Fog-bound walk this morning got me thinking about how much of what we write today is drawn from what we’ve known in moments obvious and moments obscure throughout our lives.
An interesting conclusion followed: What your mom told you as a kid is true for you as a writer. Go figger.
“Don’t pick at it,” Mom said. As writers, we do that. We worry at ourselves; we pick our words apart until the good that we started with is a wounded, unrecognizable thing.
“Never go to bed angry.” We do that, too. When the day at the page starts out badly, or the bottom drops out after a long day of experimenting, or nothing works any whichway or we can’t focus long enough to put ten words together or the last sentence is in the same meter, with the same words, as the first one was…we’re angry. We call it shit. We call ourselves useless. All the same thing. All angry.
“Things will be better in the morning.” This one seems at odds with the “never go to bed” idea. If you stayed angry and never went to bed, not much is gonna look better in the bleary light of day. But if sleep is a refuge, you can sleep a lot of the bad stuff off. Night can cure writer-worries. Just as it can cure a mild case of the whirlies after a fine night of wine with friends.
“You think too much.” Yes. And? For a writer, this one is like Pi: It has no end. It is the Mobius Loop of sentiments…I think, therefore I write; I write, therefore I think. So let’s take this one as a compliment, not as advice.
“Why do you care what other people think?” Sadly, when it comes to our writing, we do care. Even if the other people are us.
“Shut up and look.” This one from my dad. My favorite one. A command intended to shut us up on a long car trip to some National Park/mountain/canyon/river somewhere. Turns out, this one rests at the core of me, even now. A writer looks. She always did. She always will.
We created an artificial present out of our present pasts. We set it in mutable stone for an unknowable future. Like matter, it cannot be destroyed. Words and images, advice and events find their way into us; play hide-and-seek with us. Until we turn them into the aphorisms that we lay on the heads of other people. Like today, in this space.