Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Writing the Unthinkable

So, I'm pretty excited. I've had a fairly productive few weeks. First, this phenomenal piece of art arrived in the mail:

You should buy this book and make Lynda Barry rich

If you can't tell from the photo, it's "Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor" by Lynda Barry, which is, to explain it over-simply, the notes from her decade long-workshop for non-writers, called "Writing the Unthinkable."

Not only is it visually stimulating, but I'm hoping it to be a mental/artistic wake up call too. Lynda Barry's work is always thoughtful/thought provoking (despite, or perhaps because it's couched in the form of "cartoon"), and I love the way it feels so much like a brain dump. Like if you took a cross section of her brain, it would look like this--words and drawings and ephemera right up to the very edges. I love the collages, I love that her work always feels as if she is truly trying to get "at" something. Which is all writing is really. Trying to get at what cannot be gotten at. A feeling, an idea, an abstraction. And I relate to the need/desire to work across multiple media -- the written word, images etc, the layers of meaning each kind of inclusion brings.

I'm so excited to dig into this thing I can't even tell you. I was flipping through it and right on the inside cover is this: What Everyone came to a realization that their certainty was what was wrong."  And this other gem, a few pages later:

I was trying to understand how images travel between people, how they move through time, and if there was a way to use writing and picture making to figure out more about how images work."

I would really love to have her as an instructor. I know I'm getting ahead of myself, but I feel like she's the kind of person who would be able to help me translate all the 'stuff' that's in my head on to the page. I don't think/organize my thoughts in a traditional way, I don't access the info that's rattling around in my head the way most people do. Or maybe, more accurately, I don't think traditional teaching methods were the best-matched method for me. Oh, I did fine in school and I am not saying that I was inhibited in any significant way, but I think that very creative part of my brain just never really found its path. Grad school was helpful. I had great instructors and a community of writers who helped me figure out how to access that part. But Barry is an unconventional instructor and I have a feeling that's exactly what I need. So I'm hopeful I will get something meaningful out of it.

This coincides very nicely with my sudden (and I do mean sudden--inexplicably so) interest in re-examining the novel I've been working on. My last iteration of it was some time ago. I'd started re-vamping it--another draft that was 180 degrees different from the one before. And I got some mileage out of that, but I feel like the first real draft--the draft that I worked on the longest, might just be worth revisiting. I'm excited about it, too. I'm looking forward to digging into it as well. And I'm hoping that I'm in the middle of a very lucky coincidence-- purchasing a book of instruction written by a very non-linear thinker and a desire to start again on a very non-linear work.

I'm excited. Wish me luck.

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