Friday, December 24, 2010
Dog Days Are Over
What are your impediments to expression? Do you come from a culture of stiff-upper lip and stoicism? Have you been sick, or worse, lobotomized? Do you lack access to clean water or nutritious food? Do you work 4 jobs to support 6 children? Are you lacking formal education? Do you just lack time? What are the impediments?
Every one of us has a reason, or quite a few reasons for not expressing ourselves. Personally, I like the coziness of conversation with the voices in my head. In contrast, they are quite difficult to commit to paper. Also, I have utter meltdowns when my body betrays me in some specific ways - say if I bleed a little too long or feel fatigue or find I cannot get my jeans up past my thighs. I stop thinking creatively and begin wondering if there is enough money for a funeral.
Sir Ken Robinson makes an excellent point in his TED talk about creativity and the value public education places on the arts. His asserts that public education places no value on creativity or the arts. Robinson’s driving point is that children are educated in a way that separates the head from the body, and the body is reduced to a carrying case for the head, which isn’t hot. At least 90% of the body’s bass is below the neckline, it doesn’t make sense to act as though the head is all that matters.
Contrast that mode of education with this quote from legendary boxer Joe Frazier, “Kill the body and the head will die.”
The tongue is a muscle. The brain is a nerve-rich area with muscles. The jaw, the skull - they are just bones like the bone in your pinkie toe. So, as a collection of muscle and bone we can take heart in training ourselves beyond impediments. Some people cannot think without moving. I am one of those people. My day’s thinking is usually accomplished in a 30-45 minute block while I swim laps in a pool. That’s all the thinking I do in a day, the rest is just expression of thought on paper, verbally, or through music. Any new physical activity depends on my ability to add length and speed over a period of time - the same with writing.
Every day since starting my Real World MFA I have written a half a page of a story. One-half page. It isn’t a full page, it isn’t Stephen King or James Patterson-worthy 8 hours of hammering out story. It’s a half page a day and I find myself satisfied at the end. I get it in between swimming and work and I go through my day feeling pretty good abut myself because my story either progressed halfway through a new sheet of paper or it progressed enough to finish a page. It’s very cool.
In many disciplines you must start small and take things as they come. Writing isn’t so different, it’s a physical exercise of expression and relies on the hands and brain. It can be taxing (as all those who just wrapped up National Novel Writing Month can attest), and it must be refined over time. The youngest writer, out of sheer persistence, can produce a work of formidable length. Imagine!
No matter where you are in your life you can get somewhere else by slow, steady work. It adds up, it builds upon itself. And while it may feel contrary to all you’ve been educated to understand - that’s the way all things happen, it’s how all things work.