To Reach The Green Light At The End Of The Pier
FOR AS LONG AS IT TAKES: "We are saving ourselves through the words," says Eleanor, the leading lady of a novel-in-progress. This exploration into the creative process -- which includes plenty of distractions/tangents /thoughts & rants by Eleanor, her Biographer, and selected guest artists -- will continue until Eleanor is certain her story is "right." (But we dare not jump ahead of ourselves.)
There will be the occasional typo (as Eleanor points out), and much of this is intended to be "original draft" -- what comes out of our mouths (heads) first, and then set down in that order. Not all of it will be included in the novel, but all of it is happening in real time.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Have You Ever Touched The Inside Of Your Head?
(detail of "The Eleanor Painting," Geoff Schutt, circa 1999 - present, layered acrylic and mixed media on canvas)
Inside my head, during the process of creation -- it's colorful, crowded, bumpy, shiny, expressive -- loud. My thoughts work in tandem, or they rush for the exit, bumping into one another trying to get out. It can be messy in there. Writing is like that. And often, there is too much happening inside my head, too much racing going on. In 1999, I picked up a canvas and a collection of acrylic paint tubes (acrylic because it dries so quickly, and I can spread the colors like putting gobs of jelly on toast). When I get stuck on the page, or have a particularly good day with Eleanor (the extremes, always one or the other), I can put that excess creative energy into the painting. The painting changes each time we meet. Not being a visual artist, but thinking visually, sometimes the colors mesh well and sometimes I get a nice little design going. Other times, it's just -- crowded. Most gets painted over. "The Eleanor Painting" is so thick now, nine years going on 10 later, that it weighs a good five pounds, maybe more. Five pounds of paint, five pounds of thought, of paragraphs or sentences at a time. I can see parts of Eleanor that I have not touched, or have touched very little, but much of the painting is a revisionist view, and so it continues. I want to touch people with my words, so I make my painting (the inside of my head) inviting to the touch -- the rivers and ridges and hills and valleys and flatlands and mountains, the roads that seem to go nowhere but are colorful just the same. This is the only way I can feel my work in progress, in a different form, even as I continue to write. And the passage of time means very little here. If nothing, the passage of time tosses up new ideas, fresh angles -- fresh paint! But I'm not trying to be a painter. I'm a writer. The paint is a surrogate for the words that I can't find places for in the novel, or even as notes in one of my Moleskines. The paint is precious, and it's specific, not an abstraction or an aside or a fleeting idea. It's right there. It's my head, turned inside out, my brain cells, my imagination come to life like a cartoon. There is truth in cartoons, we know this, in the exaggeration, even in the impossibilities of human "being." And that sort of exaggeration gets distilled into the one word at a time. Inside my head, there's too much of course. If I lay out its contents, I can organize and reorganize. A garage sale of thoughts, but nothing is really for sale. September begins with a caress. I close my eyes and physically touch my subconscious. That -- is amazing. And to this, I say, bring on more tubes of paints, any colors will do. Have you ever touched the inside of your head?
ELEANOR says: "Please turn the page. Keep reading."
For more of Eleanor and her Biographer -- as well as the work of our many guest artists -- check out the older postings. "Everything is part of the process, and the process is the journey," Eleanor says.