Thursday, October 22, 2009

Idle Hands...

Finish this sentence: Idle hands are ___________. Did you answer the devil’s tools or devil’s plaything?

How long can you sit with idle hands? Do you ever? Is this how you start to write?

In the most recent issue of Poets and Writers magazine there is an article about a writer who talks about stillness as he writes. “I’m very tolerant of stillness. I don’t mind sitting there for half an hour. I’d rather not move my hands just to move them; I’ll wait for the right thing.” Jonathan Lethem is a novelist not a poet, but his approach to initiating work on a page is maybe not a bad one even for poets. I sometimes will start with a line of something that comes to me. Maybe two or three different lines till something I feel something take hold. But when I think about my blog post on Monday and the Anne Sexton quote that I committed to thinking about all this week I’m thinking a lot more about the idle hands approach. The wisdom in the Sexton quote suggests listening hard. “Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard,” Sexton says.

It’s easy when you have a routine that says your take thirty minutes and write that you want to start writing as you sit down. The clock is on. Go! Such routine can probably create bad habits just as well as it can create good ones. But just as silence can be useful on a page, maybe it’s not a bad place to start to center yourself / your writing. In “The Artists’ Way” I think the morning pages are meant to drain out of your system all the residual sludge that can otherwise stain your work if you can’t get your mind off it. So maybe to start with, we should pause. A nice pregnant pause of sorts and then begin to create on the page as something surfaces.
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