Writing Wisdom

This turns out to be the best thing I read this week on the art of writing…

Pooh writing 2

“The friends could not agree which way to go.  Pooh looked for answers.

“Perhaps if we tell a story, the story will tell us how to get there…”

– Winnie the Pooh

struck me solidly as the way so very many of us who write

go about looking for answers.

Pooh writing

Write on…

New Fiction: “Experience, anyway.”

For some time I have been lacking for representation.  Processes and patterns go on, no doubt, but nothing materializes save scattered words, informed thoughts, scholarly papers, and so on.  Spouse says of self: “I need something to shoot for, develop toward, to propel…otherwise I stagnate, repeat…” and I agree with her – I’ve been itching for fiction – a larger project – something to belong to and build while fulfilling responsibilities, learning, parenting, husbanding, being “professional.”  But the pages have been blank.  This morning I began, and it started like this:


Experience, anyway.

            And stared at the head of Buddha.  As if literature were whatever could be fitted to symbols.  There were experiences anyway.  Complex goings-on.

He started.  As if starting were the only thing he could do.  He, she, self, other, organism – whatever.  It had begun.  If there were a god, it might know where, but they – for the life of them – could not figure it.  Not literature.

And for all the anyway-experiences, also.

In other words.

They stitched and thatched and wove, tore through, ripped out, clipped and pasted and tagged.  For all the cross-hatching and shading, foregrounding and back-, no image came through.  Or if it did, it never matched.

Representation.  Representamen – for a more mystical suggesting.  Arcane.  Obtuse.  That which is metaphor’d.  That which signals, indices, or forms.  That which functions.  Which can be acted on, or with, within, without.  Functioning ephemera.  To latch.

And undo.  It passes.  Lock on – decipher.  Pass around the room.  Agreeing by argument, it becomes.  Difference.  Evaporate.

The head of the Buddha is shaped out of stone.  More likely poured, cast.  More likely art – official.  What is artificial? – But human construction of world.  That radical deflect.  That begin.  In symbol.

At a certain time (constructed, invent), cross-purposes : experience.  Anyway, perceived.  So aroused – appreciation, cognition, desire, belief – purchased (bought, fallen-for, faith-in) : acquired.  Experience, anyway – head in corner on bookshelf knick-knack antiques, money (that wasn’t there), and taken away.

Evaluation = meaning.  Interpretation.  Somewhere whereabouts and how, or when – experience, anyway.  Action occurs.  It’s started.

Writing’s Toxin

Barthes - Novel

“Is it possible to make a Narrative (a Novel) out of the Present?  How to reconcile – dialecticize – the distance implied by the enunciation of writing and the proximity, the transportation of the present experienced as it happens?  (The present is what adheres, as if your eyes were glued to a mirror).  Present: to have your eyes glued to the page; how to write at length, fluently (in a fluent, flowing, fluid manner) with one eye on the page and the other on ‘what’s happening to me?'”

“The novelistic ‘drive’ (the love of the material) is not directed toward my past.  It’s not that I don’t like my past; it’s rather that I don’t like the past (perhaps because it rends the heart), and my resistance takes the form of the mist i spoke of – a kind of general resistance to rehearsing, to narrating what will never happen again (the dreaming, the cruising, the life of the past).  The affective link is with the present, my present, in its affective, relational, intellectual dimensions = the material I’m hoping for (cf. ‘to depict whom I love’).”

“This is actually to go back to that simple and ultimately uncompromising idea that ‘literature’ (because, when it comes down to it, my project is ‘literary’) is always made out of ‘life.’  My problem is that I don’t think I can access my past life; it’s in the mist, meaning that its intensity (without which there is no writing) is weak.  What is intense is the life of the present, structurally mixed (there’s my basic idea) with the desire to write it.  The ‘Preparation’ of the Novel therefore refers to the capturing of this parallel text, the text of ‘contemporary,’ concomitant life.”

“Now, although at first glance making a novel out of present life looks difficult to me, it would be wrong to say that you can’t make writing out of the Present.  You can write the Present by noting it – as it ‘happens’ upon you or under you (under your eyes, your ears) – In this way, we at last come in sight of the double problem, the key to which organizes the Novel – on the one hand, Notation, the practice of ‘noting’: notatio.  On what level is it situated?  The level of ‘reality’ (what to choose), the level of the ‘saying’ (what’s the form, what’s the product of Notatio)?  What does this practice involve in terms of meaning, time, the instant, the act of saying?  Notatio instantly appears at the problematic intersection between a river of language, of uninterrupted language – life, both a continuous, ongoing, sequenced text and a layered text, a histology of cut-up texts, a palimpsest – and a sacred gesture: to mark life (to isolate: sacrifice, scapegoat, etc.)”
“On the other hand, how to pass from Notation, and so from the Note, to the Novel, from the discontinuous to the flowing (to the continuous, the smooth)?  For me, the problem is psychostructural because it involves making the transition from the fragment to the nonfragment, which involves changing my relationship to writing, which involves my relationship to enunciation, which is to say the subject that I am: fragmented subject (=a certain relationship) or effusive subject (a different relationship)…a Novel-Fragment…”

Our Propensities

“identifying a function for dreams or pretend play or fiction doesn’t mean that we’ve identified the function”

-Jonathan Gottschall-

I am enjoying this book more than I expected.  Often overview-type books of aspects of human phenomena leave me with a touch of “yeah, we all know that (i.e. we experience that), but tell us something new, give us opportunities to create knowledge from new data!”  Gottschall’s book is a well-written tour (akin to the work of de Botton on aspects of human life) – representative of current knowledge, suggestive rather than pedantic, and fluidly engaging.

“Consider the following information:

Todd rushed to the store for flowers.

Greg walked her dog.

Sally stayed in bed all day.

Quick, what were you thinking?…

In the same way that your mind sees an abstract pattern and resolves it into a face, your imagination sees a pattern of events and resolves it into a story…studies show that if you give people random, unpatterned information, they have a very limited ability not to weave it into a story…the storytelling mind is a factory that churns out true stories when it can, but will manufacture lies when it can’t…it’s usual method is to fabricate the most confident and complete explanatory stories from the most ambiguous clues…the Sherlock Holmes in our brains job is to ‘reason backwards’ from what we can observe in the present and show what orderly series of causes led to particular effects…we will always rather fabulate a story than leave experience unexplained.”

And so on.  In fact, the sentences he writes above are on-the-fly conjured random fact-statements unrelated.  Most of us probably had already begun to fit it into something ‘meaningful to us’ before we finished the third one.  Does this help you see how your view and perspective on reality – your ‘automatic’ or instinctual or deferral mode comprehension ALWAYS needs sorted out with CONTEXT and the empirical world?  Our minds are amazing and unbelievable in their functions and operations (literally), factories of fictions based on ancient genetic messages qua homo sapien, empirical experiences from our own individual lifespans, and an untangleable web of socio-cultural input and in-formation.  We’re fascinating…and utterly unreliable.  Thus we have each other, and our senses and myths and science and all sorts of other-world perspectives to adjust and possibilize our own stories.  Perhaps there are moments our thoughts align with facts, but those will be rare in our lives.

Taken in a context of Nelson Goodman’s Ways of Worldmaking, John Canfield’s Becoming Human and Alan Singer’s The Self-Deceiving Muse, Gottschall’s delightful foray into the impulsivity of fiction-like brain behavior makes for a savory meal. I’m concocting stories about it even now (it’s sure).

Homo Fictus

“words are not a translation of something else that was there before they were”

-Ludwig Wittgenstein-

Homo Fictus

 “Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories”

-Jonathan Gottschall-

            Knowing how / knowing why.  Procedures and structures.  Diversify and unify.  Complexity-to-simplicity turned complex all over again.  Reuse and construction.  Stories.

We are saturate with story.  Each word of that sentence.  If I provide the skeleton – you’re sure to flesh it out.   The productivity of words, the how & why of humans.

Perhaps I’ll call it “making sense,” but the sense is there before, what follows is a meaning – through procedures and structures, reuse and construction, the wired and the firing, implicity spinning explicitly – and for reasons not yet fully known, I’ve gotta have mine.

“The knowledge of good and evil, all in one.  Both. 

Somebody finally said, I know my own mind.”

-Janet Kauffman-

            Experience is a complex collision I diversify and unite.  Following patterns infused by my own.  If you provide a list of observations and complaints, I may spend entire days reorganizing them – they didn’t quite “fit.”  Perhaps I’ll throw them back.  I’d like to be certain.

“the absence of doubt is of the essence of a language-game”

-Ludwig Wittgenstein-

            A personalized language-game full of cues, thesauri and symbols – my controlled vocabulary meshing your data…

“The alphabet of my DNA shapes certain words, but the story is not told.

I have to tell it myself.

What is it I have to tell myself again and again?

That there is always a new beginning, a different end.

I can change the story.  I am the story.


-Jeanette Winterson-

            …ah, now I’ve figured it out (made it fit  my form) – this is my story now, please listen and confirm (complexity-simplicity) – oh no?  you don’t? (complexity again) and back to the storyboards or diary…

The yearn is toward some balance, stasis, surety.  Re-cognizable re-currency.  Re-presentation.  Re-anything.  Want familiar.  The excitement may very well come with the disruptions, eruptions, defamiliarization, the constant change – it certainly heightens our senses and intension – the thrill is in the thunderous gathering of troops – flickering flashing neurons – dogs set on the intrusion…but soon we stabilize the perimeter again…incorporate the drama…

“the important thing is to consider the significance of things and not to worry about their authenticity…it’s difficult to tell at the end of the day whether it was theory or need that got you through it.”

-Joy Williams-

            …with our stories (and lies)…our illusory perceptions…needing organized to our organism…and tales are conjured, fiction begins, typing on our limited keys…

…even while the body’s at rest…

“in short, nothing so central to the human condition is so incompletely understood”

-Jonathan Gottschall-

this post inspired in part by

A Family of Fiction, pt. 3

“all attempts at interpretation must abandon any pretence at direct understanding and concentrate on second degree understanding.”

-Victor Stoichita, A Short History of the Shadow-

Family 1

FAMILY A FICTION (the story to now)

Section 3:


            Girl-princess-daughter, her experience as only.  Not quite true collectively, there being also steps- and halves- another, older, never cohabitant, but still.  The members were stacked.  Against or for, another matter.  Depending.

The younger, caged one, doesn’t eat.  Is self-restricting.  Flutters like a bird.  Her brain engulfs her self, a genetic trait.  Possessed also, in some measure, top-down.  Each with their own rendition.  One definition of family.

Cohabitants.  Genetics.  Affinities.  Their opposite.  Relations.  Some, after all, being half-habitants, some post-, some occasional-, some rare-.  Or endangered.  Or in transitions.

If there is a nucleus, it is Scraggly and Self-aware, both co- and in-habitants constantly, at least according to them.  In the minds of their children.  Whenever they were.  Adding an unknowable “if.”

The grown and growing exhibit it.  The three on their own.  Three nearly capable, at least two of which: disinterested.  This is not about them, not a descriptive analysis.  Maybe more like a song, composing a fugue: each line for itself replete with recurring variations, cringes of dissonance and harmonic highlights.  Something like a family, a novel, a history, religion.

Oscillations that swivel near a truth, only to loop and to veer into something more real.  Being actual.  That is to say, is happening.

Inopportune call and subsequent jail time.  Jealousies and rivalries, differentials of power.  Stirred with a paste of abuse and traces of –isms.  Coupled to all the unpredictably brave accomplishments.  That sort of thing.  The life of a species.

With no one sure how to tell it.  Who solos, who’s chorus.  And when.  Where hardly matters in webs.  Or does it?  Authoritative nights at the table, father propounding to a coven of illumined and down-turned faces – forged not of incantations, but synergies of private networks.  Ubiquitous strands of escape.  Virtual tunneling.  Not to mention insolence.  Or simply vanishing within.  Daddy lost in thought.  Or mum diagnosing (she doesn’t like to think it that way).  Seldom either/or.

They build a monument, calling it travel.  Stripping each other of context, providing a different forum.  Humans tend to revert to familiar.  Habitude of experience.  With no experience, alteration comes to bear.  Predictable as weather.

No one’s leaving home.

Other words coming to mind.

Found Objects

Greetings all – squishing this in before the homework hits.  As always I highly encourage any and all of you creatives out there to take these generous prompts and craft away, as exercise or effort – The Friday Fictioneers weekly wonderful co-creativity :

Copyright-Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

“Look, the details don’t matter, okay?  It happened, and here’s the proof, and now nothing will ever be the same.”

“As if it were.  As if things could change like that – all over and immediate.  How do we even know what from this collage?”

“Jesus Ralph!  They’re connected by the photograph!  Look!”

“As if the image were the thing itself.  C’mon Rachel, really?”

“God dad!  It’s grandpa, a menorah, a dial-up and some crayons – how obvious does it have to be?”

“I’m gonna need something more than a sign Rachel, something more than a trick of the light.”

N Filbert 2013

The Gift that Explodes, 5 : Whispered Leavings

Notebook 5

This constitutes the 5th page of the Notebook given me by my daughter…here it is in typescript:


In Which the Leavings Whisper

Indeed there are times of leaning toward cold and the dark.  We huddle close, our woods seem silent, even emptied, so we hush and sound our whispers, to blend them into wind, its Winter.

I speak of the dangers – presumption and preference – too-devoted attachments to our particular woods.  You hear us sing their praises, we dance like them in breezing sunlight, pattern our coats according their colors, entrust them to shelter and shade us, providing our true light and fire.  We claim them the hardest and strongest, the Durable Ones.  We come to cling to our woods as life.  Dear child, it is not long before we view them as the “only.”  The Most and Highest, the Broadest, Richest, Rooted Deep.  We worship their hold, celebrating their fruit.  Develop our rituals of cultivation by tending them daily, each of us making our rounds, repeating the woods until they are all that we know, all that we love, the scope of which we are able to see.

Hush and beware, my splendid dear, for here is where the quiet comes.  The times we call The Leavings.  These very woods to which we cling, within and upon which we build our homes, nourish our bodies and fuel our fires, compose our messages and texts, which provide us with movement over long waters and vast mountains of snow – keeping us warm all the while – just when we revel most confidently in their glorious splendor, their rainbows of color and light-glowing hue…they begin their wandering away.  Day by day, as the cold is approaching with its elongating nights, they drain of their colors and begin letting-go.  These, my child, are The Leavings.

As we cuddle near their time-trusted fullness and warmth, they appear to us bare, barren, and grey.  We look up, we cry out “the woods!  the woods!” and our sound shrieks right through, we are staring at stark and the Gone.  Seeing past in icy clarity, our woods exposed and stripped – if we do not close our eyes in terror, but look far, far beyond our own tangled thicket of woods…far, far beyond, my lovely, farther even than the eye can see…are more woods, and more, everywhere woods making scents for their peoples, sheltering and shading them, burning and abandoning them as well.  If we hush and refuse ourselves despair as we see our woods give out, in turn setting ourselves silently to listening and keenly looking out – we can know the lessons of the Leavings.  That there are further woods than ours, many woods and other, only farther out.

We grow easily impatient of our woods in our discomforts and our panics and our fears.  Yes there are countlessly many Leavings – you can count on them, and by them, but my tender one, if you will persist and endure, if you are open to their lessons and their silence, the woods will come back to you, freshly and new.  There will be young woods you never knew before, and the old ones return too.

Our woods are never so much lost as that they undergo strange changes.  They break and wither, shrivel and drop – they must shed themselves of their embellishments and gathering continually – so they might produce themselves again, altered and renewed.  Their many uses over untold years are logged within their roots and cores, marked and divited, scarred and sapped – it is for us to remember and adapt, let go with them and wait, wait, enduring the Leavings with all that we have, slogging onward toward new growth.

Oh yes it is frightening to feel all is lost, sweet child of wonder, but our woods never fail us finally, they leave us to be born.

And this is why I gather samples wherever I happen to go – fruits and nuts, leaves and needles, parts of any woods I chance to see or hear – in order to remember and remind in times of Leaving that somewhere, and at any time, we will live again in woods that will be full and bright, returning the woods that we’ve known toward our unknown need.

Now rest, child, rest…the night is quiet and cold, let the woods hush and whisper through your dreams…

click this image for the document in its current entirety:

Notebook - Ida

Continuation of the Gift that Explodes: In Which is Entered the Rich Thicket of Woods

Here is page two of the blank notebook from my daughter as it fills:


and here it’s typeset form:


In Which is Entered the Rich Thicket of Woods


In the beginning was the wood.  It took us much time to discover its uses.  We ate its tough skin for roughage, we mashed its soft heart into pulp.  We chopped it to bits, we rearranged them.  We played games with it.  Sometimes it was all that kept us afloat.  Sometimes we structured them carefully and turned to them for shelter.  As we learned what woods could do, we began to comprehend their value.  At times we relied on them for everything necessary to survive – the fruit of a tree gave us sweet liquid and meaty flesh.  The fragility of the dead still warmed us as it disintegrated in the flames.  They grew to be almost sacred – the world as we knew it came to rely on them.  We crafted them into signs and created many sounds from them – enabling us to communicate over vast spaces.  We were capable of traveling quite far, able to reach one another over distances before considered impassable.  Woods made this possible my dear!  Some days I might spend hours simply admiring them – looking them over – taking them in.  Each with its own fine shape, and own specific range of uses.  Some were embellishments, some anchored the whole forest together, some provided seamless access or served as bridges to crawl carefully across great dangers.  We constructed some for fences and walls – they helped us keep the unwanted out.  Others we piled up like babble in the sheer joy of conflagration and release – it seemed they could life our heavy spirits like colorful smoke.  Oh the woods, my darling, the woods!  It is they that really enabled us to become what we are today.  To reveal our capacities, our feelings and thoughts, intentions and dreams.  In woods we could concoct our plans and rest in their leafy comfort.  There are times when all one needs is woods.  Things can seem overwhelming, catastrophic or of unmentionable sorrow or fright, and yet finding the right type of wood, or clinging to a wood that is kind and safe and strong can sometimes leverage us through great storms.  My precious dear, learn as many woods as you can – make peace with them – seek out their countless paths that you might always have a place to go, a world to be.


Intro to the Gift that Explodes

photo 1
daughter Ida – aged 8

Holidays have a way of obstructing and crowding out creative time for me.  Oh we find ways to express and produce – Holly’s making candles with all sorts of found objects downstairs as I type this, paper snowflakes, new stories and pictures from the children, new compositions sounding throughout the house, but for the snail’s pace of reading/writing processing/producing I prefer…well… I often find the compounding of anxiety-inducing public spaces and family gatherings, people and lights and jangling music and cheer, busying trips and spendings and time limits to all but obliterate my ability to bring anything out of the scraps.  Last Saturday, my daughter Ida, who is forever cabbaging papers, pens, markers and tape anywhere she can find them, metamorphosing them into handmade notebooks, letters, scripts and stories to read and share with her lucky family and friends, handed me the following with the message: “this is for you.”  So today, amid projects and budgets and organizings and so forth…when I was just about to write off the next two weeks for personal creativity…I grabbed this and took it to my desk…

Notebook - Ida


…and so it begins…

Notebook - Ida2


In case you can’t read my mumbling handwriting – here is a typed copy: (have to click a couple of times for some reason?!)

Introduction to the Gift that Explodes