An artist’s discovery

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where –” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“ — so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

                            From “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll.

Like many with ADD, what I lack in focus I make up for in creativity. In other words, ideas are abundant, action is not. It’s the bane of many an ADDled brain.

But recently, I had a revelation about writing.

I’m just beginning to surge into the world of fiction writing which is so new to me and I’m learning that unless one is unnaturally gifted, it’s hard.

Really hard.

But it’s also fun.cheshire cat

The fun part is when your mind wanders into places it wouldn’t ordinarily go. The problem for a non-fiction writer like me is getting to that place. Dreams are perfect venues to discover that space. At least it seems that’s working for me lately.

Julia Cameron, in her book, “The Artist’s Way,” tells her students of creativity to write “morning pages” every day.

EVERY DAY.

Write 3 pages longhand every morning in a flow of consciousness with no concern about what is coming out. No crossing out, no editing … The idea is to shut Mr. Internal Editor down — Cameron calls it one’s “Censor.”

“Let your Censor rattle on. (And it will.),” she writes. “Just keep your hand moving across the page. Write down the Censor’s thoughts if you want to … The morning pages teach logic brain to stand aside and let artist brain play.”

I love that.

So one recent morning, I’d woken up after a really strange and amusing dream. The dream fit the genre of a fiction project I am working on so I felt compelled to write it down.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to do that before I had to run off to an appointment.

I usually write my blog posts on my computer. As a journalist, I like to support at least some of what I write here with research, so it’s helpful to have the Internet handy for that purpose. Also, I’m just used to writing non-fiction in this manner.

The problem with writing on the computer, especially if one can type without looking at the computer, is that unrelenting internal editor. I could disregard my typos, but tactile feedback signals me that my dyslexic mind determined to type a “d” instead of the “k” using the wrong middle finger. I know the minute it happens even if I am not looking.

Enter the internal editor who says, “Fix that!” So I do and this backspacing and correcting disturbs my creative flow.

It’s not a big deal when I’m writing non-fiction. But fiction happens on its own terms and stopping the flow often results in a disjointed and unsatisfactory writing experience.

So I learned something about my writing process. I’ve always suspected that writing by hand on paper resulted in better writing, but I never knew quite why.

As I waited in the doctor’s waiting area, I pulled out my, red “decomposition” book (which is an actual thing, by the way).

Decomposition Book

I was either too lazy or in too much of a rush to get the dream down on paper before getting interrupted or both. So I didn’t bother to pull out my glasses and just wrote. By the way, I intentionally chose an unlined notebook with the idea that it might enhance my flow – I think it does.

Three pages later and in just a few minutes – the craziness of my unconscious dream brain was recorded.

Here’s an excerpt.

The scene: I was looking at greeting cards in a college campus bookstore.

“There was this long-haired orange tabby [on the cover of a card] that when you pet it, its eyes changed color. I was petting it and thinking it seemed so real …”

Suffice to say the cat was real and, well, it wasn’t like the Cheshire Cat in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” (if only I were as good as Lewis Carroll).

In any case, I found a freedom and flow that I’d never felt before by writing without the aid of my glasses. It’s not that I couldn’t see, it was just so blurry that Mr. Internal Editor couldn’t tell if I was misspelling something or using the wrong word, so the story just flowed out.

More on flow in a future post. Until then, know that we artists are windows to understanding the world in which we live. Keep yours open.

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