Monday, July 19, 2010

home again

So...I'm home again after a week with laugh-out-loud cartoonist Lynda Barry in a workshop entitled, "Writing the Unthinkable"...the point being that the stories we create come to us from somewhere in the back of our brains, just out of reach of conscious thought...or will...or determination. Meaning that only when we silence the planning, scheduling, organizing part of our minds can original, creative urges sweep forward. Our greatest inspirations are "unthinkable" but nonetheless, incubating out of sight and out of mind only to emerge when we least expect them...when we are changing a diaper or chopping onions or washing the car and BAM! It hits us--the missing line of dialogue or the necessary plot point or the color of the villain's eyes--something we've been trying to come up with for so long.  

This is what happens when you step away for a few days and stroll through them with nothing more strenuous to do than to take an afternoon nap. Your imagination ventures out. Your creative yearnings take flight. Your heart opens up. Out of this group of strangers came the most poignant, sometimes poetic, sometimes hilarious stories...and none of us knew that they were there--inside of us the whole time.

For me the week ended with a piece about the winter woods:

"Not many people learn to love the winter woods--the fuzzy grays and bright whites and sharp black shadows of branches on the snow. But then, not many people have a stream behind a house in the woods where the snow turns everything deep and soft and still. Where the ice freezes hard around the stones and curls up into ripples and wrinkles that flicker with the current and glitter in the sunlight. Beneath my feet."

There--short, sweet and untouched. An image frozen in time (no pun intended) for me...a moment from my childhood so brief and a picture so clear that I needed only a few quiet days to re-experience it and a few simple words to reclaim it.

Last week while browsing in the bookstore, Brenda Ueland's book, "If You Want to Write", popped off the shelf and into my hands. This is another book you should run right out and buy if you are still afraid to begin because you are constantly striving for perfection, hoping to impress others, and seeking nothing short of unconditional praise for your work. If you are caged by uncertainty and self-criticism and fear of failure or derision. If you are confused by the rules and conventions and certain advice of people who lack your spirit and your passion until you are flopping around like an untethered sail in a storm. The book is about "Art, Independence and Spirit"...damn the critics, the industry, the e-book gurus. Her words will help you to step forward with your truth, your wisdom, and your story. Just begin, she urges you. Begin where you are with what you love, with what you have, with what you know to be true and move on from there. Go! Now!

I like to say that I am back in the "fake" world now with the incessant hum of cars in the distance, the drone of airplanes overhead, and the syncopated rhythm of nearby voices and barking dogs and slamming doors that surround me...the sounds of people not only tending to their "need-to-do's" and "want-to-do's" and "maybe-later's"...but all the "woulda-coulda-shoulda's" that follow them around like a swarm of angry bees. Already I miss the silence, the support, and the freedom that I enjoyed during my few days away. Already I miss the winter woods.  

"What you really value is what you miss, not what you have."
--Jorge Luis Borges

What is it that you miss most?

In my next post, I may consider some of the yucky people and yucky circumstances that suck the creative spirit right out of perfectly good people.

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