Tag Archives: open mind

Interesting People Say Interesting Things: 20 July 2016 journals

Weds. 20 July — While walking my dog this morning through a nearby subdivision, I saw a state cop car pull out of a driveway and a water bottle come rolling downhill toward me, as if it’d been on the car when the cop moved it. He soon stopped and got out and I said, “good thing it’s water and not a cup of coffee or something” — or your gun, I thought but didn’t say.

After talking with colleagues about the short-story unit we’ll teach in our sophomore English class, I’m looking at this unit now as teaching kids the form, and how to analyze the form, of the short story. I want students to see the limits and the lies of that form — for example, in that story about a gang-member getting stabbed and bleeding out, we have no way to know what a dying person thinks. I want to teach students to be wary of, or at least aware of, being manipulated by fiction. Though I know some students will probably be fiction fans and I don’t want to break their hearts, and yet … I do want to wake them up.

Got an email this week from a former student from 3 years ago who said that my class opened up her mind, got her thinking. I love to hear that, though of course, I’d also like to know examples of what new thoughts she’s had because of my class. But just the fact that she thinks the class opened up her mind means she’s aware of having an open mind, and that might be the necessary first step — perhaps the only step? — to actually having an open mind, being willing to think about things in new ways, etc.

I don’t want to have to convince someone of the value of my writings. Readers will get it or they won’t.

I wouldn’t say that the texts I write can’t be changed. I know editors greatly altered certain classic words of literature — Kerouac’s, Thomas Wolfe’s, Raymond Carver’s. But there’s something OK about a text being whatever I put in it.

“Hello, it’s me,” said my wife, coming into the great room for the first time this day. “Who are you, Todd Rundgren?” I asked. She said she was about to say something similar.

Even if my edited journals aren’t compelling reads (like, say, a plot-driven thriller is compelling), these posts can be worth reading, can be interesting, at least to some readers.

Developing one’s sensibility: how teachers pick out better quotes to use from a story, and teachers find more things, and more-interesting things, to interpret from literary texts than students generally do — this could be an analogy to, and/or an example of, what I’ve been thinking about how interesting people say interesting things. Interesting people are usually older people, and so, frankly, my own younger-me writings may not be as interesting as my more recent ones are. For example, the literature-analysis essays I wrote as a high-schooler: I could’ve done more-interesting analysis, but I didn’t have the mind to do so at age 17.

Earlier this week, I published an edited part of my journal [as this post here is also]. I haven’t always felt motivated to start reading others’ journals — say, Camus’s, a book of whose journals I owned back in college, or Thoreau’s, which I looked at in recent years. But Thoreau’s actually were interesting, maybe more than Walden is. But Walden feels like A Big Work, Thoreau’s One Big Work , and so it feels more important to read that book than his journals. But of course, the book doesn’t have to be seen that way.

A philosophy of creativity

2014_01_27_mh (134)_cropI have been made aware that parts of this recent post may seem like the product of a depressive mind. This part in particular —

Any work I’ve done feels dead to me. I feel no real connection to anything I’ve done, especially writing from more than a few months ago. My journal notebooks are no longer viable, unfinished, once all their pages are filled. I put them on the shelf and start another, unfilled one.

— may convey the sense of a negative, dissatisfied outlook on art and/or life.

But I wasn’t thinking that when I wrote that post, and I also don’t mean to make what some may interpret as a nihilistic claim, that nothing is good enough, that there are no right answers, etc.

Rather, when I wrote things like this

I think standards and comparisons are arbitrary, and so judgments are bullshit.

and

Words are bound to fail to capture or even fully reflect reality. Reality is beyond words, outside of words. If words and reality were infinite lines, they would neither intersect nor be parallel.

I wanted to communicate the idea that there are no words or ideas that are necessary, that cannot be questioned. I want to say that no existing idea, and no existing artwork, binds us or narrows our world. I feel like I’ve spent a lot of years feeling that there were certain models or rules of art and of creativity that had to be followed, and I have learned to question these rules, and I realized that they weren’t really rules at all.

When I say that there are no permanent rules and that ideas aren’t tied to reality, I see this as removing limits on art and creative work. Clearing out the old ideas opens space for new ideas. When there are no necessary ideas, there is always possibility. There is possibility to try any artistic thing one would like to try. Artists can be free to do anything — or nothing! If we are not bound by rules, we can feel comfortable in being who we are, and not feel we have to make ourselves into particular kinds of people, or make our art into particular forms of art, as if only these certain models were acceptable.

All too often, ideas may seem solid, inviolable. Seeing that they are not is like taking off mental shackles. There are always new ways to look at things; there is not one and only one right answer. Even a “best” answer may not always be best.

This sense of possibility is what I’d like to call a philosophy of creativity.