Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Blue Banana

Not so long back, this blog found me wondering what I have lost.
I think I can see that the answer is 'simplicity'.
Moreover, it's probably worthwhile (or more constructive) to consider what I have gained in my years of study and practice.
I can't help but think of Educating Rita when I hear that word.

RITA: So, I was thinking about it all when I should've been doing my exam. Do you know what the first question was?
'Suggest ways in which one might deal with some of the staging difficulties in a production of Ibsen's Peer Gynt.'
FRANK: And you wrote 'Do it on the radio?'
RITA: No - I could've done. You'd have been dead proud of me if I'd done that wouldn't you.
But I chose not to. I had a choice. I did the exam.
Because of what you'd given me, I had a choice.
Anyway, that's what I wanted to come back and tell you: You're a good teacher.

I understand that there are a good many authors who have a cosy selection of tools, and they have reached a point where many of their choices have migrated from the think it through part of the brain to the autopilot part of the brain.
Indeed, I've found that much of writing has become second-nature, if you will.

But what happens if you develop so many choices?
As an extreme example, imagine that Person A has to choose from an apple or a banana.
Then imagine that Person B has ten thousand fruits to choose from.
Person B has by far the biggest challenge. Yet Person B is gonna have the biggest variety in his diet. Person B's life is never going to be dull. It's not going to be easy either, until he starts formulating some sort of decision-making process - perhaps a rota system or a preference for citrus fruits or whatever.

I have created a huge arsenal of choices for myself, and I am endeavouring to keep on top of the decision-making process. But what I have noticed is that I have recently been neglecting simple things. This is the danger.
I refer to these periods as blue banana phases.
I remember, in my early student days, how so many doors to strange environments were unlocked for me. In particular, I recall the day that Colin Measures placed a piece of fruit before us all, told us to take out our coloured pencils, and instructed us to draw the fruit paying particular attention to the colours.
Sure enough, we drew yellow bananas and pink rhubarb.
Colin made us try again - he made us look harder. He made us see.
In my banana, I could see blues and golds and purples and reds ... I could see a myriad of colours.
My banana came out technicoloured, although I seemed to have found a bias towards blue.
My blue banana.
Then came the drawn out phase of dealing with this revelation - these quixotic colours that had been hidden away from me for all those years.
Slowly, I learned to control and balance these colours, and to see the effects of shifting the balance. During this blue banana phase, I learned to deal with my choices.

I find myself in an inexorable series of blue banana phases these days. Not so long ago, I was experimenting with emotional topography, and I reached a relatively stable position with my last short-story (which is, of course, not to say that I can't continue to refine). I try one extreme out and then another, exploring the landscape, looking under stones and in shadowed nooks. At some point, I develop a feel for the landscape and begin to control its form.
During the blue banana phase, everything breaks.
Playing with sensory information, I have taken out too much. Snap.
Playing with abstract descriptions, I have recently shifted from 'smells yeasty like tuberculosis' to 'smells like rabies'. Shatter.

The irony?
I have no choice.
I cannot prevent my head from poking around and breaking things.
But I don't think I'd have it any other way. My journey is always filled with surprises and with interesting experiments and world after world of undiscovered terrains.
I must continue to remind myself that things get worse before they get better: that the blue banana phase is indicative of evolution and will make me into a more powerful and satisfying story teller.

For no reason other than to help with the visualization process, here's a picture by Zdzislaw Beksinski - one of his alien terrains. I adore this guy's work, and you can learn about him here.

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