Category Archives: Art
I felt I had to follow up my previous blog about the never-ending story with this post on a similar theme.
I was a pre-school playgroup leader for a time when my children were young. For each day’s session I prepared a craft for the kids. I cut out all the bits and pieces so I could give each child with exactly the same materials. I made a sample of the craft so I could hold it up for all to see.
“This is what we’re making,” I said before setting them lose to create.
If there were 15 kids in the group, at the end there would be 15 completely different crafts.
I admired (and envied) how freely those children followed their artist souls and created without apprehensions about what other people might think. I loved how they danced with excitement with their finished products in hand, no matter what they looked like.
A workshop at the writers’ conference I attended recently reminded me of this.
In the workshop led by Cordelia Strube we worked together to come up with a particular set of circumstances and characters, and then we each wrote individually for about 20 minutes. After the time was up we shared our work.
If there were 20 of us in the group, there were 20 completely different stories.
Once handed the common building materials, each of us scanned them to see what resonated with us individually. We attacked the story from starting points and viewpoints that felt right to us.
Writers in a workshop setting strive to be like those children doing crafts: honouring our artist souls and opening to inspiration, ideas and images, unimpeded by barriers and apprehensions. When we succeed at this, the work we come up with amazes us—shocks us, even—because it’s better than anything we could have foreseen in advance, with all our adult barriers in place.
When we get out of the way of our artist soul, the spirit of the work is good. True.
Astonishing, every time.
Have you ever noticed that when a sports team celebrates a spectacular play or a big win they gather in a group and jump up and down in a rhythm that matches that of every other sports team celebrating a spectacular play or big win, no matter where or when it happens in the world?
Baseball players jumping around the walk-off home run hitter, soccer teams jumping around the penalty shot goal kicker, football linebackers jumping around the winning touchdown receiver—they all jump up and down in the same rhythm.
It’s the Big Win Beat.
April is National Poetry Month so my mind turned to rhythms, and thinking about rhythm led me to ponder baseball/soccer/football team jumpers, and sports teams made me ponder the music of the universe.
Rhythmic vibrations, like chirping crickets, cars travelling on a gravel road, cicadas piping in, cardinals calling to each other, car doors slamming, winds howling . . .
Discordant sounds we want to write out of our daily life symphony—a Sea-Doo on a quiet lake, a frantic child’s cry, bombs . . .
Do we all subconsciously live by this rhythm? Do we all adjust our actions to it? Are we picking up music from the atmosphere like the child in August Rush?
Is that what leads us to poetry?
I don’t know the answer, I’m musing so you can muse along with me—rhythmically, not discordantly.
April 27 is Poem in Your Pocket Day. People are encouraged to pick a poem, carry it with them through the day and share it with others.
Find out more here: http://poets.ca/pocketpoem/
My poem will be one written by my much-missed friend Bruce Henderson, who had to learn how important it is to receive gifts from other graciously.
GRACE OF THE GOOD GIVEE
Bring me your gifts,
I will be strong,
strong enough to take them.
Yes, I have room for your gifts,
in my hands, in my home, in my heart,
I welcome you in—to my infinite yin.
There is a time to give
and a time to get,
and every Giver needs a Good Givee.
I am ready to accept,
to receive your loving kindness;
the warm message of your gifts.
In joy we will celebrate
the power of your act.
When you reach out
I will not try to run away.
grant me the grace of the Good Givee.
©Bruce Henderson 2010
I spent the weekend in Toronto, Canada at the Canadian Writers’ Summit. Hundreds of writers from across the country gathered at the Harbourfront Centre to share ideas, learn from each other and evolve as writers.
Are you surprised I chose to attend a session entitled “The Biology of Story”?
At the session, Amnon Buchbinder, associate professor of screenwriting at York University, talked about the “interactive documentary” he created to explore the idea of stories as living things.
Buchbinder’s documentary, found at www.biologyofstory.com, outlines three principles.
1. A story is a living thing
“A story will choose to be with you, but you have to choose to pick up the story.” —Nigaan James Sinclair
If you want to drive a writer crazy, ask them, “Where do you get your ideas?” You might hear something like “Out of the clear blue sky.” Perhaps it’s a matter of writers choosing to pick up the stories—those living beings—that come to them.
2. Living is a story thing.
“Listen and you will see your own story will speak to you.” —Jean Pierre Makosso
Do you drift aimlessly from one event to another in your life? Are you listening for what your story—living being that it is—has to tell you?
3. Not all narratives are stories.
“A real story is the possibility of restoring the world.” —Deena Metzger
Buchbinder writes: “We live in a world crowded with narratives. Many of them lack key properties of story. This accounts for the lifeless and/or destructive forms that some narratives take.”
Watch: Stories are about wholeness
Buchbinder’s documentary encourages us to pick up the stories that come to us, to listen for what our own stories have to say, and to work with those stories to restore the world.
I just sent you a story. Pick it up, listen, restore.
The book, Hurry Up and Wait, is a collaboration between Maira Kalman, Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket) and the New York Museum of Modern Art. Described as an “anti-productivity manifesto,” the book combines paintings by Kalman, insightful words by Handler and photographs from the museum.
“You’re supposed to stop and smell the roses, but truth be told it doesn’t take that long to smell them. You hardly have to stop. You can smell the roses, and still have time to run all those errands before the sun goes down and it’s dinner time.”
I say, stop and read this book. Truth be told, it doesn’t take long. You hardly have to stop. You can read it and still have time to run all your errands before the sun goes down.
My favourite passage is this one:
“I’m just standing still, and then suddenly I think I am waiting for something. Once I’ve decided I’m waiting it’s like I’m not standing still anymore.”
The idea of idling transformed into action by mere choice appeals to me.
You know those times when you feel stuck? You know when you don’t know what’s coming next or what you’re supposed to do with your life?
No worries. You’re not standing still. You’re actively waiting.
So, what are you waiting for? Hurry up and wait, already.