I am grateful that you have visited my blog. I hope your visit is a successful one. Please feel free to comment, contact or otherwise interact with the site and with me. I'm beginning to spread my wings photographically, so please take a look at Paul's Photos on Flickr (on the right). which will lead you to my presence on Flickr. Again, your comments, feedback or whatever are very welcome. Let us assist each other in our pursuit of our own truth, our own Dreaming. Peace!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Kerouac's #12: Trancing, Dreaming, Fixating

Here we go with Kerouac’s Belief & Technique for Modern Prose # 12 (go here to read all my commentaries on this groovy list). In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you.
   Ah, don’t you love it? Actual permission from the master to sit and do nothing, let the old mind wander, and basically stare into the void. Dreaming of the day kind is very cool. And not only that, it’s absolutely vital to the writerly life. Thank you Mr Kerouac.
   I am also on a bit of a Thoreau kick lately and a book mentioned previously has really resonated, really hit the spot and taught me so much about Thoreau and the life of a writer. The book is The Book of Concord: Thoreau’s Life as a Writer. Please read it if you are a writer or want to be one. Anyways, the author makes a comment about how, when Thoreau was living on Walden Pond, some villagers in Concord assumed he was, ‘idling away his time’. He goes on to add that ‘idleness was an important part of his work’.
   Can you dig that? Thoreau is about to write one of the most famous and most influential books in the history of humankind and the guy is ‘idling his time away’. Well, I don’t know about you but I know for sure that he worked harder than many of those criticizers ever did. Just like a lot of writers I know, including (I admit modestly) me. And so did our friend and master Kerouac.
   Any writer worth his or her salt (what does that mean anyway?) knows that they have to be a very keen observer of the life before them if they ever hope to write anything worthwhile. Doesn’t matter what genre they work in; the principle is the same.
   And the ‘tranced’ bit is worth a bit of thought as well. Old Jack doesn’t say we should have this left-brained kind of analytical approach to what we’re seeing. He says get lost in the view, go dreaming man, just dig the scene. You know what I’m saying here people? We all do it. We just don’t often let ourselves do it with any sense of freedom, any sense of the old daydreaming thing. In other words, how often do we actually sit in a trance grooving on what’s in front of us?
   Now, back to Thoreau. For sure he kept a lot of detailed and technical notes of a nature observing kind (he’s apparently quite respected among natural type scientists for his observations, theories and discoveries. But don’t ask me what that’s about: not my scene). But he also did a lot of trance like dreaming on stuff going on around him.
   Here is another quote from my latest fav book: ‘A man’s (read person’s/writer’s/artist’s/etc) hidden contemplative life should equal the visible and active one; that coherence made his [Thoreau’s] work successful’. Of course, there are many ways to interpret this statement, but I think I could argue that ‘tranced fixation’ is a very good way to access one’s own internal life. And it sure is contemplative too I think.
   Sometimes when I write I get a weird feeling. I will type something (being able to type is such a gift. Have a look at my post on this subject) or write a few lines in my Journal or whatever. Then I’ll read what I’ve written and think, ‘Where did that come from?’ It’s not like I don’t remember writing it; it’s more that it feels like it’s come from some other place than my own conscious mind. My guess is most writers and artists have experienced similar amazements at their own creations. Kind of like channelling or automatic writing I think sometimes. And I dig that idea very much!
   But you know what I am getting at here. It is by allowing ourselves to actually go into that trance-like state, by opening up to the dreaming (another groovy use of the word eh?), by allowing a fixation on that which is before us, that we give ourselves a better chance of producing something special. Or at least something that resembles the writing we are capable of.
   Time to go now. Gotta go trancing and fixating. See ya all.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dear Diary: How You were Born

I guess for most people Henry David Thoreau is best known for the book he wrote about his time living on Walden Pond, called funnily enough Walden. And I suppose most people would have no idea that all or pretty much all his writings, lectures and so on came from his Journal. Note the capital: he himself called it The Journal. I recently read a very cool book called The Book of Concord: Thoreau’s Life as a Writer, which is an examination of, yes you guessed it, his life as a writer. What made it extra interesting was the way the author (William Howarth) used The Journal as his way into Thoreau’s writing and life.
  As fascinating as this book is, I don’t want to talk about it today. I want to tell you about one of the things that popped out of the book for me: the reason Thoreau started keeping The Journal in the first place. It seems that one of his neighbours in Concord was Ralph Waldo Emerson (imagine that if you can ... wow is the word that comes to mind). Anyway, one day Emerson says to Thoreau, ‘What are you doing? Do you keep a journal?’ Now, it seems that up until this moment, Thoreau had been running around telling everyone he was a writer and examining nature and the life of the town. All that writerly kind of stuff. But he hadn’t been keeping a journal.
  So, he answered Emerson by beginning The Journal. And, as I said, all his writing from then on came right out of that journal. Sometimes, believe it or not, he literally tore pages or passages out and stuck them together to form the final manuscripts. Now, that is called having supreme confidence in what your own work.
  Anyway, after I read that it got me thinking about my own journal and how I came to begin it. As I sit typing this, I can see my journal on its shelves. There are 69 separate volumes, mostly school type notebooks, some exotic ones from travels in India and a few odd looking volumes. Hard to believe I’m now on volume number 70. This is my personal journal; my writer’s journals are another matter. Just like to make that distinction, though of course for a writer there is bound to be a lot of crossover isn’t there?
  In late 1980, I returned to Australia after a few months in New Zealand during which I experienced a traumatic break up. Hanging around at my parents’ house and feeling like a ‘wet week in a thunderstorm’ (if you get my meaning), my mother out of the blue one day said, ‘Why don’t you start keeping a diary?’
  Of course you don’t know my mother, but you can believe me when I say that this is most definitely not the kind of thing I would have ever guessed she’d even think about much less suggest to her son as a way of for him to deal with his grief. But, just like Thoreau after his chat with Emerson, I went right out without delay, bought a school exercise book, and began my diary (I often interchange the terms diary and journal). And I’m still at it, as I’ve said.
  And you know what? Looking at my Journal now, I feel a sense of pride in myself. I may not have (yet) written a best seller, or penned a poem that has won competitions, or even been able to make a decent living from my passion for writing. But what I can say is this: I have consistently for thirty years (almost) now kept a record of my life. Sometimes it’s been an extremely detailed account and written every day; other times there have been gaps with just scant little notes to record my doings, thoughts and so on. But, at least it is there. I have a profound sense of achievement when I think of my journal. Maybe I need to adopt the capital like Thoreau: My Journal.
  My final word must be then, thanks Mum. I know I thanked you when you were alive, but it can’t hurt to announce my thanks to the world (as much of it as reads this blog anyway) can it?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Visionary Shivering: Kerouac's #11

Visionary tics shivering in the chest is #11 on Kerouac’s Belief & Technique for Modern Prose list of “rules”. All my dedicated readers will know I’ve been doing an on/off commentary on this list for a while now. Check out the list from the very start if you like .

This one is somewhat timely for me: back in November, I had a little tube put in my heart to help the blood flow more easily. I’m fine now (thank you for your concern) Of course I had no ‘tics’, and not a whole lot of visions either (which is a shame really), but I dig what Kerouac is saying here. You gotta get that it’s a metaphor, you know? It’s about that idea, that vision that hits you all of a sudden; it’s the one that gets you all excited, hot and bothered and that sets your heartbeat racing.

Old Jack is kind of saying it’s necessary to have this kind of shivery visionary tic. And if you’re a writer, it is going to happen. At least sometimes. Trouble is, you can’t depend on it: it doesn’t come on a regular schedule or on demand. The vision that gets you shivering comes from some totally alien place either deep within ourselves or from some unseen and universal source. Either way, they come on their own and all we can do is be open and ready, fingers poised over the keyboard (metaphorically speaking) to take down its dictation.

One of the ways we can get ourselves ready to receive a vision is to, well, keep our eyes open. Of course, again, it’s not just the physical eyes we’re talking about here. Although, now I think about it, it’s a good point isn’t it? I mean as a writer I have to see what’s going on around me in the material world. But, there are other eyes we have, and many of us don’t use them anywhere often enough. If we want to open the eyes in our minds and in our hearts and in our souls even, we have to just be. We have to not think we have to always be doing stuff to learn, to research, to study, whatever.

I don’t mean by all this we have to be “meditating” all the time. But what I do mean is it’s important to just be more often than we usually are. That’s it really. Doesn’t require a whole heap of explanation does it? More and more these days I see the value of just keeping all my eyes open. If we want the visions that get us shivering with excitement and anticipation at the words we are about to pour forth, then we just have to wait upon them.

Recently I read somewhere an expression I have come to use as an almost constant reminder to myself: wait timelessly. Not impatiently; not by always doing something to “prepare” or whatever; not always noticing the passing of time (which for you quantum mechanical types is a tricky concept anyway). No, it simply means to be. It means waiting timelessly for those visions that are there somewhere just waiting on us to be there ready to receive them.

PS Seems this little rave is full of split infinitives (according to my spellchecker). But who says there’s anything wrong with splitting your infinitives?