Saturday, January 15, 2011

Writing/Not Writing

I remember writing my first piece about not writing in fifth grade. I used a pencil on recycled paper that was tinted light green (it was during the Ecology movement). I began, Q: What seems to be the trouble? A: I can't think of anything to write about. At the time, it seemed a new way of writing, and I certainly knew nothing about metafiction.

Once I started teaching at the college level, however, I realized that writing about not writing is a common topic for many students, particularly when they feel creatively stuck. I find I'm most interested in this kind of writing when I learn something new, either about the writer, a story that emerges from the exercise, or about another topic that may be included.

But on this current trip to the College Book Art conference, WORDIMAGE TEXTOBJECT in Bloomington, Indiana, I was faced with my own desire to write something during the conference but felt so overwhelmed by the amount of information I was receiving from the talks and sessions, the tour of the enormous and well-equipped printshop, the Lilly library, book art exhibits, the snow, and meeting new and old friends and colleagues that it was hard to begin. For a day and a half I was unable to process, digest, synthesize and output anything coherent until I had spent a couple hours in my room just letting the memories of the stimulation ebb and flow over me. I had to get calm, first, in order to focus. My body vibrated, and it wasn't because I was getting a text message.

The message I was getting was that it is nearly impossible for me to write about a trip while I am on it.  I can either be in the moment or write: I cannot input and output simultaneously. I should know this. I've always found it difficult to write in cafés for this reason. And I try not to hold classes where students must create something imaginative on the spot immediately after seeing a demo.

So I've been taking notes as if I were collecting specimens, descriptive with no story yet; making lists and scribbling out impressionistic fragments. After sensory bombardment, isolation and incubation, the idea will emerge.

It's 10:06pm. The conference ended this evening. I think I will have to unpack my brain at home so I can tell you more about it.

Out the window of Indiana Memorial Union

No comments: