Fish, Flash, Seed: Ideas waited for, snagged, and transplanted

David Lynch (via Rob Walker and Austin Kleon) uses these three metaphors for a thought:

Fish: “I believe that if you sit quietly, like you’re fishing, you will catch ideas. The real, you know, beautiful, big ones swim kinda deep down there so you have to be very quiet, and you know, wait for them to come along.”

Flash: “If you catch an idea, you know, any idea, it wasn’t there and then it’s there! It might just be a small fragment…but you gotta write that idea down right away. And as you’re writing, sometimes it’s amazing how much comes out, you know, from that one flash…And in your mind the idea is seen and felt and it explodes like it’s got electricity and light connected to it.”

The explosion is an agrarian one, like the moment germination errupts from inside the dark walls of a…

Seed: So, you get an idea and it is like a seed. And…it explodes…And it has all the images and the feeling. And it’s like in an instant you know the idea, in an instant [a flash]…Then, the thing is translating that to some medium.

Lynch talks of waiting for the ideas like fish and cathing the big ones that live deep takes the most time. The poet Ted Hughes talks about ideas like both foxes and fishes. Ideas are critters to be actively waited for and sniffed out. A practice that, Hughes says, requires surrender:

And that process of raid, or persuasion, or ambush, or dogged hunting, or surrender, is the kind of thinking we have to learn, and if we don’t somehow learn it, then our minds line us like the fish in the pond of a man who can’t fish.

The Spirit as...

“The Thought Fox”

I imagine this midnight moment’s forest:
Something else is alive
Beside the clock’s loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.

Through the window I see no star:
Something more near
Though deeper within darkness
Is entering the loneliness:

Cold, delicately as the dark snow,
A fox’s nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now

Sets neat prints into the snow
Between trees, and warily a lame
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow
Of a body that is bold to come

Across clearings, an eye,
A widening deepening greenness,
Brilliantly, concentratedly,
Coming about its own business

Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed.

—Ted Hughes

Prayer as Raid and Surrender

“Learning to Think”

There is the inner life of thought which is our world of final reality. The world of memory, emotion, feeling, imagination, intelligence and natural common sense, and which goes on all the time consciously or unconsciously like the heartbeat.

There is also the thinking process by which we break into that inner life and capture answers and evidence to support the answers out of it.

And that process of raid, or persuasion, or ambush, or dogged hunting, or surrender, is the kind of thinking we have to learn, and if we don’t somehow learn it, then our minds line us like the fish in the pond of a man who can’t fish.

-Ted Hughes, Poetry in The Making: An anthology