Saturday, August 20, 2016

Lizz Murphy - Bungee Jumping: A response to Kit Kelen’s upside down meditation on daily practice

Bungee Jumping: A response to Kit Kelen’s upside down meditation on daily practice

Answers to Kit's questions:

So if you'll indulge me in turning the question upside down –

What does it mean to be an artist or poet and not do it every day/not show it to the world every day? 

a) not do it every day
To not write every day - or on some regular and reasonable basis - feels like a farce. To share with people that I am a writer/a poet, knowing I am not actually writing to speak of, makes me feel like a fraud. It undoes me. How can I stand before an audience reading all work from the past or stand before a workshop group talking about how they might write/how I write, when I am not writing. It undoes me. 

Sometimes not writing to speak of, is my life. (Though sometimes then I push a lot of existing poems out for publication and that is after all part of it.)

Writing is a risky business. It’s a lot like bungee jumping. I have always said I would never bungee jump. But I write. Not writing feels like being in the bungee jump queue but never getting the chance to jump.

b) not show it to the world every day? 
‘Showing to the world' sometimes feels like standing on the bungee jump platform shouting look at me - look at me even when you are afraid you will land flat on your face or break both ankles. In this daily practice public project where there is often the exposure of work in progress, drafts, scratchings etc it feels like being pushed off the bungee jump platform, ready or not. This doesn’t stop me writing. It’s a separate question for me.

Is there something extreme about what we're doing? 
Yes it feels like extreme sports. For example, bungee jumping.

Is there a politics of this? 
Yes I feel like a politician - saying bungee jumping is good for our health when I know it might break our ankles.

A psychology/sociology? 
Yes it generates a phobia about bungee jumping.
It also generates a sense of community and egalitarianism. (As another who is completely outside the university world.)

Were we just born this way? 
I’m an introvert by nature (it seems) and maybe circumstance too, who has learnt how to be an extrovert. When I started going to poetry readings and saw how much fun some of the poets had on stage, I thought I’d like a bit of that fun and worked hard for it. I’ve had great times thanks to poetry, but there are many days when I can’t bungee jump.

What are we about?
Bungee jumping.

I may come back with more serious answers for some questions - need to think more.


  1. that thing about feeling like a fraud if you don't do it... I feel this strongly and I think particularly as someone who has taught a creative practice for many years .... I feel like if I wasn't doing it then I would be a fake ... and it is true I have known many teachers of creative practice have their own practice lost or submerged in that of students, or simply found themselves without the time ... some were happy frauds and others less happy with the arrangement ... and some didn't give a tinker's cuss ...but for myself I wonder if this fraud-if-you-don't feeling is a helpful way to feel? It's like we're trying to hard, trying to prove something to whom? Might we not get more and better done if we lacked this affliction and just got on toiling silently in our vineyards?

  2. Dear Lizz –
    Bungee jumping!!! I would never; terrified of heights for one thing. But oh, LOVE the analogy. It makes me grin, and I am going to secretly call it that forevermore.
    Yrs truly , Anther introvert who learned to be an extrovert (some of the time).
    PS Us introverts often turn out to be very good at hamming it up on stages.

    Dear Kit (& Lizz too) –
    For me it's really simple. It's that thing I can't not do. And on the rare occasions when I cannot do it, I get very lost and cranky. I think the first impulse is creation; and the second is communication, so that's part of it too. But if there was no-one around to communicate it to, like if I was the last person alive on the planet, wot-the-heck, I'd still be impelled to do it. I do it when I can. Sometimes that's every day, sometimes it's less often. That doesn't matter. Poetry is my life, always has been. When I'm busy and prolific, I probably don't always make it as well as I might, but I can always delete it and make new ones later. Nothing's wasted; it all becomes compost for future poetic - er - vines, I guess. Writing every day at 366 with this great group of people was fun, interesting, joyous, exciting, illuminating, instructive ... and there are many ways to have adventures in poetry. Do what turns you on, I reckon. (As for the fraudulent bit, I always do the writing exercises with my students – and sometimes do them badly in public, too. It takes care of any worries about teaching but not writing.)

  3. Thanks for your interesting comments Kit and Rosemary. I have only small windows of time to do anything in. If that window has to go to earning a quid (or there is a peak caring time) there is usually then no time to write. Work is usually workshops or community projects so I can relate to some degree to you Kit and your other teachers of creative practice. My own creative practice becomes lost. (Hence when paid work is on there are only scrappy ideas/scraps to post on 366 - which is more than I usually achieve so in that way 366 has been great - covered in an earlier post.) I think maybe the feeling is about not practising what you preach so to speak. Plus I know when I facilitate a workshop at a time when I am or recently have been doing a lot of writing there is a big difference. Not only do I feel more confident (but I generally do a hot workshop anyway) I'm more in touch with the writers' and their issues - there's a feeling of moving in sync with them - and I also have more relevant responses and information at the ready and so on. Actually I'm more relaxed (more fun!) and more intuitive - sometimes very intuitive and that brings something extra to the workshop. I think I feel a tinker's because I want to be writing - I'm not not-writing by choice. Thanks for the food for thought - there's still more to ruminate :)