Thursday, September 3, 2009
Form and Flow
Though my last formal art training was when I got assigned a 3rd grade teacher who would have preferred to teach art, I know these terms are related to art. I am sure though, that I first encountered them in graduate school. Hugo Maynard, one of the kindest and smartest men I will ever meet taught the class called “New Foundations”. The application of the terms was not about art, but life… life has form and flow… we recognize things as living because of the form they take and the flow of that form through time. It only recently occurred to me though, that novels also are defined by form and substance. I’ve read works that depend too heavily on one or the other, and they are painful. Most often a story with no flow gets stomped… a bad telling can’t make up for even a good story. But I am sometimes shocked at how a fancy telling is sometimes mistaken for substance. But my goal today isn’t to slam bad books parading as literature. (‘Then what the heck IS your goal?’ You say) I noticed this week that the circumstances lending themselves to these features in my own writing are different. Form is an adrenaline junkie… the big meaty chunks that make up the building blocks of a story come in flashes of insight—the proverbial muse. It is fickle, but is most likely to come during power-walks (no music is better, much as I HATE that), dreams, or very occasionally, a shower (don’t ask me to explain why showers give me an adrenaline rush—I plead the 5th). Flow however, needs an uber-relaxed state. I am a statistician, a mom, a wife who is trying to support a timid, 47 year-old college student… these are not brain quieting activities. Last night I played chauffer, picked up my computer and installed new anti-virus software, before then playing chaffer again-- after my nine hour day. La la la la… flowy, pretty-word brain evading tart… This would be why I write in the bath… a little hot water… ten minutes of SUDOKU, a little wine… and suddenly all of that evaporates and I can sink into it. I’m sure the lack of clothing is equally helpful, though I somehow don’t get much done sitting naked in my living room. I guess I would get even less done sitting in the bathtub with clothes on, no matter HOW much wine I used to make me forget how uncomfortable wet clothes are. So the Tart’s Thursday advice is, if the ideas aren’t there—go for a nice, speedy walk (preferably through nice scenery or a neighborhood that would make a good setting in your book, but avoid people you know—conversation will kill it). And if the words just aren’t flowing… get naked.