We Need a Break or We’ll Break or Why to Vignette

By Kai-Arne Zimny

 

”Lose your mind and come to your sens­es.” Fritz Perls

 

In an age of nev­er-end­ing par­al­lel con­ver­sa­tions, screens and sec­ond screens, and an even more inter­est­ing sto­ry just one swift move away from your fin­ger­tips, the most nat­ur­al and human­ly intu­itive things sud­den­ly don’t come easy any­more. It’s not easy to just go for a walk. To feel the earth give way under your feet. To lis­ten to the wind whis­per­ing cold gib­ber­ish into your ears. To feel the sun on your skin, that warm yel­low mas­sage of light. To smell the green of the trees, to grate­ful­ly breathe in what they so lov­ing­ly breathe out.

Since our feet are already in ‘vignetty’ waters, let’s go for a dive!

A vignette is an arrange­ment of lines, not that many, because they’re not meant to push a plot, but con­vey a sin­gle moment and all the waves of sen­sa­tions, feel­ings, ideas that go with it. A vignette’s care­ful­ly select­ed words turn into car­ri­ers of sen­so­ry mean­ing – vignettes are to be con­sumed with our eyes, ears, noses, mouths, fin­gers, skin. Con­flict and res­o­lu­tion aren’t required, nei­ther is attach­ment to a spe­cif­ic genre or style. The lan­guage can be sparse and sim­ple or volu­mi­nous and metic­u­lous­ly detailed. The tru­ly excit­ing part about at a vignette can be about any­thing. You can write a vignette about the first day at a new job, about your cat or dog, about get­ting up in the morn­ing, or sim­ply about raclette. A vignette can be about all those dozens of dai­ly dull moments that usu­al­ly don’t seem to deserve atten­tion, or about joy and pain oh-so rare that they may only exist in your very own world.

It’s about communication.

It’s mag­i­cal to cap­ture a seem­ing­ly intan­gi­ble moment and its feel­ings, to relive it years lat­er, or to share it with some­one else. We take lots of pic­tures, ‘like’ and ‘share’ vir­tu­al­ly any­thing. We leave a trail of smi­ley and frowny faces in the w‑w-world, and that’s all con­ve­nient and at times sat­is­fy­ing, fun, and even impor­tant. No, the dig­i­tal preva­lence of our com­mu­ni­ca­tion isn’t in and of itself bad. But I think it shouldn’t be the only means of express­ing ourselves.

Break a (writer’s) block!

A pro­fes­sor once gave us advice about what to do when we couldn’t write, and it was some­thing along the lines of ‘just write.’ The idea is that putting words on paper, any words – even ran­dom sen­tences – might cause a shift in your mind and get you into the swing of things. Well, just yes­ter­day a friend told me she just couldn’t sit down and write her paper despite its dead­line get­ting uncom­fort­ably close. Since I was begin­ning to write this very text at the time, I couldn’t help but men­tion vignettes. She was inter­est­ed, and remem­ber­ing the professor’s words, I told her she might want to try it out. She end­ed up writ­ing a vignette about that nag­ging feel­ing of not being able to do some­thing one ought to be doing. Not only did she get into more con­scious con­tact with the phe­nom­e­non she was bat­tling, but she also unlocked the ‘block’ to a big enough degree that after the vignette was fin­ished, she could face up to the paper and its intru­sive dead­line. On top of that, she gained a sense of accom­plish­ment for hav­ing cre­at­ed a small, self-con­tained piece of art in a fair­ly short amount of time.

I think a vignette might be a per­fect block-break­er. And because of that pecu­liar lit­er­ary mid­dle ground it occu­pies, it’s much more focused than ran­dom sen­tences, but less dense and far more lib­er­at­ing than many oth­er forms of cre­ative writ­ing, let alone aca­d­e­m­ic writ­ing. I some­how feel vignettes are very kind to their writers.

It’s about balance. 

Fritz Perls, who I bor­rowed some words from at the begin­ning, was a Ger­man-born psy­chi­a­trist best known for Gestalt Ther­a­py, which he devel­oped with the psy­chol­o­gist Lau­ra Perls and the Amer­i­can poet, play­wright, and psy­cho­an­a­lyst Paul Good­man in New York City in the 1940s and 50s. The ther­a­peu­tic approach aims at attain­ing a state of con­scious sen­sa­tion, aware­ness of the self, the envi­ron­ment, bod­i­ly feel­ings, the present moment. Nowa­days, quite a few com­pa­nies encour­age their employ­ees to vis­it work­shops on mind­ful­ness and med­i­ta­tion, or even offer those work­shops them­selves. What they have real­ized, I think, is that after hours of cat­e­go­riz­ing, eval­u­at­ing, and con­clud­ing, we need a break, or we’ll break. Writ­ing a vignette might be the lit­er­ary ver­sion of med­i­ta­tion and mind­ful­ness, with the added ben­e­fit that you’ll have a vis­i­ble result in the end – some­thing that our mod­ern minds sure­ly approves of.

So, silence that buzzing slice of tech­nol­o­gy in your pock­et – yeah, just for ten min­utes! Look around and inside. Your sur­round­ings and you might be full of unwrit­ten vignettes, for exam­ple one about sea­son­al greet­ings, the imag­ined nos­tal­gia of a bygone era you nev­er expe­ri­enced, or the per­ils of falling and fail­ing in love…

Sea­son­al Greetings

By Johan­na Liebmann

March is almost over. But instead of slip­ping away unno­ticed like the first months of this year, it leaves on a car­riage, wav­ing to the crowd. The sun shines like bright par­ty lights, the tulips serve as col­or­ful dec­o­ra­tions, and the birds chirp cheer­ful music for its farewell. It feels like March is wel­com­ing April with open arms, like they are friends who haven’t seen each oth­er in a while.

Pas­tel Perfection

By Kai-Arne Zimny

Men in white vests serve gold­en drinks, fuel for classy chat­ter that fills this place. Brim­ful with a beau­ti­ful rack­et. All enclosed by pas­tel walls, cream mixed with vanil­la. Calm and qui­et, per­fect for this wild and loud place. Whim­si­cal white fog spawns from lips every­where, some are crim­son, some aren’t. A fog unlike that obscur­ing the road late at night. This one obscures only things we don’t want to think about, the way home being one of those. The good time is here.

Here the deep red vinyl uphol­stery is safe from the relent­less sun. The envi­ous sun, not allow­ing any­thing else to shine for long, fad­ing the bright­est crim­son to dull brick red and ulti­mate­ly to ash grey. May the sun nev­er rise.

But it does. It has. Count­less times. The imag­i­nary clouds of white slow­ly fade away, with it comes a harsh clar­i­ty: the uphol­stery is the only source of red left. And it’s qui­et. Qui­et like pastel.

Fa(i)l(l)ing in Love

By Maryann Henck

For the longest time I’ve pon­dered about why peo­ple fall in love. But maybe I should be ask­ing how peo­ple fall in love. Because falling implies an acci­dent – so that would make love an acci­dent of sorts. And acci­dents hap­pen when peo­ple aren’t pay­ing atten­tion. That must be the key – to not pay atten­tion, to be unaware, to be off guard. Love – the great­est acci­dent of all that is most like­ly to hap­pen when you least expect it.

Yet the word ‘fall’ is awk­ward; I catch myself trip­ping over it all the time. Why can’t you slide, slink, or segue into love? Love – an unchore­o­graphed dance in tune with the rhythm that only two lovers can feel.

But we don’t dance into love – we fall, and we often fall hard, ini­tial­ly immune to the pain that love can even­tu­al­ly inflict. Immune to the warn­ings and admo­ni­tions of friends and fam­i­ly. Immune to the ulti­mate fall – the fall from our lover’s grace.

Falling reminds me of fail­ing – when we fall in love, we run the risk of fail­ing in love. So why even both­er? Love – that treach­er­ous seduc­er lead­ing us down a slip­pery slope. A slope that the new­ly besot­ted blind­ly fol­low in the hope that plung­ing to near death will bring them clos­er to the love of their life. But what would I know? I’ve nev­er fall­en in love.

 

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