Sounds kind of like Reindeer Games. But detailed instructions to surrealist writing can be found halfway through André Breton’s Surrealist Manifesto, which requires at least two hours and a strong cup of tea to make any kind of sense.
Essentially, the goal is to tap into your subconscious. Sit, clear your mind, and begin to write–not focusing on what you’re writing or what you’ve written, only moving forward with the flow of the act. Writes Breton, “the first sentence will come spontaneously, so compelling is the truth that with every passing second there is a sentence unknown to our consciousness which is only crying out to be heard.”
A friend and I tried the practice out: It’s absolutely harder than it sounds, equally fun, and I invite anyone to try it out. We certainly had fun laughing at our results. Below is my most viewable piece.
Slashing and violent do the urges come to us, the authors, creators, merry-makers, weaving lost threads under the suns of our ancestors: what is sense? But the moment to moment daze, understanding flashes of white, of the apples which bloom beneath our feet to perish and make merry the ebullient tomatoes of servitude, sorrow, reminiscing. Do not but fear at the faint thought of the scavenger, whom to all else is nothing. Let carnage strip from beaks, flesh from feathers that reach the night. Every thought is fluttering, passing, self-aware. It hurts!
Sometimes I have to remind myself that while I’m not writing as in working on my manuscript, I’m still writing as in practicing putting one word in front of the other. And honestly, it all adds up to experience. So while I’ve had no time to work on BOTD this week, here are some things that I’ve written since Monday.
- A writing prompt about the Grim Reaper, a child protection services agent, and three hellions
- An extensive outline and pages of notes for a paper dealing with science fiction and the Gaia Theory
- A half-page summary of Cities, People, and Language by James C. Scott
- Several powerpoint slides and a presentation outline of a paper on the effects of atmospheric CO2 on photosynthesis
- A scholarship award acceptance blurb
- A blurb about a club for practicing Kichwa
- Countless emails
- Detailed notes for a grassroots social justice organization meeting
- A scrapped retelling of the myth of Icarus
- Notes on several presentations/lectures by archaeoastronomer Dr. Anthony Aveni
- Notes from 18 hours worth of classes
- Several to-do lists per day
- And 1 blog post (you’re reading it)
So if you feel like you’re not getting any writing done, as I frequently do, stop and take a look at how you’re evaluating ‘writing’. In the overall scheme of things, any practice is valid practice. Whether you mean to or not, you’re improving every time you stick two words together.
EDITING. Endless, exhausting, invigorating. It’s how I’ll be spending my writing hours today, so I thought I’d share my current process. (Of course, there are so many processes and stages and convolutions that I could never document them all.)
My manuscript is at that stage where it doesn’t need another entire from-scratch draft, but the prose needs some all-around touching up. Here’s how I’m doing that this week:
Step 1: Open original document on half of the screen.
Step 2: Open new document on other half.
Step 3: Re-type the original in new document, taking it a chapter at a time.
Thus far I’ve found this method to work really well for me. I’m following along my story and fixing what needs to be fixed, tuning what needs to be tuned, but in a controlled way that doesn’t feel like I’m re-inventing the wheel. I’d love to hear anyone else’s preferred methods of torture as well.
It’s incredible what a good break from reality does for a person: starting my days off running on the beach and swimming in the ocean did wonders for my creativity–I think I wrote more in the last week and a half than I have in months. Of course, the resulting dive back into business is a shock. But it’s good to be back in the game.
This week’s reading list: Michel Foucault, Michael Taussig, Clifford James, Gretel Van Wieren, Aradhana Sharma. A bit different from my spring break line up! Definitely more highlighting involved.
I’d better get used to the fact that my life is one long reading list of one kind or another. But really, that’s much better than the alternative, which is not reading at all or, god forbid, reading in moderation.
(Infinite, it stretches on.)
My grandma’s house is full of treasures, wonders, and oddities. A large part of my aesthetic sense came from her, which is why my friends often find bizarre what I’d call cute. Her house is a good place to write: I can glance up and see ten to twenty strange or interesting things at any moment, from any place in the house.
1. Monkey man with cymbals
His face suggests that he knows more than he lets on.
2. A rainbow-winged wooden pegasus
One of a hundred unicorns and pegasi to be found around the house.
3. A glass bowl of babies
I don’t have a comment for this one. They speak for themselves.
4. A trip of mushroom friends
They’re either witches or in a band, or both.
5. A Green Man hanging on the wall
As far as I know, no one in my family is wiccan.
6. A copy of the Tao Te Ching
Found next to a figure of a reclining laughing buddha.
7. A tiny model of a flintlock pistol
Found very near the monkey man. Coincidence?
The last month of my life has seen me get sick three times, become so busy that my sleep and workout schedule suffered (a death knell), and get thoroughly sick of the to-do lists that I had to start making three times a day. So I’m reverse-hibernating in sunny Florida for my spring break, jaunting about with my grandmother, and getting internet only in the public library and the Starbucks.
I restrained myself and only brought the above five books instead of the nine that I wanted, because I don’t want to stress myself out with required reading–I want to relax with fun, leisurely reading.
So over the next week I’ll be reading Half Lost by Sally Green, Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor, Promise of Shadows by Justina Ireland, So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane (one of my fave books ever, re-reading it for a paper), When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore (one of my new years’ resolution must-reads!).
And if I finish those before next Saturday, I have a stockpile of e-books that I’ll get cracking on.
It’s International Women’s Day! I’m spending it studying for a midterm, participating in a discussion about Standing Rock, taking a midterm, going to a thesis meeting, and helping plan a #NoBanNoWall action.
Women will be in my thoughts today. The women who are leaders today and were leaders before us, who paved the way. Because of them I’m taking my midterms and writing a thesis and advocating. The work and the fight of the women before me shaped my work and my fight today.
Here’s to my mother, my stepmother, my grandmothers, my little sister. My aunts, my cousins, my teachers, family friends, best friends, mentors, and otherwise.
And let us always remember intersectionality when we remember the women who got us here.