The Secret Life of Images

I’m reading Traveling with Pomegranates, Sue Monk Kidd’s travel memoir that she co-wrote with her daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor. Although she’d never written a novel, part of the narrative is about Kidd’s experience of being “pregnant” with The Secret Life of Bees.

From the beginning of the book, she wears a small bee charm on a necklace without really knowing why. In Turkey, a honeybee lands on her shoulder and sits for five or more minutes, continues to stay put as she descends a hill toward a tour bus and only flies away when she bends forward to drink holy water. At another point, she discovers a black Madonna–an image that both excites and haunts her. In this way, she begins to “collect” images.

She writes that after returning from Greece, she starts “searching through magazines, catalogues, postcards, photos, and prints, cutting out whatever inspires me. I was supposed to be writing an outline for the novel, and I was cutting out pictures. It didn’t seem to matter whether I understood what the pictures meant or how they fit into the novel; it was enough to be drawn to them in some deep, evocative way. It was pretty much an unconscious process. I told myself I was being creative, turning my play instinct loose to roam around and find what fascinated it. Inside I was thinking: This is nuts.”

Still, she allowed her work this process–or play–and it resulted in a New York Times bestseller. Instead of silencing her deep, subconscious instincts, she continually gives them a voice and allows them to speak to her by simply paying attention.


1) Begin a textual collage by listing 5 images which haunt you.

2) Set a timer for 15 minutes and briefly describe each image, giving yourself about 3 minutes per image.

3) Choose one image and write for another 15 minutes about it alone.

4) Start a file of images that move, intrigue, disturb, confuse, fascinate and/or inspire you.



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