First Thoughts.

You'll have to forgive me . . . *yawn . . . 
if I seem a little tired.  

I finished the book I was reading last night soon after I climbed into bed and it left me still wide awake and looking for another chapter.  So I grabbed a book I had purchased on my recent trip to New Mexico thinking it would probably put me to sleep immediately.


Instead I was soon asking the book "where have you been all my life?" and promising myself "just one more page...just one more page...just one more..."  At first I was trying to tell myself to slow down, because it was a book I needed to savor.  Then I just decided if I wanted to savor it, I'd simply read it again.

I bought the book because when I read the blurb about the author, I could see that she spent her life bouncing between Minnesota and New Mexico, so I thought we must be related.

And because it was about writing, of course.

I've been scaring my family lately, having packages of information about Creative Non-fiction MFA programs show up in the mailbox and on the kitchen counter.  Just daydreaming, really, but it's good to keep them on their toes...You know, remind them that the old girl has some life in her yet.

But if you are already a writer, or an artist, or a dancer, or a businessman, or an auto mechanic, and you want to do any of those things better, this book seems like it would be a good place to start.

Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg

The book is not divided into chapters so much as into small essays -- the author wanted each to be able to stand alone, so the reader can pick them up individually -- and the one that struck me right out of the gate was called "First Thoughts."  Natalie Goldberg says this:

"... the aim is to burn through to first thoughts, to the place where energy is unobstructed by social politeness or the internal censor, to the place where you are writing what your mind actually sees and feels, not what it thinks it should see or feel.  It's a great opportunity to capture the oddities of your mind.  Explore the rugged edge of thought.  Like grating a carrot, give the paper the colorful coleslaw of your consciousness.

First thoughts have tremendous energy.  It is the way the mind first flashes on something.  The internal censor usually squelches them, so we live in the realm of second and third thoughts, thoughts on thought, twice and three times removed from the direct connection of the first fresh flash. 

First thoughts are also unemcumbered by ego, by that mechanism in us that tries to be in control, tries to prove the world is permanent and solid, enduring and logical.  The world is not permanent, is ever-changing and full of human suffering.  So if you express something egoless, it is also full of energy because it is expressing the truth of the way things are.

First thoughts . . . are not a cover-up of what is actually happening or being felt.  The present is imbued with tremendous energy.  It is what is."


Wait -- what did that say?

Not "it is what it is," which is kind of a popular saying right now.  But -- the present is what is.
It's really the only thing that actually is at all, if you think about it. But we don't always spend our time here.

Do we live in a realm of second and third thoughts?  Actually, I think I often live in a realm of 50th or 60th thoughts.  Thoughts on thoughts on thoughts -- about other thoughts.  

I am a person who lives under an enormous pile of filters.  Some who know me may scoff at that idea, because the filter between my brain and mouth often seems to be thin and of little use, but the filters operating in my brain are immense and complex, thick and judgmental and clogged with fear.

As I was reading I was thinking of the time when it was Chelsea's birthday (she was maybe 10) and we took her to a restaurant, and when the staff came out clapping and shouting to embarrass/sing to her, they had her stand on a chair and they put a coffee-filter on her head and had her hold up a dessert with a burning candle -- a sort of Birthday-Statue-of-Liberty.

She was darling and blushing, but the image of the girl with a filter on her head has stuck with me.  And I have wanted to pluck it off ever since.

First thoughts. 

The idea that speaks before it even takes time to worry about what it's going to say.  Or how to say it.  Or perhaps most importantly, how it will be received.

It seems to me to be what's at the heart of all creative activity -- the desire to capture the essential, elusive flash, to coax it to stay while doing nothing to take away its immediacy or its spirit or its fleetness.  And I think that's why we respond to great art.  We see in it the seeds of first thought, and it speaks truth to us in a way that plows right through the filters and gets to the heart of things.

Get yourself a copy of the book.  Or you can borrow mine, if I'm ever done with it.  It may be a little beat-up by the time you get it, but that will just be a testament to its value.

And now, is it bedtime yet?  
A nap perhaps? 
Because I'd like to do a little more 
savoring of my new favorite book....



Judy said...

I was just looking at another book by this author, "Old Friend from Far Away." This looks wonderful! Thanks for sharing not only the book, but your profound thoughts about FIRST thoughts. I like your insight into first thoughts and great art. A lot to think about--but wait! If I think too much about First Thoughts, do they become Second and Third Thoughts??

Leenie said...

Being impulsive and creative at the same time is the essence of good art. I so admire work that seems like it just magically flowed out of the author. Filtering (which I am VERY good at) takes away the color and the spontaneity.

However, the last book I read like that had me writing down my dreams and doing a half hour of free writing before the rest of the house was awake. Good for inventiveness and originality. Bad for getting enough sleep.

I may be ready to try again. Will look for the book.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin