BURNING THE CANVAS

“Make your mind a blank slate,” the monk told us. We were sitting in the wooden temple, performing our daily meditation cycle. It was around 6:30 in the morning, though the bells had yet to chime. I focused on my heartbeat, calming myself. The goal of enlightenment was a difficult process. I had been told to make my mind a blank slate, in a few moments, the monk would instruct us further.

“Now, make your mind empty,” said the monk with a quiet yet firm tone. It was at this point that most disciples struggled. How, in fact, does one create nothing? I was sitting with my legs crossed in the lotus position. My hands were at my knees, palms facedown so that my fingers slumped down, fully relaxed. Every disciple was given the choice of meditative positions, right down to the direction they faced, to further calm their mind. The idea was to become one with the world. In history, but one monk had become fully at peace in this way, but he became unable to speak after his awakening, and in truth he departed from most human communication in general.

I focused my mind. I could picture the blank slate before me—an empty canvas, endless, with no sides or edges. I could feel my heartbeat slow from a normal speed. Thump. Pause. Thump. And so on. Then, I attempted to remove the canvas from my mind, until nothing was left. At first, I tried to condense the canvas, to put it inside a box equally infinite, and make the box disappear. But how could I possibly erase something that was infinite? After that, I tried to eat away at the canvas from the middle, like a fire as it burned from the center of a paper to all edges. In my mind, I could almost feel the heat, as the sparks became a flame, and the flame became a wall of fire, and finally the wall of fire erupted from all ends of my mind. I held my breath, to snuff the oxygen out and force the flame to go out. I could feel my heart rate quicken, straining against the lack of sustenance. But the fire had spread to far. How could I compete with a flame the burns infinitely?

I recreated the canvas in my mind again, each time attempting to remove it in new ways. Each time, failing. By the time the bells struck 7:30, I had become drenched in sweat, despite remaining motionless the whole time. My mind had become a battleground against the forces of itself. By the time the clock struck 8:00, I was grateful our meditation session was at an end. I exhaled deeply, and opened my eyes. When they had closed, the sun was still below the horizon, yet now it had brightened the whole day. The monk crossed the floor of the temple to me, and put a hand on my shoulder.

“You are making good process, Seigfried.”

“I don’t feel like I am making progress,” I lamented. It was exhasperating.

“Why do you struggle?” The monk’s question seemed rhetorical, but I knew he expected an answer.

“I struggle because when my mind is a blank slate, it, like my imagination, is infinite.” The monk made a small smile, revealing no teeth, but clearly happy with my answer.

“If your mind is infinite, perhaps you should seek not to remove infinity, but to alter it.”

“I have altered it!” I gasped, “I burned the canvas away and then tried to snuff out the fire, but how does one snuff out infinity?” I turned away from the monk angry. The monk nodded to me, but I could sense his smile had disappeared. He walked away to leave me alone in my own thoughts.

WRITING GOOD PROSE

Hello everyone,
Monday has arrived and my mind is percolating with things to talk about. Mostly because in class we are jumping around the book The Basic Kafka, which are works by a man named Kafka, many published after his death. I am intrigued because Kafka writes pretty short stories to get across important messages. And by pretty short, I don’t just mean 10 page stories, he’ll write a quick 300 word tale about a guy and his interaction with a police officer, and you can find so much meaning in it.

So today I wanted to talk about writing, because I realize most people on here have blogs of their own that they write for creatively. Now, I’m not the greatest at executing prose myself, but I am very good at identifying the trends of good writing. I’ve talked a bit about writing poetry, now let’s talk about writing good prose. For those lost a little bit because I don’t talk about this stuff much, prose is what you find in a regular book. Think “A Game of Thrones.” Which, in fact, is a great starting point.

A Game of Thrones is a simple story made great by complex characters. What does this tell us? Well, that characters are important. Archetypes do not exist clearly, everything is “real.” This means, good characters have flaws in addition to accomplishments, not all of which are character flaws. Some can be physical attributes. Good stories have several of these characters, because it makes things unpredictable, but not in a way that makes the reader feel like they were played.

The other notable aspect of good prose is meaning and parallelism to that meaning. To continue my Game of Thrones example, the character Ned Stark begins the story as a heroic authority figure, executing a criminal despite the criminal just doing what he felt was best. This is juxtaposed at the end of the story (spoilers!) when Ned Stark is executed. This creates a “full circle” sort of feeling in the reader, where the fall from grace is completed. This can take non-circular forms, but many good novels have them.

And then there is meaning. Meaning can be done in many words or in few words. Kafka does it in few words typically, where he creates a scenario people can identify with, then intercepts the scenario with a character made to represent something. Like a policeman scoffing at a lost citizen asking for directions. Try something like this in your writing, and you may find more success. Does that sound doable? Let me know what you think!

PASSING THROUGH WRITER’S BLOCK

Hello everyone,
Today I’ve been wandering around my thoughts uncertain what to talk about. So why not talk about that? I’m sure I’m not the only person who sometimes feels caught up in their own thoughts too much. For example, I sometimes question myself when deciding a topic for the blog, because it’s one I’ve talked about a lot. Look at how often I’ve discussed politics somewhat directly. That’s quite a bit. I talk even more about gender issues.

It can be really hard to not repeat myself. Or worse, feel like I am repeating myself. I mean, I can circularly talk all day about how women are mistreated, and how that mistreatment leads to the internalization of misogyny, and how that becomes a cycle of inequality. But that becomes stagnant over time. This happens in all kinds of writing. Just a few hours ago I was trying to come up with a premise for my next love poem. Obviously I (typically) write from my own perspective. I’m a heterosexual male. So in my poetry I often glorify (or demonize) female characters. But that sometimes feels worn out. Like seriously, how many poems have you heard about a guy who loves a girl.

To over come this I do one of two things. First, I’ll try to write about something else. Something not remotely related to the subject or style. Non-fiction prose is often a good way to do this for me. I mean, it’s what I do most of the time on my blog. The second way to break your writer’s block is to write the same thing differently. For example, since I am having some trouble writing from my normal perspective of a love poem, maybe I should try a different one. Maybe I should try writing from the perspective of a heterosexual woman, or from a homosexual person. Maybe I shouldn’t write about romantic love, but another kind of love. Like the love of a sibling, or a friend.

Of course, this can be difficult. Writing from the perspective of a homosexual male can create other problems. Say my “perspective” is latently bigoted. Say some stereotype I have about homosexual males slips through unintentionally. Say I use a perspective I believe to be true, but is not completely accurate. Suddenly I may ostracize someone. Of course, this can happen from my normal perspective as well, but to me that is more understandable, because the misunderstanding of someone outside a specific in group is more comprehensible than someone making an error and trying to play it off as real. Neither are acceptable, but one is simply a lack of knowledge and can be corrected, while the other is bigoted.

Anywho, writer’s block is difficult, especially with work you plan to publish. That said, I hope these methods I have may assist you! Try one out and let me know what you think! Or if you have any ways to break through the wall, tell me so I can try them!