There are things only the dead know, views only the dead see.
Victor Standish, impudent pup that he is,
asked me to write of them here anyway.
At least in how they shape the art of writing.
What do I know of writing you ask? Each of us is the author of our lives, though many insist upon making them boring, repetitive.
The way of the writer is the way of water :
Most of you restrict yourselves, limit your vision. Be instead water.
You put water in a cup, it becomes the cup;
You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle;
You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot.
Sometimes it is still like the hush before dawn. Sometimes it is wild like the heart betrayed. But it is always alive to the world around it.
Be water, my friend.
Do not think, feel....it is like pointing your finger towards the moon. Do not concentrate on the finger or you will miss the stars!
The ghost of Thoreau tells me only that day dawns to which we are awake. Water is always awake. But are you?
A child is acutely aware of his expanding world, for it is new, ever-growing, ever fascinating. The way of the writer is to stay that child.
Most of the living become calloused by their flow of experiences, falling into the sleep of habit.
They wrap their personal problems about their eyes so that they walk blindly through all their days, listening only to the musak of their sorrows.
They put on layer upon layer of habits, clothing themselves in restriction until the water of their souls become stagnant like a swamp.
You living become so insulated in this manner that only the knife of tragedy or great joy can stab through to you.
Most of you have stopped being aware sometime in high school. Have you not noticed men whose fashion sense halted in their mid-twenties?
Since most of you are not laying up new stores of awareness and observations each day, you must go back to the same stale, old ones when you were still awake.
No wonder that so many authors write and re-write the sensations of their early years or childhood. Have you not known an author who seems to be able to tell only one story?
No matter the heroine’s name, the snowflakes will still melt on her fluttering eyelashes. The hero will always be strong, silent, misunderstood.
Ah, but the truth is that all of us remember strongly the things we saw through the clear, warm light of childhood. And when we want to bring a scene to life, we return to those sensations that sing to us of life, of being aware.
But if we endlessly return to that same pool, soon our writing grows stale, repetitive, and lifeless.
The ghost of Henry James just strolled by, saying, “Tell them to be one of the people upon whom nothing is lost.”
You cannot do that overnight.
No. Take ten minutes of each day to practice the innocence of the eye,
to ask how a child would see what is around you. Do this in different locales, never the same.
Taste the breeze. Listen to the robin in the tree to your left. Watch the stroll of the ambling dog outside your window, studying where he stops, watching his eyes, looking at his wrinkling nose and shifting ears.
Turn yourself into a stranger in your own life.
What colors are the things around you? Why would someone paint his house moldy green? What colors are the cars that pass you? Did the persons want that color? Why?
Close your eyes. What are the smells? What are the sounds? What could a blind person tell about the world you perceive this way?
Truth has no path. Truth is living and, therefore, changing. Awareness is without choice, without demand, without anxiety.
In that state of mind, there is perception. To know oneself is to study oneself in action with another person.
Awareness has no frontier; it is giving of your whole being, without exclusion.
Be awake, my friend. Be a child. Be a writer.
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