by Dara Lurie
One image, simple and clean; a solitary figure on a country road, retreating from view. Air hums, light shimmers, figure diminishes.
It’s the dream, John Gardner says, the rich and vivid play of the mind. Words, language capture and contain the dream. You drink it in, are immersed, swimming in the rhythms of sound pictures washing your mind and senses.
It’s the writer’s obligation to convince the reader……says Gardner. How?
You follow that single retreating figure, shimmering. You follow.
Did you notice?
Sound and image point the way. Where?
Down the shimmering path, with the solitary figure moving towards a white-hot diminishing point.
We protect ourselves, Robert Olen Butler says. We turn away from the moment-to-moment sensual experience because it isn’t safe. We place it at a safe distance by shaping it into a manageable idea. The artist cannot find her art in her mind. Art comes from the place where we dream.
You follow the solitary figure retreating towards the diminishing horizon; the white-hot center. Entering, your body clicks, engaged, held in a complete moment of dream-space.
Words hide the world, Steven Millhauser wrote. They blur together elements that exist apart or break elements into pieces, bind up the world, contract it into tiny little pellets of perception. But the unbound world – the world behind the world – how fluid it is – how lovely and dangerous.
You move down a city street, senses overwhelmed with faces and their expressions, bodies, colors and attitudes; objects all streaming towards and around you.
(photo above and top photo by Kevin Thomas)
Sitting down to write, fingers poised over keyboard, how do you move onto this shimmering path, into the streaming of sounds and images?
Where does it exist, what are the coordinates of this shimmering place?
It’s inside you, Konstantin Stanislavsky said. Craft and technique are necessary but they are downstream from where the performance begins.
So, where do you begin?
With one image, simple and clean.
Notice one moment each day when your senses come alive, your emotions become engaged and alert. It’s not important what emotion you notice, terror, joy, disgust, compassion or something else, it’s important that the emotion be sharp and clear in your mind and body.
Describe that moment in detail. One image, simple and clean. Then another and another. Keep going until you’ve got it all. Don’t filter things out. Describe everything. Filter later.
As you write, notice your breathing, filling your body and expanding your borders. Breathe from the center of your body to the center of your image.
You are there, on that shimmering path, disappearing into the white-hot center of your image.