Andi Cumbo - Writer, Editor, Online Writing Courses, Classes & Lessons

To Focus and To Freedom with Thanks to Franzen

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Every good writer I know needs to go into some deep, quiet place to do work that is fully imagined. And what the Internet brings is lots of vulgar data. It is the antithesis of the imagination. It leaves nothing to the imagination. – Jonathan Franzen

Grab. Bend. Snap. Turn. Bend. Snap. Snap. Maybe snap again. 1104799451

It takes a certain kind of concentration to be put up green beans, to be sure the ends go in the compost and the beans in the pot.  To insure that the stock pot is on the stove and enough ice sits ready in the bin to stop the loss of their spring green color. A bowl big enough for beans, cold water, cubes of frozen water.

It takes all I have to stay focused on the task and not wish it away.  To be present, as my yoga teachers have taught. To be aware of the presence as Brother Lawrence and then Brother Merton remind me.

Now, here, at my desk, four quarts of green beans later, with Facebook lingering at just a click, its opinions to offer, its nonsense to share, plus the very real joy and pain of people I love listed there in scroll after scroll, I use my green bean fight to not flick over and away.  I focus in . . . press, press, press. Key. Key. Key

I wonder if Franzen is right, if his admonition that a writer can’t really enter her fiction (or nonfiction as this case may be) with an internet connection at her desk.  I dream of a desk with internet in a big timber frame kitchen and then my huge farm table in an office lined with books. No internet in sight.

Then, I realize I have drifted again . . . begun to think of pinning images of farm tables.  I come back.  Snapped back, if you will, to green beans and this one blog post.

I think of Franzen’s book Freedom that I will finish today as I drive over the mountain.  The whisper of resolution I felt coming in the plot until another great tragedy rolled through, the way he builds people with likability and also loathing. I ponder how the shifts in limited omniscience affect how I view each character.

Then, FReedom FRanzen . . . this must have occurred to him, right? The alliteration, the hint of poetry?

Snap back. Focus. This blog post about focus . . . a plea with myself to stay here in these words now, just for now.  This reminder to myself that I don’t need scrolls of updates to distract me. . . my mind, the mind that controls my fingers as they tug the tiny tails off beans and the same one that ties together my family’s story through facts on census pages, the mind that will drive a car more or less safely on two-land roads while also analyzing language choices and still simultaneously judging the choices of characters, the mind that sees I have an email and has to stop my finger from reflexively click over . . .

This one, this one that can become meditative about the practice of snapping beans can write 1,000 words in 30 minutes if I will let it. Reign it. Rein it in.  To focus . . . and to freedom.

 

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Author: Andi

I'm a writer, teacher, and editor who is currently working on a book about the slaves who lived and worked on the farm where I now live. I blog daily at http://www.andilit.com I have three cats - Oscar, Emily and Charlotte - who have taken to living on the farm quite well - bird-, frog-, and butterfly-hunters all.

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