Monday, May 21, 2012

Look Inside

  Il faut cultiver notre jardin
We must cultivate our own garden.

I recently read an essay and these lines were quoted.

Sometimes I think that the mind finds what it needs everywhere—an essay, a book, the morning paper, a sign, —or even on the back of a cereal box. "What matters most is what's" The later line refers to your digestive health on a box of Whole Grain Cereal.

We must cultivate our own garden and what matters most is what's inside you..

Too many times I find myself looking over at someone else's garden—their drawings obey the laws of perspective, their abstractions are powerful and not so well controlled, and look at how they move gracefully between different media.

Or the other garden may be one where the writer always finds the right word, phrase, and emotional honesty.

Our sideway glances to those well watered, seemingly flourishing gardens takes us away from our own plot which needs attention.

Recently I read an essay about how-to-books, or specifically how-to writing books. Some of them are instructional, some dole out step by step instructions on how to get your first murder mystery, romance novel, or memoir written. Several disperse pats on the back as well as cheers for moving ahead. If you get mired in them you never have to move beyond the bookshelf.

Years ago I found a book that offered a prompt a day for 365 days. After about forty-five days of following each prompt I stumbled when the prompt for the day encouraged me to write about the death of a pet. At the time the only pet that had not survived was a painted turtle. This was not the Painted Turtle with straight alignment of the scutes across the back, but a painted turtle bought at the circus. My turtle had red flowers on its back. I suppose people didn't realize that painting the shell shortened the life of the turtle. The turtle, "Speedy" only lasted for one week. Between the paint job and being overfed "Speedy" passed from this physical life.

Instead of taking the prompts literally I began to use them as jumping off points that led me into some rather odd and strange places.. I persisted through a year and at the end realized that I had actually learned something about writing—not from the prompts—but from the daily writing.

And I can't forget to prune, cut back, repot, add fertilizer, and water.


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