Do It Like Dada
Gina’s 2017 Writing Journal:
From the walking trail in route to the parking lot, I heard children’s yelps in the playground to my left. Two. Their similar coloring – straight dark hair and olive skin –suggested siblings or cousins. The boy looked 7, the girl a shade older. She sat in a tire swing, her head bent down. In front of her face, a waterfall of hair. She looked like Cousin It from the television show, The Munsters. The boy twirled her around as fast as his small arms and hands could gyrate. He stepped back with each revolution to guard against a potential kick form the girl’s legs in flight.
This young lady was getting her psychedelic on in a deliberate dizzy. I wondered how this altered state would turn out. Will she toss her cookies? Fall off the tire? Cry because she overdid it? None of the above. She signaled for the boy to stop spinning the tire, hair shrouding her face like Spanish moss from a willow. In this position she remained as the tire wound down to barely a spin. Then, as the tire swayed to a standstill, the little girl looked up. “Woooooo!” she exhaled.
Like the little girl in the tire swing, when we play with Dada techniques, we’re asking ourselves the question, “What happens if I make myself dizzy?” Instead of kinesthetic spinning, we use word jumbles from random pieces of our own writing, which we then sift through our imagination.
The above journal passage found its way seamlessly and organically into my writing as I drafted a book called The Writer’s Toy Chest. The section of that book was about an online app called the Cut Up Machine at the Web site, Language is a Virus. This online generator mimics the cut up technique used by the Dadaists, followers of an art movement that became well known in the late 1910s and early 1920s, and which challenged traditional notions of art and aesthetics. It was later popularized in the 1950s and ’60s by Brion Gysin and William S. Burroughs.
I had no plan to connect these two ideas – the girl on the swing and the Dadaist movement. When I walked past the playground scene the day before, it didn’t strike me that it “belonged” in The Writer’s Toy Chest. The walking itself was the conduit for the connection. Walking allows for interaction with an external world that will favorably influence your writing at a later time without disturbing the flow of ideas between you and the Muse. Among the many beauties of walking’s influence on prolific writing is the osmotic exchange of non-verbal social energy and the vitality of your environment, all while still deeply inhabiting your writing world.
Great poets like Blake and Rumi and Roethke walk us through the gate or veil that separates us from knowing our spiritual power. When we are tapped into this power – and walking is a direct way to do this – our creativity expands far beyond what we may think of as our known “ceiling.” This has been true for artists throughout the ages.
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