I’m going to try really hard to hide from myself the fact that it is twelve am. This is when I turn into a circus act almost as horrible as a mime and become excessively emotional, commemorative, and fly my flag half mast on principle. I’m trying to dive into writing the second chapter of the book but I’m distracted by: Jon Stewart interview segments from the past 13 years, the fact that the second chapter needs to not suck and the pressure pushing in at me, the need to curl up and watch either Cadfael or Will and Grace, the certainty that I suck beyond measure, and the memory of the one and a half grilled cheese sandwiches Philip made for me this evening.
I’m distracted by music, pen, rain, tomatoes, the rustle of dry paper, time, popular culture, the flies, and the hour.
I know what I mean to say but can’t find a good sentence anywhere because I’ve spent all day cleaning the dead flies off the porch, cleaning the kitchen, making tomato soup, processing tomatoes for sauce, listening to the Beatles, and thinking about bigotry and plotting my rise above it all.
There is the intention of the path: to underscore with my black sharpie thoughts that no matter how terrible life is there is always something just a little better than death and on the best days there is euphoria in the smallest details like watching tiny birds chatter over the red hot poker flower stalks and in laughter between friends and loved ones.
There isn’t a goal for fame or ridicule. There isn’t a goal to make a million dollars.
Two out of those three things would be awfully nice and I wouldn’t say no to them if I achieved them.
But that’s not the goal.
Why agonize? It’s just words.
You wouldn’t want your car mechanic to take that attitude. “It’s just an engine, why agonize?” You wouldn’t want your lawyer to say “It’s just litigation, it’s just a question of jail or no jail…”
That’s why I agonize. Because words matter.
I am struck by a youtube video I saw of Harlan Ellison talking about paying the goddamn writer and the fact that everyone wants writers to write for free. What hits a nerve for me in this is that words matter almost more than stones. My kid said the other day how stupid he thought the saying “Words can never hurt you” is because it’s wrong. I told him the saying is relying on a literal interpretation and he said that was total bullshit because words hurt people all the time. (He didn’t actually swear.)
It’s true. Language has the power to detonate rage or ignite it, to destroy families, to dissolve relationships, to inspire death, to cement enemies and to declare world wars. It also has the power to bring unlikely people together, to convince impossible partnerships, to heal old scars, to express dreams, to encourage the hopeless to hope, and to inspire inexhaustible love.
Language is as potent as vision, as potent as art.
In most ways I’m a good multi-tasker but when it comes to the writing I have to be more obsessive. I can’t divide myself endlessly. What I’m coming to understand is that I have to dive into the book as though it was the only world, the only voice, the only thing I know outside the essentials. Would you expect anything different from a doctor: that their attention be completely on the medical issue at hand?
I have to stop piling the food preserving projects on myself.
I have to close myself off to all other distractions and immerse myself in the grave, where Cricket and Grey begins. I have to ask myself to write the story that I would be excited to find on the shelves of the bookstore, that I would want to have as my own. I have to ask myself to write the story I’ve been missing my whole life and that others have been missing too.
Like a shoulderful of stones.
I only have to write the words you’ve been waiting to hear for your whole life.
It’s time to fold away the tomato projects, the pesto, the sauce, the ratatouille, and the grilled eggplant for freezing. I want to sock away more preserves. But I want to write more than I want to eat.