Sunday, October 7, 2007

Where Does It Come from?

The answer is not as simple as it seems.

Sometime you spend quite a while looking for it, reminding you of pre-computer days, of typewriter days, when it was a fine gesture to rip a sheet of text out of the platen, ball it into a wad, then send it toward the wastebasket, the special of all wastebaskets, the defiant wastebasket, decoupaged with dozens of rejection slips. 

Later,  there was the fearful realization that you'd had it, but didn't recognize it, and now it was among the other wads, the corpses of Chemex coffee filters, a sort of caffeine burrito, tossed with the remnants of text.

There were times, too, when the defiant wastebasket had been emptied and was now outside and you there for all the neighbors and passers by, watching as you unwadded and smoothed on the curb, looking for it. Some of your neighbors understood the dynamic, they'd even give you a sympathetic cluck of the tongue, an I've been there, too kind of recognition, the recognition of having paused to think a bit too long, then decided some scene, some text hadn't got your intent.

Now it is the hard-won knowledge of making numerous files on the computer and thus your searches are through the cyber garbage instead of the defiant wastebasket.

But it is no longer merely the text you look for, it is the edge, the intent, the resident--go ahead, say it--feeling, the resident feeling you are looking for.

Often it was anger, the sense of outrage at someone or something, turned in on yourself so that it does not become mere ad hominem attack, which is not much fun in the first place and which often doesn't work too well in the long run. You treat anger the way you would treat a baking dish or saute pan, exposed to flame for the long haul. You use an oven mitt to deal with anger, which makes you see how energizing it can be but as well how dangerous unless you have some control over it.

Thus anger became the flare of awareness, the introduction to the literary physics of getting feeling into the equation through sensory information as opposed to linear, adverbial attribution.

Even though anger provides good energy, works like those olden days of Chemex filtered coffee, it doesn't do the trick any more, not alone, not all by itself. Maybe first draft material, but stuff you have to come back to, again and perhaps again, and perhaps again.

Patience works for some writers you know, energizes them, gets them up and running, but not you.

So it has to be the thing that even more than anger or determination has been there ab ovo, waiting for you to find it where ever and whenever you look. It is all around you, in the play of words and children, in the over-the-top dreams that produce ugly duckling ideas, in the sudden flatted fifth or sharp ninth of a windchime that has been tuned for mere tinkles; it is all around you in plants that volunteer in unlikely places, in anomalies and sudden bursts of affection.

Head down, head up, you look for it, sometimes tripping over it, sometimes skidding on it, sometimes missing it completely. It makes an ordinary day splendid and makes you want to tell people about it.


It has everything you were looking for; it is everything you were looking for.

It is the observatory of your heart and mind, new displays of the cosmos up and running.

It is Sally coming into your study and whacking you with her paw and wagging her tail as if to say I have a great nose and you have an imagination and we should collaborate on a walk.

When the universe is enthused, it snores.


Lori Witzel said...

"Yes!" to the triple-squared power of enthusiasm.

And from Wikipedia, this lagniappe:

Enthusiasm (Ancient Greek: ἐνθουσιασμός enthousiasmos) originally meant inspiration or possession by a divine afflatus or by the presence of a god.

(And ain't afflatus a great word?)

Anonymous said...

Of course. Enthusiasm. That is your trademark, for sure, kid. Sally's, too.

R.L. Bourges said...

Ah, Shelly!
1) This post is the I Ching hexagram 16 revisited - just love it!
2) Rejection letters to decorate a waste-paper basket. I LIKE that. I have more than enough of them, I could add a matching lampshade, even. Hm... There's maybe rent-money lurking in that idea ; - )

John Eaton said...

What Lori, and Liz, and River said.

I'm with Sally, too.

Off to catch the light,

John :)

lowenkopf said...

Dear All:

In lovely context, which I think John so ably nailed, there is Dylan Thomas's"

Rage, rage against the dying of the light!

Smiler said...

"I have a great nose and you have an imagination and we should collaborate on a walk."

"When the universe is enthused, it snores."

Both made me smile. I don't quite get the second one, but still, it made me smile. An enjoyable read all around.

Cynthia Bostwick said...

The observatory of your heart and mind--a delight for us as well. Still, that pastrami in your next post has me drooling. Thanks.