Doug Bruns

Needs meat on bones.

In Creativity, Nature, Writing on April 11, 2012 at 5:47 pm

I mentioned in a previous post that I frequently write what I call Twitter poems. I do this to warm up, to get things moving when trolling for an idea. Here’s what I wrote today:

Have to find | An idea | It must run | Fast | But not so fast | To escape | Needs meat on bones | Needs to come when called

Now that I read it, it reads more like a want add. The poem–I use that word so loosely it squeaks–the poem must conform to Twitter specifications of 140 characters or less, including spaces and punctuation. The one above is three characters shy of the limit. I like this discipline and do it everyday.

I also like the discipline of sitting down at my desk every afternoon at 1:00 and writing. I don’t like it when I sit down and find myself empty-headed. I don’t expect things to happen at the desk. If all goes to plan, the right things have already happened. My morning walk, for example, is frequently a bounty of inspiration, a time and place when things come together that I didn’t know where apart. Unfortunately, I didn’t have anything of that nature happen this morning, but I did see a northern flicker, a hairy woodpecker, a bluejay and a flock of american goldfinches glimmering in the morning light. Once home, I spotted the first osprey of spring only to discover after fixing my spotting scope on it, that it was plaster and mounted to keep the gulls off a roof. I had not noticed it before. That is one type of discovery. But not a helpful one.

Once last summer I heard screeching from the air and looking up saw an osprey in labored flight with an immature gull in its talons. There was a lobsterman on the water below my deck. He turned to me and said, “Never seen that before.”

Ideas are like birds. Some perch, resplendent in the sun, calling out and demanding to be noticed. Some are skittish and nervous. I hanker to the ideas that are more like the northern flicker than the sparrow. I appreciate the song of the sparrow, particularly in the morning; but the song is a give away. It’s too easy. The flicker is hard to spot and requires some searching. The reward is found in my field glasses: brown wings striped black, the breast hash-mark dots, and that mercury-quick turn of head revealing the red nape crescent. It flaunts an aesthetic that seems a patchwork of design, like a quilt made by a dozen grandmothers. Lots of beautiful detail that together works. That’s the profile of the sought-after idea, elusive but rewarding, with a beauty that begs a smile upon discovery.

I have a journal open at my elbow to an undated note: “An idea has no meaning until you do something with it.” I like the notion of that, but am not sure if I still feel that way. The flicker is a beautiful bird even if I don’t notice it.

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