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Freeform Eyes

In college, I had a falling out with a female instructor over some things I wrote in my journal for her writing class. I considered her my first real mentor. Unfortunately, she criticized the content of my writing rather than the style. In my journal, I wrote about my every day concerns that included male-female friendships as well as thoughts about living an intellectually aware, though questioning, life. Though most of her criticisms related more toward my relationship banter, she also dug in against my aim to live without ideologies. She thought that attempting to live without set ideologies was nice in theory but fell apart in practice. The further away from the college experience, the more I seem to apply living without ideologies. I don’t feel like a feminist. I don’t feel like an anarchist. I’m not an atheist. I’ve lost the angst of an existentialist. And I’m not a nihilist. (Nihilism was never my point anyway.)

As a writer, I’m looking forward to the point in which all of the influences of college, of my childhood, and of my parents’ beliefs, have faded away and I can see without filters. Recently I remembered the name of a short-lived literary zine that some of my English major classmates and friends put together: “An Ignorant Eye.” (I even published some of my poems in the zine.) The title was based on a line from Wallace Stevens: “You must become an ignorant man again/ And see the sun again with an ignorant eye/ And see it clearly in the idea of it.”

Is that not the goal of all creative writers–poets, storytellers, and scribblers? We must not only attempt to tell our stories in new ways but also look again at our subjects and see a simple beauty overlooked by the mass of writers who’ve come before us. An “ignorant” eye is one that has not learned to judge and overlay a film of ideology.

Though we are all bound to develop certain beliefs through the repetitive process of daily life and interaction within a social culture, the writer must learn to set aside those constructs and view even the most delicate flower with innocent eyes. The search for “an ignorant eye” should be the every-day goal of writers to create, rather than yielding to simple regurgitation of others’ stories, images, and visions.

How do I feel about reading the words of a former mentor now that I am almost a decade older? Let her have her stale ideologies and rigid views. Let her lower a greasy filter over her eyes and write only within the parameters of her ideology. I choose the ignorant vision of freeform eyes.

Writer’s Exercise: Freeform Eyes and Child-like Vision

How do you get started looking at your world in a fresh way? I think it starts with stepping out from behind your desk. Then you should take a walk in the woods, through a museum, or down a street in an international district in your city. Choose a place that is both a safe and an inspiring choice. I say ‘safe’ since you should feel comfortable enough to let your mind wander. Are there any local festivals or farmers’ markets in your area? In the winter, there may be Christmas bazaars, Kwanzaa or Holiday festivals. Peruse your local paper for community events and fairs/sales classifieds. Many holiday events will stimulate all the senses with the smell of foods and sounds of music as well as crafts to see and touch. There may be games for children and you can stand back and watch the way that young ones play or problem solve. Leave your judgments behind and enjoy yourself. Relax and wander. Play and explore. Find the child-like vision that you once had in which everything was new or interesting. Find something commonplace and make it magical.

When you return to your writing place, record your experience and how it made you feel. Find an object, like a flower or a teddy bear, and describe with a child’s heart—feel the wonder of your “wanderings” and look at this object without the filters of age. Glean an image through freeform eyes.

© 2002 by Renee Faucher

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