Tuesday, October 7, 2008

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 365 Days, 438 Posts

My brain is free!

Sometimes you can untangle yourself, unlike Robert Mitchum's character in Out of the Past (left, with Jane Greer, 1947).

Exactly one year ago, I started this blog.
At the same time, I quit writing geography reference books.

Time for a little review.

I. Exiting the Time Knot *

My brain had been molded into the shape of the map of Africa by four years of writing to spec, as if by a Jell-O mold.
My internal-editor gauge was stuck at Seventh-Grade Comprehension Level.

I had no idea what I wanted to do but I knew I wouldn't find out if I didn't shake my brain out of the mold, let it melt like Jell-O in the sun and then re-form itself in its own image.

So that's what I did. I gave myself a sabbatical from thinking along other people's lines.

It was scary to be puddle-shaped. After a couple months, I longed for someone to tell me what to do, even if I didn't want to do it.
It seemed I'd never have a firm shape again.

I just took a deep breath and waited the discomfort out.

That's one of the strengths I appreciate most having at mid-life:
the trust that if I sit with discomfort, it will pass. Lean into it, like into a knotted muscle, and it will ease.
I've done it often enough to know it works.
But it's still uncomfortable and scary, and each time it's new.

II. Never Give Up. Never Surrender.

As I practiced doing nothing, indigenous desires started to arise.
After a month, Glad to Be Alive, I wanted to see Bruce Springsteen in concert.
Rock and roll is a generative force, and I'd been avoiding it for a long time.

[Image: Bruce Springsteen, Rolling Stone no. 1038, November 2007]

Then I wanted to watch all of the original Star Trek again.
Talk about generative! That filled January to March and, according to my blog labels, 97 posts (and counting).
My own energy revved up, Channeling Captain Kirk.

Watching Star Trek also carved out space for imaginative play. The space became a pool, where I could swim with dolphins.
As I first did in my post of January 24, Captain Kirk's Parted Lips, one of my personal bests.

III. That's Not Right

Rereading that post today, I remember that the map of Africa wasn't the only mold I was reforming from. Before I started writing for the school library market, my brain had spent five+ years in the Catholic Church. Such richness! But more of a Procrustean bed than a Jell-O mold, and the parts that got lopped off were mostly sexual.

Worse, I'd learned to cut off pieces myself.
I'd written an article about ten years ago on the Virgin Mary, for instance, and I'd wanted to say that her virginity meant she was unfucked, as in "not screwed/fucked up." I knew the article wouldn't get published with those words so I didn't even write them.
Sex isn't actually high on my list of interests, but it's a canary in a coal mine: If it's suppressed, a whole lot of other stuff is too. Under such censorship, eventually you stop even thinking along certain veins.

I didn't purposely use sexual language to talk about life again until I posted "Fuck Yeah, I'm Proud I Was a Dyke" on January 31.

Sexuality in Star Trek isn't overt, but it is out of this world.
Its otherlandishness helped me activate my starfish-like ability to regenerate missing limbs. Or even imagine extra ones, like in Galaxy Quest (image here) or some fan videos, which I discovered almost accidentally on youTube.

From there I started recalling and writing in May about Movie Moments--those bits and pieces of stories, images, characters that testify to and fuel the power of imagination.

IV. Plucky Comic Relief

How long can you admire something before you want to try it yourself?

In June I made my first youTube ST fanvid, the little soufflé Don't Touch Jim's Flower. While this dawdles at 367 views (compare to 1,553 views of my Kirk: To His Mistress vid), it's rather my favorite, the way a first-born might be.

Looking backward, these connections line up so neatly, they seem obvious or preordained.
That is an illusion.
Living through the past year, it felt anything but sequential or guided: all jerky starts and stops, swampy slumps followed by quantum leaps.

However, a lot of seemingly disparate threads did come together when I went to the Star Trek convention in Las Vegas in August.
There, it seemed it's Never Too Late for a Happy Childhood, at least in part. Fans and actors alike spoke openly and playfully about sex and space.

Witnessing people being sweet to each other for five whole days, I thought maybe Another World Is Possible, as maintained by the World Social Forum, which I first encountered when I was researching Mali.

After a bumpy re-entry, and a bit of divine intervention, I went and bought a movie camera and, as you know, recently got to work on Orestes and the Fly.

V. The Vox Ultra-Frequency Carrier Guidance System (with Roman Candles)

That brings me up to today and my brain.
Recently, I realized something wasn't right with my movie. I wasn't sure what or why, but I knew part of it was that I was going too fast, like swallowing before chewing.

So I changed my timeframe, from thinking of this movie as something that will be done by November to a semester-long project. Or, actually, as long as it needs.

Giving my brain free rein usually works magic.
Sure enough, last night I saw how I need to reframe the Narrator, who I'd originally imagined being like the Narrator in Rocky Horror. She should fulfill the same function as the chorus in Greek theater, and I saw how to make that happen.

VI. By Grabthar's Hammer, We Live to Tell the Tale

A recent article in the Economist said that scientists were favored in Stalin's Russia because Stalin needed a nuclear bomb, and he knew "scientists' brains don't work unless they are allowed a certain amount of freedom."

It's not just scientists' brains that need freedom.

It took a while, but releasing my brain from the strictures of Other People's Molds has payed off.
Blogging 438 posts was somehow part of that.

Thank you, fellow blog people.

[Image: River Tam (Summer Glau) to the rescue, from Serenity Screencaps ]

Oh--and tonight I am going with L &M to my first Improv Acting class!
As I wrote in Improv Life, it's all about learning to fly with your shields down.

Like Crewman Number Six, I'm just jazzed about being on the show, man.*

[ * Maybe I should say, in case you were confused, this last quote and the post's titles are all quotes from Galaxy Quest.]


Rudyinparis said...

"It was scary to be puddle-shaped." Quite possibly one of the best lines ever. (Along with your line about how your mother "drove like a vampire.")

I loved reading this post.

It sounds almost like a goodbye, though... say it's not so, please.

Anonymous said...

Hey! I love you and hope you enjoy tonight's venture into playworkplay. That's what my new role in the field feels like; and the kids and staff are geniuses at it all. On the path to healing our spirits need freedom to move. Getting out of our own way and sometimes the way of others is a big piece of this. I had the most interessante dream last night about you, me and your Sis and the whole rest of the world and multiple layers of history and culture! let me know when you're in the mood to hear this yarn and also if you need to re-film or voice anything. Today's post is and epic work of itself. You've got wondrous writing, editing and indexing skills; it's cool to see how you put it all together!



Krista said...

This post makes me so happy.

And let us also not forget that blogging meant we got to meet and make each others lives just a little bit sweeter! Just sayin'.

momo said...

tanti auguri, cara fresca!

Sal said...

Congrats, beautiful! You've come a looooong way, clearly. And holy hell I can't WAIT to hear about the improv class!!!

deanna said...

The things blogging can help with, not to mention certain movies and tv shows and stretching sorts of activities! May your improv evening begin a whole new adventure for you.

fresca said...

Thanks, everybody!

Rudy: Thanks for pointing out the lines you like--they make me see them too. I hadn't thought of that puddle line being any thing in particular, but hey--I like it too, now you mention it.
I try to go for "Just the facts ma'am" but sometimes the "facts" are hard to capture.

It did feel a bit like a good-bye to me too. But not to blogging! Probably it's just that one particular story line--the sabbatical--has wrapped up. I'm still not working a lot (this will cause financial problems soon enough), but I am not in the reactionary stage of getting free of the last tasks. Hooray!
But speaking of not blogging: I MISS YOUR POSTS! Please write more too!

Stef: Refilming the Narrator will be better than before: Thanks for being game! I'm counting on my editing skills to transfer to moviemaking, so I'm glad you like them here.

Krista, Momo, and Deanna:
Meeting you all has totally been a sweet side of blogging--and an unexpected one too. I meant it when I said, "Thank you fellow blog people."

And Sal: Improv report coming up!