From the archives Until I See What I Say September 16, 2008 One of the reasons I write is to find out what I’m thinking, what I mean to say, and then to be able to hold onto it. When … Continue reading
Which leads to another….
For the last post, I was looking for a quote by Henri Matisse that I never found by the way about not needing to show the whole shape of something in order for the viewer to grasp what you’re creating. In fact, for the Barnes Foundation mural, Matisse intentionally showed only part of the dance so that the viewer would follow the painting off the page. All of which I wish I’d put in the last post…Anyway I found myself flipping through my favorite book on Matisse, Matisse on Art by Jack Flam, and rereading all my underlinings.
Then came some interest in an older post of mine on a quote by Flannery O’Connor from The Habit of Being: The Letters of Flannery O’Connor: “…I don’t know so well what I think until I see what I say; then I have to say it over again.”
So I noticed that an interviewer, in the summer of 1931, noticed that Matisse was “looking for a way to summarize again what he had been saying…I had to smile when I realized that he was striving for order in his conversation just as in his paintings.” I love that Matisse did that. I do it all the time.
Is that all? No, there’s more.
Anyway anyway, in the comments to that older post, we’ve been discussing that Frank Conroy “used to say that in his own writing he’d read and re-read what he’d written the day before until he knew what to do next.”
Matisse also said, “…I continually react until my work comes into harmony with me. As someone who writes a sentence, reworks it, makes new discoveries…At each stage, I reach a balance, a conclusion. At the next sitting, if I find that there is a weakness in the whole, I make my way back into the picture by means of the weakness–I re-enter through the breach–and I reconceive the whole. Thus everything becomes fluid again…At the final stage the painter finds himself freed and his emotion exists complete in his work. He himself, in any case, is relieved of it.”
Which is the way I find that I’m writing these days.
Now I’m relieved of this little trail.
One of the reasons I write is to find out what I’m thinking, what I mean to say, and then to be able to hold onto it. When I talk, I often repeat myself with such slight variations that it must be maddening to a listener. I tend to want to summarize. I want to get it right and then lock it in. And if I keep coming back to a problem, circling around it from different angles, I can get closer and closer. Revision is my favorite part of writing–getting the words just right.
In The Habit of Being: The Letters of Flannery O’Connor, she writes to her agent, “…I have to write to discover what I am doing. Like the old lady, I don’t know so well what I think until I see what I say; then I have to say it over again.” She was 23 years old.
One of the reasons I read is that I love finding those moments that are expressed so exactly right in someone else’s story. Yes, I think, that’s the way it is. I underline them or copy them in a notebook, always trying to hold on to them.