Friday, February 19, 2010

Razor's Edge: 2/19/10

Earlier this week I went to the staff copy machine at the community college where I'm adjunct faculty. It's mid-term time and I needed to run off the scripts of the source texts for the students' mid-term interpretations for feedback and congruency.

In the efforts to go green and decrease the amount of trees we kill every term, the college staff and faculty all do our best to reduce our paper usage and to recycle the extra pages and ink-smeared errors. There is an ever growing stack of these unwanted or unneeded pages - handy for notetaking or test scratch paper or whatever other use a one-sided piece of paper can be put to.

As the machine did its magic and pushed out the two-sided scripts, I leaned against the cupboard on which the stack sat. Right there on top was a Lynda Barry cartoon on the left half of the paper and some questions for an in-class assignment on the right half. I have no idea what class this was for and it doesn't really matter.

I am a Lynda Barry fan - so it would have probably caught my eye, anyway. But the picture of the giant 'don't know' octopus enveloping the writer, and her beginning of "that strange floating feeling" and I knew I had to find a use for that scrapped piece of insight.

And so, here, below, is a copy of Lynda Barry's drawing. And, below that, is this week's Razor's Edge. Yes, they are related.

cartoon by the incomparable Lynda Barry
awesome writer and artist (and instructor, though I've never directly taken a class from her)


First: take three minutes and will yourself to forget what you know. Forget it. Find that quiet place where you don't know and it's okay that you don't know. Let it go.

Second: what are your two questions? The two things that, when asked, will hook you in and wrap you up in knots as you search for the answer, or as Lynda Barry put it: "hold you hostage." Write them on a piece of paper and then (a) flush it down the toilet, or (b) thrown it the garbage can, or (c) burn it with a piece of your favorite incense, or (d) even better: tear it into strips and toss it into your recycling - the place from where this prompt was born!

Third: listen to this song, Time Flies, written by Julianna Waters, of Heart and HAMMER.

Fourth: imagine your own version of the "don't know" octopus. Let its arms envelope you and hold you safe in the space of not knowing. Pick up the pen or crayon or ball of clay or move and ... create ... Follow your body and put thoughts down on paper, or put up marks on the canvas on the wall, or walk tall on your toes, or crawl on the floor like the fuzzy caterpillar you saw last spring on the budding tree - create in whatever way feels right in that moment.