The Table for Everything One Week LaterFebruary 9, 2013, 01:19 PMcreative processes
The Ikea NORDEN Gateleg folding table that I bought used through kijiji one week later. Le sigh.
(The right side is for writing; the left for drawing and painting smaller pieces, on paper, in sketchbooks; the middle for stacks of books, ones I'm reading as well as sketchbooks and notebooks. Since it's my living room, I chose this table since it folds to 10" wide for company.)
You can see the dog sleeping on an ottoman, and kitten toys on the floor, including a faux fur mouse that squeaks, yes it does.
The Table for EverythingFebruary 7, 2013, 07:01 PMcreative processes
I am staring out at the dark snow-filled sky sitting at an Ikea NORDEN Gateleg folding table (both leaves fold so that the table is 10" wide), that I bought used through kijiji. On the leaf to the right, the 'writing' side, I am working on a poem; the other side is for painting on papers, in Moleskines and such, and has a table-top easel on it, jars of water, small plywood boards for inks and paints; in the middle are stacks of sketchbooks, notebooks and books of poetry. On my lap, as I sit on a small folding chair that was a 'street find' last summer, is a small heated throw to keep electric heating costs down... it's cosy, quite lovely actually.
Isabel Allende begins her novels on this day every yearJanuary 8, 2010, 11:05 AMcreative processes, Isabel Allende, The Writer's Almanac
I liked this so much from today's Writer's Almanac that I thought to post it. Isabel Allende is one of my favourite writers, though I can only read her in translation.
Today, writer Isabel Allende
(books by this author
) is starting a new book, just as she has been doing every single January 8th for the past 29 years. On January 8, 1981, when Chilean-born Allende was living in Venezuela and working as a school administrator and freelance journalist, she got a phone call that her beloved grandfather, at 99 years old, was dying. She started writing him a letter, and that letter turned into her very first novel, The House of the Spirits
. She said, "It was such a lucky book from the very beginning, that I kept that lucky date to start."
Today is a sacred day for her, and she treats it in a ceremonial, ritualistic way. She gets up early this morning and goes alone to her office, where she lights candles "for the spirits and the muses." She surrounds herself with fresh flowers and incense, and she meditates.
She sits down at the computer, turns it on, and begins to write. She says: "I try to write the first sentence in a state of trance, as if somebody else was writing it through me. That first sentence usually determines the whole book. It's a door that opens into an unknown territory that I have to explore with my characters. And slowly as I write, the story seems to unfold itself, in spite of me."
She said, "When I start I am in a total limbo. I don't have any idea where the story is going or what is going to happen or why I am writing it." She doesn't use an outline, and she doesn't talk to anybody about what she's writing. She doesn't look back at what she's written until she's completed a whole first draft — which she then prints out, reads for the first time, and goes about the task of revising, where she really focuses on heightening and perfecting tension in the story and the tone and rhythm of the language.
She said that she take notes all the time and carries a notebook in her purse so that she can jot down interesting things she sees or hears. She clips articles out of newspapers, and when people tell her a story, she writes down that story. And then, when she is in the beginning stages of working on a book, she looks through all these things that she's collected and finds inspiration in them.
She writes in a room alone for 10 or 12 hours a day, usually Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. During this time, she says, "I don't talk to anybody; I don't answer the telephone. I'm just a medium or an instrument of something that is happening beyond me."
She's the author of nearly 20 books published since 1982, among them Paula
(1995), Daughter of Fortune
(1999), Portrait in Sepia
(2000), and the recent memoir, The Sum of Our Days
(2008). Her work has been translated into 30 languages, and her books have sold more than 51 million copies. She continues to write fiction in Spanish though she's lived in the United States for decades. Margaret Sayers Peden has done the English translations of several of Isabel Allende's books.
May 21, 2009, 12:42 PMcreative processes
I have to be formless to write; dissolved to paint; non-existent to create. It's always a risk.
But an aesthetic operates. The aesthetic, way of shaping, what negotiates the creative forces and the tools, the diverse & complex language structures, the brush of paint by a sable brush on canvas, how far the back will bend in the speed of the movement, offers structure to the emerging poem or painting or dance.
It's like trying to hold a sail in a high-force wind.
Sometimes we just can't make it.
Sometimes we do.
On creative process...October 11, 2007, 01:33 PMcreative processes, images
In whatever it is that I'm currently working on I am exploring a kind of 'found' poetry in that whenever I remember to, I compose little images of what I see around me, and then place them together in a piece later on. The prosepoems are not written in one sitting; I don't know the theme that they will cohere around beforehand. It's like preparing your palette before you paint. Or putting together some fabric with certain colours and patterns before you sew.
My little collection of images will find their way into a prosepoem, shifted, buckled, smoothed out, layered; however it is, they become part of the fibre of the prosepoem, expressing the nuances of the complexity of the underlying emotion.
In this way I am not an Imagist, nor a Minimalist, nor a Zen writer of haiku. I like to think that the little images keep their integrity of simplicity despite becoming part of a larger more complex thematic pattern.
When I hadn't any images collected for today, and not knowing what to write about, I thought, oh, ok, a post about creative process...
ps Click on the photo to enlarge. Not that I always write this way! I thought those lunar images
would cohere around the 'settling into the tedium of what is' but instead something else was more urgent and about which I cannot directly write but which formed the emotional underlayer of the piece that I posted. And I can see from the little notebook that, working on a computer in the library during lunch, when I was composing the writing from various sources, I forgot to include that image of the clouds that are grey up top with choral undersides...
Now that was beautiful! Though I couldn't decide whether to leave the "h" in choral, or not. It was
a coral colour, but a symphonic movement through the sky...it fit more with "cadences of the voice" which I used elsewhere, so a dangling image, and where will it come to be?
Comparing the creative processes of words, paint, voice...October 1, 2007, 02:05 PMcreative processes, creativity, personal aesthetics
The various art forms are intriguing. Today I'm thinking in terms of editorial capabilities with words, paint, or voice.
Words are easiest, as long as you've kept earlier versions, it's possible to go back, or follow a thought forward to something else, to change the piece of writing entirely, or add to, clarify, work on it until the words sit still (this can take a little time, and only happens after the words stop nagging you with their undoneness).
Paint is a less forgiving. If you go too far or not far enough the paint will give you some leeway, but there's a point where overdone is overdone and there's no going back. Paint has a Rubicon, and I go in fear of it. It takes a long time to plunge into paint for this reason. Gathering the ideas, sketching, this takes time, erasing is possible and I do it often, buying or selecting the paint, this is important, like creating a little medicine bundle against what is to come. It's all laid out on the floor, one is in one's overalls, hair tied back, no phone, the jars of water, the tubes of paint in a row, the palette awaits. It's what I imagine it's like to get into a racing car, or to climb to the very end of the highest diving board. You wait. You steady yourself. Then you go into a Zen frame of mind. You let everything go, you hit the accelerator, you dive. You trust your body will know what to do. You are fully present and completely alert. It is not time to hesitate. The flow begins. I paint with my fingers, my hands, and I can't see what I'm doing in that everything is so wet and sliding that form hasn't begun to emerge. That comes later, as it dries, and there is a paradoxical sense of disappointment, discovery, and a newness, accepting what's emerged, and working with it more slowly, with a paint brush, to make things go in or come out, to echo colour or form, to balance or unbalance, the finishing touches. It's like letting a tornado spin through you. It's the most utterly fearful thing I do, putting my life on the line like this.
A recording of words are the least forgiving of all. A run-through, it has to be all of a piece. Due to the cadence of the voice, which keeps changing, each moment it changes, the air or the particular openness of the glottis or the emotion pushing up or disappearing make the voice different, and so you can't add a word or a phrase here or there and have the piece maintain it's consistency. Subtraction is possible, but again, tricky. The listener will hear it. The momentum is lost. And so with my recordings I find I grate at sections, like other bits, and have to go with whichever version somehow is 'listenable,' that I can bear to live with. It's hard to say what the criteria for this 'listenability' or 'bearability' might be because in a year I might feel very differently.
Unlike with words, where you can diddle endlessly, going over and over a piece, leaving it, coming back, rewriting, polishing, or with paint where it is possible to work patinas over the original whirlwind, you can't with a recording, not the particular track that captures the cadences of the voice, but you can record the same piece over and over.
Perhaps the process of writing is like creating a medicine bundle that you can contiue to compose, add to, pick away at, shift or change; whereas, the process of painting (for moi) is like throwing the contents of a prepared medicine bundle onto the canvas to do their transformative work; and the process of recording, with the ability to re-record, like endless medicine bundles of the same, until finding the one that holds the spirit?
As I speak of these processes, it seems that they move towards the performative.
With all three forms, the final criteria is 'Can I live with it?'
If so, it's bearable.