Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Writing Affirmations

Tell yourself you’re doing it for humanity. Teeming, varied, rushing life. What binds us here in this place? What makes us pass each other in the street and pause, looking into another’s face to notice: I see you. I understand. Something like that happened to me. I felt like that once.
We don’t always get it right. Sometimes the right word, the right phrase, slips through our grasp, bobbing and submerging into the green stew. We try. We describe its slippery surface, the feel of it. We gaze into the murky depths, looking for clues, for context.
Testimony: evidence or proof provided by the existence or appearance of something.
It’s important, what you do. Never lose sight of that. That a-ha moment, empathy, recognition—these are the best parts of humanity. It’s wonderful to be loved but oh, to be understood.
Keep at it, scribes. What you do is important. Not everyone has the patience to stop and look, to try to articulate what it means to be here, right now. Pen to paper, fingers on keyboard, keep gazing towards the horizon, continue excavating memory, and feeling, and hope. Spill it out, profess, recite. What you do is important and so necessary.  

Sunday, February 11, 2018

On Currents and Writing and Focus

For the past few days, I’ve had an image in my head of a flowing creek, with a large but smooth rock sitting right smack dab in the middle. Currents flow around it, the water streamlined and purposed; this implacable boulder gives the appearance of being, by all rights, an integral part of the flow rather than an obstacle, as one would tend to think of a huge rock in the center of a moving path.

I didn’t come up with this image in a vacuum. Recently, the writer Lauren Groff tweeted about celebrating her 20th anniversary of “taking writing seriously.” She clarified: “By taking writing seriously, I mean that a thing happened that made me decide to make writing the immovable boulder at the center of my life. Everything else—family, friends, other work—has to find a way to flow around writing.”

Have I done that, I wondered, either consciously or subconsciously? In the creek of my life, what does writing look like and has that been working for me? This image stayed with me, her words lingering until I was forced to come up some vision of my own stream, my own boulder. And what I think is that for me, for now, writing is more like a collection of smaller rocks, haphazardly arranged. The water still flows, around and over these less-imposing obstacles, but it’s harder for a person to navigate, should she choose to swim or walk downstream. If she had a small boat—a canoe maybe—it would be very challenging to steer a clear path.

If your stream looks like mine, others can visit and they will experience it much like you do. They, too, will have a hard time navigating around those smaller, randomly-placed stones. But if there's just the one, large boulder, if you have made writing a central, essential part of your stream—well, that’s pretty clear, isn’t it? They can see what to do, how to proceed.

One day, I’ll have to put on waders and some sort of sturdy backpack. I’ll have to gather those smaller rocks and stack them in the very center. Over time, with any luck, this mound of craggy stones will become smooth and unified by the currents. And if I’m very, very fortunate, the new, imposing structure will be big enough to climb and rest on, high enough to see around the next bend or further towards the horizon, but still low enough to dip my toes in, allowing for an easy transition back into the water.
"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka