REPRINTED FOR THE 8th ANNIVERSARY
OF OUR WRITING BLOG
RANDOM ACTS OF WRITING
One of the most inspiring art exhibits I’ve seen in recent years was called “Suddenly This Overview.” On display at the Guggenheim in New York, it featured 250 small sculptures by artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss. The sculptures were made of a pale gray, unfired clay, and were presented individually on white pedestals around the curving spiral ramp of the museum. Clean, Times New Roman captions explained Pythagoras Marveling at His Theorem, Jesus Walks on Water, the Fish Are Amazed, and (my favorite) Mr. Spock Looks at His Home Planet Vulcanus and Is a Bit Sad That He Can’t Have Any Feelings.
At the time, I was in the middle of a blogging challenge to write a poem a day for the month of April – National Poetry Month. A friend asked what it felt like to write a blog post every day, and I couldn’t help but think of the Fischli/Weiss exhibit.
In an interview with Artspace, Weiss explained “The intention was to accumulate various important and unimportant events in the history of mankind and of the planet—moments in the fields of technology, fairy tales, civilization, film, sports, commerce, education, sex, biblical history, nature, and entertainment.”
That’s a sweeping, broad source of inspiration for them—and for us! (Aren’t those the very things WE write about, think about, create about?)
One of the Fischli/Weiss sculptures was a plain block of clay entitled Without Words. Their starting point, perhaps — a blank page of clay onto which they were challenged to put their thoughts and ideas. It’s that place we all start when we first listen to our own inspirations—what will we create today?
Blogging is like that block of clay. It gives us a place to start and a medium to shape into whatever our Muse suggests — a poem a day, for example. A book review. A photo essay. Random musings about mankind and the planet.
A blog can no more sit idle than that block of clay. It’s very nature is to be used, shaped, molded. To be a vessel for our creative efforts is its raison d’être.
All we need to do is show up…and shape it.
Photos of Without Words and A Copy of Jack Kerouac’s Typewriter by Jen Payne from “Suddenly This Overview,” by Peter Fischli and David Weiss at the Guggenheim Museum, April 2016. David Weiss quote from “The Pleasures of Misuse: An Interview With the Irreverent Swiss Artist Duo Fischli/Weiss,” Artspace, February 2016. (https://tinyurl.com/yc6cz5yh)
In addition to blogging, Jen Payne is the author of LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness, and the new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind. Both books are available for purchase from Three Chairs Publishing.
When I told a friend last spring that I was writing a poem a day for National Poetry Month, she asked me how I found the inspiration for 30 poems.
“It’s like rummaging around in a junk drawer,” I told her. “You’re bound to put your hands on something!”
And sure enough, in April, I found inspiration from a seagull, bugs, a haiku class, a trip to the Dollar Store, and pizza. Among other things. (See the full tally here.)
Now granted, they are not all masterpieces. But that’s not the point. Like any writing challenge — NaNoWriMo, HistNoWriMo, SciFiWriMo — the goal is simply to get into the habit of writing.
“Simply” of course being somewhat of an issue if you are lacking inspiration. Which brings us back to that junk drawer. There are so many things in your junk drawer – think about it!
the first time you rode a bike
your best friend from kindergarten
what you had for breakfast
your first kiss
last night’s dream
what you saw on a hike last weekend
your favorite painting
the song you can’t get out of your head (and why)
an object sitting on your coffee table
So, GO! Rummage around — see what you can find. Reach way far back if you have to…and then CREATE! Describe, elaborate, enumerate, paint a picture with words (or even paint if you are so inclined). It doesn’t have to be perfect…as Nike says, JUST DO IT!
Here is some evidence of rummaging. This quirky little poem showed up from a post-it note I found on my desk one morning:
The note says (Chinese Food)
but it is random
out of context on a piece of paper
in a stack of papers
at least 2 months passed
my past included (Chinese Food)
and with whom?
and what is the purpose
of this little clue
set out for me to follow
too early even for General Tso,
though I never met him personally
rumor has it, he was a press man…
as a proponent of the written word
do you think he rose early
to consider form and function,
rhyme, reason and rice —
like this poet now hungry
for the pork fried variety at 6?
But a fair warning about rummaging…you have to be brave. You have to be brave because you never know what you’re going to find in that drawer. Sometimes, it will be as benign as a post-it note about Chinese take-out. Other times, you may pull out a ghost, some long lost memory that needs to see the light of day.
Hans Christian Anderson is credited with saying: “Everything you look at can become a fairy tale, you can get a story from everything you touch.”
Ultimately, isn’t that our job as creatives? Telling the story. No matter our medium — poetry, painting, prose — we are charged with the task of putting our hands on the story and sharing it with others.
So, get in there! Rummage around for the inspiration. Reach way far back if you have to…and then TELL THE STORY!
You can read more of Jen Payne’s poetry in her new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind available from Three Chairs Publishing.