POV: Block.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

POV ("point of view") is a series that addresses many of the same themes covered in my Equals Record column: growing up, saying yes to adventure, learning to embrace a quarter-life crisis. While my previous column focused largely on ideas, POV focuses on moments - glimpses, glances, tiny stories.


This was a POV of many false starts.

I wrote the first version late last week on a bus, on my way out of the city for the weekend. I had six tabs open on my laptop that morning, and between edits of an interview with a Spanish lighting designer and the quick composition of a story on the difficulties of making pie crust, I was able to write exactly four slapdash sentences before deleting every last one. 


On Saturday, I found myself sprawled on a couch at a friend’s house near the beach, reading a book as we waited out a rainstorm. Distracted, I tried to dream up opening lines — but none came, so I lost myself in the ease of someone else’s nimbly chosen words instead.

Monday rolled around, then Tuesday. By Tuesday afternoon, I felt mild panic. I’d been planning – and promising — a post for a week now but nothing was taking shape. I’d written one paragraph about a knife maker I’d interviewed weeks earlier, and another about taking part in a mysterious ritual known as crystal cleansing (which, ironically, had less to do with any sort of spiritual purge and had more to do with the literal washing of a crystal) — but I was at a loss as to how to connect the two. Ideas, which often arrived so effortlessly in the past, seemed to have taken flight to some faraway land for the season.

I stepped away from my laptop at 6pm. I felt out of breath. Defeated. And when Lily — who'd been with me all afternoon as I stared into the screen, my fingers a blur of infuriated deleting — asked if I'd managed to get much done that day, I laughed. I had no words.

--

“I’m in a rut,” a friend said to me recently. We were in a dark corner of a neighborhood bar, and amid the din or our surroundings, what was meant to be an intimate conversation had become a dialogue of shouting. “I’m not sure what I want for the next chapter of my life, creatively,” she yelled across the table. “I can’t picture it.”

“If you don’t know what you want it to look like,” I shouted back, “maybe it’s enough to know what you want it to feel like?”

I remember receiving a pamphlet in the seventh grade, explaining how to put together a project for the school science fair. First, you needed an idea. This was the hard part. It might not come right away, the pamphlet advised, but it was important not to over-think. Just below this section of the text there was an illustration of a boy shoulder-deep in a tub full of bubbles with a lightbulb over his head, and the words, It may come to you when you least expect it! 

For me, it's always been true that the best way out of a rut — creative or otherwise — is patience. That, and trusting enough to let go — of whatever rigid vision I have for a project or piece of writing, or of the white-knuckled grip I've got on my battered computer keyboard.

In writing, I’ve stumbled on some of my favorite ideas just when I’ve stopped trying to think of them - out of nowhere, they’ll appear on street corners or between stops on the train. There are very few lightbulb moments at 4am, when I’ve been working in the dark for hours, struggling to write before succumbing to sleep.

More often than not, I’ve found, it’s the moment my eyes close that the words flow freely.

 --

You can find my previous POV entries, here. Thank you so much, as always, for reading. Photo of me by Julia Robbs.

10 comments:

Kathryn said...

I love this. Thank you for being honest.

Anonymous said...

lovely.

max said...

wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

paw said...

this line stopped me (a good thing): “If you don’t know what you want it to look like,” I shouted back, “maybe it’s enough to know what you want it to feel like?” very nice.

Ant Leah said...

Beautiful, Shoko.

I'll take your POV any day.

Kathy said...

I love your insights on life. Always uplifting, always brave.

burntfeather said...

So true, all my creative ideas seem to randomly pop into my head at the strangest times. I've been watching the show The Pitch and during the episode I try to come up with ad ideas myself yet 9/10 I can't in the 40 minute slot. I think I'd be the worst ad person ever - unless they gave me unlimited time to ponder my complex brain!

Tori's Tales said...

I'm with paw (and was going to quote the same) - that line stopped me in my tracks. I've been struggling so long to try and put an image to what I want my future to be, without taking any note of how I want it - or myself - to feel. Thank you for this.

And, I've been stalling over my second post for the past two weeks - going to be patient today and allow the words to come when they're meant to.

Beautiful post, as always. Time served you well.

FangTing (FT) said...

Hi Shoko! I emailed you in 2012 when I was transitioning from a corporate role into a more creative industry...happy to say I'm now a graphic designer and I absolutely get the whole patience thing! I started out so anxious, trying to get the best ideas and the best work out instantly, but once I put that worry aside and tell myself not to rush things, it all kinda unfolds in a most wonderful way. As always, love the posts and how you manage to capture all these thoughts and feelings so eloquently! FT

Shoko said...

Thank you all so much for reading. It's always my pleasure, 100%, to share.

FT, that's so wonderful — congratulations! Thank you so much for circling back — it's lovely to hear from you!

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