(Brain)Picking(s) out meaning, diaries, losing your head, daily poetry, and the War of Art

Today, a slew of BrainPickings for you, daily poetry that will Rattle you, and a serious battle with Resistance.

My still favorite website BrainPickings has a few more must-sees I came across this week. This is Water: David Foster Wallace on Life is a commencement speech Wallace gave that everyone should hear, about avoiding the shallow autonomy, the default behaviors, and the thought processes of daily life. If you can, give Part 2 of the speech the 12 minutes it deserves. He’ll tell you what the Capital-T Truth is.

Virginia Woolf on the Creative Benefits of Keeping a Diary is giving me a reason to keep journaling every day. When I sit down at a meal or on the subway with my notebook, I am always fighting a battle between boring, this-is-what-happened-today stuff and diving into a story or poem. What comes out is usually somewhere in between. In the article, Woolf defends the rambling notes of her diary, noting that it “loosens the ligaments,” which leads to an “increase in the ease of her professional writing.” She also says she might eventually learn what to “make of this loose, drifting material of life,” which is a good reason to let the words spill.

What sort of diary should I like mine to be? Something loose knit and yet not slovenly, so elastic that it will embrace anything, solemn, slight or beautiful that comes into my mind. I should like it to resemble some deep old desk, or capacious hold-all, in which one flings a mass of odds and ends without looking them through.
Once the pen is running on the page, it becomes much easier to hop the fence into a story or poem, whereas if I’m swimming around in my head, that fence is much taller. (It’s hard to hop a fence if you’re swimming, right? I suppose the geniuses are the flying fish.) I’ve found this to be true whether I’m writing or doodling, but I’ll make the case for doodling another time, perhaps with this for support.

Lilli Carre is a writer/illustrator who put together a bizarre little animation about losing your head called Head Garden. I love the style and the metaphor. Check it out.

That same old friend who suggested this Brautigan poem suggested another new something: daily poetry updates from Rattle. Poetry, that complex web of carefully constructed meaning, is delicious, nutritious food for your brain, and an awesome way to take a short break and focus on something completely different. Give that mind a rest, and set your subconscious free. You can sign up in the upper right corner of the Rattle website.

Some (most) would say I read too much about writing, and don’t do enough of the real thing. I’m working on it. Until then, I started another book, The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield. In it, he outlines the most evil force in the universe, Resistance. Resistance is that which prevents us from doing our work, the work were meant to do, whether it’s creative or entrepreneurial or some other vocation. When we submit to it, we end up doing unhappy work, leading only to terrible things. Resistance lives on fear, it makes our excuses for us, it high-fives Rationalization and tells us we do need a break, that we can take the day off, and that the easy way out is the best way. He goes on to differentiate between professionals and amateurs in their craft, helping us avoid the mistakes of the amateurs. The amateurs worship their work and define themselves by it (and the assumed glory). The pro shows up for work every day, no matter what, battling Resistance anew every moment of the way.

Defeating Resistance is like giving birth. It seems absolutely impossible until you remember that women have been pulling it off successfully, with support and without, for fifty million years.
Pressfield talks about how we can use Resistance and fear as a compass to determine just what direction we should be going in our lives. If we feel the resistance, that reveals the path. If we have a great fear of something, that’s the best reason to conquer it. Be wary of rationalization, and the excuses it can lead to. Make choices, not excuses. Dive in head first. A great quote from John M. Mitchell:
The finest steel has to go through the hottest fire.
And now, I have no more excuses, and must get back to actually writing.