The image is a pure creation of the mind. It cannot be born from a comparison but from a juxtaposition of two more or less distant realities. The more the relationship between the two juxtaposed realities is distant and true, the stronger the image will be — the greater its emotional power and poetic reality.
Two realities that have no relation whatever cannot be brought together effectively. No image is created. An image is not strong because it is brutal or fantastic–but because the association of ideas is distant and accurate. - Pierre Reverdy, Nord-Sud, March 1918
I’m about to go on about my interest in surrealist ideas again, so if you’re a staunch realist, I can’t help you except to say, Nothing to see here.
Image. Imagination. (n) The ability to form new images of external objects not present in the senses.
I’ve read and re-read Reverdy’s quote above about the juxtaposition of two distant realities. I think there’s something in it, and here’s why. Most of us were disgorged from some kind of mind-numbing formal education that only tolerates (worships) logic, realism, reality, and scientific materialism, where money, economics and business take precedence above all else. We were taught categorization, comparison, practicality, and math skills, where everything boils down to one answer. Where is “juxtaposition” in that formula? Look where it’s gotten us. No offense to math and science, of course. They have their places. But not at the exclusion of those dark, scary places in the mind that people pay big money to therapists to “fix” because they don’t know what the hell to do with them. And anyway, we’re all obsessed with celebrity and spectating rather than diving into our own shit. Speaking of shit, that scene in Trainspotting, one of my favorite books/films, is the perfect metaphor for what I mean. This is why I write fiction, by the way. It forces me to face my own shit.
It’s a wonder that as students so thoroughly indoctrinated in this linear goose-step stupefaction known as “education” anyone has a single remaining creative brain cell. Dreams, alternate realities, imagination, and flights of fancy are mostly found off-campus, in books, films, possibly in a pub, and only after dark, after a few pints, perhaps. My point is, hegemony of authority has silenced that little voice inside that tells us to write from the belly, as opposed to writing from the neck up (I am an absolute slave to the latter, and I suspect it’s one reason I can never finish a novel draft).
But take heart. The following idea comes from Jack Heffron:
When you find an idea, push it to its limits. Explore all of its possibilities. Dig around in it. Go beyond where you normally go–in length, depth, complexity, emotional connection. Nothing is too crazy or impossible to pull off. Again, if you stop and think too much, you’ll freeze up. Take a risk, he says. Up the stakes. Risk embarrassment. Add a new element (like, juxtapose two or more distant realities?). Surprise yourself. If the work doesn’t shimmer, it could be too safe, too pat. It probably lacks the energy that comes from the writer’s true and total engagement.
Remember the brilliant children we were and how we were swept away by fairy tales and ghost stories, either read to us or reading them ourselves? In our rush to become grown-ups we forgot that vasty realm of the subterranean, the unknown, the night sky, sleep, subconscious, madness, pre-history, quantum worlds, and so forth–those deep realms from which our imagination and our creativity are born. (Boy, did J.K. Rowling make bank on that little secret).
There are other methods, too. Voracious reading, Burroughs’ cut-ups, nurturing your nocturnal dreams, delving into arts of any kind, sleep deprivation, drugs, that momentary ecstasy in sex, alcohol…I’m sure you can name many more. What I’m getting at here is the need to get beyond those times when the writing gets flat, pat, boring. When everything feels numb and dead inside (not your fault). I’ll end here before I lose your attention.
Q: So? What’s the point of this post, Marie?
A: There isn’t one.
Related: Flightless Hummingbird