Each Wednesday I’ve been recording a Curiosity Journal to recap the previous week using these tag words: reading, playing, learning, reacting and writing. Now I’m simplifying, to see if I like a slimmed-down version.
From Rumors of Water: Thoughts on Creativity & Writing, by my friend and colleague L.L. Barkat, Chapter 2: “Let the unrestrained rain of my own life infuse my writing. Let the me-I-am-right-now simply be” (18). L.L. has done it; on each page of Rumors, she offers life-infused writing that I take in with as much delight as L.L. drank down mint-and-lemon-infused ice water one afternoon at a nearby farm. Be refreshed, she seems to say. In fact, L.L. goes so far as to invite us all, as writers, to be free…free to be the me-I-am-right-now in our own work.
In Chapter 3, she recognizes lack of symmetry in her life and in her book, but decides, at least with her book, to embrace it. After an interaction with her daughter, L.L. decides that there will be a purple moth in every chapter of the book—or, of course, the metaphorical equivalent. She points out that Natalie Goldberg’s writing books break the rules of symmetry generally accepted in the publishing world; if there any symmetry in them at all, L.L. observes, it is the symmetry of Natalie. Like the purple moth that L.L. resolves to include in her chapters, L.L. also throws onto each page of Rumors that unmistakable me-I-am-right-now. Indeed, L.L. Barkat shows up everywhere, bright and brilliant as a purple moth sipping mint-and-lemon ice water.
True to her word, L.L. invites moths into Chapter 4—actual moths, not metaphorical. While doing laundry in the basement, she encounters food moths hovering near the bags in which she stores some of her grains and legumes. She surveys the laundry and the food moths and says, “There is nothing here for me…There is nothing here for me.” She blows across a capful of laundry soap to form a bubble, hoping for iridescent inspiration, but it is short-lived. The bubble pops, and she thinks there is nothing for her. But there is something: There is, quite clearly, the laundry and the moths, which she has invited onto the page. But, maintaining an idealistic mindset throughout, she nevertheless waits for more. She anticipates the arrival of ideas, poetry, and music. It will come. She knows it, and she wants the reader to know it, too. It won’t take long.
On an outing described in Chapter 5, it comes to her: Inspiration. Her girls beg her to come with them to a nearby farm, where L.L. discovers color, smells, and foods with names that become a wealth of words to work with—the very writing inspiration she was waiting for in her basement. Writing starts with living, she says, which sometimes snatches a writer out of her chair and off to a farm, dragged along by others who have such an intense passion for something that they change up our days to include the unexpected.
Food words continue to inspire in Chapter 6, where a particular bean takes center stage as L.L. models a make-do attitude…because sometimes writers have to use what they have on hand, especially if a purple moth has gobbled up every other ingredient typically needed to get the job done. Just as we should feel free to cook creatively, substituting one bean or spice or vegetable for another, so can writers write creatively, using what we have, not constrained by conventional wisdom and methods. We should always, however, have a few ideas in the hopper. “This is the secret of the prolific writer,” she advises. “To agree to use small beans and the ingredients at hand” (34).
My responses to the first chapter of Rumors of Water can be found here. More reaction yet to come.
Many years ago I read the book The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: A Course in Enhancing Creativity and Artistic Confidence (I actually had an older copy without “The New” in the title), by Betty Edwards. She teaches people more than basic drawing techniques—she teaches people to see. Contour drawings and flipping a piece of art upside down to copy—those exercises and more helped me realize how I had previously been drawing without really seeing what was there. Edwards helped me study the shapes, lines and curves, even the empty spaces, to begin to see. Then I could begin to create more accurate, realistic work as a beginner and move toward more sophisticated work in the future.
I’ve been recalling those concepts and will be prowling through the house hunting for the book. I think it’s on a shelf in the basement, not far from where I’d stuck the sketchbooks and pencils.
I want to keep playing around.
I may be playing with art, but I want to be working on my writing, and learning. I noted this tweet from L.L. Barkat:
Yes, I highly recommend reading a poem a day to become a much more powerful writer. http://fb.me/1oUkxdiyV
A poem a day. I figure I have enough poetry books lying around to read a poem a day for the rest of my life.
The Solitary Reaper
by William Wordsworth
Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.
No Nightingale did ever chaunt
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travellers in some shady haunt,
Among Arabian sands:
A voice so thrilling ne’er was heard
In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.
Will no one tell me what she sings?–
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago:
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?
Whate’er the theme, the Maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o’er the sickle bending;–
I listened, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.
One of my daughters had her wisdom teeth removed. I am relying on the kitchen timer to send me back and forth to the freezer for ice packs, which she holds to her cheeks for 20 minutes at a time to reduce swelling.
It is not easy to write in the midst of ice pack deliveries, but some days life has symmetry…and some days it doesn’t. Some days you just work with what you’re given and turn out what you can.
Work Cited: Barkat, L.L. Rumors of Water: Thoughts on Creativity & Writing. Ossining, NY: T.S. Poetry Press, 2011. Print.
Photos: Images by Ann Kroeker. All rights reserved.