Monday, 21 March 2011

Knowing Your Bones

Words I read the other day, a little lost, a little caffeinated, and made me think of someone faraway, quite suddenly, quietly working, and of myself, what it is we must try to do:

'There is something you find interesting, for a reason hard to explain. It is hard to explain because you have never read it on any page...

'There you begin. You were made and set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment. "The most demanding part of living a lifetime as an artist is the strict discipline of forcing oneself to work steadfastly along the nerve of one's own most intimate sensitivity." Anne Truitt, the sculptor, said this. Thoreau said it another way: know your own bone. "Pursue, keep up with, circle round and round your life...Know your own bone: gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw at it still..."

'The body of literature, with its limits and edges, exists outside some people and inside others. Only after the writer lets literature shape her can she perhaps shape literature. In working-class France, when an apprentice got hurt, or when he got tired, the experienced workers said, "It is the trade entering his body." The art must enter the body, too.

'A painter cannot use paint like glue or screws to fasten down the world...You adapt yourself, Paul Klee said, to the contents of the paintbox. Adapting yourself to the contents of the paintbox, he said, is more important than nature and its study. The painter, in other words, does not fit paints to the world. He most certainly does not fit the world to himself. He fits himself to the paint. The self is the servant who bears the paintbox and its inherited contents...

'Push it. Examine all things intensely and relentlessly. Probe and search each object in a piece of art. Do not leave it, do not course over it, as if it were understood, but instead follow it down until you see in it the mystery of its own specificity and strength....

'Admire the world for never ending on you--as you would admire and opponent, without taking your eyes from him, or walking away...

Then this last thing, this last revolutionary thought, which left me breathless, sitting there with my mug of coffee and the daylight churning over the street, clouds racing like eyes over a page:

One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now...[Otherwise] anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.'

All quotes from Chapter Five of The Writing Life by Annie Dillard.

[Untitled Drawings by Louise Bourgeois. Book, entitled Wound, by Anish Kapoor]

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