Which leads to another….
For the last post, I was looking for a quote by Henri Matisse that I never found by the way about not needing to show the whole shape of something in order for the viewer to grasp what you’re creating. In fact, for the Barnes Foundation mural, Matisse intentionally showed only part of the dance so that the viewer would follow the painting off the page. All of which I wish I’d put in the last post…Anyway I found myself flipping through my favorite book on Matisse, Matisse on Art by Jack Flam, and rereading all my underlinings.
Then came some interest in an older post of mine on a quote by Flannery O’Connor from The Habit of Being: The Letters of Flannery O’Connor: “…I don’t know so well what I think until I see what I say; then I have to say it over again.”
So I noticed that an interviewer, in the summer of 1931, noticed that Matisse was “looking for a way to summarize again what he had been saying…I had to smile when I realized that he was striving for order in his conversation just as in his paintings.” I love that Matisse did that. I do it all the time.
Is that all? No, there’s more.
Anyway anyway, in the comments to that older post, we’ve been discussing that Frank Conroy “used to say that in his own writing he’d read and re-read what he’d written the day before until he knew what to do next.”
Matisse also said, “…I continually react until my work comes into harmony with me. As someone who writes a sentence, reworks it, makes new discoveries…At each stage, I reach a balance, a conclusion. At the next sitting, if I find that there is a weakness in the whole, I make my way back into the picture by means of the weakness–I re-enter through the breach–and I reconceive the whole. Thus everything becomes fluid again…At the final stage the painter finds himself freed and his emotion exists complete in his work. He himself, in any case, is relieved of it.”
Which is the way I find that I’m writing these days.
Now I’m relieved of this little trail.
“not needing to show the whole shape of something in order for the viewer to grasp what you’re creating”. Hmm. very interesting. Something I struggle with at times – the balance between giving away to much, and leaving a reader confused by assuming they are where I am. Does that make any sense at all??
Yes it does make sense. I have a problem with this as well. It seems I either go on too long or don’t say enough. And we do want the reader to participate by doing some of the work–finishing the shape so to speak. I think I’m finally making a little progress, though. As I read these days, I’m starting to notice when I “get” something and the writer is still going.
This is why I so value my critique partners. Since I see my story playing out as a movie in my head, I sometimes fail to see that I’ve forgotten to convey some important bit of information to enable my readers to “see” it too. I’m always grateful when this lack is pointed out to me.
I love the idea of reentering through the breach, of the weakness as an opportunity for re-conceiving the whole. Something I’m trying to apply in my own life at the moment. Thanks for the lovely entry.
I do too. It’s almost a new way of thinking. It takes me above the small thing to looking at the whole in a new way. The breach becomes possibility rather than problem. And I hadn’t even thought about applying this to life….
The whole concept of finding one’s way in through weakness is rather exciting. It means the weakness is not a wall but a door into the work. In writing, and for heavens sake in life, weakness to me has always seemed like a wall. Hmmm.
Lindsay, it is exciting, isn’t it? I’m actually looking forward to finding my next “breach.”
Also so true that the weakness becomes a door or a window into the work–a new way of looking at it. (And Matisse loved doors and windows.) Now instead of just “fixing” the problem, I’ll ask myself more questions: if this isn’t right, what is that saying about what precedes it OR is this not right or is what comes before it not right.
And again, I don’t know why I didn’t see the possibilities for life. A weakness of mine, apparently. And what is that saying to me?
I have nothing to add to this conversation. I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the post and the insightful comments that followed. Much to think about.
Linda, you’re right. Reading partners are so helpful in noticing those details that are in our head but don’t make it to the page. Clearly, it’s a balancing act–saying just enough but not too much.