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Rarely does a Friday morning e-salon pass that I don’t come away with a number of ideas for posts. These extraordinary fellow artists (Joan and Donna, talented writers, Marc an exceptional musician/songwriter) give me a once-weekly touch with a humanity and sensibility that takes my breath…and gives it.
Today’s session, no exception. We talked about the isolation of the creative life…the need for the aimless, formless energy that the company of others brings us. Energy as food. Energy as oxygen.
Being hermetically sealed in one’s own head can be like oxygen deprivation. Literally. The spirit slows down. The thoughts get muddled. Eventually, one lapses into unconsciousness—a creative immobility that precedes the inevitable death. It’s an oddly paradoxical situation for those who regard creativity as an essentially solitary act. Those of us who eschew the energy of company also find ourselves in need of it…a shaming realization.
Does the acknowledgment of the need for others undermine the integrity of our solo-ness? Perhaps not as much as I’ve been inclined to believe. Perhaps the need is no more unreasonable than the understanding that, even though we have eaten we will need to eat again.
The energy of smart, caring others fills our lives with oxygen. We breathe differently in that cherished company. We carry the breaths through to the rest of our daily lives, in the soul and head and heart. We buzz, we sparkle, we effervesce. Through that rare air, we have found our way into the light, if only for a short time. We have reconnected with that in-common Divine, the gift to ourselves that creativity is.
To Joni and Marc and Donna: Thank you for the big inhale and for what it carried; thank you, with all the oxygen in me.
Am I the only person who feels a sense of panic at the holidays?
Forgive me for this self-indulgent psychological exorcism but, on this morning of brutal honesty with myself, I’d have to say that I do; that I always have.
The high expectations placed upon the emotions…the enforced bonhomie…the relentless desire to please: These things are enough to send me screaming from the room.
As a kid, I had such high hopes for holiday joy that, if I didn’t manage to find the requisite excitement, I would come away disappointed. When did I actually fall out of love with the holidays? It was during my 13 years with K., a time in which my holiday hope and delight were so certain to disintegrate that I simply stopped trying to reach for them.
The irony is that I love giving things to my friends—and not just at Christmastime (although I haven’t nearly lived up to my own expectations in this, lately.) I love the little for-no-reason offerings that can, if just for a moment, change the course of a day.
Perhaps—probably—I am just a child in a cynic-suit. The Christmases I spent with Belinda’s family have been perhaps the most extraordinary in my life. A dark, starry Christmas sky, the smell of pine boughs, the sparkle of a foil garland–they give me goosebumps. Acts of kindness still have the lovely power to make me cry. And I do like buying a tiny potted tree and planting it in the yard when the holiday is finished (the one in the front yard is about 12 feet tall, now.) But the thought of what the holiday requires? Wake me when it’s over.
Do I want this post to be a rallying cry for every holiday-phobic reader? Hell no. Am I chasing the ghosts in the corners? Probably. Now that I’ve confessed all this, I’ve probably cleared a place for the joy to come. With the first package I take to the post office, bound for a place under a beloved friend’s tree, the panic will vanish entirely.
And the bigger question: What does all this icky self-examination have to with writing?
Thankfulness is a look back—sometimes from the vantage of a split second, but always a look at what is past. Hopefulness is something else again.
Hopefulness is thankfulness faced in the other direction. The attempt to peer into the unknowns ahead. A faith in the good that might come, despite the scratchings of fear, or the voice of the inner cynic who tries to tell you that all will not be well.
And here’s the thing: We can be thankful without being hopeful. But we can’t be hopeful without being thankful. That’s part of the beauty of it: the acknowledgement of all there was that brought us to all there is.
Today, I am thankful for the extraordinary things of my life; for the friends who animate my soul. Grateful for this quiet house, for the cats who are delighted to see me home, for the ticking of the hall clock, for the beautiful organic chicken defrosting in its sink water-bath, for a good stock of lovely wine. Hopeful for the contentment of those friends…and for the stirrings of the day’s desire to write, even though I haven’t answered the questions the story is asking.
I am home, after a lovely job interview with some wonderful folks. I am home, thankful for the simple things I have…and hopeful that I can know what I want.
I am home. The place where thankful/hopeful lives.
On this morning of a job interview, in the midst of a strange sense of dislocation from waking in an unfamiliar bed, after a night of odd dreams about a flooded landscape crumbling away under me, this quick post.
The current book is far from finished. Distressingly far, it sometimes seems. And yet, I can’t keep myself from turning my brain toward the next one.
Starting a new book is like going on a date with a promising someone you barely know. The idea is timid. It doesn’t want to reveal too much about itself too early.
And you. Not sure you want to be hurt again. Not sure you want to give up the independence you’ve known. Not sure how much of a future is in it.
You’re not sure you like one another. Not yet. You’re not sure of the track record of fidelity that this new possibility brings to the new opportunity. And still, you’re tempted to rush headlong into your feelings about it, embracing the things about it that you’ve already learned to love. Which would mean death to any tomorrow the idea might have.
There is a distance in it that all good sense tells you to avoid and every instinct tells you to ignore. This could be the one that works out absolutely right. This is the chance to take every learning of your life and put it to use. This is your chance to be the best you’ve ever been.
This is an all-new chance to be disappointed in a whole new way.
A confusing time. But promising. Exciting.
Oh, what the hell. I say go for it.
Clocks as Enemies
I found a tip on a writer’s blog the other day that sent the thoughts cascading. “Write every day….” So far, so good. “…Set a timer for an hour and write until the timer goes off.”
There you lost me.
Some people thrive on deadlines. You are not reading the words of a member of that tribe.
Deadlines are for craft and commerce, not for fiction. Need that hunk of advertising in a few hours? No problem. Need me to finish the book tomorrow? You wish.
For me, deadlines suck the life out of possibility. If I hadn’t played hard-to-get with the book in progress, if I had pushed for a relationship that wasn’t (and isn’t quite yet) ready to ripen, I would never have come to the promising thoughts that are propelling me now.
In writing, as in cooking, flavors need time to develop.
In writing, as with lovers, sometimes the idea plays hard to get.
Setting a deadline (and, again, we’re talking fiction, not commerce) only makes me fidget; only serves to test my patience and my self-doubt.
Write by a timer, if that’s what’s best for you. Since we get paid, for the most part, neither by the hour nor the word, I’ll fill my head and the page for as long as the story requires. Whatever time it needs to be as full and rich as it can be.
The story will tell me when it’s finished. Not the clock.
Come on, you nagging bitch of a brain. It’ll be done when it’s done.