Many years ago I was in a graduate program for writing fiction; one particularly trying portion of the program was a semester known as “the essay semester.” It was generally considered an unwelcome interruption in our education to become fiction writers, with exacting, but poorly understood requirements that varied from student to student and often times seemed to lead nowhere
In my case, I was determined to study the fiction of Marguerite Duras while the powers that seemed equally determined that I would not.
I was given a series of excuses, each of which I countered with facts in my favor, and so it went until finally they relented and approved this topic: Discontinuity and Fragmentation in “The Man Sitting in the Corridor” by Marguerite Duras.
Armed with a copy of “The Man Sitting in the Corridor” and no clue as to what I would write, I read the text over and over. I wrote a rambling first draft, and my faculty supervisor posed a series of questions designed to guide me: Is it like film? Is it like chess? and various other topics about which he knew a lot and about which I knew nothing.
I spent a lot of time in the library of a nearby university looking up and reading about various topics that I thought might work, but to no avail.
At the time, my family and I lived in a home that we were renting from a professor at the University of Michigan who was in South Africa doing research.
The home was fully furnished, and the furnishings included a stationary bike that I rode for exercise when I did not feel like braving the Michigan winter (which in my mind is six months long and stretches from mid-October to mid-April) as well as an extensive collection of Scientific American magazines.
It was while I was on the bicycle that went nowhere reading one of the hundreds of magazines that I had not yet read when I came across an article that briefly touched on the Uncertainty Principle, and in that moment, I saw the future framework of my essay.
This was in the early days of personal computing, and highlighting and moving text was not as easy and seamless as it is today, so the next morning I got a variety of brightly colored highligther pens and read through the essay, marking some passages in pink, others in yellow, still others in green, and what remained in blue.
I then cut the essay into pieces, grouping the pieces by color, and then I pasted them onto pages which I then used as a guide to the rather primitive and laborious cut and paste feature of my computer.
I was reminded of all of this today when I hit a bit of a wall with my plans to begin work joining the many crochet tetriminos that I have amassed.
I have some specific ideas of what it is I want to do, but I was having trouble meeting all of the criteria I had set out for myself until, using paper, colored pencils, and rubber cement, I created this design aid:
which allowed me to work easily move pieces until the arrangement had met all of my criteria.
Unfortunately for me, I did not use this kind of aid throughout, and when I began to look over the layout at the bottom of the design, I found places where I had used the wrong color for a given shape, throwing off the entire design.
Tomorrow, however, is a new day, and I will start it by making enough paper tetriminos to allow me to layout the entire design (without error) so I can get started on piecing together these crochet tetriminos:
and while I am not exactly happy that I did not get as far with the project as I had hoped, I have learned from experience, that sometimes even a bicycle to nowhere takes you places you don’t expect.