Daily Writing Tip 20 of 100, Run Fast, Stand Still

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Run Fast, Stand Still

Source – Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

Run fast, stand still. This, the lesson from lizards. For all writers. Observe almost any survival creature, you see the same. Jump, run, freeze. In the ability to flick like an eyelash, crack like a whip, vanish like steam, here this instant, gone the next-life teems the earth. And when that life is not rushing to escape, it is playing statues to do the same. See the hummingbird, there, not there. As thought arises and blinks of, so this thing of summer vapor; the clearing of a cosmic throat, the fall of a leaf. And where it was-a whisper.

What can we writers learn from lizards, lift from birds? In quickness is truth. The faster you blurt, the more swiftly you write, the more honest you are. In hesitation is thought. In delay comes the effort for a style, instead of leaping upon truth which is the only style worth deadfalling or tiger-trapping.

I love the feeling when the words are coming fast – when I can barely type fast enough to keep up with the torrent. It feels like drinking from a fire hose. Then there is the stop, when the ideas fall away, when the fears rear their ugly heads.

That… I don’t like so much.

Roadrunner with Lizard

Joe Barrington, Texas, 2000, Roadrunner with Lizard. Frisco, Texas

Dear Warner Brothers,
I am old enough to know what the Beep-Beep is covering up when the Roadrunner gets away from the Coyote.

Roadrunner with Lizard, Joe Barrington, Frisco, Texas

Roadrunner with Lizard, Joe Barrington, Frisco, Texas

Roadrunner with Lizard, Joe Barrington, Frisco, Texas

Roadrunner with Lizard, Joe Barrington, Frisco, Texas

Roadrunner with Lizard, Joe Barrington, Frisco, Texas

Roadrunner with Lizard, Joe Barrington, Frisco, Texas

Lizard of Death

I am the lizard king. I can do anything.
—- Jim Morrison

Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans

Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans

“At noon in the desert a panting lizard
waited for history, its elbows tense,
watching the curve of a particular road
as if something might happen.”
—-William Stafford

Lizard Basking on the Famous Sculpture

I am not a demon. I am a lizard, a shark, a heat-seeking panther. I want to be Bob Denver on acid playing the accordion.

—-Nicolas Cage

Ida Kohlmeyer, Rebus 3D-89-3

Ida Kohlmeyer, Rebus 3D-89-3

The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans

Rebus 3D-89-3, Ida Kohlmeyer


“The lizard brain is hungry, scared, angry, and horny.

The lizard brain only wants to eat and be safe.

The lizard brain will fight (to the death) if it has to, but would rather run away. It likes a vendetta and has no trouble getting angry.

The lizard brain cares what everyone else thinks, because status in the tribe is essential to its survival.

A squirrel runs around looking for nuts, hiding from foxes, listening for predators, and watching for other squirrels. The squirrel does this because that’s all it can do. All the squirrel has is a lizard brain.

The only correct answer to ‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’ is ‘Because it’s lizard brain told it to.’ Wild animals are wild because the only brain they posses is a lizard brain.

The lizard brain is not merely a concept. It’s real, and it’s living on the top of your spine, fighting for your survival. But, of course, survival and success are not the same thing.

The lizard brain is the reason you’re afraid, the reason you don’t do all the art you can, the reason you don’t ship when you can. The lizard brain is the source of the resistance.”

― Seth Godin

Born in New Orleans in 1912, Ida Kohlmeyer has been called one of the best Abstract Impressionist painters of the South. Her career as an artist did not begin until her 30s, after she graduated from Newcomb College at Tulane University with a degree in English literature. In 1934, she traveled to Mexico City and was inspired by Central and South American folk art, which would remain an influence throughout her life. Several years later she began taking painting and drawing classes at Tulane with Pat Trivigno, who encouraged her to pursue her study of artwork. Upon receiving her master’s she showed her first paintings at the Fifty-Fourth Annual Spring Exhibition at the Isaac Delgado Museum of Art in New Orleans.

In 1956, Kohlmeyer moved to Provincetown, Massachusetts to experiment with Abstract Expressionism alongside Hans Hoffmann. That same year she traveled to Paris and met Joan Miró, who also inspired her abstract work. However, by the mid 60s she tired of abstraction and moved on to create sculptures with wood and Plexiglas. After experimenting briefly with figurative painting, she returned to abstraction in the 70s. Kohlmeyer died in her hometown of New Orleans in 1997.

“It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…”
“You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”
“No,” said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”
“Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”
“I did,” said Ford. “It is.”
“So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t people get rid of the lizards?”
“It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”
“You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”
“Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”
“But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”
“Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”
“I said,” said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, “have you got any gin?”
“I’ll look. Tell me about the lizards.”
Ford shrugged again.
“Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happenned to them,” he said. “They’re completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone’s got to say it.”
“But that’s terrible,” said Arthur.
“Listen, bud,” said Ford, “if I had one Altairian dollar for every time I heard one bit of the Universe look at another bit of the Universe and say ‘That’s terrible’ I wouldn’t be sitting here like a lemon looking for a gin.”

― Douglas Adams, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish