Friday, February 18, 2011
The Vein of Gold
My experiment to act like a writer (even when I don't particularly feel like one) has kept me busy again this week. As I promised myself (see last post), I've been spending my writing time working on two essays simultaneously. I only stopped working on the essays for a half hour to post a newly revised poem I started months ago. I felt compelled to do this when I realized I was getting traffic to my poetry blog, but nothing new had gone up in a while.
The thing with putting anything out there is that eventually you're bound to feel like whatever you've shared is no longer you, or as good as you could do if you started over right now. I try to get past this self-consciousness by putting new stuff out there that may or may not be better...but at least is new enough for me to feel excited about versus that dreadful feeling that I've posted something that has now expired in my psyche, or is just subpar. I have many unfinished poems sitting on my hard drive, and was lucky that the one I chose to work on and finally called finished allowed me to let it go so (relatively) quickly.
The two simultaneous essays have been interesting and satisfying to work on. While my focus is on the piece that will go to the Australian publisher next Friday, there are bits and pieces arriving as I continue to write that are more suitable for Event. Only by writing have I been able to recognize which paragraphs belong in which essay. My subconscious seemed to know what it was doing, but it took the rest of me a bit longer to realize that the first essay is narrative and the second more impressionistic. It's been an interesting process to write this way, with the security of knowing that little of my effort is being wasted, and that most everything belongs somewhere. I have always enjoyed the process of collage, and there is something fun about cutting and pasting sentences and paragraphs, moving them around in each piece, and back and forth between the two files.
Always happy when an allegory rises to the surface, I have been thinking about my experience of writing as a conversation that takes place between the two halves of my brain - or better still, a partnered card game. One player puts down a leading card hoping her partner will put down an even better card to take the trick. Both partners, or halves, are doing their best with what they have to win the game. But each player can only play the cards in her hand. Sometimes my left brain is insisting it's spades but my right brain only has high hearts. Eventually, hopefully by the last round (or looming deadline), the team have made enough tricks to win the game. If not, and morale is high enough to keep trying, they start a new game until they get the results they want.
As I've been writing this week, I've always had an idea about what I want the end results to look like. I print out a draft, re-work it in pen and tell myself, OK, this time we're going to do it this way to get where we want to go. Right brain appreciates what left brain is doing but has the trump card - the special something that makes this particular piece unique, if only left brain could sit back and let her play. When I go back to the computer, my left brain can't help but take a look at what's already there and starts to focus on the minutiae, correcting typos that bug her and re-writing sentences the right brain has already thrown out or moved around. I get through the next draft and think, OK, THIS time the right brain takes all the tricks. In all this back and forth, I do feel like I am moving forward and getting closer with each re-write. I stand back and tolerate what is happening, knowing that it is something I can manage but probably not put a halt to entirely. So long as there are words to work with, everyone is happy and all is well.
Another development this week has been an offer from a friend to consider working with her on an artistic collaboration. She is an illustrator and needs help with some wordsmithing. It would be fun to work together again, as we've worked together on projects before, and she is very talented, wise and a lot of fun. This opportunity could turn out to yield a new stream of income for me as well. Julia Cameron (author of The Artist's Way) would no doubt interpret this opportunity as evidence to support her theory that the universe is supportive of artists, and if you spend the time just doing your stuff, a thousand unseen helping hands will arrive to help you.
Speaking of Julia Cameron, I have been thinking about her book, The Vein of Gold this week. While I was never able to complete the book, I did pick up the gist of it when I first bought it many years ago. For some reason, now is the time for me to finally come to realize and accept my own vein of gold. The vein of gold refers to an artist's area of particular interest or resonance that yields the greatest artistic results. She uses the example of an actor who has played many different types of characters from the comedic to the dramatic; if his vein of gold is the dramatic, while he can be amusing to watch in a comedy film, he will always feel more at home in the serious role he has a natural talent for playing.
I think while I have tried many different kinds of writing, that my true vein of gold is in the genres of personal memoir and creative non-fiction. While I love poetry, and will probably always find it is the best vehicle for expressing a certain type of thought or feeling, I've decided to spend more of my energy now in producing personal essays. There are many projects that are asking me to be written as essays (and a few books of poems, too, that I think will arrive later). Each idea or piece captured my imagination and heart the moment they were conceived, and have been waiting patiently - some for years - to be written. It feels like this backlog of projects exist, complete, in an imaginary slush pile on the desk of an editor, and are starting to feel quite annoyed that I haven't done my part to pull them down onto the paper they want so badly to live on.