April Thoughts on Writing with Chaos and Intentionality

 

It’s pretty hard for me to turn off my thoughts. I am always processing, always noticing; thinking half the time in metaphor; connecting elusive dots, filing things away for later. Like a cartoon, I see in my mind a book and a pen, writing everything down by itself, no hand attached; just as in earlier times, when I was more active in music than Creative Writing, what I saw was a piano, the keys moving and song singing itself in the air, unattached to a body, or voice, or human anchor. It has always been like that. A lifetime of artistic extra-sensitivity and perception can be a little traumatic. There are people who think it’s some kind of whimsical,  frivolous thing, but in reality, there is a definite traumatic element.

I find that mindfulness practice and meditation help corral those rather helpless aspects of relentless creative impulse. Journaling, when I set aside the time for it, is a restful place of intentionality, of connecting to the routines that ground a life. When I think of the influence of some of my recent reading in hybrid poetics, hybrid texts, it is the ones with a kind of order, presented in small and deliberate bites, that give me the sense of grounding and intentionality toward which this moment of my life is oriented. Sometimes it is or has been the chaos of texts that calls me (chaos like in The Book of Jon, like Bluets, but not now; especially after reading Kazim Ali’s book Fasting for Ramadan, (and Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, replete with intentionality, while also an exercise in outrage). Sometimes I focus on the freedom, the whimsy, the unexpected, but presently it is the small, controlled steps and the intentionality that form the place where I want to spend my writing time.

When I step back from the writing I am doing these days – I’ve been working a lot in hybrid based in creative nonfiction  – I would like it to have a sense of process and deliberate small steps, advancing in the smallness of moments to connect them to each other.

There is a mountain in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park called Mt. LeConte. At the top of the mountain is the highest lodge in the eastern United States. I have never been able to go there because I am afraid of several passages on the trail to the top which involve walking plastered against the mountainside while gripping a rope to stay steady. The trail is terribly narrow. If you fall, you will surely plummet to your death far below. As dramatic as this sounds, thousands of families with small children hike up to the lodge every year to stay overnight and enjoy the experience. I guess in the physical realm of life I am not a daredevil. Yet sometimes when I write to take up the tasks of carrying on, I climb a little bit of Mt. LeConte. It requires the smallest and most deliberate steps when I reach those narrow passages.

I haven’t approached that kind of work in my current undertakings, but I strive to move intentionally like that. What I have loved about several of the insiring booksof these last months is that while they are somehow methodical, while strategy or intentionality or routine can be felt in their pages, they are still surprising and new.

What I wish for myself and for all those who visit me here is precisely that: that our intentionality brings us what we seek, but also springs a few surprises upon us.

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