suggests that the writer begin by writing a word or phrase in the center of a piece of paper and circling it. Then, as rapidly as possible, the writer should write down whatever associations come from that central nucleus, circling these as well and connecting them. The writer should keep going until he or she suddenly knows what to write.
Take four minutes of your life and try it. Write a word or phrase in the middle of a piece of paper, circle it, and then rapidly write down all the connections that come to mind. Keep going until you know just what to write. Then write—and come back here to post your work.