I have yet to achieve my goal of some years ago of writing non-stop for a 24 hour period.  In the last three weeks, however, I have managed to write for five hours.  (Not five together, but five separate hours on five separate days, but for those five hours, the keys didn’t stop once.  No stopping to think; just a response to stimulus with infinite digressions allowed- but no distractions.)  This yielded 35 pages & over 22,000 words.  This was the result (which you can click to embiggen):

These were the top 50 words that showed up in the mess of 22,000.  Process, implications, and thoughts after the jump:

Process:  Listened to five Campbell lectures in the series “Mythology and the Individual;” you know of my love for the man’s work.  I was familiar with each, having heard them multiple times and had as cognitive an understanding  as one could hope.  So I listened to each, an hour long, and cut off all other stimulus.  Typed on a blank screen in the dark for 60 minutes straight, just allowing his words to guide me into paths, what I thought about what he was saying & how it applied to my life, etc. The hope was to, as I teach my students, just open up a flow of words so fast & steady that something might slip out I hadn’t known was there.  (To an extent, it did.  Smaller than I had hoped, but it did.)  Each night I was in a different mood; each night I produced between 3000-6000 words.  I didn’t go back and look at anything until all five lectures were done; took me about two weeks.  Compiled everything into separate documents, did a word cloud for each, then compiled all five into one master 22,000 word document and the result is what you see- the words & concepts that showed up the most in my self-reflections. I used Tagxedo– my favorite word cloud generator, and redacted all qualifying and general terms; I tried to stick with specific nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.

Implications:  A few surprises.  One big one.  A few terms that, as I went on through the lectures, I knew would show up because I was consciously aware they had shown up before & I became conscious, then, of exploring those ideas as I wrote.  Next up, in no particular order, is to (1) read all thirty-five pages of the responses & put together a ; (2) use the words to create a poem; (3) apply to life; (4) repeat process with next set of five lectures.

Thoughts:  I did not like these words as a picture of me; more than that, I did not think they were an accurate picture of me.  Then I realized they weren’t.  This is how I felt in five hours on five different days in 2012.  It’s what, in edu-babble, is called a “snapshot.”  Each word was and is completely true in its time, but ultimately the description of me is transient, hence the title of the post.  I also think of the fact that I have long been interested in, but never had the artistic guts, to try my hand at mandalas in the fashion of Jung’s daily visual reflections.  Then I realized, these are the same thing, just in verbal format (which may be against the point, but, meh).  Additionally, after doing two, even though I hadn’t gone back and read them, I started becoming aware of the project as it was taking shape & noting similarities.  I accepted it and ran with it.  The final night I truly zoned out and went back in time to a living room of a boy I was friends with in HS & haven’t been in his house in 19 years.  That was creepy.

The thirty-five pages I’m choosing to keep private, both out of respect for my dignity and your eyeballs.  The individual word clouds for the separate lectures are available upon request.

6 Thoughts on “Ephemeral

  1. If language is a virus, then it is no wonder you do not feel accurately reflected in these words. Discourse of the Other, etc.

  2. Also, don’t be too ready to dismiss general working words, connectives, verbs, etc., from your cloud profile. I have been surprised by what have turned out to be my unconscious frequent go-to’s among the nuts and bolts.

    And no doubt you are proud of the lack of adjectives. You are ready for your MFA writing program!

  3. jobie on March 21, 2012 at 7:06 am said:

    Marc- great to talk to you last night; reminded me I needed to respond to this.

    Your observation about connective words was not unconsidered by me. In fact, I found it quite telling that on separate days of this activity, the words “think” and “know” came up much more heavily in some essays than in others; my purpose in creating the tag cloud for myself was less about determining my epistemology and more about uncovering WHAT I am pondering- whether with confidence (I think vs. I know) and to what degree (terms such as “really,” and sometimes “fucking” [as adverb]). The raw documents provided fodder for meta thought as well as the more concrete “topics.”

  4. jobie on March 21, 2012 at 7:08 am said:

    Unrelated: Picking up a copy of the Egyptian Book of the Dead tonight. Noted that I frequently back to images & examples from Egypt; childhood interest that resurfaced during this activity. That was one of the surprises. Going to go to the source material and see if I can develop anything with it.

  5. An inventory of subject matter. I understand.

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