The past couple of weeks I’ve thought and written about community and self discipline. How we don’t create in a vacuum, but must talk to one another. And, too, how we must challenge self-doubt and keep punking along. Rows in the water, children, rows in the water!
This past weekend, I had two wonderful experiences of community. One was the Bookfest at the San Francisco Jewish Community Center. That was a double whammy: a day to connect with my ambivalent ashkenazic roots and the chance to hear smart folk talk about literature. The high point: a skyped encounter with Professor Harold Bloom of Yale University.
Like the rest of you (I hope), I’ve encountered the man in his sometimes controversial writings. Who can forget those dour photographs of the protector of the canon, lips set like Miss Manners‘, jowls aquiver with lofty scorn for any and all mediocrity? But I learned that in person (or on Skype), the good Professor is the possessor of a radiantly joyful smile that lights up with delight for people and poetry—what a wonderful discovery this was. Bloom is a humorous delight! Who knew?
This one comes from Berkeley writer and teacher Andy Couturier, author of a delightfully useful book (full review to follow another day) called Writing Open The Mind. Here’s an example procedure from this excellent teacher (with minor redactions):
Take a piece of writing that already exists. If you want, try this with something written by someone else. Start with the first word and start counting. Underline the seventh word. Now count again. Every seventh word, underline. Keep going until you have 25 words or so. Now copy these words—and these words only—on a fresh blank page. Next: read them out loud. Now a short freewrite, five minutes or so. Keep those original words in that order, but fill in the cracks with something. Some words of the original close together, others farther apart. Same topic or no. Experiment. Get through the end, five minutes, fast.
Got it? Good. Do it.
Make today count.
– Charles Kruger
The Storming Bohemian