Tag: resistance

A Snake in a Bottle

John Yorke writes in his book Into the Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them that “Art is born out of as well as encapsulates the continuing battle between order and chaos.” Yorke also quotes Nietzsche who said, “Art owes its continuous evolution to the Apollonian-Dionysian duality.” In other words, we need both order and chaos for our art to remain vital. But why?

In Writing with Power Peter Elbow says:

“To write is to overcome a certain resistance: you are trying to wrestle a steer to the ground, to wrestle a snake into a bottle, to overcome a demon that sits in your head. To succeed in writing or making sense is to overpower that steer, that snake, that demon.”

But he also warns that “if, in your struggles to write, you actually break its back, you are in trouble … In transforming that resistant force into a limp noodle, somehow you turn your words into limp noodles, too. Somehow the force that is fighting you is also the force that gives life to your words.”

The bottle, or form, can be a sonnet, haiku, play, essay, etc. A snake, or chaos, by its nature doesn’t like being in a bottle but that’s where it needs to go. How else can we express ourselves but in form?

A Slip of Paper

Beneath my desk is a small box full of utility top-up receipts. Every once in a while I’ll reach down and use one for notes or scribbles and clip them together in a notebook or feed them to my paper shredder if they’re no good. (They were never meant for writing in the first place, so what’s the harm?)

The issue that never goes away for writers is our creator and our editor occupy the same space in our minds and more often than not it’s the editor who has the loudest voice. I think any writer who has stuck around long enough has found their own way to balance the two most of the time because otherwise we stay blocked.

In theory I use receipts to keep the inner editor asleep until I want its counsel. Receipts and other scraps of paper tip-toe past the editor because they’re not intended for writing. Notebooks and lined paper sound the alarm before I’ve even started to write because nothing says ‘writing’ like a notebook.

If it works, it works.