Day 2: Write a List

Ray Bradbury wrote a list of nouns to get inspired. I will try it too.

  1. caviar
  2. heads
  3. sandwiches
  4. The thing on a ceiling fan that turns
  5. lint trap
  6. matches
  7. oven thermometer
  8. cork paper
  9. arteries
  10. surge protector
  11. planets
  12. eyes
  13. fringe
  14. cape
  15. stamp
  16. selfie-stick
  17. fog
  18. indignation
  19. boxing gloves
  20. cable
  21. bridge
  22. castle
  23. cloud
  24. brush pen
  25. dream catcher
  26. mermaid
  27. water

I’m not sure what this list will do for me. I guess while making it, I was judging myself for mostly listing objects I’m seeing in my studio. If I look at it from another person’s point of view, any of these things could be a portal into something else and could spark something creative. I’m too lazy right now to actually try using five of them in a few sentences. It feels forced.

Writing Class, Day 1: I write because

I’m taking this class to get back into writing. I’m trying to write a graphic novel that I started in 2000 and still haven’t finished. I hope this class will inspire me to get back to doing it.

So I have nothing in particular to write about for this class; I want to return to the joy of writing for the pleasure of writing.

The assignment is simply to explain what makes you write. I am rereading the Miracle Worker (the play), so I looked to Helen Keller for her thoughts on writing and found this gem:

“Trying to write is very much like trying to put a Chinese puzzle together. We have a pattern in mind which we wish to work out in words; but the words will not fit the spaces, or, if they do, they will not match the design.”

I found this very fascinating coming from someone who is visually impaired. As a visual person myself, I love this idea about patterns. It is close to the approach to writing of Vladimir Nabokov, one of my favorite authors.

 

I can’t see writing or art making in this way that Keller does, as I don’t have images or patterns in mind before or during the process of creating. I just start with something and see where it goes. Maybe after something comes out, I see something and try to play with the form in subsequent collages or drawings. Even with my struggle to do my graphic novel, I do it page by page, and have no idea who or what will appear until it’s happening.

This quote from Nabokov seems pretty accurate as a description of what I’m doing in my graphic novel:

“The writer’s job is to get the main character up a tree, and once they are there, throw rocks at them.”

So, why do I write?

Words. Language. The first thing Annie Sullivan does to engage with Helen Keller is to spell words of things with her, to teach her language, that everything in her world has a name. As humans, even when we cannot see, hear or speak in words, we have some kind of innate hunger for language. We want to make something that symbolizes what is in our mind or environment. Language is an abstraction. Writing with words is a way to move into a world that exists only in our minds.

I like to write because the use of words leads to the imagination, where anything is possible. My favorite book ever written remains Alice in Wonderland. There is no reason for anything in the book. Alice is not on a quest to find herself or get home or anything else. She is curious and wants to explore and see what is down the rabbit hole and in the garden. Something is locked, so she has to find the key and get in to see what is there! It is very evident that Carroll successfully got her up on that tree and he and the others in the book are throwing metaphorical “rocks” at her!

For me this is the purest reason for writing, to see the familiar from a different point of view where everything becomes strange. Alice can’t use the language from her real world in Wonderland. Every time she recites something, it comes out strange and different.

That is my reason to write, to be surprised by what comes out and to see how the most ordinary word is not ordinary at all…

 

I don’t know…

What makes life so intense and such a struggle for some of us? A patient said today getting up in the morning is like a new fight all over again.

Maybe that’s why some of us resist sleep. Late at night it’s comforting to be awake in the dark time when most people are asleep. I feel it now. 

Last night I felt a strange inability to feel anything: I couldn’t even draw anything. I had nothing to say, not just nothing to express but nothing to say to any person asking what was on my mind. I felt  like I’d never have anything to draw again. It wasn’t sadness or depression. It was like being in touch with nothingness. Blank.

This didn’t last. I woke up and at some point in the morning I felt a lot of things. It started out with anger and hopelessness. Bleak images, extreme violent fantasies, not of physical violence, but disturbing. Then I got to work and felt grounded. Later on I felt inspired. The wall of obstacles in my head melted and I looked up the principle of least effort and re acquainted myself with the 7 spiritual laws of success; I needed a structure that made sense. I listened to the loving kindness meditation and did it in my head and repeated it all day. It feels like an anchor for my wayward mind that seeks to get itself in trouble.

Suddenly I felt in touch with understanding that most of my struggles are with myself and pushing things instead of just letting go.

I felt relaxed and free; anxiety is so grasping, your hands hurt from trying to move things, control things, hold things, change things.

I had some moments of peace. I could really believe that I can just accept things as they are and myself too. I had clarity for the rest of the day. I felt connected to my work and my patients and other people.

I know the struggles of the mind; my own mind is a many splendored, crazy dark light place, often overfilled, every once in a while empty like last night, sometimes dark and stormy, torture. Often excited and brimming with enthusiasm about everything. Whatever I’m drawing painting making at the moment is leading me somewhere great. The next day I may throw out most of what I made.

I understand what my patient said about waking up in the morning constructed, anxious, dreading another struggle.

We are unseen warriors in an invisible fight. At least we can know that others experience life this way. I can’t change this; I can’t exchange my mind for a quieter one. 

I can write about it here, and wake up tomorrow for another day of surprises.