Friday, February 25, 2011

Black Hole Brains, Chaos, and On the Brink

While at the On the Brink Conference, I learned to Own some things about myself instead of fighting them. To stop feeling as if I don’t quite Measure Up.

Each of the two sessions had three authors, and each author would rise from their chair, go to the podium, and then read from their book/talk to the audience. I was in Session II. The authors who preceded me and the one who followed me were prepared. They had picked out something special to read and seemed to know what they were going to say to the audience. Guess what Kathryn, ole Kat, ole Boop, did? Guess how she prepared. She didn’t. She never does.

Even during a break before my group of three authors went up to the podium, I didn’t scan through my book to find something to read, didn’t prepare my short talk. I just figured it would all work out. Ungh. “It’ll all work out” is kind of scary when you are to speak to an audience of readers, writers, literary people, bookseller(s), academics. Ungh.

My turn. I went to the podium on rubbery legs, my mouth dry. So, the first thing I told the audience was, “I’m not even going to pretend I am not nervous, for as many of these things as I do, I am ALWAYS nervous. So, just give me a moment to picture you all in your underwear.” Okay, that’s such a clichéd moment, but it helped give me a minute to catch my breath. And from there, I opened my mouth and words fell out: about how we are all creative creatures and about creativity, and then an anecdote that suddenly came to me from when I was a child and some blabbity do dah day spewed—

But what I next explained was how I am as a writer, a friend, a person, a speaker. I asked them to imagine a mysterious but beautiful Black Hole in space, and how as we approach the black hole, we are moving faster and faster at lightning speed, but yet, as we come to the edge of the black hole things slow down almost to a stopping point, and then we are spaghettified and sucked into the black hole where inside are all manner of wondrous things but no one can see them, and, I explained, that is how my brain works—memory, events, people, names, characters, everything I experience or see or read is sucked into the black hole where I can’t See them. That I have very few memories I can recall, that I can’t picture things in wholes but in pieces, that I don’t even know what my characters look like, or the characters in books I read look like. But, as I write, the black hole provides what I need. I wanted them to see how nothing should stop us from creating, not even weird brains.

 If I would have had visuals, I’d have shown them how I, for example, see a STOP sign. I can’t see the entire STOP sign no matter how I try—the letters look piecey (sometimes I see Spot instead of Stop), parts of the letters are missing or blurred, the sign is surrounded by white space with these disjointed letters. No matter how hard I try to picture the STOP sign, my black hole brain will not provide it in its entirety. This is how it is with me with anything I try to imagine: white space surrounding pieces. To fight it only brings frustration. But, when I sit down to write, everything calms. Everything is as it should be. There is no frustration. The Black Hole provides. I feel at peace with my chaotic weird brain. We work together, brain and I, instead of against each other.

As I looked out at the audience, I saw one young man staring at me with his mouth in an O of dumbfoundedness, as if to say “What the hell is she talking about? Black holes in her brain. Huhn?” Oh that look he had made me want to laugh. But I also saw nodding heads, interest, smiles.

I then opened my book to a random page and read a couple of paragraphs, hoping for the best, but giving it my all.

When I was done, and after we all were mingling round later in the auditorium, I was surprised at how many people came to me to say they enjoyed my talk; how interesting it was; how they were now inspired to go write or create something. Huhn. Well, who knew? More people were interested in talking about my little talk than asking about my book *laughing* Someone suggested I go round doing these talks—me? And my black hole brain? Talking to groups/audiences? Well, I’ll be.

So, what I learned is: this is how I am no matter if I try to fight it. I have a weird brain. I’m spontaneous and chaotic. I am finally learning to accept this Black Hole brain. I’m learning to accept who I am, weirdness and discombobulations and chaos and all.

Looking out at that audience at Jacksonville State University, I saw all those expectant faces waiting for me to say something magical, and all I could really give them is Myself as I am and hope for the best. And in return, they listened and took what they needed from it and used it to fit in the spaces that needed filling. My black hole brain will continue to suck up things until the day it is full to bursting, then a quasar will burst forth and that will be the end, a spectacular end or a new beginning to a strange and lovely brain.

image black hole/quasar image
woman letters face


Diane said...

Your talk was most probably the most memorable and left an impression with the audience. Be who you are!!! :O)

Titus said...

'Truth is as impossible to be soiled by any outward touch as the sunbeam'. And black holes.
Brilliant post.

rosaria said...

I'm in the category of people who are best unprepared. Or, rather, they speak better about things if they can improvise at the moment rather than organize and memorize all ahead of time.

You were probably more animated and more spontaneously open and creative right on the spot!
So, I do understand this completely, and glad to find others do it too.

Kittie Howard said...

Brilliant post, Kat! Perhaps you didn't have a prepared outline in front of you, but with all due respect, I think you were prepared with your life's outline in your lovely brain. With your wealth of experiences and success as an author, you intuitively knew how to reach into your Black Hole and select what would reach your audience. Well done!


Love the post because you gave us a bit of insight into creativity, your own.

The conferences I've attended and have come away from with inspiration and motivation are those with speakers that have something new to say about this strange craft called writing.

Congrats for pulling it off.
PS I also love to read about your beautiful mountain.

john bord said...

Down in the boots someplace is a toe or two, maybe more, without thought they provide a balance as I stride about hither and yon. With a purpose they guide me from here to there, a map is not followed yet a destination is found.

Enjoy the drummer that walks with you for it is you, stepping to your cadence.

Carolyn V said...

I totally connected there. I have a strange, lovely brain too. I wish I could have heard your talk Kat. I bet it was awesome!

Sheila Deeth said...

Weird is good. At least, I think it's good now you've let me be a fly on the wall at your talk. Sounds a great talk!

Linda Cassidy said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I read this with so much relief tears came to my eyes.

I've felt so much an impostor when I read how organized other writers sound, how it seems they could tell you exactly what moment of what day they formed any particular sentence they've ever written. They can outline their writing process to the nth degree.

I can tell you bits and pieces of what I do, but mostly I just do it. I don't know where the words come from, they're just there. I write them down. People enjoy reading them.

My brain is cluttered. It's a mess, but somehow the underneath beauty seeps through. I don't question it, but please don't ask me to explain it.

Hanny said...

Sounds like perfection to me. It takes a certain fearlessness to allow ourselves to trust that inner voice, that inner black hole. To often we're programmed to shut it up and stick to the rule-book. Good on ya!