The Best Writing Tips Ever - The Huffington Post |Amy Hertz
First Posted: 11-16-09 12:27 PM | Updated: 11-17-09 09:45 AM
I've been in publishing for more than 20 years, I've attended my fair share of writer's conferences and workshops, and in my experience, the poet Allen Ginsberg was one of the best writing teachers I ever encountered. What he cared most about in his students was authenticity, and over the years he developed a series of slogans--some of which he wrote, others he took from great poets and writers--to guide people on the path to developing a clear, true and strong voice.
I was lucky enough to know Allen during the last eight years of his life, and one day in his office, I think it was 1990, or 1991, he handed me his list of "Mind Writing Slogans." I was astonished, reading suggestions such as "Notice what you notice," by how closely they resembled instructions in what I would soon discover was Allen's deep meditation practice. In both meditation and in writing, Allen tried to help students learn to watch their mind and express their thoughts spontaneously in order to tap the spring of creativity that produced Ginsberg's greatest work.
I have been sharing these slogans with the writers I've worked with over the years in different publishing houses, and for many authors, they have acted as catalysts, breaking through anything from solving a structural conundrum to bringing a long case of writer's block to an end. When we started the books page, I contacted Ginsberg's literary estate to see if we could post the slogans, and happily, the answer was "yes."
We'd love to hear what you think of these, and if you find them useful.
Two decades' experiences teaching poetics at Naropa Institute, half decade at Brooklyn College, and occasional workshops at Zen Center & Shambhala/Dharmadhatu weekends have been boiled down to brief mottoes from many sources found useful to guide myself and others in the experience of "writing the mind." --Allen Ginsberg
ALLEN GINSBERG'S MIND WRITING SLOGANS
"First thought is best in Art, second in other matters." --William Blake
I. GROUND (Situation, or Primary Perception)
1. "First Thought, Best Thought" --Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche
2. "Take a friendly attitude toward your thoughts." --Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche
3. "The Mind must be loose." --John Adams
4. "One perception must immediately and directly lead to a further perception." --Charles Olson, "Projective Verse"
5. "My writing is a picture of the mind moving." --Philip Whalen
6. Surprise Mind --Allen Ginsberg
7. "The old pond, a frog jumps in, Kerplunk!" --Basho
8. "Magic is the total delight (appreciation) of chance" --Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche
9. "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, (I am large. I contain multitudes.)" --Walt Whitman
10. "...What quality went to form a man of achievement, especially in literature? ...Negative capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason." --John Keats
11. "Form is never more than an extension of content." --Robert Creeley to Charles Olson
12. "Form follows function." --Frank Lloyd Wright
13. Ordinary Mind includes eternal perceptions. --A.G.
14. "Nothing is better for being Eternal/Nor so white as the white that dies of a day." --Louis Zukofsky
15. Notice what you notice. --A.G.
16. Catch yourself thinking. --A.G.
17. Observe what's vivid. --A.G.
18. Vividness is self-selecting. --A.G.
19. "Spots of Time" --William Wordsworth
20. If we don't show anyone we're free to write anything. --A.G.
21. "My mind is open to itself." --Gelek Rinpoche
22. "Each on his bed spoke to himself alone, making no sound." --Charles Reznikoff
II. PATH (Method or Recognition)
23. "No ideas but in things." "...No ideas but in the Facts." --William Carlos Williams
24. "Close to the nose." --W.C.Williams
25. "Sight is where the eye hits." --Louis Zukofsky
26. "Clamp the mind down on objects." --W.C.Williams
27. "Direct treatment of the thing..." (or object.)" --E.Pound, 1912
28. "Presentation, not reference..." --Ezra Pound
29. "Give me a for instance." --Vernacular
30. "Show not tell." --Vernacular
31. "The natural object is always the adequate symbol." --Ezra Pound
32. "Things are symbols of themselves." --Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche
33. "Labor well the minute particulars, take care of the little ones/He who would do good for another must do it in minute particulars/General Good is the plea of the Scoundrel Hypocrite and Flatterer
For Art & Science cannot exist but in minutely organized particulars" --William Blake
34. "And being old she put a skin/On everything she said." --W.B.Yeats
35. "Don't think of words when you stop but to see the picture better." --Jack Kerouac
36. "Details are the Life of Prose." --Jack Kerouac
37. Intense fragments of spoken idiom, best. --A.G.
38. "Economy of Words" --Ezra Pound
39. "Tailoring" --Gregory Corso
40. Maximum information, minimum number of syllables. --A.G.
41. Syntax condensed, sound is solid. --A.G.
42. Savor vowels, appreciate consonants. --A.G.
43. "Compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome." --Ezra Pound
44. "...awareness...of the tone leading of the vowels." --Ezra Pound
45. "...an attempt to approximate classical quantitative meters..." --Ezra Pound
46. "Lower limit speech, upper limit song" --Louis Zukofsky
47. "Phanopoeia, Melopoeia, Logopoeia." --Ezra Pound
48. "Sight, Sound & Intellect." --Louis Zukofsky
49. "Only emotion objectified endures." -- Louis Zukofsky
III. FRUITION (Result or Appreciation)
50. Spiritus = Breathing = Inspiration = Unobstructed Breath
51. "Alone with the Alone" --Plotinus
52. Sunyata (Skt.) = Ku (Japanese) = Emptiness
53. "What's the sound of one hand clapping?" --Zen Koan
54. "What's the face you had before you were born?" --Zen Koan
55. Vipassana (Skt.) = Clear Seeing
56. "Stop the world" --Carlos Casteneda
57. "The purpose of art is to stop time." --Bob Dylan
58. "The unspeakable visions of the individual." --J.K.
59. "I'm going to try speaking some reckless words, and I want you to try to listen recklessly." --Chuang Tzu, (Tr. Burton Watson)
60. "Candor" --Whitman
61. "One touch of nature makes the whole world kin." --Shakespeare
62. "Contact" --A Magazine, Nathaniel West --W.C. Williams, Eds.
63. "God Appears & God is Light/To those poor Souls who dwell in Night/But does a Human Form Display/To those who Dwell in Realms of day." --W. Blake
64. Subject is known by what she sees. --A.G.
65. Others can measure their visions by what we see. --A.G.
66. Candor ends paranoia. --A.G.
67. "Willingness to be Fool." --Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche
68. "day & night/you're all right" --Corso
69. Tyger: Humility is Beatness." --Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche & A.G.
70. Lion: "Surprise Mind" --Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche & A.G.
71. Garuda: "Crazy Wisdom Outrageousness" --Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche
72. Dragon: "Unborn Inscrutability" --Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche
73. "To be men not destroyers" --Ezra Pound
74. "Speech synchronizes mind & body." --Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche
75. "The Emperor unites Heaven & Earth." --Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche
76. "Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world." --Shelley
77. "Make it new" --Ezra Pound
78. "When the mode of music changes, the walls of the city shake" --Plato
79. "Every third thought shall be my grave" --W. Shakespeare, "The Tempest"
80. "That in black ink my love may still shine bright" --W. Shakespeare, Sonnets
81. "Only emotion endures" --Ezra Pound
82. "Well while I'm here I'll do the work--and what's the Work?To ease the pain of living. Everything else, drunken dumbshow." --A.G.
83. "..."...Kindness, sweetest/ of the small note/ in the world's ache,/ most modest & gentle/ of the elements/ entered man before history/ and became his daily/ connection, let no man/ tell you otherwise." --Carl Rakosi
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