Sometimes I have to assure myself that no one cares about my art as much as I do, and therefore, no one is out there judging me as harshly as I judge myself. I repeatedly send myself the same message with regard to my writing.
I am reminded of this poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti:
Constantly risking absurdity
whenever he performs
above the heads
of his audience
the poet like an acrobat
climbs on rime
to a high wire of his own making
and balancing on eyebeams
above a sea of faces
paces his way
to the other side of day
and sleight-of-foot tricks
and other high theatrics
and all without mistaking
for what it may not be
For he's the super realist
who must perforce perceive
before the taking of each stance or step
in his supposed advance
toward that still higher perch
where Beauty stands and waits
to start her death-defying leap
a little charleychaplin man
who may or may not catch
her fair eternal form
spreadeagled in the empty air
After one member of our group shared a deeply emotional story, I suggested that it might be an effective tool to tell the story backwards. On reflection, it struck me that this might have come across as trivializing the experience, and I definitely did not intend this. I truly think that running the film in reverse when retelling a narrative episode can show things to the story teller that may have become taken for granted over time and with the retelling of the story.
Another strategy I have found to be helpful is to change a first person narrative to one in third person. It lets the storyteller venture outside herself and relate details and emotions from a somewhat detached perspective.
These are all just experiments designed to shake something loose from our ego protected selves. And there are a lot of risks involved here. We may fail to create something we deem worth sharing with the world. We may fail to finish what we started. Our audience may not understand or appreciate our efforts. We may reveal things about ourselves that we are hesitant to share. Or as Ferlinghetti implies, when launching ourselves into the void, we may fail to catch the metaphorical Beauty.
I have discovered that the introduction of humor into the creation of metaphor can result in some interesting word play. For example, this painting of the black birds sitting on a branch looking down at the duck decoys is titled, "Speed Dating for Dummies." And maybe that only makes sense to me. It certainly wasn't what provoked me to paint the image. I was simply interested in what the black birds would think of the fake ducks, the tension frozen in that moment of observation.
Perhaps in Ferlinghetti's journal, he started by writing, "When I try to write a poem, I feel like a trapeze artist launching myself into a physically dangerous territory." Of course, he revised this until he came up with a much more elegant conceit.
The beauty of metaphorical speech is that it allows the writer to sneak up on realization. For example, I once wrote in a story, "Her secrets were like weights tied to her and keeping her from flying." I was then free to explore not only the similarities of secrets and weights, including how to remove them, but what was the metaphorical equivalent of "flying."
If you are a highly logical thinker, it might be helpful to think of creating metaphors as moving from noumenon (the object, itself inaccessible to experience) to phenomenon (what the senses of the mind notice). Thus when we are trying to understand and describe something, we try to make it more accessible by comparing it to things we already have a grasp of.
I will close today with this: