Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Practice: Being Specific

Goal: The main motivation is to understand our selves better through our thoughts about, and attitudes about, specific things in life. Moreover, I begin to realize that it is difficult to be depressed when you think, feel, and process in specifics.
Basics: Practice talking and writing about specific attributes of ``things''. Also, when describing events, emotions, and feelings. talk and write about details of the situation at hand and specifics of it, rather than labeling them in general terms.
Exercise 1: Write for 5-10 minutes about different characteristics and attributes of an object, for example the pen you write with.
Exercise 2: Write for 5-10 minutes about an event or a situation from the same day experiences. Describe the situation without using general terms such as love, hate, fear, anger. Instead, explain the situation directly such as to evoke the same feelings in the reader as what you have experienced.
Exercises 3 & 4: Do the same two exercises (1 and 2) while talking to a friend or a family member.

The idea for this practice came from a number of quotes from two different books.

The first one already appeared as a post on my other blog.
Link: http://myimpossibilitytheorems.blogspot.com/2011/09/specifics-in-art.html

I appreciate art, in its infinite forms, as the surest way to self-discovery. Hence, I find insights from arts very useful even when they seem very specific in their scope. Here are some more quotes from "The Actor's Art and Craft,'' by William Esper and Damon DiMarco, that signify the importance of dealing with specifics, rather than generalities, in order to understand who we are:
I want you to consider that there are no generalities in nature. Therefore, there can be no generalities in art, because the artist---as Hamlet put it so eloquently---seeks to hold the mirror up to nature.

To be an actor, you must train yourself to think unswervingly in specifics. How else can you seek to illuminate the world around you? But the skill of thinking in specifics is not something ordinary people do in everyday life. Most people walk around spouting generalities. Just think of the so-called conversations we engage in all the time. ...

Some money. A job. A party. Descriptions like these cannot feed the imagination. They cannot transmit how we truly feel about things. Until we acknowledge what's truly going on within ourselves---the specifics of who we are and how we feel---how can we possibly seek to be understood by others? ---pp.91-92, The Actor's Art and Craft   

The next sets of quotes are from ``Writing Down the Bones,'' by Natalie Goldberg.

"Being specific" seems to have an important role in self-discovery. We have seen it in the quotes from ``The Actor's Art and Craft'' book. Here, in ``Writing Down the Bone'', by Natalie Goldberg, at least two aspects of it in `writing' are discussed. First, instead of using general terms to describe feelings and states of being, describe the state in details so that the reader can experience that state first-hand (or second-hand?) from reading you. Second, in descriptions use specific names. The first is from the chapter, `Don't Tell, but Show', and the second is from the next chapter, `Be Specific'.

Being Specific - 1
There is an old adage in writing: ``Don't tell, but show.'' ... It means don't tell us about anger (or any of those big words like honesty, truth, hate, love, sorrow, justice, etc.; show us what made you angry. We will read it and feel angry. Don't tell readers what to feel. Show them the situation, and that feeling will awaken in them.

Writing is not psychology. We do not talk ``about'' feelings. Instead the writer feels and through her words awakens those feelings in the reader. ... ---p.87

When you write, stay in direct connection with the senses and what you are writing about. If you are writing from first thoughts---the way your mind first flashes on something before second and third thoughts take over and comment, criticize, and evaluate---you don;t have to worry. ... We can't always stay with first thoughts, but it is good to know about them. They can easily teach us how to step out of the way and use words like a mirror to reflect the pictures. ---pp.87-88

Some general statements are sometimes very appropriate. Just make sure to back each one with a concrete picture. ... ---p.88
Being Specific - II
Be Specific. Don't say ``fruit''---``It is a pomegranate.'' Give things the dignity of their names. ... It is much better to say ``the geranium in the window'' than ``the flower in the window.'' ``Geranium''---that one word gives us a much more specific  picture. It penetrates more deeply into the beingness of that flower. ---p.90

When we know the name of something, it brings us closer to the ground. It takes the blur out of our mind; it connects us to the earth. ...

... Williams says, ``Write what's in front of your nose.'' It's good for us to know what is in front of our nose. ... Continue to hone your awareness: to the name, to the month, to the day, and finally to the moment.
Williams also says: ``No idea, but in things.'' Study what is ``in front of your nose.'' By saying ``geranium'' instead of ``flower,'' you are penetrating more deeply into the present and being there. The closer we can get to what's in front of your nose, the more it can teach us everything. ...  ---p.91

Learn the names of everything: birds, cheese, tractors, cars, buildings. A writer is all at once everything---an architect, French cook, farmer---and at the same time, a writer is none of these things. ---p.92

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