Mind Into Matter

I was almost always ready to shoot. I kept the camera within reaching distance, sometimes balanced on my shoulder… even between major portraits, when I was on the road, I was totally open to filming whatever might happen…

-Ross McElwee, 1988

I have a request for you, dear reader: stop thinking. Stop having thoughts about anything. Temporarily erase everything from your mind. Stop thinking about these words, this blog post, breathing–stop. If you’re asking yourself, “Did I do it?”, then no, you didn’t.

Not as easy as it sounds, right?

I ask this of you to demonstrate a fact: you cannot stop thinking. You cannot stop perceiving the world around you, or having ideas. Everything that you perceive is imprinted into your thoughts like a brand; even if the pain subsides, the mark remains.

Writing–all types of writing, not just the ones that we’ve decided are “literary”–is an extension of our unstoppable thoughts. Our words must go through the filter that is our mind before they can even begin to hit paper/pixels. In this way, writers are always writing; we are constantly adding to our repertoire of thoughts, which will eventually be translated into our writing.

This is even more true for writers of Creative Nonfiction, who are spilling their real, literal thoughts onto the paper. Didion credited her ability to write to her unassuming stature and demeanor, which helped her experience conversations and moments that she most likely would not have otherwise. McElwee held his camera with him at all times, so that he would not miss any chance to record not only his thoughts, but the experiences he was going through as he traveled the south. For both McElwee and Didion, the writing process was constant, neverending–they could not stop their thoughts.

 

…On the topic of the title being misleading, I think most of these misconceptions can be solved by looking at the film’s full title: Sherman’s March: A Meditation on the Possibility of Romantic Love In the South During an Era of Nuclear Weapons Proliferation. Makes it a bit more clear, doesn’t it?

 

Works Cited: “Southern Exposure: An Interview with Ross McElwee.” Scott MacDonald and Ross McElwee; Film Quarterly, Vol. 41, No. 4 (Summer, 1988), pp. 13-23

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