At times we can feel blocked. I know July is an especially hard time for me when it comes to posting blogs. Before I know it another week has gone by and I won’t have posted. According to my stats I only average about 8 posts in July. So when I get to Friday often I’m left wondering—where to start?
As I mentioned earlier I just read a VERY GOOD biography by Deborah Solomon about Norman Rockwell. Here was a guy who had deadlines. While he was at the POST he made a total of 356 covers. That’s 356 paintings—many the size that goes over the mantel or above the couch. (In case one thought they were the actual size of a magazine.)
Here was a bit of advice I gleaned from the book. Two nights a week Rockwell would go into a spare room devoid of distractions and stay there from eight to eleven, when, more often than not, he’d leave discouraged—not having gotten any new ideas—remember he worked on a frantic deadline, a new painting every 2 weeks
“The second night, after a few minutes, the thoughts began to present themselves. He had a trick to help him focus hid mind, to access the storehouse of his imagination.”
He’d draw a lamppost and then ask himself what else is there, what is it illuminating? “He did this all the time, envisioning the lamppost and waiting for a scene to emerge, a boy or two, a certain facial expression, a story. He sketched a bit with pencil and paper, but no real drawing was begun on the thinking nights.”
Once he knew his scene he’d delete the lamppost, erase it out.
Couple this with listmaking. At : http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/10/18/ray-bradbury-on-lists/ I read about Ray Bradbury and g=how when he felt stuck, he’d make a list.
He’d start with nouns and then maybe move to adjectives. One word would trigger another. This is how our mind works: not necessarily rationally or in chronological order. Sometimes there is no order.His lists ran something like this:
THE LAKE. THE NIGHT. THE CRICKETS. THE RAVINE. THE ATTIC. THE BASEMENT. THE TRAPDOOR. THE BABY. THE CROWD. THE NIGHT TRAIN. THE FOG HORN. THE SCYTHE. THE CARNIVAL. THE CAROUSEL. THE DWARF. THE MIRROR MAZE. THE SKELETON.
“I was beginning to see a pattern in the list, in these words that I had simply flung forth on paper, trusting my subconscious to give bread, as it were, to the birds. Glancing over the list, I discovered my old love and fright having to do with circuses and carnivals. I remembered, and then forgot, and then remembered again, how terrified I had been when my mother took me for my first ride on a merry-go-round. With the calliope screaming and the world spinning and the terrible horses leaping, I added my shrieks to the din. I did not go near the carousel again for years. When I really did, decades later, it rode me into the midst of Something Wicked This Way Comes.”
So he went on making lists:
THE MEADOW. THE TOY CHEST. THE MONSTER. TYRANNOSAURUS REX. THE TOWN CLOCK. THE OLD MAN. THE OLD WOMAN. THE TELEPHONE. THE SIDEWALKS. THE COFFIN. THE ELECTRIC CHAIR. THE MAGICIAN.
“Out on the margin of these nouns, I blundered into a science fiction story that was not a science-fiction story. My title was “R is for Rocket.” The published title was “King of the Grey Spaces,” the story of two boys, great friends, one elected to go off to the Space Academy, the other staying home.”
Listmaking mines the subconscious. We have no idea what will come of it until we let it play out.
“I began to run through those lists, pick a noun, and then sit down to write a long prose-poem-essay on it.
Somewhere along about the middle of the page, or perhaps on the second page, the prose poem would turn into a story. Which is to say that a character suddenly appeared and said, “That’s me”; or, “That’s an idea I like!” And the character would then finish the tale for me.”
Sit down this week in your thinking chair and give these exercises a try—as you can see Ray Bradbury and Norman Rockwell were no slouches. They must’ve hit upon something that worked for them!