Prompt 10 – use paper that’s come to the table since beginning this month’s challenge or use paper that you did not choose.
Here, find a telescope from a catalog that arrived yesterday (to build on previous drawing and the words, “see further”).
Also, I raided the box holding the remnants of my sister’s clip file. After she died, I mailed pictures she’d clipped to members of the SoulCollage community all over the country — but of course, I kept some.
From Noreen: owls, polar bears, chartreuse Asian face and eyes, close up of raptor wing, bats, X-ray, starry night.
Nothing glued yet.
Skateboarding, fire, vision, the Middle East, climate change — all showing up.
I love how the extended arms of the boarder echo the shape of wings.
I also love the names of skateboard maneuvers, a whimsical, specialized vocabulary that I never mastered, even when there was a mini-ramp in our backyard.
In other news, I have symptoms of a cold for the very first since starting regular use of a netti pot five or six years ago. I feel like it’s more about humility this time than germs. No more obnoxious announcements about the netti pot!
Here’s a fundamental question that goes to one’s basic nature, preferences, and tempos: do you sort by sameness or difference?*
If you sort by sameness you like constancy, routines, familiarity. Change is hard for you. A preservationist at heart, you might crystallize around things, in fact, to avoid change. If you sort by difference, on the other hand, you like change and variety, quicker tempos. You move readily from topic to topic in conversation, work on a dozen pieces at once if you’re an artist. Flexibility is your hallmark. Your need for movement can make you impulsive and careless with things and people. Lots of projects left unfinished.
Understanding that this sorting difference is both critical and immutable can be a life-saver in a marriage.
My husband sorts by sameness, I by difference. We could not be more different about matters like how often to re-arrange the furniture, how long to study maps on the ski slope, whether to chuck or save objects. And that’s the minor stuff. Viewing these differences as failures to accommodate one another or as character flaws guarantees struggle.
To blame someone for sorting differently from yourself is like getting mad at them for being tall or Chinese.
This week, prompted by (finally!) spending some time with Jude’s Feel Free class recordings (I generally read the posts, but the audios languish), I want to think about how sorting by change impacts my work and also to consciously practice her idea of treating ideas as questions rather than ways to solve a problem.
*Question posed in a lecture by Bill Harris, founder of Holosync
Can dropping down a rabbit hole be a necessary pursuit? Or does it always imply time-wasting?
Whatever the case, two deep rabbit holes yawn constantly at the writer’s feet. They are: research and editing.
My story begins in 1738. I had no idea how little I knew until I stumbled along, inserting obvious anachronisms like electric ceiling fans and ice cubes. Yes! But even once you get a certain fluency for your period, quick dips into research are needed — often to remind me of things I learned and then forgot.
How many rebels died the morning after the Stono Rebellion? How many were executed the following week? And the number rumored to have evaded capture, again – remind me?
How is Beaufort rice bread prepared?
What were the prevailing views on homosexuality in the low country in the 18th century? Surely not the same as in the Puritan northeast?
Editing is also necessary and can go on and on and then on some more. Few and far between are those golden passages that come out intact. Most require a lot of work — in fact, an astonishing amount of work — things like making a flashback stand on its own in real time, fixing inconsistent tenses, eliminating peripheral characters, and always — paring away words that clutter the page.
There’s always the danger that editing will keep the writer from the business of original writing. They use such different parts of the brain and one is so much easier to access than the other!
Editing also poses the danger of wiping out distinctive cadences and phrasing. That’s part of why when I back up my manuscript, I don’t write over the previous version (not that I go back and read them, but — I could).
Useful distractions include working in other media (and reading. Always reading!) Most creatives will tell you that switching media feeds the work.
This morning, I played with magazine scraps brought from home. Whether it was a useful distraction or not, I’m not in a position to judge. Here are the results.
The first one speaks directly to a storm scene I’m editing in which the slaveholder loses both an entire crop of rice and a key slave in a boat accident. The scene exposes dissonant responses to the loss (white vs. black). The white response wonders which is the greater loss — the twenty barrels of rice or the valuable slave? — highlighting in a sharp way the slaves’ status as property.
(In the era my novel describes, the enslaved wore ragged tunics and head rags. The portrayal of the two African Americans above, therefore, is to my mind, romanticized).
Today is Good Friday. The Christ figure removed from his cross last night will be processed from the top of the hill down to the Basilica of St Francis. People mobbed the statue last evening once it was in repose in order to touch it.
This morning when I attended Mass at San Rufino at the crack of dawn, the 500 year old wooden body was adorned with flowers.
My digs are a little cold, so midmorning I found a patch of sun near St Clare’s Cathedral and stitched for a while.
The beauty of this place fills me up!
PS. That moon picture was taken out of my window between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m.
“It’s a mistake to think people are creative. They don’t create anything. What they do is rearrange things.”
Novelist Mark Helprin interviewed 10-5-17 on the podcast, “The Avid Reader“.
Prior to that, he said, “You have to have models [to write about]. We have only what we are given in creation. We don’t create anything. All we can do is interpret it.”
He’s one of those superb writers who’s had an incredibly interesting life, like Louise Erdrich (with her 1/2 German, 1/4 Native, 1/4 French ancestry (talk about a cast of characters!)). Turns out that as a boy, Helprin lived in a Parisian house that had safeguarded a Jewish family in its attic for years. Imagine what those walls had to tell a young child!
It’s important to remind a person like myself that every life is interesting in some measure. And besides, my life, to use his logic, is what I was given.
He also talked about how often writers’ first novels are autobiographical. He didn’t think so at the time but now sees it to be true.
His new novel is the first he’s ever set in contemporary time. I can’t wait to read it.
Meanwhile, my antique-dealing neighbor who sold his house put even more treasures on the curb today. I snagged a triptych — with hinges that work in both directions! I’ve wanted one for years. I mean, years. Our family room has a large opening to the cellar stairs which acts as a conduit for cold air. The temperature issue’s been partly resolved by hanging one fluffy blanket over the cellar door and another over the dog gate. But still, I’m thrilled.
I’m going to make some collage packs for Newton Open Studios and include some of this gorgeous Chinese-scribed paper. If you, dear reader, would like to receive a collage pack, leave a comment below saying so and I’ll draw a name next week.
I once announced, “I’m a writer but not really a storyteller,” to which a friend replied, “You are a storyteller. You just don’t think you are.”
The grist for our tales can come from anywhere from any old day of the week: how sorting threads suddenly feels like a mission; the dog finding raw whole sweet potatoes in the woods and gobbling them down despite all your commands to the contrary; why waiting in yesterday’s grocery line was particularly tedious.
Finn bit my neighbor last night. Here. Trying to watch “Brooklyn”. No blood or even teeth marks. But real aggression.
“The Bite” could be a long story — one involving control, temptation, distraction, fear, and disappointment.
Or how about going to a friend’s husband’s house that is far away and not her house and watching the Patriots lose to Denver while eating chili made meaty and delicious with shiitake mushrooms. Texting my son in Boulder. Noticing how warm the winter sun looked on the football field. Wondering why relationships fail.
I haven’t read Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book but I heard her say in an interview something interesting (but not original) about collective ideas and creativity. She asserted that our work is “out there” and maybe it doesn’t matter if the stories pick us or we pick them, but it does matter that we sustain our allegiance to them. If we don’t, someone else just might take ’em and run.
And speaking of Jung, to close let me share a relevant moment of synchronicity.
Remember two posts ago when I quoted Henry Louis Gates, Jr. saying that if critics didn’t like Styron’s version of Nat Turner, they could “write their own novel”? Well last night I learned that someone has. Nate Parker wrote, directed and starred in a new movie telling that very story. It just premiered at Sundance.