As I was writing my morning pages this morning it suddenly struck me how easily my mind wanders off when I sit down to write my own texts. I’m so much more focused when working on assignments. And it dawned on me that I have to try to figure out why my mind keeps wandering. What is it up to? Why? Do I find my own texts insignificant, unimportant? Or maybe writing what I want to write, what I believe I have to do, is just too damn difficult for me to do?
Perception is crucial to understanding. How you see, and what you see, determine how you will be. … We tend to perceive difficulty as disturbances. Ironically, difficulty can be a great friend of creativity.
I love the line from Paul Valery: “Une difficult est une lumiere. Une difficulte insurmountable est un soleil”—that is, “A difficulty is a light; an insurmountable difficulty is a sun.”
This is a completely different way of considering the awkward, the uneven, and the difficult. Deep within us, there is a terrible impulse and drive toward perfection. We want everything flattened into one shape. We do not like unexpected shapes.
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Thank you. You have no idea how timely this was for me.
Thank you, for visiting!
Personally, I find my wind wandering from my texts when the form isn’t right. My personal solution has been to create texts with multiple surfaces, even multiple narrators, and with a strong reliance on colloquial voice. Your solution will be, no doubt, unique to you, but the principle might still hold. Anyway, a change in point of view can work wonders, or even a change in genre. Poetry, for instance, instead of essay, or something like that. Still, perhaps it IS something about voices. Look how many questions you ask in order to lead your argument to … a quotation and an image. That’s how poems work (especially the American ones your blog suggests you often come across.) Perhaps you are inventing a form of poetic-formed essay. (Applause.) The questions, though … have you thought of answering them? Question and response? Or, alternately, have you thought of rephrasing them? Instead of “What is it up to?” might the question be “What am I up to?” or “What is my soul up to?” or “What is that Sigrun up to, eh?”, or “What is my self mask up to? Has it thrown its gearbox? Should I get a new one?”, because it is a strong statement to say that one is not one’s mind. It might be very true, but it’s still a powerful thing to say. Who, for example, is saying it? Or what is saying it? Who (or what), for example, is asking? Still, your presence in the world might be very grounded, and that mind you mention might be up to some a) wise or b) foolish thing or c) who knows!. Buddhism might suggest dissolving the mind’s wandering. Other paths (such as poetry) might say to let it wander, to follow it, and see where it goes (into, for example, texts that propose questions, answer them with quotations, and dissolve them in an image, a kind of haiku writ large.) Nothing in the path you have demonstrated with your post suggests wandering in any way. The precision and lightness of your approach (in the blog posts) suggests that if there’s a fault, it might be in the standard essay form. As for the essay, think of this: it is an essaie, an attempt, an exploration, an experiment practically approached and incorporated in the self rather than held at a distance and left to tradition, a bold walking out into the world, a revolutionary thing, demonstrates our guide Michel de Montaigne. The approach does not exclude wandering. Check out Montaigne (you, no doubt, have the French version close at end?): <>. Look at how he wanders all over the place, but allows his I-self to anchor the wandering. Your approach suggests that that I-self is not so dominant. Look what yours might look like, given the mind-soul-body-? split, if the I-voice (the accomplished critic, perhaps) was allowed more independence: “As Sigrun was writing her morning pages this morning it suddenly struck me how easily her mind wanders off when I sit down to write my own texts. I’m so much more focused when working on assignments. And it dawned on me that I have to try to figure out why her mind keeps wandering. What is she up to? Why? Does she find my own texts insignificant? Unimportant? Or maybe writing what she wants to write, what I believe she has to do, is just too damn difficult for me to do?” A fun game. I hope you think so, too. Still, if it is too difficult for your trained writing self, a few observations: a. the self can be changed, b. the self can be retrained, c. you might have succeeded already. Why, heck, those 3 might be the same thing, and you might have just demonstrated that in your post. I sure think so. Best, Harold
Hallelujah (- this is what it feels like being received)!
Such a great response – and so many good questions! You know: I have been thinking about the ‘Buddhism-thing’, as you say: “buddhism might suggest dissolving the mind’s wandering”, while “other paths (such as poetry) might say to let it wander, to follow it, and see where it goes”. I have come to the conclusion that even if I really admire the buddhist position, its not mine to take. Writing is my meditation.
You know, your reply really makes me want to write, I have some intriguing questions to untersuchen – what more can I ask for?!
Although I try to bring my mostly Buddhist self most of the time, I still struggle with “unexpected shapes” and more often than not, the sun itself yet wander I do. In my writing this seems to mean the initial draft of any piece–for myself or for publication–is large and unwieldy. In these later years I am comfortable with that. I recognize the impossible initial draft is my chunk of marble or mound of clay for only then do I begin to create. Interesting post, Sigrun.
Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.
My favorite (zen?) quote (koan?)
“The obstacle is the path.”