This week after our last class, Paula (Saturday), led me down the rabbit hole once again—she is full of good stories and amazing experiences. She sited Gordon Lish, 20th Century author, renowned writing teacher, editor and pioneer of words. (More on Lish from the Guardian– http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2013/aug/29/gordon-lish-80-raymond-carver .)
She shared notes taken directly from his writing classes. The line that most resonated for me was: “You set forces in motion. You do not tell stories (make pictures). You set forces in motion and then control them.” This is what my “follow-the-leader” exercise was designed to do. Set forces in motion–-offering a controlled chaos that you then use your resources to explode, manage, coax and dance with. And through that process you find order and that ubiquitous “harmonious whole”.
He further describes it: Turbulence rushes in as you swerve from the original “brush stroke”,….Your job is to contain the turbulence as it grows and grows. That act of containment is form.
The trick is to trust. As you wrestle with all of that insecurity and unknowing of the end, trust that your focus will lead you to resolution—maybe good, maybe not so good, but definitely something upon which to build.
While reading more about this man I ran across a lecture delivered to the students of Columbia University’s writing program by short story writer and Lish student, Gary Lutz. He describes powerful writing— “in which virtually every sentence had the force and feel of a climax.” He describes these sentences as having “minute immediacy”.
Brush strokes can have the same power. As you approach your work, practice immediacy–keep connected, keep focused, keep open—practice letting the brush glide, push, pull, caress, do-a-jig. Try not to think how you might make a tree, a bird, a figure, but how you might capture its energy and in doing so make a mark of meaning.