Saturday, June 11, 2011

Flashback Post (with some added bits): Gazing Exercises


"To gaze is to think," Dali tells us.

Often these days, we gaze at other people's worlds instead of our own -- all of our various screens. We gaze and gaze. But when we're gazing at someone else's creation we're not gazing freshly at the real world, but one that's already been partially chewed.

Look at Dali here. He's a world-class gazer. (Try to find a picture of him not flare-eyed gazing -- as if trying to make a point about gazing like a flare-eyed poster boy for the cause.)

It's the writers job to gaze. It is an exercise of thought as much as observation.

If you don't believe me, perhaps you'll prefer someone by the name of Benoit Mandelbrot who says, "The most important instrument of thought is the eye."

He's likely speaking of observation, but the blank gaze is a good gaze for the writer. The dumbstruck in absentia gaze. The one where you have stopped existing in this world and are in another. Practice it. Cultivate it. Nurture it.

If you're not gazing -- truly gazing -- then you won't find what you need.

"Chance furnishes me with what I need. I'm like a man who stumbles along; my foot strikes something. I bend over and it is exactly what I need." -- James Joyce

(Here's Joyce with thick dark glasses and eye-patch. It's easy to see the stumbling, the bending, the finding, and then the gazing.)

If we break down Joyce's quote, there's a step-by-step lesson.

The writer has to

a. stumble along -- likely gazing absently.

b. trip.

c. stop -- not just with a backward glance -- but bend over and pick this object up and then fit it into the world of the work, which is what they were thinking about as they were gazing and walking and tripping and bending and gazing again.

You've all had this experience, haven't you? You're stuck. You don't know how to end this narrative. You can't find the right image. You need, and then you walk, stumble, find, gaze, use.

Maybe do it more mindfully, more purposefully. See it as an emergency plan.

And most of all: gaze (out at real things in the real world).