English 430: Literature & the Visual Arts

December 13, 2009

The Writers’ Head on the Page

Filed under: Uncategorized — elizjurgen @ 11:57 pm

I had to leaf through Lynda Barry’s “What It Is” a second time after reading it. In fact, I hesistate to use the word “read” to describe my experience, for I found each page seemed to take me on a journey not only through the text but around the edges, through the images, and into my own thoughts and feelings as I tried to decide what it meant to me.

Reading “What It Is” was like seeing the contents of my own head spilled out on the page. It made me want to put it down and go create my own version, and also to do a writing “workshop” of my own using the topics from her pages.  I found this much more inspiring, making me itch to put pen to paper, than a text-only book on inspiration such as Julia Cameron’s “The Artists Way.” Barry’s work is an example of the power of image to stimulate and motivate us in a way that text-only works do not. I especially enjoyed the “messiness” of the pages, even though they had a clear layout – within the handwriting, the lettering changes, within the typed text there are often strike-outs and handwritten notes. The collages of sticky-notes, the doodles and colored drawings, all mirror what the workspace of a writer, artist, or illustrator is likely to look like. Her book captures perfectly the reality that inspiration and creation are not linear activities, that they can be guided somewhat but that they also need to squirt out in messy, colorful, and tangential array.

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