Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Words, oh, words.

Okay, I haven't been here for a while but I'm not going to write about that now.

Junot Diaz--he is what I'm going to write about and how he has captured my imagination. I listened to this Barnes and Noble podcast where he was interviewed. If I may paraphrase, he described his mind as odd. He said he has a "head for structures, how to loop back and forth in time, how to cross distance, bring this character in and that character out, not so much as a series of words but as a series of bizarre geometric blocks in [his] head." In fact he said he can look at the blocks for two different chapters and know whether they will work together. He also said this way of thinking would never get him a date. I don't know about that, I have to say the way he thinks turns me on. It makes me want to get out the chalk and draw on the asphalt of the parking lot next to my house. Draw big pictures of the chapters of my book and look at them next to each other. Or maybe I need to get out the tinker toys and build three dimensional models.

When I taught creative writing to college students I gave them the assignment to somehow create a visual representation of their written piece. I remember that some of the kids thought it an odd assignment for a writing class. Actually I remember that one guy with the baseball cap and a scowl on his face. He shoved his notebook in his bag and muttered something to his neighbor before he left the classroom.

As part of my graduate program I had to take an art class. I think the point was to be creative in another discipline, be creative without the concreteness of words. And that makes sense to me. You work with words whatever kind of thinking you do. And to be creative you have to liberate yourself from a lot of those ridiculous thoughts. The part of that drawing class that I liked best was when we did five minute gesture drawings of models. Maybe it was even less than five minutes, but you had a limited amount of time and strokes to get the impression of a pose down on paper. There was no time to be perfect, there was no time for perspective, just long strokes of your arm across the page.

I want to capture my book like that. I want to capture thoughts like that. Ideas. Instead of trying to capture them in words first, I would like to stroke them out with my arm. Make the gesture of the idea, the essence of it and the complication of it in stokes and peaks and valleys and texture and then string the words together. Because once words come into the picture then all the rules follow.

Some days I feel it in me the great vacuum of space, an idea like a constellation revolves there. My breath seems to rotate it and that's when I pick up my pen and try to render it--in words. There's something so smooth about my insides until then. Like a well oiled machine. Like air the way the molecules move and split and surround everything it meets, but when the words get involved, then I jerk and convulse and sometimes lose the thought entirely. I'm filled with adrenaline. I sit on the edge of my seat. The pit of my stomach fills my chest. But if I could draw it. If only I could somehow mold it in clay. Somehow if it first had some other form, then I could translate it to words. Then perhaps, I wouldn't have this fear of losing it.

As always (breathing hard after writing this post),