Martin Amis & Your Floor Plans (Interior)
AT HOME ART DATE | read watch design
”You think life is going to get thinner and thinner. You say to yourself, “That went a bit quick.” And then something weird happens as you age. It’s as if a palace has been attached to your house; an endless, infinite palace, and all that is the past. And once the past gets bigger than the future, then it fills you and it’s a great resource.” --- Martin Amis
This AT HOME ART DATE combines three elements as an experiment in building your own creative mind palace. What ideas have you stored in your palace? What is lurking in your subconscious? Where does your memory meet your imagination?
(element one) READ a selection from Inside Story by Martin Amis about the subconscious and how it supports creativity.
(element two) WATCH a video about Memory Palaces
(element three) DESIGN your own Subconscious Floor Plan
(element one) READ the selection below for Martin Amis’ Inside Story.
“There are three impersonal forces – three guardian spirits – hovering over the theme park of fiction; they are there to help you; they are your friends.
First: genre. If you write Westerns, you will have the tacit support of all those who are attracted to Westerns. If you write historical romance, you will have the tacit support of all those who are attracted to historical romance. If you write social realism, you will have the tacit support of all those attracted to society and reality – a rather larger quorum. And you have the ballast of the familiar and the every day; you have the ballast of human interaction and the way we live now.
Second: structure. If it has energy, fictional pros will tend to be headstrong. Structure is there to keep it in line. It's a question of chopping up the narrative and parcel in it out in a satisfying pattern. Once the pattern is formed, you can be confident that the building won't fall apart overnight; the scaffolds are in place.
Third: the subconscious. On this subject, I hesitate to say too much – because I don't want to spook you. The mysterious contribution of the subconscious, in particular, is spooky. The business of compiling a novel puts you in a mirror – daily contact with a force that feels supernatural and duly gives rise to superstitions. I'd been writing fiction for 20 years before I was personally aware of its existence, let alone its power. In the old days when I was young, if I came up against a difficulty, a stretch of prose that bloodlymindedly went on resisting me, I would simply redouble my attack on it; after a nasty couple of weeks I would grind out something that never satisfied me. A little later I came to recognize these dead bits and to jettison them after only a couple of wasted days if I can spare you one such session of pointless struggle, then…
No one will ever understand the subconscious, but you can learn to humor it. Nowadays, when the obstruction announces itself, I don't bang my head against the wall; rather, I stroll off and do something else. This has become instinctual and even crudely physical: my leg straightens up and bears me away from the desk, usually from a hard chair to an easy chair, where I sit and read while I let time pass.
It may take an hour, it may take a day, and night, two days, three nights, until I find myself again in the hard chair because my legs have delivered me there, just as my legs, earlier on, drew me away. It means that the path is now clear.
A sinister process, but benign: a type of holistic white magic, and I'm convinced incidentally that writer’s block simply describes a failure in the transmission belt: an internal power cut. One of the several hindrances in life - writing is that it gives the subconscious so little to do. With fiction, you often have to sleep on it to rejoin the world of dreams and death from which many believe all human energy comes. Life writing the facts, the linear reality of things that went ahead and happened doesn't have much doesn't leave much room for the subliminal. And this cannot be anything but a loss.
Most fictions, including short stories, have their origin in the subconscious. Very often you can feel them arrive. It is an exquisite sensation. Nabokov cough called it a throb, Updike a shiver: the sense of pregnant arrest. The subconscious is putting you on notice: you have been brooding about something without knowing it. Fiction comes from there – from silent anxiety. And now it has given you a novel to write.”
(element two) WATCH this video on 5 Steps to Remember Things With a Memory Palace. By the by, I am not going to ask you to use this technique to memorize anything. Stick with me.
(element three) DESIGN your, what I like to call, Subconscious Floor Plan.
To start make a list of recurring dreams, daydreams, and thought patterns. Try to name three of each.
Here are some examples:
Recurring dreams: being chased by a group of people trying to give me flowers, talking to Robert Redford in an airport terminal, my childhood neighborhood having a subway station at the end of our block
Recurring daydreams: being a stand - up comedian, speaking French, being physically very strong
Recurring thought patterns: always curious about the lives of strangers as I see them in their cars, wanting to dance in the library, noting where the sun is in the sky
Draw a floor plan of your home and assign each dream, daydream, and recurrent thought pattern a location in your home. Write them on scraps of paper or index cards. Place the index cards in the location you’ve chosen for them in your home.
The next day, with a pad and pen, go through your home and spend time with each of these subconscious recurrences. Let this take you into that state of mind. Write down whatever new thoughts come to the forefront of your mind. Leave those in this space as well. After a few days write what story you are starting to tell.
Well done, artist!
I hope you find Martin Amis & Your Floor Plan (Interior) a compelling AT HOME ART DATE.
I curate provocative AT HOME ART DATES for you to enjoy solo or with others in your own home. Many of these art dates have online elements combined with supplemental reading, listening, and a variety of activities you can do at home to enhance how you express and experience art. Feel free to forward these art dates to others. Remember to check out the bonus material below.
These AT HOME ART DATES are free of charge. However, they do take time, energy, and a lifetime of artistic experience to put together. If you’d like to buy me a cup of tea as a bit of thanks, I’d appreciate your generosity. Buy Pattie a Cup of Tea.
You can also learn more about my upcoming Artistic Clarity online courses, Gimme Culture and Creative Dice here on my website.
The New Yorker Martin Amis Profile
Steve Martin interviews Martin Amis