Saturday, November 27, 2010


An act of imagination is an act of self-acceptance.

Today's sketched-out posting was going to begin with my wondering why I stopped keeping a writing notebook and when that creative shoelaces-tied-together prank took place. It did happen, why and when are irrelevant. Since I may take whatever meaning I choose from Richard Hugo's statement, found in THE TRIGGERING TOWN,
my interpretation tells me that my fugue state has come to an end, I will resume keeping a notebook and I may reward my imagination-sustaining act with self acceptance.

By declining the chance to punish myself for being un-writerly, for making my job that much harder by not saving quotes or noting observations or ideas as they appear, I am not quite so stuck and may continue in the direction of my destiny. (Sidebar: the name under a tv interviewee this morning was "Monnreal," which my son first read as "monorail." He said, "That's a funny last name. Must be the heir to the monorail fortune." To which I responded, "Write that down. You have a story right there...heir to the monorail fortune...heh heh heh....")

Writers who blog, and who are serious and good, help me remember this is not hocus-pocus and luck. I can give myself real-world help by making notes, keeping track of what comes from dreams or overheard conversations or the mis-read names of missing hikers. As I read, I can keep track of writing that makes me aim higher. Before the world was espressso bars and laptops, I loved to write in my notebook wherever I was. Airplane, restaurant, hospital waiting room, riding in a car. I kept track of things I'd seen by writing them down, not trusting them to memory. And memory was better then.

I have a bad habit of making notes on the backs - or fronts - of envelopes, then shuffling them around depending on what they contain. This is not reliable for information retrieval. There is a notebook, and a pen that works, near each house phone, but it is not always what I reach for first. Tendencies to overcome.

The amount of research, memory, information and, as a friend said today, magic, that goes into writing a story is daunting, if you mistakenly thought it would be easy. I forget. Each week I do a certain amount of writing that comes from my head, maybe supported by checking a fact or two. I grow impatient with what feels like too much research; I want to get to work. But as with the red plaid pajamas, there are no shortcuts to doing it well. Unless one is blessed with total recall and encyclopedic knowledge, and I am not.

My second reading of THE TRIGGERING TOWN will begin my new notebook. I also have Post-Its and a pencil for marking passages. I dawdle along, believing that I take myself seriously, until I look at what the serious writers are doing that I am not. Whether it exemplifies a desirable work ethic or is one ingredient of the magic, I return to something I know to be useful. Finding the right notebook, the right pen, I call that fun.

While Hugo's book emphasizes poetry, it is directed to all writers. He said, "What a silly thing we do. We sweat through poem after poem to realize what dumb animals know by instince and reveal in their behavior: my life is all I've got. We are well off to know it ourselves, even if our method of learning it is painfully convoluted."

When you write you are momentarily telling the world and yourself that neither of you need any reason to be but the one you had all along.


RachelVB said...

I could not help but feel an electric excitement upon reading this - for you. You will not regret keeping such things, for writers are the keeper of things and the teller of those things.
I am lucky to have began early in my journals, mostly because I was so terrified to lose things, all the beautiful things that I saw in the world and I fear most of the lost things. But what a great collection to have. The things we see can never be lost if they are placed.
good luck good luck good luck

Radish King said...

I take notes constantly both here and on the backs of envelopes in huge graph paper notebooks in books on pieces of scrap paper on bills on my hands when no paper is available and on my legs and up around my thighs in spirals frequently in my dreams. But going to the beach at night in my pajamas with the cowgirls on them to see the lit up boats is every bit as important.

Robert the Skeptic said...

The extremely creative man I did my documentary on, Jerry Andrus, kept a pocket full of pens and 3 x 5 index cards in his pocket. He also had a small palm sized digital recorder which I inherited from him after his death.

In my film Jerry and others talk about how an idea, phrase or observation would pop into his head which he would immediately record, often not knowing how it would eventually be used.

These little snippets of ideas would become poems or aphorisms, sometimes optical illusions and even magic tricks of his own invention.

I find that I too must record ideas as they come to me at the most inopportune and unexpected times. Though the fruits of my ideas are often much less profound than those of people like Jerry or the other bloggers I enjoy reading.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Rachel - Thank you...your good luck casts favor on this forgotten, intelligent action. First, I know it is a reminder to be aware, more aware, while I am off in the clouds I forget when I return that there was purpose in daydreaming. I think of a reporter friend whose files and piles he called "valuable resource material." My collected scrapage, perhaps needing to be trundled around in a wheelbarrow. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Rebecca - Ah, yet you have written down the sighting of lit-up boats and the cowgirl pajamas, you came home and told us so it is preserved. The doing and the keeping and the sense, in some moments, that I am not skilled or thorough at either, that too much has already slid away or that a secret brilliance was delivered into the wrong hands.

Note excerpts from envelopes near the computer:

Hillbilly gangster realist noir
Adapt, adapt
Be very gracious and forgiving with one another
Dylan Thomas
Ascend or soar


Marylinn Kelly said...

Robert - You and Jerry Andrus remind me that this is a habit of highly creative people. The small recorder would be particularly helpful, when waking up in the dark, driving a car, unable to make some quick notes. I trust you employ it.

And we don't have any idea, says she who once also practiced this as a habit, where the jottings will fit into the bigger scheme but we have an inkling that they will, someday, somewhere.

I do write down most things, since forgetting them is very possible. Acknowledging how capturing fleeting thoughts might strengthen my writing was something I should have made note of, consistency challenges me.

Artist and Geek said...

Maeylinn (China products on my mind :))

Marylinn, what I meant to write is that once again thank you for the parallel thinking or the meme.
A little while ago, over dinner with friends, the habit of writing down instant and perishable thoughts and ideas came up. A surprising common consensus; quickly jotting them down with pen on napkins, envelopes, notebooks is still the preferred choice.
Digital recorders while ubiquitous and I do use and like them, can never be found in time when the eureka moment strikes.

I keep little spiral bounds everywhere and strangely enough, don't lose them. A sharpie is used to keep track of the year. Simple, cheap, effective. No batteries or chargers required.

As to finding the "right" paper, journal, pen,...that is the kind of browsing and shopping I enjoy. In times of unreliable, disposable technology, the good news is that paper goods are making a comeback.

Even Moleskine, despite now being "designed in Italy, made in China" is going stronger than before.


Kass said...

I love the way you put things together in your mind and on paper (and screen).

"My life (may be) all I've got," but you've made it more interesting by sharing your slant on yours.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Artist and Geek - Paper geek, like, forever. If paper goods did go out of fashion, I missed it. Always at the top of the list. And Moleskines have branched out, haven't they?

The little spiral - Mead, I believe - has been my image...I still have a few with scant space remaining. A too-wide dispersal of materials is one of the problems here...things left in too many places to be found without hardship.

Parallel thinking indicates soundness of mind, connection. A good thing.

Example: while fixing breakfast a phrase came to me, I repeated it in my mind, knowing (knowing) I would remember it when I got to the paper. Hah. Its weaker cousin is all that remained. She who hesitates...

Marylinn Kelly said...

Kass - Thank you, especially affirming as I often am suspicious of my synaptical leaps, wondering if the progression is other than baffling. It is with joy, even if the topic is not joyful, that I share whatever I find, trusting it is possible that others will nod back.

Anonymous said...

I have invented new profanities based on the stuff that falls out of my mouth when I've "misplaced" one of those envelopes, scraps of paper or post-its. I finally took a lesson from a highly organized former business partner. He used to keep those cheap, black & white marble-cover-looking notebooks right next to the phone, his chair, his computer, his get the idea. That way, he knew that the treasure that he was seeking HAD to be in ONE of those books. He referred to them in meetings and even during a casual lunch. "Okay, I GET it" He never lost anything.
Your Blog always shovels fabulous food for thought into my brain, as do your commentors. This is a good place. I wish that everyone could meet at the coffee shop on the corner.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Lisa - Oh, if we could all meet at the coffee shop on the corner. Can't think what would make me happier. Though not having to invent profanities over missing, irreplaceable notes could be a close second.

Delivering to each other those platters and covered dishes with food for thought...isn't that why we started doing this? And I will happily claim the greatest readers and commentors in bloglandia. Absent-minded I may be, but also fortunate.

Melissa Green said...

Marylinn, I am a paper-holic, I am in love with all kinds of note-books, pads, Post-Its, and don't get me started on my infatuation with pens!! I have notebooks all over the house, in purses, in coats. I would no more leave the house without paper than without my keys--there's a correlative there, isn't there? Whatever helps you work, remember, reconstruct is to be applauded--and don't be so hard on daydreaming--that's where all of our castles in the air are built and entered.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Melissa - It is a specific passion, isn't it, paper. And things with which to write, draw, doodle...always on the lookout for the new great pen. It may be time to give up the notion that I will become more organized and make peace with my ways, a bit dog-eared and moonstruck though they are. But a return to writing down every thing can be achieved and the secret, I'm certain, is paper and pens in every pocket, every corner. Yes, our keys.

Artist and Geek said...

I love the smell of a stationary store in the morning.
(Oops. Just got side-tracked by the etymology of stationary, "book stores in a fixed place")
Leather-bound journals, fountain pens, paper and more. Happy collector :)

Marylinn, currently quite happy with the Uniball Signo 207, works on acrylics and regular paper, without bleeding.

Paper goods, don't get me started? I never stopped :)

P.S. If in need of pen/pencil eye candy see Faber-Castell International and for good news that technology is not making pencils obsolete: The Economist. Future of the Pencil.

Don't know if you use them, but Faber-Castell makes a great set of Watercolor Pencils. (I prefer them to Caran D'Ache).

Marylinn Kelly said...

Artist and Geek - Thank you...I'm printing out your comment to have the information about materials at hand.

It has been some time since I worked with watercolor pencils and haven't done any comparison, so it is good to have some road-test commentary.

If you have not been introduced, I thought of this after reading your comment this morning, several years ago the mixed-media community discovered old ledgers...the pale green or white pages written upon in, mostly, pencil, lovely, long sheets with lines and script...fine backgrounds, either photocopied or originals...and some tell stories themselves. My sister, at one time a flea market marvel, found one which had been kept my a young man on his Mormon mission in England back before the had an accounting of every cent spent or collected, plus the ticket stubs of all transportation and frolic. I don't think I will ever pull it apart but may find a home for copies.

T. said...

I fear that what I'll leave my kids are boxes fill with scraps of paper/scraps of poems. Not so bad, I guess.

Have you read The Real West Marginal Way, also by Richard Hugo? The first (long) chapter undoes me each time I revisit it.

I was fortunate to take a class from him the year before his death. It was a transformational experience. I recall him telling a particularly self-deprecating young woman that she needn't do that to herself, and he did it with such grace, love and compassion, I think nearly the entire class was close to tears.

Marylinn Kelly said...

T. - I don't know that work of Richard Hugo and will go from here to check it out. Being undone doesn't happen all that often and an identified source is welcome.

My legacy will be full sheets of blank paper, envelopes and then the scribbled scraps, plus boxes full of rubber stamps, curled, dry inkpads and stubs of colored pencils. Oh, and cardboard I have deemed useful.

Just from "Triggering Town," I developed such a longing to have been present for Hugo's teachings. How fortunate to have been among his students. Your description fits what I imagined him to be. Thank you so much for sharing it.