Archive for the ‘Reflections on Syverson’ Category

In class last week, we also analyzed the line, “The edge of chaos is where writing has enough stability to sustain itself and enough creativity to deserve the name of writing,” which posed a statement of Syverson’s in a different way.  In relationship to the physics of life, something that is chaotic both in its sustainability and creativity, writing must also be chaotic in its sustainability and creativity.  Like the physics of life, writing is a complex system.  Before proceeding, I would like to consider a painting of Jackson Pollock’s, One, which is posted below.

Magnificently, Pollock’s painting reveals this chaos of sustainability and creativity within the physics of life.  Simultaneously, he shows that it is also within art.  Pollock was able to create this painting, because he recognized that the complex system was within, not only physics, but also his experience of art, thereby causing him to literally paint that experience of the complex system, which is revealed in his painting above.  His painting illustrates a clear representation of the equilibrium of chaos within a complex system.  Writers, I believe Syverson is suggesting, need to embrace this complex system as an experience that is both inside and outside of the self.  They should strive to recognize that because they, by definition of the complex system, are dynamic beings, making them unpredictable and spontaneous beings, their writing is also unpredictable and spontaneous.  Therefore, it might be best for writers to approach the writing process with a feeling of spontaneity, for even when they approach a writing project with an exact intent, the chances are the original intent will change shape over time, because there are so many unseen forces contributing a role in the writing process.  Along with the many psychological unseen forces of the subconscious and unconscious, there are also many unseen forces, as Syverson suggests, outside of us that are playing a role, such as the environment, other people, our bodies, and the means by which we create.  For example, when first approaching this assignment, I intended only to explain the line, “The edge of chaos is where writing has enough stability to sustain itself and enough creativity to deserve the name of writing,” which we discussed in class last week.  Yet I did not intend to discuss how Pollock’s painting symbolized this complex system.  I did not intend to suggest that his approach to painting is the approach writers should take when creating a poem or manuscript.  These ideas just came flooding out of me like, as William Wordsworth would have called it, “a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.”  Therefore, my now interconnected relationship, as reader of Syverson’s work and as observer of Pollock’s painting, has influenced my writing choices.  These choices are not individualized.  They are not only my own.  They are also Syverson’s, Pollock’s, and many others, all locked together in a spontaneous, yet harmonious, complex system.

The next thing I would like to discuss is my environment.  I am currently in Cooper Hospital in Camden, New Jersey, bored out of my mind while waiting for my friend to get his colonoscopy behind him.  I have no other choice but to wait here for hours, so I decided to get some of my writing done.  I feel this environment is currently influencing me to invest a lot more time and energy into this post, because typically I feel like I am running out of time, but this place makes me feel like I have a few extra hours to do nothing.  Next, I did not bring my laptop with me out of fear of being jumped and robbed for it.  I felt it might be unsafe to bring it into Camden.  Consequently, this is the first post that I am writing on paper, which I feel will cause the final copy, the one on my blog, to turn out differently (I am typing this post to my blog now, and I can tell you that it has definitely changed as a result of typing it).  Also, I feel writing with a pen on paper influences me to express more passion in my writing sometimes, because I feel like the blank piece of paper is screaming at me to fill it in.  The computer screen doesn’t do this for me.  Yet the computer does many things for me that paper does not do.  As I mentioned in class, I feel that having my laptop has made me a better writer, but at the time I did not explain what I meant about this clearly enough.  What I meant is that my laptop makes everything so much more easily accessible.  Okay, I admit that I am lazy sometimes.  I do not feel like getting up to get the dictionary, thesaurus, or some other book for clarification when writing on paper.  My laptop makes it very easy to avoid these type of writing complications, so instead of having to dig through one of my books to find what Wordsworth said exactly about spontaneity and its relationship to writing poetry, all I have to do is click a button and I am there.  Further, I once told people that reading expanded my vocabulary recognition so much.  Now I feel my laptop has helped me to do this just as much, yet in much less time.  These contributors, along with many others, suggest that as a writer I am not just one mind composing, rather I am a pen, a laptop, a body with moving hands, etc.  In the Journal of Value Inquiry, David Brubak discusses the philosopher, Merleau-Ponty, and his concept of the three intertwinings.  Brubak says, “Merleau-Ponty developed the notion of the flesh as a ‘thickness of the body’ that permits communication between our perceptions and the things themselves.”  Before I studied Merleau-Ponty, I thought that the body and material things in our environments served no importance.  I, like Plato and Socrates, was an idealist.  Now I know that without our bodies and the things in our environments, we could not experience our ideas.  Now I know that all of these things are very significant.  Now I know that writing is a complex system that involves the active engagement with all of these significant elements.

One final note, in consideration of the environment and the notion of writer’s block, I think it is interesting to consider when we talk about writer’s block that we automatically assume that it is something in the mind that is keeping us from thinking creatively.  Yet might it not be the environment that is blocking our pathways of creative thought?  For instance, I noticed when I am at work I cannot write very well at all.  I dispatch police, fire, and medical, and while working I hear buzzing, ringing, beeping, screaming, and many other chaotic sounds of the busy world around me.  Consequently, I feel my chaotic environment causes me to experience writer’s block.  I mention this because Syverson says that notions like writer’s block have been invented solely from our emphasis on “thinking” as the primary contributor in writing.  I feel she is correct, so I now offer a new way to perceive these sort of notions, namely that the environment or other factors are causing things like writer’s block to occur.

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Do ducks look into the mirror, and while squinting at their own gazes, search for their complexities within their simplicities?  How does a duck know it is a duck, considering it probably has never looked into the mirrors of life before?  That which we call a complex system rolls and rumbles without the duck’s awareness, stumbles on bottles with messages, and lands itself right into the lap of the human being.  The ducks have refreshed my existence today on the sharp breeze of their wings that swung me through the air, swiped me with their flapping flare, and showed me what it meant to be a chaotic being of stability.  Ducks are gutsy.  They do not need to look in a mirror before asking someone on a date or engaging in self-reflection.  Ducks can teach humans a lot about courage.  They can teach humans to self-reflect in the absence of the mirror, to see more than what they perceive in the mirror.  Because of the ducks, and my #core2s10 class, I have written a duck story today.  The experience of being in class and discussing the duck story with everyone, reading and reflecting on Syverson, and watching the ducks at the park, have all intermingled down the tube of the writing process, as I engage in this complex system of writing.  Now I experience the duck, feel the duck, and accept the duck as my own.  And the message in the bottle said, “Write about the duck.”

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Last week in class, I mentioned that when writing about what I have been told by others I worry about the reliability of the material written.  At the time, Dr. Wolff asked me to clarify what this meant to me, but I did not answer.  Since then I have done much reflection, and I now know what it means to me.  First, I gave an example in class that night, which I felt might cause others to question the reliability of my work.  My mother grew up in foster homes her entire childhood since she was two, and she has told me several really fascinating, yet horrifying, stories.  For example, she was viciously abused, both physically and emotionally.  She observed other children being abused also.  She remembers waking another foster child late at night, telling her to go to the bathroom out of fear that if she wet the bed she would be once again smothered in her wet sheets, beaten repeatedly in her own urine, while wrapped in these ruthless rags of toilet torture.  As a writer, I would really like to discuss these stories in a nonfiction piece, yet I would like to do it without having to conduct an interview or feel as though the reader is saying, “How do you know exactly what happened?  This is heresy.  We want to hear from the mother.”  These words pierce my mind when writing about the words of others, for I have been taught that reliability is crucial in nonfiction writing.  

Strangely, this overbearing emphasis on reliability contradicts what Syverson suggests writers should do, namely to consider more than “what they know” during the writing process.  Reliability suggests that writers should ask what they know rather than what others know or what others have told them, thereby reinforcing writers once again to focus only on thought, namely what they know, as the primary contributor in the writing process.  Clearly, writers should consider more than what they know.  Therefore, this definitely makes for a great discussion and poses a really important question.  Should we be emphasizing reliability as much as we do in writing, and if so, how do we do it without compromising our active engagement with the complex system of writing?  Surely, the complex system of writing is something that just happens subconsciously, yet I believe if we learn to consciously embrace it we then will experience writing at a different level, a level of supreme mindfulness.  At this level, we will learn to embrace writing, not with our minds, but with our pens, our keyboards, our hands, our bodies, and our environments.

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