Monday, February 2, 2009


One of my least favorite things I remember about graduate school was when I realized that I would have to write a Thesis. Immediately, several defenses were invented to explain why I shouldn't have to do this. One of my main arguments was that since I was a visual (photography) artist, what value could possibly be gained by wasting my valuable visual-creation time on word-sentence-paragraph-chapter creation? Another argument I had against the thesis enterprise was that since I already had all my genius ideas mulling around in my head, wouldn't it be redundant and just bothersome having to write them down? Even at the time I probably thought his last one was the most desperate of the two; but as time went by, its stunning lameness increased, and decades later I am still respectful of it's profound ignorance.
What, at the time, I failed to appreciate was how much the act of thinking and the act of expressing those thoughts are so very different. Communicating means having to organize those brilliant ideas so that a coherent sequence of exposure unfolds. General flows to specific and back again. Foundations are built, additions and decorations are added. Quirky wisps combine into speculations, assumptions, conjectures and maybe even an argument that convinces someone to change some small part of their mind in an indelible way. Really good speakers can do some of this on the fly; but only recording these arguments allows for their close examination, tinkering, perfecting, referencing and repeating.

Now, here's the good part. The part that I forget when I'm looking out the window munching some Nutella-coated something and just thinking and thinking and thinking . . . and then nothing. The good part is that after recording and shuffling some of those ricocheting thoughts; I can forget about those and make MORE! I watch their randomness spawn some fledgling order and the order shows its own gaps. The gaps require a specifically shaped filler. The new structure suggests companion structures. And I'm glad I started the whole process. This happiness will last until I forget it and start inventing new reasons why recording ideas is not nearly as much fun as inventing them.

Which brings me to starting this blog: Creaky Tree. It will force me to give form to ideas. Giving form to ideas refines them. Refining them gives me new and better ideas. And on and on. Although I didn't have a Grand Scheme in mind when I chose "tree" in the title, it has come to be somewhat prophetic in describing this project. What I'm doing is not what I would call "research". Research, in my experience, strives to be broadly encompassing. Find out all the accepted facts you can about a topic, focus your attention finer and finer until you have seen the most minute details. Instead, what I find myself interested in is taking the details and tracing them back to the bigger themes. So, if we're talking about trees, I see my past research experiences like following the branches outward to all the little twigs. I see my present activity as coming from the far reaching twigs back toward the big limbs and trunk; what's the source, what's at the base? Another reason why I don't like to call it research is because I invite fiction in to make the facts somewhat uncomfortable. As I find connections, I ignore some of them and enhance others. I'm not so much interested in relating history as I am interested in gleaning intriguing bits from history and weaving them into loosely factual relationships that lead me to make personal assumptions that feed MY fictional productions.

NEXT: About journals and mirrors.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog, I love this story. I make reference to Castenada frequently. Mostly in how Carlos doesn't always get the lesson he expects.