Brainstorming for the IWL anthology

In two weeks I need to have finished about 10 pages of work, to go into the IWL anthology for 2011. The anthology will be published online (see 2010 and 2009); in addition, we will do two public readings, for which a poster will be designed and printed. It’s very exciting. But most of us don’t know what we’re going to write for the anthology. I think we all thought, when we got into this workshop, that the eight weeks and four instructors would prepare us for our anthology pieces; we thought we’d be working continuously on something to present. That hasn’t been the case. Yes, we did have an upset in the third and fourth weeks, but even without that, there hasn’t been a clear throughline to our meetings from instructor to instructor. I don’t think that’s the instructors’ fault, but I do wish it had been otherwise.

So, what am I putting in the anthology? I have no idea. Weird moments notwithstanding, this workshop has been wonderful for me. I’ve met some incredible people and I’ve explored my creativity in a variety of new ways, which is exactly what I wanted. I’ve never before had this kind of official space and support for my interdisciplinary endeavors. It’s made me realize how one-sided I felt before, when I was only writing or only drawing/painting. I wouldn’t say that I always need to be working in both image and text, but I believe now that my most authentic creative expression comes from the mix of these — whether that mix happens within a single piece (an illustrated story) or in the process (I paint and write to find my way to the completed work). For me, trying to separate text-making and image-making is forcing an artificial division.

Last summer, when I was at VONA, my mentor Evelina told me there were very few sensory details in the prose I’d written. She pointed to a colorful drawing I’d made, and said, “This is what’s missing from here,” pointing back to my fiction. It made me feel strange, because I knew I had a sharp eye for color and details and senses, and yet she was right — there wasn’t any of that in my writing. I think, now, that that was me having a hard time integrating my brain and my body, and feeling like I had to separate them, so that my writing became very cerebral, and my eye and my physicality got shunted only into other forms of expression. So all the work I’ve done since VONA — the Tisha story, my paintings, and what I’ve written for IWL — has been moving me toward re-integrating all these things. That’s why I’ve been exploring poetry, because it puts my senses and emotions into text, and why I’ve been looking for ways to express thoughts and feelings through my painting. I really don’t know how I’m going to put it all together, but I’m working on it, and I’m confident that good things will continue to emerge.

But this makes it harder to figure out what to put in the anthology, because I feel like I’m only just developing this authentic creative voice; I want to publish something that comes from it, but I’m not sure what. There’s my chickens story, which I like and other people also respond to, but I wrote that in the first three days of the workshop and I haven’t touched it since. I want my anthology piece, if possible, to represent a larger chunk of the journey I’ve made since the workshop began. I don’t know. Writing this out has made me wonder whether I shouldn’t just create an essay, in words and pictures, about what this authentic-voice-finding journey has meant to me. Can I do that within two weeks (during which my sister is getting married and I’m officiating)? It’s an interesting concept, to unfold the story of my reintegration — it speaks to a lot of what we’ve discussed in this workshop: bodies, in-between spaces. I’m thinking handwritten text that includes essaylike prose as well as more present-moment sensory poetry, and drawings and paintings weaving in and out. Hmmmmmm.

If you’ve got any thoughts on this, I’d love to hear them!


10 responses to “Brainstorming for the IWL anthology

  1. Just the KISS principle, or whatever it is. (And I know you know what KISS means. 🙂 ) My thinking is that if they’re only giving you two weeks, and there has been no direction up to now for something specific, then you might want to try a more specific element or feeling inside the subject you’re thinking about.

    The essay elements could be thought of more as sentences distilled from your perspective on your point, or the essence of your feelings. Find the most powerful essence of your poetry–where you REALLY see, hear and feel yourself– then think of the subjects of your paintings (I don’t know why, but I feel so much when I’ve seen your 5 or 10 minute paint sketches) and see what happens inside that sort of framework.

    Being a person who has tended to begin from structure most of my life, and seeing some of that in you, maybe try centering yourself more in the pure sensation of the work, and try to trust that some of what you may see as less finished, may in fact be what most connects with the reader/audience.

    PS: Your poem last weekend had passages that blew me away! I think that’s why I was speechless. You are capable of communicating great emotion within your work!

    • I think you’re right, Ré, and thank you. After I wrote my post I also realized that my essay idea was — well, it was inspired by, but it was also copying — a wonderful piece my friend Wei-Ling showed me a week ago.

      I’ve always been fascinated with the spirit and momentum I can capture in quick sketches (and how that’s often lost in more “careful” work) — even quick sketches in text. The poem you mention (and I adore it, too, so much that it almost scares me) was one of these quick scribbles. It came out of a deep place, a thoughtful place, but the thoughts happened underneath the analytical top brain, and that’s how I was even able to access it. I do want to be able to access it more regularly, but I don’t know how. That’s partly why I’ve been so fascinated with the Ron Bieganski article I found through your blog. What he says about being open, immediate, and spontaneous is exactly what I want. It has me wondering if I shouldn’t start my brainstorming sessions with some kind of movement, to ground myself more deeply in sensation.

      • OMG! Yes! Just reading that made me want to move– not just for the exercise, but to generate some more primal sensations, to just put my body’s feelings first for a while! What a great place to begin. ❤

        • Yes! I’ve been really frustrated all week because I’m recovering from being sick, and it makes me not want to move at all (my head is still fuzzy-feeling). I’m looking forward to feeling all robust again. 🙂

  2. I was trying to come up with something supportive to write, but Re has covered my thoughts much more concisely and more thought-provoking than I could have. I do wonder how being under a deadline impacts your work. Not only have you had no direction, but you have this wall that is the deadline, that you are racing toward. I’m wondering how you can avoid crashing into it. Sometimes I do my best work with a looming deadline; sometimes I give myself an artificial one that is sooner than the actual deadline. That way I give myself some breathing space. And sometimes I just crash and the deadline becomes hours instead of weeks. Hopefully if the deadline is causing stress, you can figure out a way to turn that into creative energy. And moving is a great idea, like we’ve talked about before. A long walk to daydream the project. Good luck.

    • Thank you so much for writing at all, Lisa! I appreciate it. It’s startled me how different I feel about my work this week, with this deadline looming rather than just creating for fun on my own time. (It doesn’t help that I’ve been sick, and my sister’s getting married this weekend too.) I’ve had to remind myself and remind myself not to get stressed and lose the ability to breathe and enjoy and explore.

      I think I work well on deadline if I already have something underway, but in this case, having the wide world available to me — with no idea of what to do with it — was paralyzing. I’ve decided to use the “Chickens” story and my green poem from last week’s Open Mic as my anthology pieces, with the understanding that if I do create something new next week, that can substitute for one of those. It’s relieved my mind considerably, and now I’m grappling with revisions for the chickens piece. It’s not easy, but at least it’s something concrete to sink my teeth into!

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