BLURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2)

By: Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons
July 4, 2022

One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, delivering brief remarks on mottos, mantras, speeches, slogans, and other words to live by. Series edited by Adam McGovern.

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START WITH THE LEFT-CORNER BRICK

Tacked to the left-hand corner of my corkboard is a faded white index card, a yellowed hue enveloping the edges of the 4×6 square. At the center, in the scrawling block-letter print I’ve been embarrassed about since grade school, are the words:

“Start with the left-corner brick.”

It is a paraphrase of advice author Robert Pirsig gives in his book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance to one of his students when recalling teaching a college course in rhetoric. Zen was one of the many paperbacks I discovered stacked inside large, brown grocery bags in the corner of my aunt’s attic. I spent a chunk of my childhood summers up in that attic reading books far beyond my years.

Drawn to the gothic fairytale artwork on the cover, I read Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale well before being told about the birds and the bees, let alone the government’s totalitarian desire to own and control a woman’s body. Considering that I called my cat “Ofkelly” for a spell, the novel’s message clearly slipped past my still-developing frontal lobe.

Even as a child, however, I recognized the frustration of the student in Pirsig’s novel surrounding getting started when capturing big things on the page. He suggests that she narrow her focus; instead of taking on an essay about the whole of the United States, she should try to write about their town of Bozeman, Montana. When the girl remains stuck, an exasperated Pirsig tells her to…

“Narrow it down to the front of one building on the main street of Bozeman. The Opera House. Start with the upper left-hand brick.”

The girl returned later with a lengthy and outstanding piece. Once she focused on her essay brick by brick, the words all started to come, and she couldn’t stop writing. The book stayed behind in my aunt’s attic, but I took Pirsig’s words with me moving from house to house, to dorm room, to my first apartment, to my first apartment without roommates. Wherever I go, I hang a corkboard above my desk and pin that same old index card to the upper-left-hand corner.

When struggling with how to get started, grab an index card, write “Start with the left-corner brick,” and post those words in a visible place — a small reminder to start small. My Pirsig paraphrase also acts as permission to be kind to yourself when writing about the big things. A lifetime can change in a moment, and it can take a lifetime to understand that change.

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BLURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Adam McGovern | Ran Xia on BLACK CROW BELIEFS | Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons on LEFT-CORNER BRICK | Andrea Diaz on JOY IS RESISTANCE | Lynn Peril on TO THINE OWN SELF | Miranda Mellis on THE FUTURE IS PASSÉ | Bishakh Som on LET THE WEIRDNESS IN | Lucy Sante on FLAUBERT’S PERFECT WORD | Stefene Russell on CRYSTAL SETS | Crystal Durant on LIFE IS A BANQUET | Adam McGovern on EVERY MINUTE AN OCEAN | Josh Glenn on LUPUS LUPUM NON MORDET | Heather Quinlan on SHUT UP, HE EXPLAINED | Adrienne Crew on WATCH YOUR PENNIES | Art Wallace on COME ON AND GIVE A CHEER | Julia Lee Barclay-Morton on WILLIAM JAMES, UNADAPTED | Christopher-Rashee Stevenson on TO EACH HIS OWN | Nikhil Singh on ILLUMINATE OR DISSIPATE? | Mimi Lipson on CHEAP FOOD TASTES BETTER | Kahle Alford on NOT GONNA CRACK | Michele Carlo on YOU CAN’T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT | Marguerite Dabaie on WALKING ON WATER | Raymond Nat Turner on TRYIN’ AND TRANEIN’ | Bob Laine on WHEN YOU GROW UP | Fran Pado on THE SMILEY EMOJI | Deborah Wassertzug on PLACING YOUR BETS. PLUS: Lisa Levy on TBD.

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Enthusiasms