That is, small stone (198) was embarrassing.
This January’s small stone exercises encompass both daily written exercises of 140 characters or less (composed and posted first on Twitter, then here) and regular, though not daily, pictures (often filtered through Instagram before being posted here). I use these exercises primarily to practice giving attention to my environment, but also as a daily writing practice. As I wrote small stones over the course of last year I discovered that sometimes I was giving my attention to the physical environment; sometimes to my emotional and psychological environment; and sometimes to the character and work of words and writing itself. As such, when I re-read the small stones I’ve written I often feel like I’m re-reading a journal. It’s not just the material elements of a given moment, but my reaction to them as part of the emotional continuum of a day. I’ve come to highly value writing (and reading) small stones.
Small stones aren’t easy to write, however. Last year, I would break into a cold sweat when sitting down to write some of the stones (this one comes to mind). Why difficult to write? Because being present and giving attention is one thing, and a thing that is a labor, a work; and writing something concise, evocative, and clear is another thing, one that is a labor and a whole lot of work.
Yesterday’s small stone—#198—is an example of what can go wrong when I make the effort to be present, but drop the ball on the writing. It’s the second metaphor: if the sky were an anvil, then it can’t hammer the day, can it? Anvils are that which are hammered against, not that which hammers.
Let me try it again. small stone (198 & 1/2):
Today, these two. The tulips at the store, colors thick as a set of crayons. The gray-aproned sky, hammering the day thin and biting cold.
I’m not entirely pleased with the first half of this, either, but that dang second metaphor kept me up last night, it was such an egregious writerly error. I’ve been thinking recently about the perils of not having a thorough drafting process for posts. Although I think blogs, or at least the blogs I read and admire, are less prone to the mistakes of the instant gratification/running-at-the-mouth habits I see on FB and Twitter, a well-written, properly punctuated and spelled, polished blog-post still requires more work than I’m typically able to do. And yet, when I re-read some posts, I squirm at the obvious problems. Most of those problems, which are both simple copy-editing issues and deeper issues of voice and style, could have been adequately dealt with through a slower draft and revision process than I currently have in place. (There’s a ten-year old in my head constantly jumping up and down while saying, “Can I hit the ‘publish’ button now? Can I now?” She’s not helping.)
It’s another gray day today, much like yesterday but perhaps not as cold. (Wonder what small stone will come out of today.) It’s good it’s not as cold, since I’m heading down to the library in a bit to work in the snug comfort of Yale’s well-appointed cathedral to books and their patron saint, Sophia, and I dislike making the walk in inclement wintery weather.