well, that was embarrassing: small stone (198 & 1/2)

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.

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6 comments on “well, that was embarrassing: small stone (198 & 1/2)

  1. Fiona Robyn says:

    “instant gratification/running-at-the-mouth habits” – *recognition* : )
    much enjoy reading your small stones & very glad you’re enjoying the practice. _/\_

  2. roygoodwin says:

    Dear Sunim,

    I must admit that I am at a loss about the source of embarrassment. As someone who was an occasional blacksmith’s helper for a couple summers during college, I can tell you that the red hot piece of metal that is being forged gets hammered by both the hammer and the anvil. Perhaps you were a blacksmith in a previous incarnation and instinctively knew that this is the true way of things. Who can say?

    I share your view of small stones and how challenging they are to write. There’s the whole “noticing” business, the whole “is this ‘stoney’ enough to share?” business, not to mention the endless fiddling and whittling business before the thing gets posted.. and my results – well – they are what they are…

    I console myself when I look at my “work” (such as it is) with the words of one my patron saints William Stafford, when he was asked in an interview how he could find the inspiration and energy to get up and write a poem every day. Mr Stafford responded “I lower my standards.” 🙂

    I don’t often leave comments on your posts, but I read (and appreciate) all of them. Thanks for doing what you do.

    Sincerely,

    – roy.

    • seon joon says:

      Dear Roy,

      I tried to leave a comment recently at RTTC and for whatever reason it wouldn’t accept my login…I also don’t leave comments often, but I always read.

      Regarding black-smithing: who’d have known? I’m glad to know that anvils hammer, though.

      As always…you’re much appreciated, your reading, your writing, your presence. Gamsa-hamnida!

  3. Kevin Kim says:

    Well, you’ve chosen a confining—and therefore disciplined—format in which to craft and polish your glittering stones. Some flaws are to be expected, and some of those flaws should probably remain, as they’re part of the nature of the stone.

    (Just watch the Latin, OK? Heh.)

    • seon joon says:

      Kevin,

      Re: Latin. DOH! But one problem I’ve had consistently with the new Google and Mac softwares since about last year is their auto-correct…It seems like no matter how hard I try to keep track of the alternate spellings those programs seem hell-bent on “correcting,” one or five slips through in every email or post. But yes, in 2013 I resolve to use Latin precisely and correctly…

  4. Ariel says:

    I love that you lost sleep over a metaphor. It took me five minutes to decide what to comment on and another five to phrase it in a way I found acceptable. And that is why I rarely comment on blogs and am hopeless at tweeting.

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