Here in a new home, I'm putting things away in slow transition and reading DeSalvo's The Art of Slow Writing, in between my own writing and teaching this week. During these piecemeal moments of reassembling a place and reflecting on what slow writing means, I've been thinking about how to do things better.
I think I think on that subject constantly in fact, how to do things better. Finding space for one box of kitchen items at a time, I alter the position of things and wonder if this item is one I really need. Teaching a writing camp, every minute seems to need adjustments on how I approach the young writers with new ideas. Discovering over social media that a friend of mine died two years ago and I had no clue until Wednesday, I see how much more attention I can be paying to the little things, that so easily become big things.
All in all, my thoughts on how to do things better come back to fast versus slow. When I slow down, my attention, mood, energy, attitude and memory are in better spots. That helps me in my relationships, work, creativity and personal life. And so here are a few aims for small adjustments I'd like to make, that all have to do with going forward in slower ways:
On Free Falling:
Almost two years ago, at the SITI Company Boise Intensive Workshop in Suzuki Method and Viewpoints, Barney O'Hanlon encouraged us to free fall. He made a big point of the advice. That was the first I heard that phrase as a directive. I've thought about it a lot since.
As an artist, I'm not practicing for expertise, I'm practicing to learn and discover and grow. I want to remember that more often in practice, and plunge into my creating as though into icy lake water off a long wobbly dock: all at once, no wading. When I allow myself to be a beginner, knock myself off balance and eat space in my writing and creative work, that requires a leap that flies me. This may seem like the opposite of going slow, but I think it requires a lot of practice to be able to be able to free fall on a regular basis. A lot of constant learning. And that takes time.
On Doing One Thing:
Anytime I am doing one thing -- creating a story, working on a character, working on a character's nose; in teaching a class, in teaching one lesson in a class, in teaching a part of a lesson in a class; unpacking a box, this actually requires that I do several things at once. In this sense, as we say when practicing the Suzuki Method, even with one task in front of me I am spinning many plates. In every small thing (a play, a scene, a poem, a moment, a line, a word), there are several components. And each component can be broken down even further. With each deeper inspection, the more minuscule parts open up.
This is why multi-tasking can break me in half. Everything's already so multiple.
So if I really take the time to go in, go in slow, go in deep, there is potential for an outrageous unraveling. What patience that requires, and attention, and listening. In days like these, weeks and years like these, when here there's an international tragedy hitting France, and national violence stemming from longtime racial oppression brings out mourning and reaction and my chest is cracking thinking of it, when I get down missing my dad and remembering a friend I let go who is now gone, yes. Now is a time for steady patience, attention and listening.
Another Barney-ism, from a different SITI Workshop: "If we can all live with more presence and awareness, the world would be a better place." Can we? Let's try. I will, too. I'll add it to my aims for small adjustments:
And now to unpack another box.
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Process notes on a work in progress (me). This mostly contains raw rough content pulled out of practice notebooks. Occasional posts also invite you into the way I work, with intermittent notes on the hows and whys on the whats I make. Less often you may also find prompts and processes I've brought to workshops, as well as surveys that help me gather material for projects. Similar earlier posts from years ago can be found on: