I found this bit of inspiration today — by cartoonist Lynda Barry:
It appears to be part of her syllabus and you can see more of it here.
“Notice what you notice” is the exact advice I need today as I founder/flounder, try to connect words. All the beautiful nouns and verbs, swirling out of reach. I notice that I notice: my shortcomings, impatience, and flops. l notice myself asking: will a composition notebook help? Is it “the thing” that will make the writing easier? Is it better than a journal, or a blog, or a secret file on the computer? I am always on the lookout for a new practice, the new practice, and, if I am honest, I am forever hoping for the magic shortcut that will make it easier. And by “it,” I think I mean writing.
But “it” is something else, too.
When my father was dying, I read a book about the stages of grief. I don’t know where it came from — maybe I found it on my own, or perhaps it was given to me by a hospice worker. I was eighteen and had never read anything like it. I studied its pages, underlining, nodding my head, crying. A good student, I even took notes. I believed that knowing the names of the stages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) meant I did not have to experience them. I wanted knowledge to replace reality, labels to numb me, yellow highlighter to switch off my heart. I hoped a book could make me a zombie until I became someone happy.
Although I hadn’t experienced grief, I knew it was something to avoid, something that needed a shortcut.
I look back and wish I had let myself cry. As much as I wanted.
I don’t read cookbooks and expect dinner to show up on the table. I don’t read reviews and assume I saw the movie. But I enjoy cooking and eating delicious meals and I love sitting in dark theaters, lost in other lives. I don’t want shortcuts when I do these things because they make me happy.
Writing used to make me happy but it doesn’t anymore. I think it can, again, and that is why I’m here. To find out. And I think that’s why Barry’s composition notebook appealed to me — it just looks like fun. Simple, uncomplicated fun.