This is what I do when I want to meditate: I paint brick work. And when I say “meditate”, I mean “sit hunched over little bitty pieces of paper concentrating on each and every brushstroke because my back has been in a spasm for three days and I can’t sit up straight anyway”.
These are windows that I sketched in Normandy, France a few years ago and never had the back problem I needed to paint them — yay! Finally my back hurts enough that I can get them done! I do, really, love painting bricks and stone; I love making the patterns and working in precision and playing with small bits of random elements of size and shape and color. I have to go back and gussy-up the actual window bits with some shade and texture when I’m in the mood to paint curtains (best done on a rainy day when I’m not depressed).
And I got some writing done also on the vexing subject of Bayeux, my favorite town in France. My technique for busting through a creative dry spell worked yesterday and I got to that place in the universe where writing feels like taking dictation from the angels.
(That’s a joke. Writing never feels like taking dictation from the angels. At best, it feels like a really good sneeze: a momentary giddiness followed by a sense of relief, and then a rapid leveling off to normal respiration.)
What I do to jump-start my right brain when it is spinning its metaphorical wheels in the thick pudding of adjectives and superlatives and doofiness is I pick out a book from my library that I have never read and I open it at random. I have some old YA books that I got from when the library junked a lot of its chapter books from the 1940s and ’50s, and I have an old Emily Post book about raising children, and I have some fantasy novels for teens from the 1960s that I have never read (I bought them because I liked their old-fashioned bindings).
I open these books at random and I jab my finger onto a page and I read the sentence or phrase that I’ve been led to by the Muse. Sometimes I have to do this three, or four, or seven times before I get something that jogs me.
Yesterday, after multiple finger-jabbings, I found the phrase “in the scheme of things”.
I’ve never used that phrase, “in the scheme of things“, either in writing or in conversation (that’s what I love about this finger-jabbing exercise). There is something about its wording that is foreign to my inner voice, something in its tone and rhythm. And that’s what I was looking for!
The very alien nature of this phrase knocked my thoughts out off course and left a gap in the way my mind works where I could escape the tread mill of my own self-boredom. My back hurts: the only thing I can think to say about it was that it “turned me on”. Sorry.
So the editors at Bloomsbury are still considering whether or not they want a Damn France Book on their catalog (although so far, the rumor is that most of them don’t hate the idea). And if they decide that yes, they do want to toss such a book into the hell-bound hand basket that is the publishing industry, then look for these brick windows in the Normandy chapter, and look for the phrase “in the scheme of things” in a fun, picaresque, Vivian Golightly story of how I got there.
How about youse? What kind of ruts do you get in? And what do you do to get out of them?
(Rachel and Candice: I will have book reports on Monday — I have some doozies for you. And Maryann: we’ll do a dream post soon – people must see that beautiful collage you sent me!)